The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: The Berlin Philharmonic’s whizzkid bassist plays a trio of rare concertos
Musicians: Edicson Ruiz (double bass) Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra/Christian Vásquez
Composer: Dittersdorf, Hoffmeister, Vanhal

One of the ‘bright young things’ featured in January’s Strad, Edicson Ruiz here makes good his intention of recovering the repertoire written for the double bass in the late 18th century. These concertos were written for the virtuoso Johannes Matthias Sperger and in their original form require the so-called ‘Viennese’ tuning in 3rds and 4ths (A–D–F sharp–A, transposed according to the required key). While modern editions of this music have adapted it to the modern tuning in 4ths, Ruiz makes a convincing case for returning to the sources, demonstrating in passage after passage how the music suits the instrument like a glove.

Astute use of natural harmonics allows for full?sounding passages in double-stops, and the tuning based on the piece’s key makes the double bass resonate with uncommon brilliance, the more so since the key of E flat major requires tuning the instrument a semitone higher. Ruiz plays with unshakeable aplomb, exhibiting a sprightly spiccato and consistent tonal imagination. Just very occasional bulges in sustained notes remind the listener that the double bass can be intractable at times. Under Christian Vásquez, the Simón Bolívar orchestra accompanies enthusiastically if with somewhat opaque sound. The recording’s spotlight is, understandably, on the soloist. Klaus Stoll’s succinct but highly informative booklet notes round off a most attractive CD.

Carlos María Solare