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Canto Interno - Cabrera, Maj, Huang

Canto Interno - Cabrera, Maj, Huang

trptk  TTK0072

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Bottesini: Introduzione e Varizioni sul "Carnevale di Venezia", Gran duo concertante
Koussevitsky: 2 Morceaux, Chanson triste, Humoresque
Schumann: Fantasiestücke
Franck: Violin Sonata

Luis Cabrera, double bass
Justyna Maj, piano
Sylvia Huang, violin


Double bassist Luis Cabrera (Spain, 1985) plays with many well-known European orchestras and has been with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra since 2006. He studied in Madrid and in London at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with Rinat Ibragimov (1960-2020), a teacher who has had a great influence on him. To him Cabrera dedicates his debut 'Canto Interno' (’The Song Within’), another special release from the adventurous Dutch TRPTK label.

In putting together his album, Cabrera has been guided by the music he has admired since childhood, whether or not it was originally written for double bass. He is accompanied by pianist Justyna Maj and violinist Sylvia Huang. Almost naturally, his production starts with two pieces by virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889). Romantic music that seems made for the caressing, almost creamy, sound that Cabrera manages to elicit from his instrument.

The legendary Serge Koussevitzky (1874-1951), who enjoyed a dual career as a conductor and double bassist, is represented with an elegant four-piece composition. Playful pieces in which Cabrera can let his double bass sing full-bloodedly. Never does his playing become too heavy and even in the most complex passages he manages to generate a beautiful open sound. The flexibility of the imposing instrument seems boundless in his hands.

Of particular note is the choice of the ‘Fantasiestücke, Op. 73’ by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), originally written for clarinet and violin. The composer once indicated that the works could also be performed on viola and cello, but Cabrera succeeds in convincingly translating the music to the double bass. A feat that commands admiration.

A highlight is the arrangement of the famous 'Sonata for piano and violin' by César Franck (1822-1890), a real tour de force. In it, Cabrera goes to the extreme of his ability, with a flexibility unprecedented for his instrument. What is special is that the double bass player manages to combine charm and depth. Canto Interno' is for him not only a debut, but also "an incredibly beautiful journey with a wealth of experiences, ultimately the album is a portrait of myself".

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Review by Mark Werlin - July 16, 2021

A recital of works composed and adapted for the double bass might seem too specialized for many classical music SACD enthusiasts, but recent recordings by the Dutch virtuoso bassist Rick Stotijn and others continue to demonstrate the capability of the instrument to equal the expressiveness of its smaller string relatives.

In this new SACD from the adventurous TRPTK label, bassist Luis Cabrera adds a distinctive presence to the cohort of concertizing virtuoso solo bassists.

The dearth of classical and romantic era writing for the bass as a recital instrument prompted Cabrera to adapt two well-known 19th-century chamber works, Robert Schuman’s Fantasiestücke, and César Franck’s Sonata for violin and piano, to the requirements of his instrument. The double bass, which is in lineage of the viol family of string instruments, is tuned in fourths, generally, EADG. The modern cello, viola, and violin, are tuned in fifths. Adapting works composed for instruments with different tunings necessitates substantial changes in fingering and bowing.

This is especially evident in the César Franck sonata when Cabrera must reposition his hand up or down the bass’ fingerboard, which alters the way phrases sound compared to a performance on the violin. Cabrera makes the daunting technical task seem effortless; his flawless intonation, expressive cantabile phrasing, and balanced tempos draw the listener inside the interpretation. The deep timbre of the instrument never blunts the delicacy of the writing. Aficionados of this well-loved sonata owe themselves the experience of hearing it performed in the dark, honeyed tones of Cabrera’s ca. 1770 Landolfi bass, on loan from the Dutch Musical Instruments Foundation. Audiences who have heard Cabrera perform with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, where he is the principal bass, or in concerts and recitals, are indeed fortunate.

The SACD opens with lively performances of works written for bassists by bassists: Giovanni Bottesini’s “Introduzione e Variazioni sui ‘Carevale di Venezia’, and Gran Duo Concertante with violinist Sylvia Huang and pianist Justyna Maj; and four short pieces by the eminent conductor and bassist Serge Koussevitzky, performed with pianist Maj. Bottesini’s vivacious theatricality shines through the performances, a glittering prelude to the recital. A more somber mood prevails in the Koussevitzky works, which sets the stage for full-blown 19th-century Romantic fervor in the Schumann Fantasiestücke. The interplay between Cabrera and Maj conveys a profound grasp of the works, and mutuality of purpose. The balance between a Steinway Model D piano and an 18th-century bass is perhaps more difficult to achieve than with a cello or violin; careful positioning of the players at the recording sessions brings the two instruments into clear sonic focus.

In the liner notes, Cabrera describes “canto interno” (interior voice) as an inner space in which a musician can hear and feel the work. The album is dedicated to Cabrera’s teacher and friend Rinat Ibragimov, who taught that “when the music and sound are inside your head, your hands find a way to make it happen through the instrument.” Ibragimov, formerly the principal bassist of the London Symphony Orchestra and a teacher at the Guildhall School, was lost to COVID-19 in 2020; he left his musical legacy to Luis Cabrera and to his own daughter, the remarkable violinist Alina Ibragimova, who performs with the Chiaroscuro Quartet on a series of outstanding BIS SACDs of Haydn and Schubert string quartets.

TRPTK label chief and engineer Brendon Heinst recorded the album in four sessions at De Doelen, Grote Zaal, in Rotterdam; his evocative photos of the sessions Illustrate the liner notes booklet. Most of TRPTK’s productions are of small ensembles, solo and duo performers, for which Heinst has developed a distinctive “house sound” based on an omnidirectional array of DPA microphones. The original DXD recording was mastered to MCH and stereo DSD for this SACD release, which can be obtained direct from TRPTK. It is also available from NativeDSD in multiple resolutions and formats.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net

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