Reviews: Bass line from bluegrass to Bartok
Music: Dvorak-Bartok Festival Wigmore Hall, London
Thursday 05 February 1998
Saturday night's concert introduced Edgar Meyer, a much-heralded double- bass player from America, who is also a composer and something of a cross- over artist, associated with bluegrass and other types of country, as well as classical music. These traditions were neatly combined in his String Trio No 1, which he wrote in 1986 for violin, cello and double-bass, and played on Saturday with Joshua Bell and Gary Hoffman.
Impressively, Meyer performed from memory, underlining the simple immediacy of the four movements, largely built on mesmerising pedal notes or ostinatos, and lending his cheeky solos in the third movement a sense of spontaneity that triggered a burst of impulsive applause.
Meyer has written two more trios, a string quintet with bass, and two concertos. But whatever kind of composer he is - and at least the Trio No 1 shows he can write catchy, witty music - he is clearly a player with a beautifully centred sound and impeccable technique.
The quintet we heard here was the only one by Dvorak in which he added a double-bass to a string quartet, instead of having two violas, as he did at other times, in common with Mozart and Brahms. The programme booklet described the third movement as being "haunted" by the slow movement of Schubert's great C major Quintet. So near and yet so far: it does arch itself over a leisurely pizzicato from weak to strong beat in the bass, but that's about the extent of the similarity, for Dvorak's movement is charming but far from Schubert's depth.
Yet, although Dvorak wrote the work when he was on the brink of international recognition, its outer movements are confident and full of his typically bracing, wind-in-your-hair quality. It was caught splendidly by Bell and his colleagues - Ralph de Souza, Garfield Jackson, Hoffman and Meyer.
As for Bartok, Joshua Bell and Ralph de Souza opened the programme with seven of his 44 Duos for two violins, pieces that are as satisfying as they are brief, distilling the essence of different East European or Arab folk traditions in moods ranging from sorrow to jaunty bravado.
Edgar Meyer's `Uncommon Ritual' is released on Sony Classical (SK 62891).
Life & Style blogs
Astrological signs are almost all wrong, as movement of moon and sun throws out zodiac
NHS property sale could raise £7.5bn to help pay off its growing deficit and free up space for housing
China accused of launching four-day cyber attack on US coding website GitHub
Gay marriage, one year on: Couples mark first anniversary of same-sex marriages
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 1 East 17 bandmember Brian Harvey in 'very desperate situation’
- 2 Germanwings plane crash: Video shows co-pilot Andreas Lubitz learning to fly as a teenager
- 3 Vladimir Putin says Russia will fight for the right of Palestinians to their own state
- 4 Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
- 5 Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...
£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...