Double Bass Concertos Nos 2-4
Ján Krigovsky (double bass); Collegium Wartberg 430
Challenge Classics CC 72915 (CD/SACD) 69:22 mins
Johann Matthias Sperger, an Austrian contemporary of Haydn, was a double bass virtuoso and prolific composer occupying important positions in several court orchestras up to the end of the 18th century. Not surprisingly, Sperger was particularly committed to promoting the double bass and wrote no less than 18 concertos for his instrument, most of which have only been recently rediscovered.
The three concertos featured here and written between 1778 and 1779 exhibit a great deal of melodic charm, character and good humour, if not perhaps the greatest originality. Nevertheless, Sperger unveils an array of different string techniques to keep you continually engaged. Furthermore, he exploits the instrument’s highest and lowest ranges so imaginatively that any notion that the double bass lacks the necessary dexterity and expressivity to be an effective soloist is simply blown out of the water.
These sparkling and vividly recorded performances from Ján Krigovsky and the Slovakian period instrument group Collegium Wartberg 430 were recorded in the very auditorium in which Sperger first performed the works. Krigovsk´y dazzles the listener with brilliant passage work and witty cadenzas, and the orchestral accompaniments for each concerto are remarkably varied. This is particularly the case with the Fourth Concerto where the introduction of the dulcimer as a kind of continuo instrument emphasises a closer proximity between concert and folk music than you’d normally expect from works composed at this time.