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David W Moore
American Record Guide, September 2010

The Rossini Fantasia is an exciting piece in three parts beginning with a lively tarantella, followed by a serenata and a final storm at sea, all scored for two basses and piano. Passioni Amorosi is scored likewise, also a ten-minute three-movement work of operatic directness and virtuosity where the two bassists communicate in an entertaining way. This composition was also scored for cello and bass, for violin and bass and with strings instead of piano...Martin’s is more amusing, with the two basses cuddling up and talking together...Martin and Cobb continue with Gran Duetto 2, the biggest of Bottesini’s three duos for basses...Finally comes the Concerto for two basses and piano, a work that later was turned into the Gran Duo Concertante for violin, bass, and should hear what Martin and Cobb make out of the original with two basses!

...[Martin] a musical player, less showy than some, but musically satisfying, particularly on this new Naxos program, where he works beautifully with his partners.

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, September 2010

Saint-Saëns uses a solo double-bass to comical effect in the Carnival of the Animals where it represents the elephant moving with ponderous grace to the Dance of the Sylphs by Berlioz. For Bottesini there was nothing comical about the instrument. He was after all a virtuoso of the double-bass, giving many successful concert tours all over Europe and the Americas. As if to prove just how serious the instrument can be, he wrote not only solos but many works for two double-basses. All those on this disc apart from the Gran Duetto also include the piano, but its role is essentially subordinate, even where its part may be technically demanding, as in the Concerto.

The sound of the solo double-bass, even when playing in its highest register and therefore able to match the actual notes played by a cello, is wholly different from that instrument. Indeed it is in some ways more akin to that of a viol, partly due to the lack of the fierce continuous vibrato that most professional cellists employ today. It is nonetheless a compelling sound, and after the initial surprise has worn off, it is far more than a mere comical curiosity. However on the evidence of the works included here, Bottesini was by no means an innovative composer. Not merely is the first work based on themes by Rossini but the language of the others is closely related to that of the older master. All make enormous technical demands on the two bass players. I have never attempted to play the instrument and have long admired those able to gauge accurately the long distance between notes on the strings. I can only guess as to how certain passages which seem to demand superhuman dexterity can be played on something so apparently unwieldy. The two players here display great bravura, playing fine instruments by Landolfi and Testore loaned specially for the recording...Overall an out of the way but rewarding disc whose strange but characterful sounds resonate in the memory., June 2010

The fifth Naxos release of music by famed 19th-century double-bass player Giovanni Bottesini goes the earlier discs one better by presenting works for two double basses. Far from being lumbering or cumbersome pieces, these are, if not exactly light-footed, rather light-hearted, and in fact there are dance movements that show the instruments’ capabilities in some surprising ways. The opening Tarantella of the Fantasia on Themes of Rossini, for example, is a genuine surprise in its bounciness—although no more so than the Serenata that follows, in which the players extract considerable emotion from their very low instruments. The concerto-like Passioni amorose also requires the bass players to perform with a mixture of sensitivity and style, and in fact the virtuosity demanded in this piece and the others on this CD is considerable: these are all early Bottesini works that he used to show just how far the capabilities of his instrument could be extended. The Grand Duetto No. 2, second of three Bottesini works in this form, was written for two three-stringed instruments and is performed that way here; this makes the double stopping in its central Andante particularly interesting. The Concerto for Two Double Basses and Piano, which Bottesini later transformed into his better-known Gran Duo Concertante for Double Bass and Violin, is actually more impressive in its original version, being filled with complementary and competing flourishes for the instruments and a finale that increases in tempo right to the very end. Thomas Martin and Timothy Cobb play all these works with great flair, which is exactly what they need, and Christopher Oldfather backs the bassists up well while remaining appropriately in the background.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2010

Though the young Giovanni Bottesini had never played the bass before his father signed him up to study the instrument at the Milan Conservatory, within five years he was bemusing audiences around Europe with his incredible virtuosity. But when you are out there on tour fired up with a surplus of technique and nothing to show for it, you end up writing your own compositions to showcase your dexterity…a hundred years later they still serve to test the resources of the most gifted performers. Here we have four works for not just one, but two basses played by the much travelled soloist,Thomas Martin, and the principal bass of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Timothy Cobb. Between them they walk Bottesini’s musical tightrope performing just about every known trick and reaching the other end unscathed. Most of the works are a cut above much that Bottesini wrote, though the Rossini Fantasia is a typical romp through popular opera tunes. It is the three movement ‘concerto’, Passioni amorose, that is really outstanding—the finale an outrageous display of harmonics—while the unaccompanied Gran Duetto is a highly attractive piece lasting not far short of half an hour. The Concerto is better known in a shorter adaptation for violin, bass and orchestra, Gran Duo Concertante, though here the exploits of the soloists are even more brazen. Between displays of left-hand agility they produce the most silky smooth and sonorous singing tone from two Italian instruments dating from the composer’s era. The pianist, Christopher Oldfather, has the unrewarding task of filling the backdrop in nicely balanced sound quality.

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