Concerto for Double Bass and Piano
edited by David Walter
Perhaps the best-known piece for bass by a Russian composer, the Koussevitsky Concerto, is now available in a new edition published by Liben Music. Edited by Juilliard's Professor David Walter and dedicated to the memories of luthier Samuel Kolstein and his wife Frances, the carefully crafted new edition offers a number of advantages over the widely used International Edition (edited by Fred Zimmermann). In keeping with all of the Liben editions, the music is beautifully laid out in large fonts and with generous room for markings. The review copy arrived with piano parts in both orchestral and solo tuning. But after reading the notes to the edition, it appears that the work comes with an orchestra tuning piano part and that the solo tuning part is available on order. Most intriguing is the inclusion of a cadenza, written by David Walter, appearing towards the end of the third movement. According to the notes, Hungarian bassist Lajos Montag asked Koussevitsky, then conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, why he had not written a cadenza for his concerto. Koussevitsky suggested that Montag write his own. In the spirit of creative exploration, Mr. Walter has contributed a virtuosic cadenza, replete with thematic material, harmonics, scalar passages, pizzicato chords, arpeggios, and dramatically varying dynamics and tempi. Mr. Walter encourages performers to write their own cadenzas, but presents his own 1 as an option, and one that offers a charming cadenza "recipe."
Other, subtler differences between the Liben and International editions reflect current performance practices and will make the work easier to learn. One of the major difficulties younger students encounter when first learning this concerto is the presence of tenor clef. While the Liben edition does make use of tenor clef, it is used more sparingly, with treble and bass clefs more frequent and a limited use of ledger lines in anyone clef. Current performance trends are reflected in the choice of dynamic markings (such as the subito pp and crescendo markings in the first movement, and bowings and phrase markings (notable in the triplet lower-neighbor arpeggios in the first movement). The end of the second movement is presented in two ways, first as it appears in the Zimmermann edition and then an octave higher in natural harmonics, as Koussevitsky recorded the passage. Aside from the introduction of a cadenza, there are two pitch changes in the third movement. At the very end, the second movement's opening theme appears in G# minor two times after the sixteenth note runs. The top of the phrase is a high C# resolving to a lower G#. The repeated phrase adds a quarter note Bat the beginning of the bar and appears as a C to a G in the Liben edition, instead of the C# to G# in the earlier edition. Also, the bar of repeated high Es a few bars later appears as a whole note E in the Liben edition.
As the Koussevitsky is one of the most-played works in our repertoire, it is only fitting that one of our most esteemed artist-teachers prepare a new edition. Intelligently and artistically crafted, this new edition addresses many of the difficulties of the previous one, and thanks to David Walter's creative inspiration of adding a cadenza, offers performers the opportunity to add their own contemporary vision to Koussevitsky's creation.
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Koussevitzky Concerto for Double Bass and Piano Liben Music
At last! Here is a nicely printed edition of the Koussevitzky Concerto in orchestral tuning. No longer do the badly hand-copied versions need to be sureptitiously photocopied and passed from player to player.
It has been edited by senior bassist David Walter, who has also included an interesting preface, here printed at the back of the bass part, about the work, the tunings, possible cadenza and a short biography about Koussevitzky.
The music is nicely typeset and printed, using a bold and friendly music typeface, and should make many an accompanists job that much easier! The page turns in the bass part are all well conceived making this an excellent edition to use, and incorrect notes and phrasings in previous editions have been put right to take our most popular concerto confidently into the 21st century.
The editor has included his own cadenza in the last movement, but also gives handy hints about writing your own and notes ' your program's footnote "Cadenza by the performer" can be very impressive.'
My only criticism, and this is certainly not life or death, is that bass, tenor and treble clefs are still used when most of the music could have been kept to only treble and bass and our 'old favourite' - the tenor clef - could have been banished!
British and International Bass Forum
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Koussevitzky Four Pieces for Double Bass and Piano
Andante - Valse Miniature - Chanson Triste - Humoresque Edited by David Walter
The Four Pieces by Koussevitsky are published together for the first time here. In completely reappraising both solo part and piano accompaniment, Walter unveils a coherent and finally complete salon suite. In editor's notes, Walter explains his grouping of adjacent pitches, where musically desirable, while separating those more than a second apart. To recognize the attraction of neighbouring notes means banishing the old-fashioned bow-to-a-bar orthodoxy.
Walter presents the lilting melody of the first piece, Andante, in varying strengths. Once a series of stepped dynamics and stringendi have reached a passionate climax, the brief cadenza that follows is extended all the way to a low D. After a reprise of the opening, the movement ends with high harmonics. In the opening of Valse Miniature, Walter emphasizes the syncopated rhythm by grouping the first six notes in two groups of three. An octave transposition in bar 42 provides an elegant alternative to the clunking drop of the original, and continuing the closing arpeggio at bar 113 makes for good music and theatre.
The piano introduction of Chanson Triste is revoiced and extended, allowing a complete bar for the preparatory dominant-seventh chord and creating symmetry with the following four-bar phrase. Walter's note groupings in the, bass part demand lyrical phrasing, and the plaintive, luminous melody achieves greater expression thanks to the sensitively pared-down and adjusted piano accompaniment. The modern notation of the cadenza makes Koussevitsky's intended accelerando clearer, and indicating senza vibrato at the recapitulation emphasizes a poignant ending.
If Chanson Triste has audiences crying into their absinthe, the impertinent cheerfulness of the concluding piece, Humoresque, will soon perk things up. The missing dynamics at the opening of the bass part can be found in the piano accompaniment; repetitions are contrasted mf-p. Even in the most lightweight of the four movements, Walter finds hidden nuances. The articulation of the last sixteenth note in bar 24 emphasizes its upbeat function; tempo variations give pace and structure, and prevent the arpeggiated motif from becoming cloying. The conclusion - andante followed by a prestissimo dash to the pizzicato open D ending - displays sheer effervescence.
Walter's unashamedly melodic philosophy, applied here as an editor, will encourage bassists to seek out the music within the notes.
A Family Album - Book 2 Double Bass solos by Bassist/Composers
The second book of the Family Album series, Frank Proto's collection of double bass solos composed by double bass performers, avoids any sign of a sophomore slump, maintaining a high level of quality throughout the nine pieces written by eight composer-performers. Book 2 expands on the original Family Album in breadth and scope by including two duets (one for two double basses, the other for double bass and violin) and several longer works. Bach to Blues by John Clayton is aptly titled. Clayton ingeniously alternates between a classical style idiom and a great blues groove. The entire piece is pizzicato, and, as Bach did in his works for unaccompanied instruments, Clayton gives the impression of contrapuntal lines throughout the piece, creating an illusion of a simultaneous melody and accompaniment.
David Anderson's Capriccio No. 2 for Solo Double Bass was the required solo piece for the 1997 ISB Convention at Rice University in Houston. It was very well received, and I am sure that many people will b~ delighted to find it published. The piece begins with a slow melody line coupled with open string doublestops. From this sonorous beginning, Capriccio gains momentum and intensity until it reaches a climatic end with rhythmically ferocious thirty-second notes.
The eminently creative Mark Dresser wrote one of the album's duets, Teppo for Two Double Basses. The written-down part is in several sections with a variety of textures, forming the head of the piece. After playing through this once, the two performers are then to use these musical materials to inspire a free improvisation, after which the written portion is played through again.
Michael Moore wrote the next two tunes, Moon Dog and When I Wage Battle Next. Moon Dog alternates between slow and fast sections. I really liked how Moore used the musical material in each section of this relatively short piece to unify the whole. Especially beautiful is the thematic transformation in the last section, where the monophonic melody is harmonized in double stops. When I Wage Battle Next is written in an A-B-A arch form, where the outer two sections are slower ad lib sections which contain a more energetic and rhythmic B section.
Silver Suite by Hans Sturm, comprised of three impressionistically titled movements, is probably one of the more technically demanding pieces in the volume. I know firsthand how strongly this piece can impact an audience because I was lucky enough to hear it performed a few years ago by the composer. The first movement, In the River's Reflection, starts slowly and gradually picks up momentum with quick chromatic, whole tone and augmented triad runs throughout the double bass's tessitura. This gradually calms down into a slower and softer section, which is nearly all in harmonics. The second movement, In a Baby's Laughter, is marked "lightly, playfully" and provides a lighter texture to the first movement. Hidden in the Clouds of Dreams 'is the last movement, and is more thickly textured and mysterious in nature.
Another suite follows, Eldon Obrecht's Suite for Double Bass, with five movements: Prelude, Allegretto, Capriccio, Song, Variation and Epilogue. Each of the movements is fairly short. I think that the greatest accomplishment of this music is Obrecht's ability to say a lot with an economy of musical material, giving the feeling that every note really matters.
Michael Cretu's Homeland for Violin and Double Bass is the second duet in the volume. It begins very slowly, with solo double bass playing a gypsy-Iike theme accompanying itself with open-string drones. The violin enters with the bass, continuing in the same slow tempo. In the second section, the tempo is increased and a groove is set. This section lets both instruments play around with a repeating figure before returning to the material of the first section, as if one were returning home from a journey.
The final piece by Peter Askim is Vital Signs for Solo Double Bass. This five-page, single-movement work is full of intensity and passion. When you have completed the piece, you feel as though you have completed an epic journey. "Wild, frenzied, urgent, intense, calm, intense, bursting, reflective, violent, animated, longing, inward, lullaby, breathlessly..." are a sampling of some of the composer's indications, which gives you an idea of what to expect on this wild ride.
A common thread throughout this volume is that the bass is used ingeniously in every piece to bring the music to life. Every composer represented here is also an accomplished performer, and as such, each is able to use the effects the double bass to maximum value. Although some of this music may appear difficult at fIrst glance, all of it is playable since each composer had to be able to play it. Several times while playing through these pieces I was surprised and excited by the sounds coming out of my instrument, and at the musical possibilities I had not considered before. I really enjoyed playing these pieces, and look forward to A Family Album: Book 3!