The Strad Issue: January 2014
Description: A not entirely convincing arrangement compensated by beautiful playing
Musicians: Joel Quarrington (double bass) David Jalbert (piano)
Composer: Brahms, Schumann, Fuchs
Joel Quarrington justifies his ‘extreme bit of editing impudence’ in transcribing Brahms’s First Violin Sonata for the bass on the rather flimsy ground that the composer’s father was a bass player. It would be good to say that it yields unexpected insights, but if so I’m afraid I’ve missed them. What it does produce, apart from extreme changes of register, is problems of balance with the piano, which seem to have been tackled here as much by the engineer as the players, with the bass right up close. Brahms’s violin writing is mellifluous, easy and flowing, not something one can say of the double bass version, although the second movement does have an attractive extra layer of melancholy. Octave leaps occur unexpectedly, and double-stops come and go, presumably reflecting the limits of the possible. Reservations aside, Quarrington plays it beautifully.
Quarrington transposes Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro for horn and piano from A flat to C, and produces fluent playing in the Adagio and great agility in the Allegro.
Finally comes Fuchs’s Sonata. This is actually written for bass and piano, and what a difference it makes, with the piano mostly light and high and the bass allowed to behave like a bass. Quarrington shows himself to be a superbly expressive and engaging artist, his playing full of nuance and character.