Rick Stotijn:

Bottesini (Channel Classics) 5/5

Lara Hall:

Telemann (Atoll, both through Ode Records) 3/5



"Musicians from either side of the globe explore unfamiliar string repertoire"

Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889) was to the double bass what the great Paganini was to the violin. Not only a pioneering force on his instrument, Bottesini was also a successful composer in both concert hall and opera house. Today only his double bass works get an airing, most recently for us when Hiroshi Ikematsu and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra brought some to town last year.

Rick Stotijn is an ace bass man and his new Channel Classics CD with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta benefits from just the calibre of artistry that this paper-thin music needs.

One of Bottesini's obituaries praised his precision, dash, accuracy, softness of tone and phrase - Stotijn has all these virtues and then some.

Tell-tale upper register playing, which can so often be a scrawny whine, is unfailingly liquid-toned and melodious, which you can hear when he reaches for the skies in a Capriccio di Bravura, ballasted by a particularly agile quintet.

Violinist Liza Ferschtman is a stylish partner with a conspiratorial sense of humour in the Grand Duo Concertant.

Together they bring an extraordinary fullness to Bottesini's writing, beautifully balanced by the larger body of strings.

Christianne Stotijn joins him for two songs, occasioned by the composer's friendship with Adelina Patti, the legendary diva. But perhaps her fruity mezzo is a distraction in the second, an admittedly luscious arrangement of a Chopin Etude.

Local violinist Lara Hall has searched out the 12 solo Fantasias of 1735 to give us a taste of George Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) at his most engaging. The notorious Telemann Template - perhaps an inevitable recourse when one's outputs run to over 6000 works - is less evident in these often whimsical, throwaway pieces.

Hall is most convincing when she opens the final C major work with gracefully loose-limbed playing of considerable tonal resourcefulness.

Too often, however, a lack of pliancy and tonal gradation within phrases, compounded by the occasional scuff, detract from spirited performances.