A full recital by a double bass player is a rare gem, and Shriver Hall’s presentation of young virtuoso Xavier Foley was a delight. Vivaldi’s Sonata No.3 in A minor for cello and continuo opened the program, and Foley’s superb articulation, clear sense of line and impressive color palette brought the piece to life.
The music of Iranian composer Ruhollah Khaleghi (1906–1965) played a vital role in the relatively recent revival of Persian music; Foley said he arranged Tasnif Khooshe Chin for the double bass due to the lack of acceptance of Iranian culture in the United States. He played it with zeal and commitment and added a virtuoso touch to the rhapsodic ballad. In a fantastic programmatic move, the Khaleghi was followed by yet another new work – Irish Fantasy for double bass solo – by Foley himself, and the images these two pieces painted of the cultures they reflected were evocative and vivid. The Irish Fantasy was filled with adornments and double stops and was executed exuberantly. Bach’s Suite in D minor for solo cello followed, a welcome antidote to the two modern works. Foley’s sense of style and phrasing was exquisite – he chose faster tempos for each of the first three movements but allowed them to breathe so naturally that his sometimes extreme rubatos were charming (although some might say they were. too much because they disturbed the general sense of the pulse). He decorated the German beautifully and the Sarabande was breathtaking.
Bootsini’s Elegy No. 1 in D major for double bass and piano followed the Bach, and with its lush melodies and textures, it was another programmatic winner. Foley played expressively with not too wide but plentiful vibrato. His approach to Saint-Saëns’ Allegro appassionato for solo cello Op.43 was playful and his performance was witty and joyful, with elegant phrasing and clear direction. The recital ended with another of Foley’s own compositions, Always on the Move for double bass and piano, a character work structured in three movements but clearly influenced by jazz and popular music. The heartfelt Andante was particularly captivating and the Allegro was bright and catchy, putting a fantastic end to a phenomenal and expertly performed program.