Rodney Slatford, born in Hertfordshire and educated at Bishops Stortford College, England, abandoned his original ambition to be a farmer after attending National Youth Orchestra courses and going on to study at London’s Royal College of Music. Still a student, he played principal bass first with the Midland (now English) Sinfonia and then the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, with whom he recorded as a soloist. He then shared the principal bass post in the English Chamber Orchestra with his former teacher until resigning in 1981 to spend more time playing chamber music, teaching and writing.
A founder member of the Nash Ensemble he broadcast and toured regularly for thirty years, also making guest appearances with established ensembles such as the Amadeus Quartet.
As a teacher at the Royal Northern College of Music, Slatford established the Junior Strings Project, a pioneering method of teaching very young children on the bass. He has written widely on playing and teaching the bass, contributed to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and sat on various advisory committees and competition juries. His competition for bassists on the Isle of Man involved, in 1978, a workshop which included all the participants performing Saint-Saëns’ ‘L’Éléphant’ together in Port Erin, conducted from astride an inflatable elephant.
Slatford’s Yorke Editions publishing company has produced around one hundred edited works for the double-bass, and his Yorke Trust charity (founded in 1985) offers wider musical educational experiences to young people.
Solo double-bass playing still inhabits a comparatively small niche, although (as this A-Z shows) there have been a number of soloists who have, more or less successfully, campaigned to raise the status of the instrument from its humble ensemble position. Slatford’s work as an educationalist has obvious importance in this regard, although his playing does not demonstrate the kind of flamboyant virtuoso personality of some others. The recorded items selected here reveal a clean, precise tone, with admirable accuracy and agility. The Dittersdorf (in an edition by Slatford) is pleasingly resonant, although viola player Stephen Shingles is rather too tremulous to make a satisfying partnership, and in the Rossini Duo Kenneth Heath’s intonation does not quite match Slatford’s. Saint-Saëns’s ‘L’Éléphant’ (something of a signature piece for Slatford) is delivered with the requisite humour and reveals once again his fastidious playing.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist