The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: A resourceful programme based around duets for cello and bass
Musicians: Querelle des Bouffons: Guy Fishman (cello) Robert Nairn (double bass) with Daniel Stepner (violin) Sarah Freiberg (cello)
Composer: Corelli, Handel, Viotti, Dragonetti, Rossini

Guy Fishman and Robert Nairn attempt to emulate the fruitful partnership enjoyed by Robert Lindley and Domenico Dragonetti from the 1790s, featuring some of their forebears’ repertoire as well as works by or associated with them. Fishman’s technical dexterity and surety in a relatively stratospheric tessitura are impressive in Corelli’s Sonata op.5 no.9, complete with embellishments by Geminiani, played in appropriately spontaneous fashion, and Dragonetti’s own variant on Corelli’s bass-line in the finale. He shapes the Adagio, along with another from op.9 no.4 with disarming charm. Nairn plays his largely accompanimental role with substantial accuracy, even if his contribution to the finale of op.5 no.9 is not consistently clear. Sarah Freiberg joins them for Corelli’s trio sonatas op.4 nos.1 and 8, and a movement from Viotti’s Duetto op.6 no.1, entering into sensitive musical dialogue. Appropriately, Nairn incorporates Dragonetti’s own embellished repeats in the Sarabanda of op.4 no.8. None of the above performances, nor that of Handel’s apocryphal F major Sonata, is devoid of imperfection. These players seem far more comfortable performing music specifically composed for the combination and demonstrate their virtuosity and excellent rapport most effectively in duets by Dragonetti and Rossini. Fishman’s cello tone sounds gleamingly rich in this close recording, made in a spacious and warm studio acoustic. 

Robin Stowell