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David W. Moore
American Record Guide, March 2009

Back in 1982 and 1984 these recordings were Volume 2 of a four-disc collection (ASV 626, May/June 1989). That is still the largest collection of Bottesini that I know, and this new release sounds as good as the original with the possible proviso that the high frequencies are a hair less evident.

This is not the most sophisticated playing available. Martin is a bit heavy in his vibrato and a bit crude in his intonation as well, though on the plus side he has a clear affection for the music and phrases with conviction. Fugelle, who sings ‘Une Bouche Aimee’, is a warm-voiced singer. And you can get a free download of a Bellini song. Buy the disc and find out how! But if you want Bottesini, you might be happier with Joel Quarrington’s series, also on Naxos. He’s a bit easier to listen to.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2008

I recall back in the early 1980s that I listened to this disc from Thomas Martin, the principal double bass of the London Symphony, in a mix of awe and amusement. It is the musical equivalent of performing handstands on a tight-rope without a safety net, Giovanni Bottesini having written works that only he could perform so as to keep his audiences spellbound .The story of Bottesini’s father signing the child into the double bass class, when he found that it was one of only two places left at the Milan Conservatory, has oft been told. Never having played the instrument before, and against all the odds, four years later the teenager became the finest exponent of the instrument in Italy. Borrowing money, he bought a fine 3/4‑size instrument that he tuned higher than a conventional bass so as to give added brightness, while the small size of the instrument’s body allowed him to lean over to get high on the fingerboard. Often creating Fantasias using popular melodies from operas of the time, the present disc includes excruciatingly difficult extravaganzas from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda. Two Romanzas, that show the singing aspect of the instrument; a dazzling Introduzione e bolero, and the incredibly difficult Grande Allegro di Concerto, also feature in a well filled disc. In the years since the disc was first issued, double bass players have moved a few rungs up the ladder of virtuosity and security, and my deep admiration of Martin, with his elegant tone, has now to be qualified by pointing to some questionable intonation. Anthony Halstead, better known as a French Horn exponent and conductor, is the pianist, and the soprano, Jacquelyn Fugelle, takes part in Un bouche aimee. The sound speaks of its age.

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