The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Joel Quarrington (double bass) Harold Hall Robinson (double bass) Andrew Burashko (piano) James Campbell (clarinet) Monica Whicher (soprano)
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 melancolico 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 Tenda. 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 Duetto, 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.