Malachy Robinson: The Irish Double Bass review – Strings core to this personal release

Another album from lockdown, Robinson is aided by pianist Gary Beecher

The Irish Double Bass
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Artist: Malachy Robinson, Gary Beecher
Genre: Classical

Double bassist Malachy Robinson, a familiar figure in the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Irish Baroque Orchestra and Crash Ensemble, turned 50 last year. He marked the milestone by using some of his pandemic-enforced spare time to work on a CD that puts him at the centre of everything. He even sings as well as plays in his own, spare arrangement of My Lagan Love.

There's just one work with piano, his arrangement for his own instrument of the heavily referential, Brahms-lite Cello Sonata by his grandfather, Joseph Groocock. Other arrangements include the late John Kinsella's cello solo Una Giga para Carlos, which forces the double bass to an ungainly dance, and Judith Ring's Twilight, also from a cello original, that tilts between solidity and ethereality. Eoghan Desmond's Variations has ghosts, too – it seems repeatedly ready to sidestep into Michel Legrand's The Windmills of Your Mind.

Generally, the less conventional a composer’s approach, the better the outcome in these unforgivingly close recordings. As in Ryan Molloy’s Bodhrán, a “structured improvisation” with plenty of room for imitation and sonic stretching, the percussive thrust of Kevin O’Connell’s Slåttar, the nervy opening of Deirdre Gribbin’s Maps of Awakening, and the softly-grained harmonics of Ian Wilson’s Pianura, which take the instrument into the stratosphere.

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan

Michael Dervan is a music critic and Irish Times contributor