Duo for Viola and Double Bass
The Duo for Viola and Double Bass is Frank Proto's newest Liben chamber music release and is featured on the new CD Frank Proto - Chamber Works 6, Duos A. At over twenty-five minutes, it's a substantial new work and bears many of the hallmarks of Proto's style: successful integration of written and improvised material (presented in such a way that does not make people who have never improvised before, uncomfortable), references and allusions to a myriad of modern styles including jazz, rock, funk, blues, etc., and a hightly effective and original language steeped in a kind of modal tonality.
The opening Andante is a haunting, almost serial decending melody, which, via some very effective harmonic chords, flows to a freer section using some of the original material in a much more energetic fashion. The trilled chords, which conclude the movement, sound almost sci-fi.
The second movement is based on a Latin pizzicato bass figure, which dissolves and reappears throughout. The harmonic chords from the first movement herald some really striking arco writing and equally cool duo pizzicato sections. There are two free improvisations section for the bassist underneath held trills for the viola. There are some gestures here that hark back to his Trio for Violin Viola and Bass of 1974, The Latin rhumba-esque figure reemerges to finish the movement.
The Agitato third movement contains a lot of very effective writing and is evocative and elegiac with the viola often in its lower register. The final movement is more upbeat and contains frequent improvised sections for the bass with both free improvisation sections and sections requiring improvisation over a set chord pattern. It is important to note that in this work, the viola player is not required to improvise. The viola writing over the Poco Funk bass figure is frequently virtuosic and compelling.
Overall, it is another very effective piece of chamber music from one of the most prolific composers of music for the bass and should find an enthusiastic audience.