Like many double bassists working in the field of contemporary music, George Kokkinaris, a Greek bassist currently in Berlin, specializes in solo performances centered on the extraordinarily rich range of sounds, both conventional and otherwise, that the instrument can produce. And as New Solo Double Bass Works by Greek Composers demonstrates, Kokkinaris approaches this common endeavor with a voice that is recognizably his own.
New Solo Double Bass Works contains two pieces, one each from two contemporary Greek composers. The first is Study in Four Parts for Solo Double Bass (2019) by Niki Krasaki, herself a double bassist as well as a composer. The four studies are finely etched miniatures ranging in length from just over one minute to just under two-and-a-half minutes. Except for brief glissandi of harmonics at the end of the first part and beginning of the fourth part, as well as a short episode of sul ponticello bowing in the fourth part, the Study is built around lyrical motifs, some of which recur in variations at different points in the collective work, and conventional techniques. Much of the playing takes place in the lower registers, bringing out the gravitas of the instrument’s voice. It’s a well-chosen region for Kokkinaris, who has a robust low-register attack that dramatizes the grainy sound of the bow pulling across the strings.
The second piece is Alexis Porfiriadis’ Hush Little Baby for Speaking Contrabassist, also from 2019, the nearly twenty-minute length of which contrasts with the brevity of Krasaki’s suite of miniatures. Porfiriadis’ composition, an anguished commemoration of the deaths of children attempting to migrate to Europe, draws on Kokkinaris’ experience performing mixed media work involving acting and the spoken word. The score is organized around a set of extended techniques that come into play throughout the performance. This often-intense piece is as demanding to play as it is to hear; Kokkinaris’ realization is accomplished with the gestural rigor and emotional urgency that it requires.