François Rabbath: Carmen
Red Mark compact disc (CD 9203)

Proto: Carmen Fantasy - Rabbath: Two Miniatures, Concerto No. 3
Rabbath: double bass, Frank Proto, Florence Bouchet: piano

This recording, recommended wholeheartedly, reunites the unique talents of Frank Proto (composer, bassist, jazz musician, pianist) with those of virtuoso bassist and composer François Rabbath. Rabbath combines a mellifluous and silky tone with supreme musicianship that is ideally suited to the works recorded here.

Proto composed the five-movement Carmen Fantasy in 1991 for Rabbath and used several of the popular arias from Bizet's opera in a lyrical and relaxed transcription. The Fantasy begins with a virtuosic Prelude for solo bass, leading into the Aragonaise including an improvisational passage that both performers play with relish. Micaela's Aria is treated as the slow movement of the Suite and Rabbath demonstrates the wonderful sonorities and expressive qualities of the double bass. The Toreador Song hints at Proto's love of jazz and the work ends with a lively and virtuosic Bohemian Dance.

The Two Miniatures for double bass and piano are atmospheric tone poems with an impressionistic quality well suited to the cantabile nature of the bass. Proto provides a simple but important piano accompaniment allowing the solo line to dominate. Rabbath and Proto perform with perfect understatement, producing a feeling of calm and serenity that demonstrates their exceptional musical rapport.

Concerto No. 3 is a romantic love duet between bass and piano and both performers play with great feeling and power. The one-movement work is divided into sections that are dominated by rhythmic vitality or lyrical interludes. This is an impressive performance in which Rabbath wears his heart on his sleeve.

David Heyes
Double Bassist

Frank Proto
A Carmen Fantasy for Double Bass and Piano

Frank Proto's Carmen Fantasy was composed in 1991 for the virtuoso bassist François Rabbath, who has performed the work throughout America and Canada. It is available for both solo and orchestral tunings (as are most Liben publications) and the edition was sponsored by the Bass Viol Shop of Cincinnati. Rabbath has recorded the Fantasy twice, firstly with piano (1992) and subsequently with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in 1993, and has inspired Proto to write a number of important works to enrich the solo bass repertoire.

The five movement Fantasy is "more than just a group of variations set atop Bizet's accompaniments" and is all the more successful because of it. Proto has written a wonderfully free and rhapsodic fantasy based on popular themes from Carmen in a lyrical and 'jazz-influenced' work. The five movement suite includes a lyrical Prelude (solo bass), Aragonaise, Micaela's Aria, Toreador Song and Bohemian Dance in an advanced and virtuosic transcription, obviously written with Rabbath's unique talents in mind.

Micacla's aria is the 'slow movement' of the suite, set as a Nocturne and beautifully arranged in the higher reaches of the instrument. This is the type of aria to also have a life outside the Fantasy. The Toreador Song is wonderfully laid-back and relaxed and the work ends with a gloriously fast and virtuosic Bohemian Dance. Recommended to all who love a good tune.

David Heyes
The British and International Bass Forum

See record review

Frank Proto
A Carmen Fantasy for Double Bass and Piano

One of the most popular operas of all time, it's hardly surprising that the tunes from Bizet's Carmen have been the foundation for at least two high-profile violin virtuoso composers - Sarasate and Waxman - as well as Tcherepnin's version for violin, choir and side drum. Frank Proto's A Carmen Fantasy is a welcome counterweight to this treble-clef bias.

The drama surrounds one man's downfall via unrequited love, obsession, increasing criminality and eventual arrest for murdering the subject of his passions. Proto gets straight in here with the Prelude, a dark and brooding cadenza that owes nothing to the opera's orchestra] prelude but a lot to Spanish guitar figurations: running 3/8 semiquavers and in particular the octave closely followed by the minor ninth. This cadenza is a little tone poem in itself, invoking the feeling of something nasty in the very near future by quite simple harmonies used well. Technically, it has its moments too. This is the first time I've seen unisons (the same note played on two strings) in music for bass and melodic consecutive fourths - difficult but effective.

The thumping downbeats beginning the Aragonaise follow the closing false harmonics of the cadenza with something of a start. This is a fairly straight rendering of the well-known tune, nice to play and with a very well-thought-out accompaniment. And, as a bonus, you get another go at the opening cadenza Michaela's Aria is nicely handled with the solo part in the right register of the bass over a harp-like piano part (is it, in fact, a harp in the orchestra] version, I wonder?).

The Fantasy of the title seems to apply most to Proto's approach to the Toreador Song. Not here the castanet rhythms and insistent bass but gentle, quiet arpeggios with the occasional outburst signifying rising temperatures. After the most extravagant cadence point imaginable comes, for me, the highlight of the piece: the Toreador's main theme. This is very slow (crotchet = 64) with the most unexpected harmonies. Great fun.

The fifth and final movement is the Bohemian Dance. This fits the bass exceptionally well and speed shouldn't be too much of a problem as a lot of rhythmic momentum is provided by the piano's alternating 6/8, 3/4 against the bass' constant 3/4. After a lengthy magnification of the fast tune it bursts out @ molto allegro, followed by an accel. poco a poco al fine. This is a really terrific addition to our repertoire since it's playable, showy and a vehicle for both emotion and technique. There's a lot to be said for the operatic fantasy, having saved many a performer from the awesome task of writing a hit. The tunes are tried and tested and understandably popular.

Neil Tarlton
Double Bassist

See record review

Frank Proto
A Carmen Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra

...Rabbath and the Toulouse Chamber Orchestra premiered the orchestral version of Proto's Carmen Fantasy. This was followed by a U.S. tour in the spring of 1993.

The five movements follow Bizet in flavor and melodic statement, but there is plenty of Proto in the cadenza, reharmonization and his idiomatic bass writing. The original fantasy (for double bass and piano) begins with the cadenza which is marked Prelude. The orchestral version begins with a bit of its own fantasy - flute, harp, and tremolo strings, followed by other winds. Rabbath places his personal stamp on the work from the beginning. From wholehearted to plaintive, Rabbath is successful at creating moods and quick scene shifts (introducing new characters, as it were) via great dynamic contrasts and changing colors. and, yes, he is even seductive. The fiery Iberian prelude sets up the Aragonaise, in which Proto finds space for some modal and quartal harmony, and Corea-like chordal interjections. Rabbath takes advantage of the optional improvised section and carves out a little folk tale. The Nocturne, Micaela's aria, is a gorgeous reverie. The reharmonization seems inspired by the impressionistic side of Sondheim, or maybe Bill Evans. Rabbath's trademark detache broadens the phrases throughout this movement.

The final two movements, Toreador Song and Bohemian Dance are classic Proto synthesis: Bizet and transfiguration. The Toreador song opens innocently; then the orchestra interjects II-IV-I cadences as a big band. There is another fine moment when the Toreador's march is accompanied by block harmony and a walking bass line. A cleverly orchestrated connection between final movements was added to the original version. the Bohemian Dance has a bit of Broadway groove underneath the opening, and several ethereal transitions involving harmonic, vibraphone, and veiled strings. Rabbath bravely drives the work to its conclusion, achieving a blend of the work's provincial dances with inherent sentimental lyricism.

Tom Knific
International Society of Bassists Magazine

See record review

Frank Proto
A Carmen Fantasy for Trumpet and Orchestra

...The program's second half sizzled with Severinsen's trumpet stratospherics. Generating plenty of excitement here was a rich, rollicking Carmen Fantasy, with the opera's tunes freely and imaginatively adapted by Frank Proto. It gave Severinsen many chances to hit the heights - at one point abetted by shouts of "Ole" from the audience.

Ray Cooklis
Cincinnati Enquirer

Program notes

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Frank Proto
Capriccio di Niccolo for Trumpet and Orchestra

...Severinsen's offering was the world premiere of a new work by Frank Proto, Capriccio di Niccolo, a new set of variations on a Paganini tune that has attracted composers as diverse as Rachmaninoff and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The best part of Proto's piece was a torchy New York ballad; after a quick trip to Spain, it closed with a rousing Tarantella. The sequin-jacketed Severinsen played with pizazz and a plangent trumpet tone that remains a form of self-expression.

Richard Dyer
Boston Globe (review of Keith Lockhart's Boston Pops opening concert)

Click to view or download a PDF sample of the Music

Frank Proto
Casey at the Bat
an American folk tale for Narrator and Orchestra

Frank Proto's Casey at the Bat should be a valuable addition to the repertory for Pops and Young People's Concerts. This very entertaining piece skillfully incorporates jazz and electronically synthesized sounds, plus taped crowd noises. The inevitable cry of "Cold beer!" can be heard shortly after the start.

High Fidelity Record Review

Casey at the Bat
an American folk tale for Narrator and Orchestra

Children of all ages should enjoy this unique recording, which unites two time-honored Queen City traditions - major league baseball and classical music.

Calling his work An American Folk Tale for Narrator and Orchestra, Proto raises the excitement and anticipatory atmosphere of a major league baseball game to a fever pitch (!) by scoring his work not only for symphonic orchestra and narrator, but also for jazz ensemble and for stereo tape, featuring crowd noises recorded at Riverfront Stadium and an electronic synthesizer.

On this recording, the crowd noises are heard from the opening of The National Anthem, just as if it had been played to open the game in Mudville. Immediately prior to (Johnny) Bench's narration, a quiet and foreboding hymn like theme is heard on a (pre-recorded) synthesizer, signifying the gloomy "pallor" and the "deathlike silence" as the Mudville nine begin to play ball. The orchestra springs to life with a hustle and bustle and the promise of good plays by Flynn and Blake, and the pallor is lifted to awesome music of wonderment as the dust lifts to show the batters safely on base. As Bench, who does a fantastic job of dramatization as he recites the poem, gets to the part about the "lusty yell" that "rumbled" and "rattled" as "Mighty Casey" advances to the bat, the crowd sounds that issue from the tape are the same ones that greeted Pete Rose after he made his 2000th base hit.

Nikki Hasden
Chattanooga Times

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See program notes

Frank Proto
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

It takes quite a soloist to keep up with the business of Frank Proto's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, commissioned by Marion Rawson for Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's 24 year-old principal cellist, Peter Wiley.

Like a choreographer who sets a work on a particular dancer, Proto wrote his concerto with Wiley's specific musical personality in mind. It is a personality that is distinctive and fundamentally soloistic, possessed of profound rhetorical skills, ingratiating lyricism, and physical strength and dexterity in impressive proportions.

Proto's concerto is quite persistently virtouosic. And like many of his other compositions, it is highly eclectic - imbued with the persistent pulse and improvised solo style of jazz, filled with the emancipated string sounds of Penderecki, decorated with Latin rhythms and electronic sounds, and derived, like Bartok's music, from a few motivic kernels.

Proto's writing, despite its extreme difficulty and its incorporation of 20th century devices like the microphone and electronic tape, exploits the cello's traditionally expressive character - especially in the second movement, a long and lovely duet between live and taped cello.

A big, bold accessible work, it stands a good chance of continued performance.

Nancy Malitz
Cincinnati Enquirer

Frank Proto
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

While Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra subscribers are nervous about Michael Gielen (new CSO music director) bringing the 20th century into Music Hall, David Stahl and Frank Proto with the able assistance of CSO principal cellist Peter Wiley are already moving toward the 21st century.

Proto's concerto is influenced by everything from Penderecki and Bartok to modern jazz. The piece contains passages which sound as if lifted from Maynard Ferguson and his orchestra, next to other passages which bear little resemblance to popular or jazz music.

Add the element of electronic tape, which included sounds recorded from a synthesizer and cello passages pre-recorded by Wiley (so he can accompany himself in the performance), and the result is a highly colorful, alternately rhythmic and rhapsodic, musical work which defies categorization.

The success of the piece on first hearing, was largely due to Wiley's total absorption in the music. His performance was sparked by complete concentration and musical involvement. Hearing Wiley, the listener becomes unaware of his technique - only the music it produces.

James Chute
Cincinnati Post

Frank Proto
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

It's too bad that the word "interesting" has come to be such a dirty word. So rather than use it for the new Proto concerto, let's call it instead an arresting work. It's well constructed, rhythmically diverse, adventurous in its harmonies. What's more, it is music of enormous spirit. Certainly music of our own time.

Proto has elected to produce an eclectic piece, unabashedly influenced by what his ear has heard. At the same time the three-movement concerto is strongly inventive.

Principal cellist Peter Wiley tackled this difficult piece in bravura style and with unshakable technique. Some of the work's most fascinating sections pit the cellist against himself on tape. It's a work that deserves more than one hearing, in any event..

(Conductor) David Stahl, who at one point wore headphones to conduct the piece, was obviously very much at home in this idiom.

Betty Dietz Krebs
Dayton Daily News

Frank Proto
Concerto No. 1 for Saxophone and Orchestra

At the rate that Frank Proto continues to compose first-class new works, the music world outside of Cincinnati is going to have to acknowledge this talent that serves us so well. The world premiere of his Saxophone Concerto, last night at Music Hall, put the rest of Saturday's and Sunday's Eight O'Clock concerts way out in left field.

Talent is too facile a term for Proto, and skill isn't much better, because the result rises above technical know-how. It's a gift that he is able to write difficult music which causes the performers to complain, yet they are able to meet the challenge at performance time. And what beautiful sounds Gerry Mulligan draws from his baritone sax!

The new concerto's three movements are engaging for the listener, without ever compromising to please. They reveal a more somber side of the composer, in spite of fast sections. A wailing cry comes from the depths of the saxophone at the end of the first movement, and carries throughout the shorter second movement, which ends with a bang. The last movement begins to jump, moves to a short jazz section, reverts to the earlier melancholy mood, and ends unaffectedly on the bright side.

Clifford Barnes
Cincinnati Post

Frank Proto
Concerto in One Movement for Violin, Double Bass and Orchestra

...This was the world premiere performance of the latter (Concerto in One Movement), and there is no question that, like most works in today's musical vein, it is more complex music than something like the Paganini (concerto). But then, our society and our culture as a whole are more complex than Paganini's were.

Proto's new Double Concerto takes more than one hearing, I think, to appreciate. But once you do get to know it, it is attractive and as communicative in its own way as the older composition is. And that says a lot in its favor.

The sight of the compact violinist and the tall, slim bass player and his considerable instrument on the rostrum together for the Proto Double Concerto was unusual, to say the least.

But violinist Ruggiero Ricci and principal bass player Barry Green made quite an accomplished team, and thanks to Proto's deft handling of their instruments, the relationship between them was compatible too.

To my ear, the Proto Concerto is a melodious, artistically handled composition that presents the bass in a sound format that is suited to it and highlights its range of sound to excellent advantage. At times, the piece has a magnitude reminiscent of Bartok's concerto for Orchestra, but always the soloists stand out. there are numerous details worth hearing, such as the high effects on bass and violin against light percussion. It's a good solution of a very difficult musical problem of pairing the instruments. And the solo skills of both players substantially to the total musical effect.

Gail Stockholm
Cincinnati Enquirer

...With Thomas Schippers, the music director, calling the plays, stars of the occasion were Ruggiero Ricci, one of the concert world's most enduring violin virtuosos, and Barry Green, young principal bassist of the orchestra for whom such roles come few and far between.

For one thing it's a rare concerto that provides solos for both violin and bass. With a uniquely talented composer in the ranks of the orchestra, Schippers seized the opportunity to correct the situation. He commissioned Frank Proto for the occasion and the result was the Concerto in One Movement for Violin, Double Bass and Orchestra which was premiered at this pair of concerts.

Few orchestras, if any, can count among their players a musician of Proto's scope. His One Movement concerto was preceded by a Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra which was premiered by the Cincinnatians in 1970.

The new piece proved to be out and out virtuoso writing with a strong flavor of jazz surfacing frequently via instrumentation and rhythmic devices. It's a demanding work and takes real artists to play the bravura cadenzas that comprise much of the solo lines.

Betty Dietz Krebs
Dayton Daily News

Frank Proto
Concerto No. 1 for Double Bass and Orchestra

Proto is a composer with imagination. His Concerto is full of musical cleverness. Not superficial gloss, but excellent ways of transferring a phrase from section to section: startling little musical devices such as a boldly percussive technique in the violins or an unexpected sound from the brass section.

His imagination has the depth to emerge as style. And I would predict that his Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra is due for recognition. What Proto has written is the way serious music is growing.

Dale Stevens
Cincinnati Enquirer

Frank Proto
Concerto No. 2 for Double Bass and Orchestra

Dear Mr. Proto,

Thanks again for letting me see, and hear, your Double Bass Concerto No. 2. I had not known about François Rabbath, but this one experience discloses his astonishing mastery of the instrument and exquisite artistry.

I am also greatly impressed with your new concerto. The slow movement of the concerto was a joy to listen to. I could, so to speak, live the music with you. The quick movements are well structured, brilliant, and in every sense effective.

I liked especially not only the first English horn solo, but the lovely passages written for alto flute. Also, I found the ending of the work, with the reminiscence, eminently successful. In general I believe that this concerto is perhaps your very best effort in regard to formal structure. I never felt that, structurally speaking, anything was out of balance. In addition, I admired your technical ability and imagination. You are a real composer.

Max Rudolf
former Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Frank Proto
Concerto No. 2 for Double Bass and Orchestra

...French-Syrian double bassist François Rabbath made the trip to play the American premiere of Frank Proto's Second Bass Concerto. The world premiere was given last summer in Copenhagen. Proto has built on Rabbath's phenomenal technique a piece of music that is fascinating in its variety and substantial enough to earn a special place in 20th century orchestral literature.

Betty Dietz Krebs
Dayton Daily News

See record review

Frank Proto
Dialogue for Synclavier and Orchestra

...Composer/soloist Proto, whose compositions range from a string quartet commissioned by the Blair Quartet to Casey at the Bat (a work for narrator and orchestra), presided at the piano-like keyboard and video terminal. The conductor was Cincinnati Symphony music director Michael Gielen.

Scored for large orchestra, Dialogue is neither a demonstration piece nor a concerto. Rather, the Synclavier is used as an extension of the orchestra. Creating doubt in the listener's mind is one of Proto's primary objectives. Was that the solo horn or the Synclavier imitating the horn? During a lively interchange with the orchestra triangle, Proto tipped his hand by having his "triangle" produce pitches. Partly improvised, partly notated, with lots of percussion and lively rhythms, the forty-minute, three-movement work bears a debt to jazz as Stravinsky's "Le Sacre." While it highlights the Synclavier's capabilities - sampling and re-synthesis of sounds, synthesis of new sounds, etc. - it illustrates even more dramatically the centrality of the live performer. Whether coordinating pre-recorded sequences with the conductor's beat (which, unlike tape, can be done without altering the pitch), or performing directly on the keyboard, Proto exercised immediate, expressive control over the instrument. Both orchestra and conductor met the challenges of the work with professional elan.

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Musical America

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East Side Corridor record album

The canard that jazz musicians are limited to their own sphere of music has been as thoroughly disproved as the old myth that classical musicians are inept in their attempts to deal with jazz. Seldom have both points been more clearly brought into focus than in this remarkable album. Frank Proto will not be offended, I trust, if he is referred to here as the Proto-typical all-purpose musician.

Leonard Feather
Record Album

A Family Album Music by bassist/composers

This is a small selection of contemporary bass writing from the foremost American and European exponents. There is much in the way of tributes and homages: Ray Brown is portrayed by Bert Turetzky; Casals by David Walter; Rabbath by Teppo Hauto-Aho. There are representations of poems and places as well in an incredible diversity of musical language, from David Walter's quasi Bach to Joelle Leandre's very abstract Octobre.

Prades is Rabbath's Casals tribute, again very much in the Bach mode, and there's a three-movement Serenade by Patrick Neher Frank Proto has two pieces in the Album - Audition, which speaks for itself, and Cadenza and Dance. Proto is the brains behind the operation and as a consequence has the editorial clout here. He is also the author of the little introduction.

Neil Tarlton
Double Bassists

Frank Proto
Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra

François Rabbath is the kind of mysterious figure the musical world needs to have. He is self-taught; yet, in that process he developed a technique and artistry that is remarkable. He is able to play his instrument with the fleetness, flexibility and lightness that most violin virtuosos display in their solo work.

Rabbath's best work of the evening came with the Proto piece. It is a two-movement work that gives the soloist plenty of showy passages, and he simply tossed them off with graceful ease. The attractive work almost begs to be liked. Even though it is couched in strongly dissonant language, Proto's use of the sounds is comforting rather than confrontational. And, in the second, fast movement, the soloist plays against and with a dombec, or hand drum, in writing that draws its spirit from the world of jazz and that idiom's interplay between bass soloist and drummer.

Charles Ward
Houston Chronical

Frank Proto
Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra

A night of curiosities stimulated the ear at Wednesday's Studio Series concert with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and its chief conductor, Werner Andreas Albert. Most curious of all was soloist François Rabbath and his Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra, by American Frank Proto. Rabbath, from France, is one of the greatest string players of all time. The "Fantasy", scored for strings, flutes and percussion, has two sections: one with sinuous melodies of a Middle Eastern turn, the other a wildly turning devilish dance that subsides into an extended raga-like improvisation with percussion solo. Rabbath's performance would have been likely to appeal to anyone; his whole heart and soul shone through the music.

The Courier Mail
Brisbane, Australia

See record review

Frank Proto
Fantasy on the Saints

...A number of Philharmonic members took impressive turns as soloist on various works. The showcase - and show stopper - was the final piece of the evening. Frank Proto's Fantasy on the Saints, based on the main theme from When the Saints Go Marching In, the orchestra went to town...

Dayton Daily News

...Not much (Doc) Severinsen trumpet was played in the first part of the program. However, he did give the crowd a sample during the big band medley and again during Frank Proto's very tasty arrangement of When the Saints Go Marching In (Fantasy on the Saints). The arrangement was like none I have ever heard before, as exotic in some places as the Middle East and as familiar in others as the theme music of an expensive movie Western. Proto must have been thinking of saints other than those who spend time in New Orleans when he worked the tune over.

Dick Richmond
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

...Fantasy on the Saints by Frank Proto was fantastic as the final number. Those Saints marched in from every direction. Beginning in a blue moonlight mood, they moved into a "Blue Mosque" complete with the oboist as snake charmer eliciting a dance of seven veils. Then came the Spanish saints and the "salon" saints and the high school marching band saints rising to a flourishing finish with the saints with a beat, good ole Jazz.

Indianapolis Star

Frank Proto
The Games of October

for Double Bass and Oboe/Cor Anglais

The Games of October is an important 25 minute work for oboe/cor anglais and double bass (using orchestral tuning) and is a welcome addition to the relatively small repertoire for this combination of instruments. Frank Proto has written an impressive and virtuosic four movement suite 'based on the 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Written in 1991 for Paul Ellison (db) and Linda Gilbert (Ob/C.A.), Proto includes an informative preface about the inspiration for the work, and this excellent edition was sponsored by Robertson & Sons Violin Shop of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The composer calls the work his 'scream' at the 'ineffectiveness and incompetence of many US members of Congress' and Proto's 'script is used as a basis. "... after reading the 'script many times, I decided to make a literal translation of it by creating a strict relationship between the letters of the alphabet and the musical pitches. By following this correlation it is possible for one to 'read' my script in its entirety.

The first movement Charges and Titillation is a free rhapsody beginning with a five note phrase which acts as a unifying link throughout the work and the notes D F Eb Eb F spells the word 'Order'. The solo bass is virtuosic but excellently written for the instrument and the combination of timbres and textures is a surprisingly successful one.

Movement 2 Denunciations is less rhythmically free but has a fast and aggressive feel with 'Order' being heard a number of times.

Movement 3 Committee uses Cor Anglais and this is a lyrical and gentle movement, often using a semiquaver arpeggio accompaniment figure on bass. The last movement Confirmation begins with the 'Order' theme which is I times by bass and has a mood. Col Legno is effect, but using an o instead of the wood of the bow. Proto states ".. rhythmic precision is easier to maintain with the pencil and your bow will be much happier with you.

This is an impressive work that may also be played as an abstract piece, with no reference made to the programme, and I hope will be performed by many oboists and bassists alike. An excellent work and an excellent edition.

David Heyes
British and International Bass Forum

Frank Proto and John Chenault
Ghost In Machine
An American Music Drama for Vocalist, Narrator and Orchestra

Relevance is a word much thrashed around these days, not least with regard to the arts. Ghost In Machine by Frank Proto and John Chenault, which received its world premiere by Jesus Lopez-Cobos and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Friday night at Music Hall, proved once again just how relevant the arts can be.

Called an American music drama, the work addresses fundamental problems in society, above all racism. The real message of "Ghost" is not race relations, however, or sexism or religious intolerance, but the arts themselves.

A composer, Frank Proto (who is white), a poet, John Chenault (who is black), and a symphony orchestra - which has confirmed its status as the city's pre-eminent arts institution with this powerful piece - has given the city a priceless gift for its 100th anniversary.

Bringing "Ghost" to life with the CSO were actor Paul Winfield and vocalist Cleo Laine. Winfield gives continuity to the piece as a 1990s channel-surfer and various characters called up by his remote control (a tap of the xylophone and two maraca shakes). Ms Laine interacts with Winfield's characters and provides haunting musical reflections in her solo numbers.

The piece gets under way with on of the most clever - and shortest - "overtures" on record, 20 bars of clicking between channels, from "white noise" in the strings, through various levels of cacophony, each excerpting one of the movements to follow.

The first visit is The Garden Party - garden of Eden, that is, with Ms. Laine as a pop star (Angel) mad as hell at the TV announcer (Adam). With a snaky oboe in the background, she give the "true" story of being jilted in Paradise and then stuck with the blame for the fall. Wide vocal leaps and angular lines were a feature of this segment, as in her Evening Blues which followed, a litany of the bizarre, the sad and the shocking that ordinarily fill TV newscasts.

One of the most devastating sections of the work was The Televangelist, with Winfield as Jumpin' Jehosephat and Ms. Laine as Sister Morning Glory. As she gives voice to his "favorite Hymn" Kill Them All Lord - a flat-voiced, childlike invocation of eternal damnation on all who do not believe as they do - Jehosephat has a vision of "the beast," a slave ship heralded by drumbeats. With the skeleton of a ship's hold projected on the orchestra shell, the music becomes more and more insistent, moving through a virtual history of black expression from African drumming to contemporary jazz.

The most moving segment of the work involved CSO cellists Susan Marshall-Petersen, who is white, and Norman Johns, who is black. After a standoffish beginning, they end up playing a dialogue, even breaking into mellifluous thirds at one point.

It's Too Late For Love, Ms. Laine croons at the end. "Will the last one out please turn off the light." The lesson from this stunning premiere, is that, for the arts, we do so at our peril.

Mary Ellen Hutton
Cincinnati Post

Frank Proto and John Chenault
Ghost In Machine
An American Music Drama for Vocalist, Narrator and Orchestra

Regular Cincinnati Symphony concert goers must have been shocked on Friday, April 28 and Saturday the 29th, at the diverse musical repertoire that was played by the CSO. Ghost in Machine, a truly innovative new work co-authored by composer Frank Proto and poet John Chenault was well received for its for its world premiere at Music Hall. A standing ovation of 4 minutes and the rhythmic directorship of maestro Jesus Lopez-Cobos confirmed the enthusiasm for this provocative new work.

The music was riveting and entertaining. The orchestra, standing as a metaphor for a TV, played a range of music and reflected the broad-ranging issues that inundate TV viewers. Running through the orchestra-TV channels, issues of racial, sexual and religious intolerance were explored. Ironically, pieces like Kill them all Lord, sung by the song stylist, Cleo Laine met with light laughter from some in the audience.

The Race Game, "hosted" by actor Paul Winfield, revealed the triteness that is attached to the "one drop of blood, you're black" law. Game show music and visual light effects stood as a metaphor to the simplicity of racial ignorance. The 70 minute show took its viewers and maestro Cobos on a cultural exchange that was refreshing and inviting. What is important here, is for more cultural vehicles to go beyond their level of artistic comfort and exchange ideas.

Congratulations to Frank Proto and John Chenault for having the vision and the artistic virtuosity to go beyond cultural boundaries to give Cincinnati a palatable taste of cultural exchange.

Karen M. Jenkins
Cincinnati Herald

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Frank Proto
Hamabe No Arashi

Tokyo (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra pulled a fast one on a Japanese audience Wednesday night - and the crowd loved it. Japanese are known for their solemn appreciation of Western classical music, but the CSO, as the orchestra under the baton of Maestro Jesus Lopez-Cobos is known, surprised them with an unbilled composition based on a popular Japanese song. In response to enthusiastic applause at the end of the regular program and an encore piece by the late Leonard Bernstein, Lopez-Cobos returned to the podium and announced in Spanish-tinted Japanese that the orchestra would perform an original composition by one of its members, Composer-in-residence Frank Proto. The piece, called Hamabe No Arashi, or Storm by the seaside, took the audience by storm with its brassy, big-band sound. In his dressing room after the concert, Lopez-Cobos said the audience was "wonderful." Asked whether Japanese audiences could accept such an unconventional work as Proto's Jazzy piece at a classical concert, he said "every audience loves it!"


Frank Proto
The New Seasons - Sinfonia Concertante
for Tuba, Percussion, Flutes and Strings

...One of Proto's most complex, serious, harmonically adventurous works, Seasons is itself like the weather - full of quirky contrasts, quick changes, bracing breezes. Among it features: wild and flashy percussion parts; fine display of the tuba's lyric possibilities; cello and jazz bass solos in the second movement; beautiful coloristic effects with the strings, especially in the final movement.

Ray Cooklis
Cincinnati Enquirer

Ode To A Giant

for Solo Double Bass and Narrator
Music: Frank Proto Text: John Chenault

Ode to a Giant served as the required piece for the 1993 International society of Bassists competition. Inspiration came from the death that year of Dizzy Gillespie, and this revised edition adds poetry for narrator by John Chenault.

Proto's bass introduction contrasts unsettling ponticello and col legno staccato rhythms with short interludes of lyricism. A recurring riff based on E flat 7 and d minor 7 chords reminiscent of Dizzy's A Night In Tunisia precedes an extended cantabile section. While fleet passagework and double stops increase technical difficulties, weaving the many rubato instructions into a seamless whole presents the greatest challenge. The E flat 7 tag heralds a chromatic diversion of near tone row incongruousness before arriving back at the opening's col legno material. Letter D's poignant melody is the emotional heart of the work. Molto espressivo and quasi-improvised in mood, this section ends ethereally in false harmonics.

Over an improvisation on simple changes, the words begin: 'John Birks Dizzy Gillespie put his trumpet in a brown paper bag and headed up south'. Starting in the smoke-filled clubs of Harlem, where swing became bebop, always moving 'up south', Chenault follows Dizzy past the Village clubs, and on through 'the fettered heart of Dixie'. Further still to Cuba, the tragic crossroads of forced black immigration to the Americas and a fusion of musical and cultural worlds. Further, he 'crosses to the other side' where the angel Gabriel fears Dizzy 'cutting him on the bandstand'.

Past heaven, past hell, the music of the ether is bebop, and the greats live on. Nearing the end, Dizzy's sweet chariot is a black Cadillac, which 'swings low into eternity'. Letter D's aching melody re-enter, before the pizzicato E flat 7 repeats, slows and fades under the words, 'there will never be another night in Tunisia'.

Iain Crawford
Double Bassist

Catalog Information
Program Notes
Click to view or download John Chenault's complete Text

When the International Society of Bassists held its solo bass competition in 1993, it commissioned composer Frank Proto to write a work that would tax the talents of entrants. Ode to a Giant was the result. 'Being a competition,' writes Proto, 'the applicants had to be given the usual technical challenges - fast playing, expressive playing, double stops, harmonics etc. I decided, however, that the biggest challenges that I would issue would be musical ones. I wanted to craft a piece in which the contestants would be forced to explore beyond the notes on the printed page.'

Ode to a Giant is dedicated to the memory of the jazz great Dizzy Gillespie who died on 6 January 1993. The original version of the work was for solo bass without text. The American poet John Chenault added a contemporary narration prior to publication. Proto has made the work as accessible as possible by suggesting that it can be performed in several ways: with or without text; and by a jazz improviser or non-improviser.

This is a significant addition to the bass repertory, a work that combines jazz rhythms and techniques with lyrical and virtuosic flourishes. Primarily in the orchestra] range of the instrument, it offers both a musical and technical challenge that is more than worthwhile.

The passage between Letters E and F in this Printed score and be omitted by classical players but affords an ideal opportunity to let your hair down and improvise. Although written with the competition in mind, Ode to a Giant has a life of its own and is accessible to all bass players. Highly recommended.

David Heyes
Double Bassist

Frank Proto
A Portrait of George

OSM/Gershwin: an Enormous Success

..... a full house, abundant applause, exclamations of joy after each selection, and a long standing ovation at the end of the concert. The evening celebration of Gershwin was very successful. Concluding the evening: A Portrait of George, a vast fantasy that lasts half an hour, alternating between loud and dreamy has been imagined by Frank Proto after five melodies of Gershwin. On an orchestral background that truly evokes the original are laid out many solos, quite difficult and very well played standing by trombone, saxophone, English horn, trumpet and by the composer himself on contrabass.

Claude Gingras
La Presse, Montreal

Crossover victory for MSO

Pops, American style, may have more of a future in Quebec than we suppose: the Montreal Symphony Orchestra attracted what appeared to be an overflow crowd to Salle Wilfrid Pelletier last night for an installment in the air Canada series. Of course, few composers appeal to as many tastes as George Gershwin.

The concert turned out to be a tribute to the performers as well as the composer. All of the principals were in good form, not to mention some unidentified extras, who came to the fore in A Portrait of George, a half-hour fantasy on Gershwin themes by Frank Proto.

Like much of the program, this was a concerto for orchestra, beginning and ending with languorous trumpet solos by Paul Merkelo. Fully orchestrated despite the jazzy presence of a drum set, this was an involved and elaborate work. The composer himself played (and improvised) in the second movement, a highly syncopated solo for double bass. Keith Lockhart, music director of the Boston Pops, was strictly an arms-length manager through much of this as the MSO transformed itself effortlessly into a vast jazz ensemble playing in a 2800 seat bar. Yet it was, in its cinematic way, a tour de force.

Arthur Kaptainis
The Gazette, Montreal

... The hallmarks of the Cincinnati Pops' sumptuous sound are its full vibrant strings and a shimmering brass section. These were showcased to maximum effect in A Portrait of George by Frank Proto, performed at Carnegie Hall last night.

See program notes

New York Times

Frank Proto
Quintet for Piano and Strings

Frank Proto's Quintet for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello and Double Bass, is the longest and most complex of the featured works on this album. It is a fascinating, unpredictable tour through a maze of moods and musical material. His ideas coalesce into coherence, with extended solo passages serving as structural guide-posts. Of these, the double bass solo in the last of its three movements is the most striking, beautifully executed by William Schrickel. Rather surprisingly, the richness of material never extends into overload; just when you think the many jazzy references will tip the work over the edge, Proto pulls the music and the listener in another direction. It is a well-wrought, satisfying chamber piece.

Vinyl Arts Record Review

Frank Proto
Quintet for Piano and Strings

American composer/bassist Frank Proto has written a great deal of excellent music for double bass, and this quintet, dating from 1983, offers a new insight into the Trout instrumentation. Here is a challenging work needing five very good players, and the double bass is an important and integral part of the ensemble. There are many solo passages for the bassist, in all registers, and there are a variety of musical styles included from classical and contemporary to jazz and be-bop. This would be suitable for music college/conservatoire students or professionals, but may be a little too challenging for all but the best amateur musicians.

Alison Gibb
The British and International Bass Forum
Click to view or download a PDF sample of the Music

New CD availableE S F - Ensemble Sans Frontière

Frank Proto
Reflections - Music for Viola, Double Bass and Tape

Frank Proto, instructor of the Jazz Workshop, combined jazz and classical elements in his own works, one of which, Reflections also called for pre-recorded tape and live, amplified viola. Roger Chase, the Nash Ensemble's omni-present star viola player, joined the composer in the 15 minute work which had the audience riveted, while the players progressed from a straight formal duo into pre-recorded echoes, the fantasy-sounds of modulators and computers and finally into jazz before returning to a conventional coda. A highlight of the week.

The Strad
Review of 1982 Isle of Man International Double Bass Workshop

Frank Proto
String Quartet No. 1

His String Quartet No. 1 is one of the neatest jazz/new jazz crossover pieces I know. It isn't really a "Third Stream" piece at all but a thoroughly contemporary work imaginatively and skillfully flavored with the vernacular. The integration of elements is accomplished without apology or a trace of awkwardness. Even more remarkable, the use of the string quartet medium is completely convincing.

Eric Saltzman
Stereo Review - Record Review

Frank Proto's Quartet No. 1, introduced to New York Tuesday night by the Blair String Quartet at Carnegie Recital Hall, qualifies in some respects as a multi-media event. Hand claps, shouts and a mallet applied to the cello strings supplemented its traditional musical texture. Proto is a double bassist and composer-in-residence with the Cincinnati Symphony. His concerto for his own instrument is a modern classic and this new string piece promises to be another. It takes aspects of rock music and blues as its idiom and its generally "furioso" demands in performance guarantee novelty and excitement.

Ron Eyer
New York Daily News

...One item that was listed on the program and eagerly awaited did not materialize: "Carona" by Cecil Taylor is still being composed somewhere in Brooklyn. Instead the group (Kronos Quartet) played a quartet, composed by Frank Proto somewhere in Cincinnati, that was full of striking new ideas, violent gestures, sharp contrasts and intricate, abrupt rhythms. At some moments the players shouted unintelligibly, clapped their hands, or chanted wordlessly, and Joan Jeanrenaud spent a lot of time hammering on her cello with what looked like a pencil.

One of the cello strings broke later, during the Hassell number, and Jeanrenaud had to leave the stage briefly. Proto may be partly responsible for this delay, but if so the experience was worth the inconvenience. We may hope to hear Taylor's work later but meanwhile Proto, in a dazzling performance, was a fair substitute.

Joseph McLellan
Washington Post

New CD availableE S F - Ensemble Sans Frontière

Frank Proto
Three Movements for Brass Choir and Percussion

National Public Radio affiliate, WGUC-FM broadcast the first trans-Atlantic digital relay from North America to Europe in conjunction with Radio Sweden. The station aired a live musical program from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music that featured the world premiere of Frank Proto's Three Movements for Brass Choir and Percussion, a spectacular, sonic showpiece written specifically for the School's supremely talented, pro level students.


See Program Notes

Frank Proto
Three Pieces for Percussion and Orchestra

...Proto's "Three Pieces" brought the CSO percussion section front and center, giving the audience a good glimpse of the versatility and sophistication the jobs require. Timpanist Eugene Espino and percussionists William Platt, Edward Wuebold and Richard Jensen put on a brilliant show, establishing Proto's "Pieces" as a finely crafted work virtually overflowing with accessible ideas, exciting extensions of orchestra color, apt pacing and a uniquely personal style.

Proto's trademark, if you will, involves a sort of trapdoor effect between two musical worlds. He shifts between contemporary and jazz idioms with increasing emphasis on jazz as the work progresses. Percussion instruments have habitually inhabited both worlds, a reality which Proto drove resoundingly home.

Nancy Malitz
Cincinnati Enquirer

There were two new works on the program - Paul Cooper's "Homage," part of the CSO's still-continuing series of Bicentennial fanfares, and Frank Proto's "Three Pieces for Percussion and Orchestra," commissioned by Marion Rawson.

Proto's piece is the more successful of the two. Besides containg a bounty of original sounds, the work makes good use of contrasting material, hangs together tightly and moves consistently forward to a brilliant conclusion.It's written for the solo performer - in this case four percussionists - the solo parts being foreground elements in a meaningful musical structure. To my way of thinking, that makes "Three Pieces for Percussion and Orchestra" infinitely more listenable.

James Wierzbicki
Cincinnati Post

Frank Proto
Trio for Violin, Viola and Double Bass

...Proto's "Trio" is an engaging work, a light hearted blend of jazz styles and contemporary "classical" techniques that does much more than merely scratch the surface of the two idioms.

Unlike the jazz-classical concoctions of a few decades ago, by composers such as Ravel, Milhaud and Stravinsky, it contains no parodies and no clichès. and unlike the more recent efforts by Gunther Schuller and John Lewis, the piece treats the jazz and classical ideas as equal partners, with no competition to be felt between them. The elements function together, one complementing the other, in such a way as to make them seem not so disparate after all.

The most impressive part of the "Trio" is its second movement, in which a web of gentle oriental-flavored melodies is underlined by an insistent rhythm. A section that combines dissonant passages in the violin with jazz-rock riffs in the bass forms the movement's exciting climax. The opening movement - alternating harsh, jagged chords and simple folk-like tunes - builds up to this; the third movement, with a set of variations on a standard 12-bar blues pattern sounded as though it was calculated to get a rise out of the audience. That's exactly what happened last night. The crowd responded to the "Trio" with the sort of screaming ovation normally reserved for groups that do not perform in black ties and dinner jackets.

New CD available E S F - Ensemble Sans Frontière

James Wierzbicki
Cincinnati Post

François Rabbath
Two Miniatures and Concerto No. 3

for Double Bass and Piano

The dedicatee of A Carmen Fantasy is the Paris-based player and composer François Rabbath who has collaborated extensively with Proto. Rabbath's Concerto No. 3 is a single movement work in three musically related sections, a cadenza and tutti chord to close. The music in this little concerto seems to reflect the work of two other artists with whom Rabbath has worked, namely the singer Charles Aznavour and legendary songwriter Michel Legrand. The concerto has a lot of apparent feeling for French popular song of the 1960s and 1970s. It fits the fingers nicely as does all Rabbath's music and the piano accompaniment attains that smoky nightclub ambiance where, one cannot help feeling, Rabbath has spent some time.

His Two Miniatures are good examples of the diversity of this man's music. Incantation pour junon is slow, meandering and a fine case of what ad. lib. means. Although its origins are probably more in North Africa than North Berwick, I couldn't help but notice a touch of the bagpipes here. Reitba is an unashamedly virtuosic piece; how much virtuosity is required depends on how you interpret Quasi' Improvisation. I tend to look upon slurred dotted semiquavers as fast, especially having heard a disc with similar pieces which Rabbatb plays quickly. The music could be deemed repetitive, but hypnotic is closer to the truth; fascinating rather than boring.

CD available François Rabbath Carmen!

Neil Tarlton
Double Bassist

Frank Proto
Variations on Dixie

...however, Frank Proto's pieces dominated the orchestral portion of the concert. For sheer originality, I think his Variations on Dixie dazzlingly played last night, is really top drawer.

Cincinnati Post

Frank Proto's Variations on Dixie was by far the most unusual piece, moving from the traditional version to almost every variation possible. Masterfully performed and causing rounds of applause, the selection was a showcase for first violinist Hidetaro Suzuki and principal bassist Stewart Arlman

Indianapolis News

Frank Proto
Works for Double Bass and Orchestra

compact disc (CD 9204)

This landmark disc presents three works for solo double bass and orchestra by Cincinnati Symphony bassist and composer Frank Proto. The featured bass soloist in all three is the Syrian-born-turned Frenchman François Rabbath.

Proto's A Carmen Fantasy is not merely an arrangement of themes from Bizet's famous opera, nor a transcription of fantasies by Sarasate, et al. The opera serves only as the inspiration for a free interpretation in this highly original piece. Frequently Proto employs harmonies similar to those in the original, but with new melodies, or the original melody cast in entirely new harmonies. He brings an imaginative and Technicolor orchestration worthy of Bizet's own skills as an orchestrator. The texture and style, however frequently border on the commercial.

A bassist himself, Proto clearly knows how to write for the double bass. This, united with Rabbath's prodigious mastery of his instrument and a first-class performance by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, yields a truly amazing performance. The recording quality is quite good, except that the microphone seems too close to the soloist, making the bass sound a little buzzy and actually too present - a rare occurrence for the double bass as a concerto instrument.

Proto's Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra features an improvisatory ponticello section evoking Rabbath's native Syria, a section in false harmonics that is positively other-worldly, and a thrilling flourish to conclude the piece. Again, Rabbath's performance is astounding, but the Wolfgang! Chamber Orchestra is ragged in difficult passage-work. Despite a boxy acoustic in which the percussion suffers in particular, the recorded sound of the bass is more natural and strikes a good balance with the orchestra.

The Concerto No. 2 is the most serious and simultaneously the most commercial work on this disc. The more dissonant texture of the piece is sharply contrasted with several sudden shifts to a big band sound. Proto's music lies somewhere between classical and jazz, using ingredients from both. He typically blends the two idioms, or switches between an almost purely jazz sound and his own"serious" musical language. To ears accustomed to "classical" listening, Proto's music will slightly favor the vernacular over traditional art-music.

Rabbath is at home in both world. He really swings in the big band sections, and his improvisations are remarkable. The ensemble between the soloist and Les Symphonistes de Paris is airtight even in the most complex rhythms - an amazing feat considering that this is a live performance.

Mark Morton
Strings (US)

Frank Proto (b. 1941) is a significant contributor to the double bass as a composer, arranger, performer and publisher. All three works on this recording were written for the virtuoso François Rabbath, and bear witness to his excellent technique and mastery of the bass, combined with supreme musicianship and improvisatory talents.

The Carmen Fantasy, originally for double bass and piano, explores the lyrical and expressive qualities of the solo bass and includes the most unassuming and lyrical Toreador Song I have ever heard. The five movements end with a virtuosic Bohemian Dance, and Proto's masterly orchestration and the excellent performance of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra make this a recording of great character and distinction.

The Fantasy for Double Bass and Orchestra, dedicated to Rabbath, was commissioned and performed by the Houston Symphony Orchestra in 1983. The first movement switches between an atmosphere of mystery, suspense, urgency and vitality dominated by solo bass and imaginative use of percussion. In the second movement interest is maintained with jazz-inspired rhythms. The improvised cadenza combines features of Indian timbres to create passages of real hypnotic beauty. The work ends with an exuberant virtuosic duet for solo bass and dombec, a type of Asian drum, accompanied by orchestra.

Concerto No. 2 was recorded live at a performance in Paris in 1984, and is more serious in style and content than the other two works on this recording. An impressive sound arena is created combining Proto's love of big-band jazz with more abstract music. The sheer virtuosity of Rabbath is evident throughout. a recording to savour.

David Heyes
Double Bassist (UK)

Life would be dull without the colourful imaginations of artists such as Frank Proto, whose music fuses a heady mix of stylistic elements in a mesh of classico-jazz. Undoubtedly the writing is not only skillful as far as the adept orchestration is concerned, but also highly idiomatic for the bass, which has no trouble in projecting above the orchestral forces. Nor is there any question of the dexterity of François Rabbath, who nimbly travels the long fingerboard of the bass in flurries of exultant virtuosity.. Perhaps the most effective work on the disc is the Fantasy for double bass and orchestra where brilliant jazz improvisation merges with Indian-inspired folk music producing some original and fascinating sound combinations.

Joanne Talbot
The Strad (UK)

The most recent recording of music by perennial favorite bass muse Frank Proto is a collection of the three works performed by François Rabbath over a ten-year period with three different orchestras, all conducted by David Stahl. This project is a wonderful anthology for a composer who has given so much to the bass world. It also documents the symbiotic relationship between Frank Proto and François Rabbath, a relationship for which we are all the richer.

Tom Knific
International Society of Bassists Magazine

...This is exciting, expertly crafted music, largely tonal and melodic, often transparently scored in impressionist fashion. Proto knows how to turn a tune and has written grateful music for the soloist, who handles his parts with astounding dexterity. Of the three works, the concerto is the most modern and is kaleidoscopic in its rhythms and dynamics. The sonics are lively and up-close, the performances very good.

D. DeJong
American Record Guide

François Rabbath:

Solos for The Double Bassist

Rabbath has a remarkable technique and musicality and has appeared as soloist and teacher throughout the world. His recordings of solo Bach and his own solo compositions have achieved almost cult status, and Liben published eleven of his solo works in 1979.

This volume was newly typeset in 1995, partly sponsored by Corelli Strings, and is a valuable addition to the solo virtuoso repertoire. Each solo has a particular character and mood which combines wonderful 'crossover' music with rhythmic vitality and energy. Eastern influences are ever present with driving rhythms and drones, and Rabbath makes no concessions for the technical difficulties of the instrument.

Some of the solos have been newly edited, and this excellent editions contains many useful fingerings and bowings. Here is music to challenge, enjoy and perform.

David Heyes
The British and International Bass Forum

François Rabbath:
Solos for the Double Bassist

Facination, too, is my growing reaction to Rabbath's Solos for the Double Bassist which range in length from one side of manuscript to six pages, most of which are densely black with notes. With study, these solos are certainly playable and it is of benefit to listen to Rabbath's recordings of the pieces. He's an exciting player whose technique has dictated a little of the music but more likely serves it. All the solos are musically approachable, some are very difficult indeed and all but two or three are played on two strings. Equation would provide a very good basis for the end of the first movement of the Koussevitzky Concerto. Indeed, by comparaison it would make it seem quite easy!

Neil Tarlton
Double Bassist

François Rabbath:
Multi Bass '70

Bassist Rabbath - Superbly multitalented.

WHERE'S A BETTER PLACE to start off the new music season than off the wall? Enter François Rabbath, bassist. Make that multibassist. To a certain coterie of bass players, Rabbath, a Syrian-born Frenchman, is an all-around legend, a musician of catholic taste and a performer a of all-embracing command. He's also a composer into the bargain, an eclectic miniaturist fluent In jazz, North Indian music and African rhythms as well as the idiom of West European art music. The many facets of that art sparkle in the light of a recording newly released in America on the Red Mark label - "Multi-Bass '70" (CD9202).

The story goes that Rabbath discovered the bass at age 13 when his brother brought an instrument home and permitted him to experiment with it. When the family moved to Beirut, Lebanon, a year later, the boy found an old copy of Edouard Nanny's bass method In a tailor shop, and proceeded to teach himself to play. That In Itself was no easy trick since the aspiring bassist read neither French nor music.

EVENTUALLY, HE MADE his way to Paris, where on three days, preparation he finished first in entry auditions at the Conservatoire. However, already far advanced over the other students and even his professors, Rabbath didn't stay long. instead he began earning his living with the graduate road schools of Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, Michel Legrand and Ornette Coleman.

Rabbath has made only fleeting visits to the US. It Is largely through the evangelizing of Frank Proto, composer and bassist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, that the Frenchman's art has become widely known In this country.

As the title suggests, "Multi-Bass" presents Rabbath as soloist and In multiples of two and five in taped overlays. Cloned, so to speak. Recorded in the late 1960s and early '70s, the 10 pieces featured here reveal an astounding technique; but what's more, they're great fun and occasionally arresting musicial experiences.

To call Rabbath's compositions aphoristic, as If they sprang from the Webern mold of terseness, would be too generous; they tend to be brilliant eruptions of undeveloped Ideas, fascinating for brief life and then gone.

"MULTI-BASS" opens with the most ambitious and musically significant work on the disc - Odyssy Under the Sea" ("L'Odysee d'eau") - a 7+ minute tone poem for five basses and three percussionists, "Odyssey" begins with the hioh-pitched songs and growling ruminations of whales, only to careen suddenly Into free-wheeling jazz. Calm falls once more, and with it a sense of awakening, as if from a dream; thus the piece ends. Just as "Odyssey" quickly establishes Rabbath's unshakable control of phrase, line, dynamics and color, even at boggling speeds, it also points up a blue-ribbon sonic achievement that runs undiminished to the end of this disc.

For the rest, Rabbath unleashes one bolt of technical lightning after another: "Poucha-Dass," with its driving, raga-like rhythms for two basses and Percussion; "Incantation for Juno," a languid chant for two basses against soft percussion, Papa Georges," a compelling meditation in which a solitary bass drifts high above tabla-style drumming; "Thyossane" for two basses, with Its blinding tremolo In every register, and "Equation" for solo bass, a breathtaking essay In double stops.

Lawrence B. Johnson
Milwaukee Sentinel

"Multi-Bass" - François Rabbath

It's not necessary to find a label for Syrian-French bassist François Rabbath and the music he plays. Suffice it to say that his command of the instrument is phenomenal and that his imagination - sponge-like in its absorption of jazz, rock, East Indian and Classical elements - is one of the most astounding this reviewer has ever encountered. Most of the cuts on this album feature multi-track bass parts (hence the title) with a variety of percussion accompaniments. The moods vary, but the essence of the music remains consistently vital and dynamic.

Red Mark is a very, very small company, and the chances are you won't find this mind-boggling disc in area stores. Interested persons can order directly from the company

James Wierzbicki
St. Louis Globe-Democrat

François Rabbath Concert Reviews

A Mean Double Bass

For his American debut in Carnegie Hall Thursday, François Rabbath was billed as "the world's greatest contrabass player." He very likely is, though one can just hear a cigar-chewing agent ask: "So vot else can you do?"

Well, Rabbath also is a prolific composer, possibly out of necessity, since the repertory for solo double bass is meager to say the least. On this occasion, the compositions were geared to a mixed media presentation of things like paintings of Picasso and Jose Ortega, and the basically third-stream style of the writing was abetted by Tom Pierson on piano, Dennis Michno on organ, and Eric Cohen and Hank Jaramillo on percussion. Ornette Coleman's sax joined in a number, as did Elly Stone in her usual Second Avenue Edith Piaf routine.

Much of Rabbath's music reflects his French-Syrian birth, with references to Arabic folk melody. But he is exceedingly eclectic as well, and one meets practically everyone from Dvorak to Stravinsky on the way.

Rabbath certainly played his own music dazzlingly. The agility of his fingers and bow, with trilled high harmonics, double and triple stops and the like would shame the work of most cellists, let alone contrabassists. His intonation is dead-center and his tone is of uncommon richness from the grumbling depths to the plaintive top of his instrument.

Bill Azkariasen
New York Daily News

London debuts - François Rabbath at Wigmore Hall

A recital of double bass solos is unlikely to seem a good idea, yet François Rabbath, is an amazing virtuoso of an apparently new sort. Mr. Rabbath is from quite a different tradition, one that has discovered startling resources in the instrument, transforming it into a miniature orchestra. It follows that his compositions are as new to us as his technique, and the moods they convey are wholly fresh also. In fact there is nothing conventional about his music. Its range of gesture from the flute-like harmonics of Variations sur accords to the darkly glowering sounds that open La guerre et la paix, is wide indeed, but a vein of melody unconfined by European concepts of pitch is central to most of it. Mr. Rabbath's music demands an essay, not just a brief note like this, and I very much hope to hear him again.

Max Harrison
The London Times

Extraordinary Double Bass - Rabbath al Castello Sforzesco

For those who get excited about pure virtuosity, last night at the Sforza Castle was exceptional. In fact, the bassist, François Rabbath is an authentic phenomenon. He does noting which is outside the technique of the double bass, but he has such mastery of that technique that he is able to take it to its extreme limits. So the calm pachyderm instrument which morbidly and imperiously lumbers on in the orchestra, becomes in his hands pure suavity even in the upper reaches which are fluted and harmonious. Cascades of notes are thrown in with such velocity, simultaneously caressing double chords and triple notes which, with the help of discrete percussion, gallops away with rhythm reminiscent - in some pieces - of several styles of jazz and in other pieces, of the more orthodox double bass style.

He does not hesitate to imitate other instruments like the Spanish guitar or an esoteric Indian instrument. Rabbath is a true phenomenon and alone sustained the weight of an entire evening with only the help of a very fine percussionist. The audience had a fine time and greatly applauded him. Tonight, be will be joined by a guitarist and slides.

di Vittore Castiglioni

Rabbath rewards large crowd

One would think that there were better things to do on a hot summer evening in Winnipeg than attend a double bass recital, that least likely of all solo instruments.

But the surprisingly large crowd of nearly 250 who were at the double bass recital given by François Rabbath Tuesday night at the Winnipeg Art Gallery were rewarded with one of the most emotionally satisfying concerts of the year.

Rabbath is a phenomenon. He has been called one of the great string players of all times, and there was no one in the audience Tuesday evening who would doubt that.

It is, first of all, amazing what he can do with that lumbering instrument. Whether he is playing chords, leaping from the lowest to highest points on the scale, or playing entire passages in perilous harmonics, it is astonishing to hear.

But what is more amazing is how quickly this virtuosity is taken for granted. In a few selections, it was if he was establishing that he could do anything that he wanted on this instrument, and, having established that, was anxious to move on to the effortless playing of extraordinarily beautiful music.

His music is filled with atmosphere and passionate lyricism, ideally suited to the style of this romantic artist. It is hard to imagine any music more soulfully expressive than his Incantation Pour Junon. Similarly with the almost tangible rapture of Reitba.

Never did he fall into the trap of treating the double bass as if it were a cello. Even when playing J.S. Bach's Sarabande from the first Cello Suite or Vivaldi's Larghetto from the Violin Concerto in D Major there was always a musical exploration of an instrument that he obviously loves.

The audience was won over completely, and in response to their standing ovations he played two encores. It was interesting to see a number of symphony musicians at the concert. When symphony musicians will give up a summer evening to hear a fellow musician, you can be sure that homage is being paid.

Neil Harris
Winnipeg Free Press

Profile - François Rabbath

At first when you encounter François Rabbath you'll wonder how it could be that American hadn't heard of him before. Rabbath has been performing his very own kind of music for 15 years in France, but it's as if he had been classified Top Secret there. Then, as you listen, you'll begin to think that maybe France had a good idea. This guy has something going for himself that is so unique, so individual, it deserves to be guarded carefully.

To the classically trained musician, Rabbath's music is first of all a shock. It is Eastern, it is Jazz, it is modal, it is foreign. But it is also immediately and obviously the product of a bass player whose technical command is nothing short of exceptional.

Rabbath isn't interested in restrictions - technical or otherwise. The conventions of stringed instrument playing and of classical music are viewed by Rabbath as a resource from which to draw. But he feels no more compelled by them than he feels compelled to make a living as a symphony orchestra musician.

Nancy Malitz
Cincinnati Enquirer