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Leon Bosch recently took some time out of his hectic recording and performing schedule to talk to Joseph Watson about his new recording with Meridian and the inspirations behind it.      Buy Here

What (or who) first inspired you to learn the double bass and why?
It wasn뭪 really so much a question of me choosing to learn the double bass, it was more a case of the double bass capturing me.

At the age of 16, I entered the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town as a cellist and my dear cello teacher, Edna Elphick, suggested that I should give some consideration to the idea of learning the double bass as a second study. The very suggestion seemed preposterous to me of course, but that was probably Edna뭩 sophisticated way of telling me that my chances of earning a living as a cellist were somewhat slim. Early one morning, in the University coffee shop, she introduced me to Zoltan Kovats, who was then principal double bassist of The Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, in what was clearly a pre-arranged ambush.

Zoltan, an imposing figure of a man, asked me a few seemingly innocuous questions, and after taking a cursory look at my left hand, announced, sternly, that my studies with him would begin the following morning..I appeared not to have any choice in the matter and for whatever reason I didn뭪 protest. but instead meekly turned up for my first bass lesson the next day.

Within a few months of commencing double bass lessons however, Zoltan뭩 exceptional teaching revealed that I did have some musical talent after all.  Thus began my love affair with the double bass, a love affair which quickly turned into an all consuming passion, which endures to this day.

 

Who or what has been the most important influence on your musical career?
There have naturally been innumerable influences in my life, musically as well as at the personal level, but I must single out Zoltan Kovats, my very first double bass teacher, who was the both the earliest and certainly the most enduring influence in my development as an artist. Zoltan provided me with the greatest teaching I had ever had and the unerring confidence he showed in my ability was a constant source of inspiration. He made me believe that the sky was the limit and I consequently didn뭪 dare to fail, let alone contemplate the thought.

How could I possibly let Zoltan down?

To this day, nearly 30 years later, I can play from memory everything he taught me and I guess the most important lesson I learnt from Zoltan, was the true value of hard work.

 

What is it about Bottesini that particularly compelled you to record this music, above another composer뭩?
Bottesini occupies a truly special place in my heart. As a young student at the University of Cape Town I spent innumerable hours learning as many of his compositions as possible. It was a real voyage of discovery and one that I shall treasure forever.

Room B17, the double bass room at the South African College of Music of The University of Cape Town, was literally my home for the duration of my four years studying there. I arrived early every morning and stayed until late into the night, Saturdays and Sundays included, and it was during these long hours with the double bass in my hands, exploring Bottesini뭩 music, that I experienced so many 멷ureka moments, musically at least.

I seemed to enjoy a natural affinity for the bel canto style and virtuosity so integral to his compositions and before long I began to feel as if Bottesini and I shared a special relationship, a bond that continues to this day.

For my final exam recital in Cape Town in November 1981, I performed 10 of Bottesini뭩 showpieces for double bass and piano and of these, I뭭e recorded 8 on the present disc.

Fantasie Sonnambula and Adagio par Ernst are the imposters, but they too are included for a very special reason. The Fantasie Sonnambula was the very first piece I learnt after coming to England to study in 1982, whilst the Adagio par Ernst, a relatively recent addition to my repertoire, re-awakened that almost childlike sense of joy which I뭗 last experienced as a young man in Cape Town.

 

Describe the experience of being re-united with pianist Sung-Suk Kang, for the first time since your RNCM days, on this recording.
Sung Suk and I had last worked together in 1984 when we performed two pieces of Bottesini in a showcase concert at the Royal Northern College of Music, hosted by the then principal Sir John Manduell.

We went our separate ways after college and lost touch completely. I did however have a tape recording of the concert and listening to it occasionally, reminded just what a brilliant, sensitive, thoughtful and imaginative musician Sung Suk was. But that of course was history and I never envisaged us ever crossing paths again.

During the intervening years, I was privileged to perform with many other outstanding pianists and I finally took the decision to record this disc with a pianist with whom I have enjoyed a very fruitful collaboration and valuable friendship, over many years. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond his control he was forced to withdraw from our project at extremely short notice, leaving me to contend with a rather 멻ot potato.

My preparations were so far advanced that postponing the recording really didn뭪 seem such an attractive option, but could I realistically risk recording with anyone else at such short notice?

I wrestled with this dilemma for some time and eventually I hit upon what to me seemed the perfect solution: I needed to find Sung-Suk Kang, wherever in the world she happened to be and persuade her to record this disc with me!

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and Google in particular, I tracked her down to Vienna, Austria, where she enjoys a distinguished career as a performer, recording artist and Conservatoire Professor.  

After a brief exchange of e-mails and a handful of telephone calls, Sung-Suk, much to my delight, agreed to my proposal for us to record this disc.

On the morning she was to arrive in London for rehearsals, I naturally felt some apprehension뀉.could my memories of her playing possibly be faulty and had I made a monumental blunder inviting someone I hadn뭪 seen, let alone heard, in over twenty years, to record Bottesini with me?

I met Sung-Suk at Heathrow Airport and as we drove to my home in Hertfordshire we chatted animatedly and enjoyably about the course our respective lives had taken since leaving the Royal Northern College of Music.

We arrived in Tring and so too, did the moment of truth! Sung-Suk sat down at my piano and played a chord, just one chord뀉. and I knew at once, that everything was going to be fine, in fact, it was going to be much more than just fine.

We rehearsed intensively for two days, and then went to face the microphones. Sung-Suk뭩 playing was absolutely magical throughout and by the time we had recorded the very last note, I realised that I had not had to utter a single word during the entire three days; I just played, completely confident in the knowledge that Sung-Suk was equal to any challenge, or idiosyncrasy on my part.

Sung-Suk is an instinctive and sensitive accompanist, with a truly beguiling sense of phrasing. Her exemplary musicianship is truly inspiring and I am thrilled that we have renewed our musical partnership.

We have now made two recordings together, with a few more in the pipeline and each successive project further enhances our musical collaboration.

 

Finally, please tell us what made you choose to record with Meridian Records rather than another label.
In a word, trust!  Recording this disc of virtuoso show pieces by Bottesini is a project of which I had dreamed for almost the entire duration of my adult life: it was something in which I believed whole-heartedly, since it would encapsulate the very essence of my being.   

In whom then could or should I place my trust to record something which would mean so much to me?

I first came across Meridian Records during the late 1980뭩, when I recording a number of discs with The Goldberg Ensemble. I also subsequently recorded some chamber music discs with The Music Group of Manchester, The New London Chamber Ensemble and the Primrose Piano Quartet.

My experience was extremely positive and enjoyable on every occasion and I invariably went away enthused, at the end of each project.  

Meridian Records are committed to values with which I readily identify and the degree of sovereignty enjoyed by Meridian artists is also unprecedented.

My decision to record Bottesini with Meridian was therefore a relatively straightforward one to make, I trust them completely.