Delights in double-bass

Double-bassist Gjorgji Cincievski and pianist Rosetta De Battista during one of the Paganini pieces.

Double-bassist Gjorgji Cincievski and pianist Rosetta De Battista during one of the Paganini pieces.

Rosetta De Battista, piano, Gjorgji Cincievski, double-bass, guest violinist Marcelline Agius
Manoel Theatre

Apart from a couple of recitals by Italian musicians which included prominent works for double-bass some 20 years ago, the instrument was never given any concert importance again in this country.

The concert reached a grand climax when guest violinist Marcelline Agius, leader of the MPO, joined forces...- Albert G. Storace

That is before the appearance of Gjorgji Cincievski, at least not in my experience.

Mr Cincievski who is the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra’s double-bass section leader started making amends with a recital in Gozo less than two years ago, then again at another venue in Valletta and finally on the Manoel stage.

Considering the unusual nature of the performance this was a reasonably attended performance, although more could have enjoyed this delightful evening which began with a solo piece, Invocation, by contemporary Czech composer Miloslav Gajdoš.

One must admit it takes some time to get used to the double-bass as a solo instrument, or even with piano, and Invocation is meant to exploit the full range of the clumsy instrument. Mr Cincievski managed to do just that and gave a foretaste of his great qualities as a virtuoso performer.

In the next piece he was joined by pianist Rosetta De Battista, who was accompanist for the rest of the performance.

He had a fully committed and supportive rapport from her and the duo launched into an arrangement by Stuart Sankey of Schubert’s Sonata for Arpeggione and piano, D. 821.

The original version for this strange, hybrid and obsolete instrument is not considered as one of Schubert’s greatest works but has curiosity value, and inevitable with Schubert, is not devoid of charm. It began with an opening allegro moderato, and after dealing with some minor problems with the double-bass intonation, resumed to a greater degree in the adagio which flowed straight into the romp which is the concluding allegretto.

Paganini’s Introduction and Variations on Dal tuo stellato soglio, otherwise known as La Preghiera from Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto was performed to Stuart Sankey’s arrangement in which the lyrical Introduction brought out the surprisingly lyrical qualities of the double-bass when in the hands of a master performer.

Needless to say, the variations had all the virtuoso complexities Paganini could muster, except that the instrument’s size could not permit it to be played upside down!

In the second half Mr Cincievski performed the next, original work for double-bass, namely Glière’s Intermezzo Opus 9, No. 1, a charming piece to gentle piano accompaniment and which was followed by the more substantial Drei fantasiestücke Opus 73 by Schumann. Here, while some of the material was evenly shared by the two musicians most of virtuoso aspects were for the double-bass.

There was balance throughout and the outer, faster movements were well-contrasted with the slower central Lebhaft, leicht and crisply articulated delivery.

This work was to Mr Cincievski’s own arrangement, as was the case with the piece which followed. This was Rakhmaninov’s famous Elegy, Opus 3, No. 1, the sonorous quality of the double-bass and the rippling piano accompaniment lent that extra dose of gentle melancholy of this most attractive work.

The concert reached a grand climax when guest violinist Marcelline Agius, leader of the MPO joined forces to form a trio in Bottesini’s Grand Duo Concertante.

The beautiful, lyrical sections reminded me of the sort of musical courtship in Paganini’s Duetto Amoroso.

Of course, like the great double-bass player that he was, Bottesini caters for truly splendid long flashes of difficult virtuoso playing for both violin and double-bass, either singly or together.

They did not fail the test. As an encore Bottesini’s Reverie for double-bass and piano was performed.

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