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...Into the Light - Witteveen, van Nee, Ospina Gavria

...Into the Light - Witteveen, van Nee, Ospina Gavria

trptk  TTK0121

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Sasha Witteveen, Jose David Ospina Gaviria (double basses)
Jorian van Nee (piano)


When it is dark, light must shine. Listening to this album will take you into the light, being guided by the human and versatile voices of our instruments. The inner strength of this CD is the progression from minor to major. With our instruments we speak about contrasts between loss and comfort, captivity and freedom, injustice and honesty, sarcasm and humor, drama, and love.

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - May 13, 2024

A niche in a niche? So it would seem to me. Just under 50 minutes of contrabass may not be on everyone’s top of the list. Still, there is sufficient reason to give it a chance and … be impressed.

For long, and for obvious reasons, the double bass was regarded as a ‘chasse gardée’ of a male-dominated section in a symphony orchestra. However, more and more women have recently entered the field. Orchestras with female contrabassists are no longer an exception. Are they getting physically stronger or have they learned to be smarter in handling this largest stringed beast, the elephant in the orchestra? Whatever the case, it is a healthy development.

Many professionally trained players are highly successful in their fundamental supportive role, but when it comes to a solo part, like in Mahler’s First Symphony (the famous ’Frère Jacques’ tune in minor), or playing as a soloist in one of Bottesini’s concerti, things become different. Whoever has ever tried to play this instrument will have discovered that playing in tune is not so easy and possibly even more difficult than on a cello, whilst fast musical scales, notably in the higher octaves, demand exceptional technical and physical skills. Pitch-sensitive people will not easily be content with a solo contrabass player. I know of only a handful that would pass my test with flying colours. Rick Stotijn (Robert Schumann Hochschule Düsseldorf) springs to mind. Based on this new TRPTK release, however, I’m pleased to confirm that Ms Witteveen has joined that exclusive company.

To my demanding ears, Sacha is one of those gifted women who qualify for classical solo pieces, playing with little or no vibrato in her musically driven performances. Only a couple of minutes into the first item of the programme: ‘Into the Light’, Op. 193 by Dmitri Smirnov, convinced me that she is an exceptional talent and despite her young age, no longer ‘in the making’. Opulent perfectionism and well-judged glissandos define her virtuoso non-accompanied solo style in what I consider to be the best part of her debut SACD: ‘The Falling Seagull’. In Rachmaninoff’s Elegy Op. 3, arranged by Gjorgfji Cincievski for Piano and Double Bass, a casual listener might at times believe that it is scored for Cello and Piano. Such is Witteveen’s careful handling of the melodious passages which she conveys so compassionately.

In terms of length and weight, the ‘Seven Double Bass Duets’, for which Colombian-born Jose David Ospina Gaviria, now active in Europe, joins Sacha, is the main item. It also is one of the more demanding for non-initiated listeners. The American composer, David Anderson, has attributed a different story to each of the seven days of the week, resulting in a series of unusually diverging musical scores. Do read the liner notes! Perhaps not all Seven are evenly pleasing but, as I see it, it allows for the double bass to show what it is capable of in capable hands — a twin statement demanding more respect and appreciation for the contrabass as a solo instrument.

I believe that Ms Witteveen’s “ambition to be an ambassador of the double bass as a versatile solo instrument” is conclusive. Her only problem: A cruel lack of solo repertoire with a wider span than complementing that of the Italian double bass champion, Giovanni Bottesini, with whose ‘Variations on Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Sento’ she ‘resets’ at the end of the mixed recital our minds in a light-heartedly beautiful fashion. Equal praise goes to her piano partner, Jorian van Nee, for his reliable assistance throughout the programme.

This may not be a disk for every day, but it has nonetheless been an ear-opener for me and I do hope for many more in the ‘niche’ and beyond. What’s next?

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2024 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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