In performance: François Rabbath
Rabbath touches all the basses
by Joan Reinthaler
Bassist Francois Rabbath’s appearance at the Lutheran Church of St. Andrew in Silver Spring on Friday was more a love fest than a concert. The culminating event of a week-long festival devoted to all things string bass (including a yoga session for bass players) the program drew an audience of musicians devoted to the instrument, to the venerable Rabbath (something of a rock star in bass circles) and to the late George Vance, local educator and musician to whose memory this Summer Workshop was dedicated.
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Exuding charm and modesty, the Syrian-born Rabbath dedicated his first piece, a sleek and subtle, almost vocal reworking of “The Man I Love” to his “great friend, Vance” and then went on to an astonishing display of bass versatility. There was the investigation of an Indian-inspired raga that had the instrument sounding eerily like a sitar and its accompanying tambura; short ballade-like songs with Middle Eastern flavors; a piece with the energy and lightness of "The Flight of the Bumble-Bee;” and a wonderful hunting song complete with horns and horses. These were Rabbath’s own compositions, some of them for bass alone but some accompanied on the piano by Rabbath’s son, Sylvain, a compelling musician in his own right whose commitment and devotion to his father’s music-making was palpable.
Rabbath announced the pieces on the program in between applying resin to his bow and testing out the results, commenting on the excellence of the young musicians he had been spending the week with and proclaiming his devotion to the other master bassists in the audience. His two encores, a shadowy sketch of “Night and Day” and a masterfully lyrical movement of a Bach cello suite, neatly captured the magic of the evening.
-- Joan Reinthaler
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