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Robin Stowell
The Strad, June 2008

This second volume of Joel Quarrington’s Bottesini project comprises a mixed programme of solo and ensemble works by the Paganini of the double bass: It highlights Quarrington’s rich, sonorous tone and expansive lyricism, particularly in his accounts of the Adagio meloncolico and the cantabile central Andante of the Second Concerto. His intonation is surprisingly unstable in his reading of the Bach-Bottesini Meditazione.

Elsewhere, Quarrington showcases his virtuosity with vigour, spontaneity and panache, and he succeeds in mastering a fair proportion of Bottesini’s often awesome technical challenges, notably in the outer movements of the Second Concerto and in the Fantasia on Bellini’s Beatrice di Tendo. Some blemishes remain, particularly in the Fantasia, but these otherwise commendable accounts incorporate some mesmerising left-hand dexterity in the solo passagework and cadenza of the concerto’s laconic opening Moderato and a suitably bravura conclusion to the dramatic, polonaise-like finale.

In the various ‘ensemble’ works, Quarrington finds an admirable partner in bassist Harold Hall Robinson in the étude-like Gran duetto no.3. Both players acquit themselves commendably, particularly in the Presto, although not without some inaccuracy and tonal roughness. Another duet, this time with clarinettist James Campbell, is dispatched with striking facility and expression, featuring some deftly played cadenza-like passages and harmonics. Quarrington’s neat and tasteful obbligatos to soprano Monica Whicher’s two solos provide further variety.

The recording, undertaken in three different venues over more than a two-year period, is uneven, but most tracks are vivid and true. Pianist Andrew Burashko accompanies with flexibility and a winning character and style.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2008

The Canadian-born virtuoso of the double-bass, Joel Quarrington, once again walks Giovanni Bottesini’s musical tightrope in the second disc of impossible feats created by the boy who didn’t want to play the instrument. It all came about when the young Giovanni attended an entrance interview at the Milan Conservatory only to find they had just two places left, one for a bassoonist and the other for double bass. His father, so anxious for his son to become a musician, signed him up for the bass, and four years later he had become one of the finest exponents of the instrument in Italy. Named “the Paganini of the Double Bass” he toured bemusing audiences with his brilliance on an instrument not then known in the solo world. The problem he faced was finding music to show his dexterity, the answer coming with a series of his own compositions. Truth to tell they are musically pretty threadbare, but they still serve to test the resources of the most gifted of our present day performers. The new release opens with a work to tax two players, Quarrington joined in the Gran Duetto by Harold Hall Robinson, principal bassist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Second Concerto is in three movements with piano accompaniment and is replete with seemingly impossible tricks that take him to the top of the fingerboard. Respite for Quarrington comes in the lyrical Adagio melancolico ed appassionato, with a more lighthearted look at the instrument in the Duetto for Clarinet and Double Bass. After high-jinx in a Fantasia on Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, an arrangement of a Chopin Etude and the Aria di Bach shows Quarrington in silky-smooth mode. To achieve exactitude in terms of intonation is still unattainable, and it is honest of Quarrington and his recording team that they do not use editing to achieve this. Andrew Burashko is the receptive pianist; James Campbell a fine clarinettist, and the soprano, Monica Whicher joins in the Aria di Bach.

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