Meyer, Bottesini: Concertos / Edgar Meyer, Bell, Ma
David K. Nelson, writing in 23:6 about the Violin Concerto, commented that Meyer’s music always sounds American without pandering to any of his popular influences from jazz to bluegrass. The different musics of the Double Bass Concerto in D are perhaps less integrated than in the Double Concerto but it is a lovely work. There is a quality to Meyer’s writing for strings that recalls (without, as Nelson said, actually quoting) American fiddle music that is immensely appealing. Meyer is also extremely good at keeping his low-voiced solo instruments front and center within a very colorful orchestral framework.
Bottesini is, of course, the major composer of music for the double bass of the 19th century, and both these works have been recorded fairly frequently. Bottesini essentially turned the double bass into a slightly lower equivalent of the cello, and given Meyer’s exceptionally fluid playing one would, I think, be hard pressed to be sure exactly which instrument he is playing—at least until he hits notes below the compass of the cello. Not that it is especially pressing, given the display orientation of this relatively minor music, but neither work is heard in genuinely authentic form here. In the Grand Duo concertant, the original second double bass is replaced by a violin in a period arrangement that dates from shortly after the work’s composition. In the Concerto No. 2 Meyer continues to play his replacement cadenzas (written as a precocious twenty-year old composer virtuoso to show off just what he could make his unwieldy instrument do); they are wildly out of style with the rest of the music.
Given the quality of the soloists, brilliantly abetted by the work of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra under Hugh Wolf and the remarkably clear recorded sound, it almost goes without saying that the performances are extraordinary. If not perhaps the most profound music I have ever heard, it is nevertheless enormously entertaining. Firmly recommended.
-- John Story, FANFARE [9/2002]
Catalog Number: SONY56148
Composer: Edgar Meyer, Giovanni Bottesini
Conductor: Hugh Wolff
Orchestra/Ensemble: St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Performer: Edgar Meyer, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma