- Sonata for Cello & Piano No. 1 in E minor, Op. 38
- Violin Concerto ("Butterfly Lovers")
Brahms' "First Cello Sonata, Op. 38," has become as much a staple for the double bass repertoire as it is for cellists. Even in its unaltered state, the piece falls fairly nicely on the bass, so any "transcription" is typically minimally invasive, requiring very few alterations to the score. Such is the case with the transcription made by bassist Yung-Chiao Wei, heard on this Centaur Records disc with pianist Chao-I Chou. Her execution of the piece is generally quite pleasant. Her tone, particularly in the lower and middle registers of her instrument, is quite warm and rich. There's a little bit of nasality in her upper range, but not so much that projection suffers. Balance with the piano, by far one of the most difficult aspects of performing this work on the double bass, is well done; the bass is clearly heard throughout and the piano never sounds as if it's been shut in a closet. The only questionable aspect of this performance is one of pacing; the first movement, for example, is rather slow, and the development section becomes almost ponderous. The remaining two movements never have a moment where the tempo really gets moving, even in the bravura conclusion of the third movement. Of course, transcribing a work from cello to bass is quite different than transcribing from violin to bass, as is the case with the collaboratively written "Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto" by Zhan-Hao Ho and Chen Kang. Although it may be difficult to conceive of a monster like the double bass attempting to depict something as effete as a butterfly, Wei does a commendable job of it. Her playing in this piece really digs in a great deal more than the Brahms and we see some more exciting and forward-moving choices of tempo. The piano reduction of the orchestral part is a bit thin, but necessary to ensure a workable balance.