Saturday, July 12, 2008
Voltaire is reported to have said to a celebrated cellist of his day, "Sir, you make me believe in miracles; you know how to turn an ox into a nightingale!" The remark applies with even greater force to the sui generis bass virtuoso François Rabbath, who gave a rapturously received recital Thursday at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
Rabbath has been the featured headliner for many years at the annual Summer Bass Workshop co-sponsored by the University of Maryland. At 77, this self-taught artist remains one of the most fascinating and charismatic string players before the public. Although he suffered a fall that affected his left hand just before the concert, Rabbath played for 80 minutes without intermission, running through his many signature works, written by or for him, including Frank Proto's pyrotechnical Paganini Variations. His own pieces are "world music" in the best sense, blending his Middle Eastern heritage with the style of his earlier collaborators, Michel Legrand and Charles Aznavour.
Rabbath's bow technique is the equal of any violin or cello soloist, as he made clear in "Chasse Cour," tossing off bariolage, flying staccato, jete and every other trick in the bowing arsenal. Some might wish he would sometimes occasionally offer classic works of Hindemith, Domenico Dragonetti or Serge Koussevitzky, but his artistry shines through everything. For his final encore, he showed off his traditional jazz chops in Gershwin's "The Man I Love," spinning the most melancholy dreams an instrument is capable of.
April 4, 2012
On Saturday at MacPhail's Antonello Hall, a near-capacity audience held its breath as the great musician, composer, and teacher François Rabbath played the double bass as if it were a string quartet: bass, cello, viola, violin. Entirely self-taught, Rabbath never believed the bass had any limits, so he never encountered any, and in his arms this often-neglected instrument was reborn. At 81, Rabbath is puckish and radiant. He calls his instrument "she" and loves it like a woman. He can and does play anything: classical and jazz ("it's all music"), original works, Bach. Often throughout the generous set he performed with his son Sylvain on piano, the music was almost unbearably beautiful. Merci, MM. Rabbath.
More Rabbath Reviews
Interview in The Washington Post - June 29, 2000
See more Concert and Recording Reviews
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