Ginastera: Cinco canciones populares argentinas; Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata; R Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; plus works by Bloch, Bottesini, Gershwin, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich
Nicholas Schwartz (double bass), Anna Fedorova (piano)
Channel Classics CCS43121 73:12 mins
Pianist Anna Fedorova and double-bassist Nicholas Schwartz apparently bonded over a mutual love of oysters. The eponymous ‘stolen pearls’ of this recording refer to the fact that the pieces are virtually all arrangements, purloined from other instruments’ repertoires.
Assembling a recording of bass solo works is no mean feat. The duo starts off well with Ginastera’s characterful Cinco canciones populares argentinas, which showcases the bass’s subterranean range. R Schumann’s immensely popular Fantasiestücke, which has been arranged for many instruments, is delivered energetically. Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, itself written for an obsolete instrument, has a slightly lumbering quality, although the central Adagio is played with utmost sweetness.
An unexpected, lengthy jazz peroration follows, introducing a transformed, bitonal Gershwin Prelude. It’s a great idea, but the bass line is lost within the resulting balance. Then follows several lyric-Romantic works – Bloch’s Prayer, a Shostakovich Adagioand a Rachmaninov Romance – rather lacking in variety. The closing Tarantella by Bottesini (a double-bass virtuoso) is a revelation, Schwartz fizzing up and down the instrument’s entire range, skipping through fiendishly virtuosic passages alternating, with tender operatic cantilenas.
Schwartz’s warm, silky playing matches Fedorova’s rounded piano touch. The top of the bass range lacks the penetrating quality of its smaller relatives, but Schwartz compensates with gravitas and flexibility. The recording has an appealing intimacy – one hears the odd swift page turn – and old-fashioned sound quality.