Friday, 22 February 2019

Double bass maestro played a blinder for Mayor’s charities

Double bass maestro played a blinder for Mayor’s charities

An Evening with Leon Bosch | Kenton Theatre | Friday, January 11

LAST Friday was a very special one for the Kenton Theatre as it welcomed the world-renowned double bass virtuoso Leon Bosch to the stage.

South African-born Mr Bosch is the leading exponent of the bass from his generation and has performed worldwide as a soloist and chamber musician, as well as commissioning numerous works for the instrument and recording a wide range of CDs.

The programme was attractively presented — the pieces were neatly interspersed with a short interview in each half, the questions being posed by Laura Reineke, the founder and director of Henley Music School.

Bosch’s eloquent responses gave us a fascinating insight into his early life and musical development in Cape Town, his subsequent training and professional career in Britain.

The concert opened with Beethoven’s Sonata in F
(Op. 17), a piece originally written for the French horn and transcribed by Bosch for double bass.

It was an excellent starter — energetic and highly articulate playing by Bosch, with Romanian pianist Rebeca Omordia providing the requisite bright and sparkling accompaniment.

The conversational interplay between the instruments was skilfully balanced so that the full range of the bass’s low notes remained clearly audible throughout.

Next, in complete contrast we heard Turning Towards You, the first of two pieces by contemporary British composer Robin Walker (born 1953). The audience was intrigued as Bosch began to wrap tape around his fingertips in preparation.

What followed was a striking technical and musical exploration of the instrument, rarely heard on the bass.

It involved much percussive pizzicato, played by right and left hands in rhythmic alteration and producing clearly defined pitches and harmonics, the intensity of sound varying according to the execution and velocity.

Exciting stuff!

The lyrical bowed sections demonstrated Bosch’s versatility as he shifted to his trademark warm, mellow tone and sensitive phrasing.

The ending was particularly compelling — a repeated low pedal note on the piano providing a sense of calm and peace after all the preceding activity.

Robin Walker was in the audience and came on to the stage, obviously delighted with the performance.

Walker’s The Song of Bone on Stone for solo bass piece was written especially for Bosch and highlighted his incredible spectrum of colour and tone.

Starting in the manner of a simple folk song, played on ultra-high harmonics, it travels down through the range to the rich depths and sonority of the lower strings.

To conclude was the famous Elegy and Tarantella by the romantic composer and “Paganini” of the double bass, Giovanni Bottesini. The elegy was a tender interpretation, played with glowing tone and fine nuances. The lively tarantella demonstrated Bosch’s true virtuosity and excellent characterisation.

The concert was organised jointly by the Mayor of Henley, Councillor Glen Lambert, and Laura Reineke, with the proceeds going to the Mayor’s charities.

While the final total raised is still to be confirmed, Mr Lambert said this week that it looked as if it would be around the £2,000 mark.

As a special incentive, two young people who had been inspired by the evening’s performance would be receiving several months’ worth of free lessons from Henley Music School to help them on their way.

Doubtless many older people had also been equally inspired by Leon Bosch’s wonderful playing that evening.

Maureen Idowu

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