The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: A celebration of the double bass across the centuries
Musicians: Christine Hoock, Thomas Martinu Thomas Jauch, Stephen Bauer (double bass) Florian Birsak (harpsichord) Barbara Nussbaum (piano)
Composer: Vivaldi, Glass, Bach, Pärt, Corrette, Zbinden & Handel

Is there a collective word for double basses? If so, it applies to this CD. Even some of the bass sonatas come with an extra bass, as in Vivaldi’s E minor Cello Sonata no.5, arranged for bass, which features bassist Thomas Martinuas continuo player. This makes the energetic allegros very jolly. Christine Hoock, plays with lightness and superb articulation. She is captivating in Bach’s Second Gamba Sonata, particularly in the sparkling second-movement Allegro. Handel’s Trio Sonata for two violins again has a continuo bass, making three in all. Too much of a good thing? No, it’s a delight, the contrapuntal lines elegantly crafted, the textures airy.

The Baroque works are dispersed through a well-thought-out sequence of old and new. Philip Glass’s melancholy 1981 Façades, originally for two flutes or saxophones and string ensemble, is imaginatively reworked by Hoock (who did most of the arrangements) for four basses, piano and harpsichord. Hoock gives a haunting account of Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel (in Pärt’s own transcription), and has Zbinden’s Hommage à J.S. Bach (1969), the only original bass work, to herself. She gives a subtle performance, as it moves through Bachian shapes and wistful musings. The full company performs Corrette’s Concerto ‘Le Phénix’ (c.1734), originally for four bass viols and basso continuo, with open-hearted elan. It’s an entertaining CD, recorded close in with a bit of bloom in the acoustic.