john feeney


19 Apr 2013
egad! more reviews!
Blah blah blah


On the occasion, COMMANDOpera will be taken with an orchestral performance to such a degree, one is behooved to review the work in its entirety on the venue. If you ever wondered where PBS productions on historical drama’s would find their music, it would have been from a composer such as Domenico Dragonetti. Mr. Dragonetti (April 7, 1763 – April 16, 1846) was an Italian double bass virtuoso. He stayed for thirty years in his hometown of Venice, Italy and worked at the Opera Buffa, at the Chapel of San Marco and at the Grand Opera in Vicenza. By that time he had become notable throughout Europe and had turned down several opportunities, including offers from the Tsar of Russia. In 1794, he finally moved to London to play in the orchestra of the King’s Theatre, and settled there for the remainder of his life. In fifty years, he became a prominent figure in the musical events of the English capital, performing at the concerts of the Philharmonic Society of London as well as in more private events, where he would meet the most influential persons in the country, like the Prince Consort and the Duke of Leinster. He was acquainted with the composers Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, whom he visited on several occasions in Vienna, and to whom he showed the possibilities of the double bass as a solo instrument. His ability on the instrument also demonstrated the relevance of writing scores for the double bass in the orchestra separate from that of the cello, which was the common rule at the time. He is also remembered today for the Dragonetti bow, which he evolved throughout his life. Mr. Dragonetti was known for his formidable strength and stamina. It was particularly important at a time when the role of the double bass in the orchestra was to assist the concertmaster in maintaining the cohesion and establishing the tempo. He had a huge hand, with strong, broad fingers, which allowed him to play with a taller bridge and strings twice as far from the fingerboard as the other bassists. Mr. Dragonetti was a lover of the fine arts, and a collector of musical instruments as well as many art-related articles, such as original scores and paintings. When he died, the following instruments were dispatched: a giant double bass attributed to Gasparo da Salò and stated to have been used in contemporary performances of Handel’s music, which is now conserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; a very fine Domenico Montagnana Basso di Camara (from Venice); a Gasparo da Salò double bass dated 1590; an Amati double bass; a Maggini double bass; a Stradivarius violin (once played by Paganini), now known as the “Dragonetti”; a Gasparo da Salò violin; two Amati violins; one Lafont violin; a Stradivarius violin copy; 26 unnamed violins; a Gasparo da Salò viola; an Amati viola; a Hill viola; 5 unnamed violas; 6 cellos; a large cello; 3 guitars; 2 bassoons; 3 French horns.

And if one were to consider a purchase of Mr Dragonetti’s chamber music, just whom would one turn to and what would it be? Mr. John Feeney would be on the top of the list of COMMANDOpera and the work would be ‘Dragonetti’s New Academy’. Mr. Feeney is principal double bass of The Orchestra of St. Lukes, the period instrument gorups – American Classsical Orchstra, Grand Tour Orchestra, and the Sinfonia New York. For this compilation, Mr. Feeney works with The Loma Mar Quartet: Miss Krista Bennion Feeney and Miss Anca Nicolau violins, Miss Joanna Hood viola, and Mr. Myron Lutzke cello. The works on this recording were arranged by Mr. Feeney from Mr. Dragonetti’s manuscript collection in the British Museum. Mr. Feeney’s involvement with Mr. Dragonetti as a composer began in earnest in the 1990s. At that time, he was in England preparing for a tour with the London Classical Players. The director of that ensemble, Sir Roger Norrington, was able to obtain permission from the museum’s curator for Mr. Feeney to have access to the manuscript room. During an off week in the middle of the tour, Mr. Feeney spent his days pouring through Mr. Dragonetti’s extensive collection of music, including not only Mr. Dragonetti’s works but original manuscripts from Messrs.Purcell, Leopold Mozart, Mendelssohn, and many others. Mr. Feeney came away from his engagement with this collection with copies of most of Mr. Dragonetti’s original works and a determination that they should be brought into the repertory of modern musicians.

COMMANDOpera was quite pleased with the muscular surety Mr. Feeney brought to those passages where the double -bass appeared in front. This is perhaps the closest one may have had to witness firsthand what the work may have sounded like directly by the hand of Mr. Dragonetti. The Presto from the Quartet #1 imparted a suitable liveliness yet was never as milque in its handling, always on the note with a silvery edge which led with a particular lyricism into the Andante. Further into the recording, the Adagio section from quintet #13 was stunning in its gravitas, and unfolded with the temperature of a crisp rainy spring late afternoon. Nothing was left to the imagination, such was the synchronisation of the instruments in play. The reading as a whole was of the calibre which would only be rivalled in the finest of salons of the period. COMMANDOpera highly recommends this compilation.



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