Dragonetti, Concerto for Double Bass and Piano - edited by David Walter
In this high-quality publication, esteemed bassist and pedagogue David Walter offers a refreshing new perspective of an old favourite, the Dragonetti Concerto. In the preface, Walter places the work in its historical context, offers biographical information and discusses the question of authorship, with evidence being presented that Edouard Nanny was the concerto's true composer.
In the first movement, Walter puts accents on the opening three half notes, making a bold clarion call before highlighting the descending scale at the expense of the repeated, less interesting open Ds. Subsequent sixteenth note passages are treated to varied slurrings and articulations, giving an attractive shape to sections that sometimes sound workmanlike. Sculpting musical form out of lumpy sequential material frees some phrases from the leaden tyranny of the downbeat, allowing them to run with renewed vigour from the oflbeat sixteenths. Open-voiced spread chords in bar 18 allow the bass an almost Viennese-tuned resonance, while contrasting definitions of the triplets in bar 31 create interest and heighten the dramatic tension. In bar 52, the rhythms are rearranged, propelling the arpeggiated crescendo to its high point.
The second movement again finds Walter grouping notes in a logical and mellifluous way. The down bows in bars 29 and 31 are retaken, so that the bass practically provides its own accompaniment; the double-stops from bar 45 receive greater significance by replacing thirds with open fifths, which creates a satisfying counterpoint. Walter's cadenza would have had the good burghers of 18th-century Vienna reaching for the smelling salts, as it embraces such 20th-century innovations as false-harmonic scales and one-finger pizzicato glissandi. In the introductory notes, Walter outlines his approach to cadenza writing, highlighting their improvisatory origins, and he urges performers to write their own "unrestrained expression of enthusiasm."
The last movement is given a new lightness of touch through contrasting articulations. To move the upbeat to bar 41 from the accompaniment into the solo part makes sense of a previously incongruous corner. In bar 53 the call and answer theme is given octave transpositions, which makes use of the bass. lower ranges and gives relief from relentless eights in thumb position.
Walter's lyrical approach is sincere and compelling, and by drawing clarity from a mist of notes, he brings a youthful exuberance to a slightly creaky, old masterpiece.
Iain Crawford, Double Bassist