Proto: 9 Variants on Paganini
François Rabbath: Double Bass, Michael Chertock: Piano
ESF Chamber Orchestra: Frank Proto: Conductor
François Rabbath: Double Bass, Frank Proto: Piano
Charleston Symphony Orchestra: David Stahl, Conductor
This is a curious program containing two versions of each of these pieces, the first with piano accompaniment, the second with orchestra. Both are excellently performed, but all it really tells me is that I enjoy orchestras more than I do piano. The orchestral sounds create a whole new world of color that helps the musical gestures to make emotional sense while the piano merely supplies pitches. This is not to put down the sound of the piano, but once you've heard Proto's Paganini Variations with orchestra, you'll wonder why you ever listened to them with piano. They are imaginative, jazzy and lyrical, with a cadenza by Rabbath that he plays quite differently in the two recordings, though the notes are similar.
Rabbath's seven-minute piece takes eight minutes with orchestra, but one attributes this to the added introduction in the orchestra rendition. Both of these pieces are quite lovely and Rabbath plays them with an effective blend of lyricism and jazz.
There are no liner notes; but, following directions, my computer downloaded considerable material and photos of Proto, Rabbath, Chertock and Stahl, as well as a couple of extras. Each document is accompanied by background music by Proto and Rabbath not on the main program. How long the segments continue I didn't check, but you do get more for your money than a half-hour of music performed twice. This begins to sound more worthwhile than it did at first. At any rate, this is a well-played program of worthwhile music.
American Record Guide
Red Mark CD 9234
Two of the most eminent bassists around come together for what proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable, thrillingly played disc - even if the content choices are slightly disconcerting. Providing both bass-and-piano and bass-and-orchestra versions of both of the disc's pieces is admittedly fascinating, but a wider selection of repertoire would have made for a far stronger recital.
In any case, bassists François Rabbath and Frank Proto make a superb team. Rabbath is in the spotlight as soloist in all pieces, and also composer of the achingly beautiful, folk-inspired Reitba, which he delivers with a sense of freedom and spontaneity in its rapturous melodic line.
Proto is pianist for the bass-and-piano version of Reitba, and also composer of the opening Nine Variants on Paganini (and conductor of its orchestral incarnation), a cool, jazzy reimagining of the famous 24th Caprice tune. Here, Rabbath is sometimes strangely reticent in the bass-and-piano performance, but he's commanding with orchestra, and astonishingly effective in a slow, jazz ballad-like central section, almost singing through his instrument in a freely flowing melodic line that plays with rhythm and intonation provocatively.