Friday, November 12, 2010

Mozart 40 - 1st mov no 2

Fig 1 my versionAnd my You Tube clip is:-

I base my version on Owen Lee's (see below), with only minor fingering changes, the main one being the first 5 notes. I prefer playing the G up on the A string, rather than on the D in Lee's version.

The versions in the literature include:-

IMC Orchestral Excerpts (Fred Zimmerman), Vol I, p112 - has the notes, but no clues as to the all important fingerings

Ludwig Streicher, My way of playing the double bass vol 3, p23 - almost identical to Owen Lee's version but with a little more reliance on 4

Owen Lee tutorial in The Double Bassist - as with the 4th mov excerpt, this is a fantastic article.

Streicher has a useful LH exercise for the intonation of the double stops:-

How to prepare (long term):-

The main issues are:-
I. quick string crossings
II. keeping in time when the rhythm changes in the middle section

The tricky are the string crossings. Lee mentions that there are two ways of doing this:-
start down - this works out getting into and out of the passage, but is the "wrong way around"
start up - I feel this makes the actual string crossed quavers (bars 191-197 and 211-216) easier, but there will inevitably be a couple of ups to get the bowing that way around, either before or after the passage, and its difficult to get this sounding the same in time

Lee mentions that the player should do whatever sounds best, but he starts down. I have swung both ways on this, but on balance I play it starting down. It takes some slow practice with the metronome to get it working but its possible and worth the effort. In the UK auditions are done with no screens, and I am willing to bet that if a candidate played this passage starting up bow they would be asked to play it again starting down.

It is easy to lose the pulse when the rhythm changes in bar 198 - I have to practice slowly with a metronome to keep this passage in time.

What is being tested - string crossings, double stopped intonation, rhythm, shifting, flexibility and mobility

Notes written on the part - I put reminders to myself to read in the audition just before I play:-
Sautille - from the string
bow close to D and G
Set tempo - think viola quavers at start of the movement
Extension - open, E flat
Tempo - Lee suggests 100

Friday, November 5, 2010

Opera North - The Merry Widow, 4/11/2010

I got a phone call from Opera North, one of the guys was sick, so I shot up to the Lowry in Manchester, to do The Merry Widow. Its always odd to go into the middle of a season - the band know the piece inside out, I am sightreading. I laugh at some of the gags in the dialog, but I am the only one as the band have heard them many times before. Thank goodness I was sharing a desk with Claire Sadler, who was lovely and very clear - she guided me thro a tricky gig. There was not a lot to play, it just where you play it that was the issue! The band are fantastic - as tight as a drum. All in all, it was a great show, and a good day out. And it was great to meet Michael Escreet - I had heard his name lots, as he was a bass player with the Beeb Phil in Manchester for many years.

Also I bumped into principal cello Sally Pendlebury - Sally is my vintage and like me ex Manchester Youth Orchestra, many years ago. Here were are, back in Manchester, 30-odd years later.

Its noticeable that everyone is playing on a sensational old instruments here. There is a real culture of playing fantastic sounding old basses in the UK, in all orchestras. I recently did a gig with Nicko, a very good amateur player who plays on a fantastic Lott bass (probably junior, but might be a Grandaddy). And  I have been chatting to Graham Appleton (, another excellent amatuer player who plays on a venitian bass, Busan school. Wow.