Basso Bravura!

The elegant setting of Cedars Drawing Room was the venue for the first double bass concert of this academic year. Five senior double bass students performed music from the 16th-century to the present day featuring one world and one UK premiere. An eclectic and enjoyable programme included three solos, two trios, two quartets and one sextet from composers in Spain, Finland, UK, Italy, Netherlands and Poland. Of the nine works performed, two were transcriptions and seven were original for the double bass confirming the breadth and wealth of music composed for the instrument over the past fifty years and our commitment to studying and performing all styles of music at Wells.

The quintet was joined by David Heyes, specialist double bass tutor, for the UK premiere of Dreams Can Come True by Spanish bassist-composer, Simón García. Written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Society of Bassists and premiered in America in June, it is modern, jazzy, accessible, and with echoes of The Elephant by Camille Saint-Saëns to keep the music firmly grounded. It was a fun work which delighted the large and appreciative audience and a highlight of the concert for many.

Jan, a specialist double bassist, is already a prolific composer and at the age of 14 has written more than fifty works. His Preludium for unaccompanied double bass was composed in memory of František Pošta (1919-1991) and premiered by the composer, as part of Pošta100, instigated by David Heyes to commission 100 one minute pieces from composers across the world. David studied in Prague with František Pošta in the late 1980s and the two year project will culminate in 2019, the centenary of the Czech virtuoso’s birth, with David performing the 100 pieces and recording them for Prima Facie Records.

Alex played Kadenza for unaccompanied double bass by the legendary Finnish bassist-composer Teppo Hauta-aho with great flair and virtuosity. The piece has taken on an iconic status and is probably the most performed contemporary work for the instrument. Alex displayed a musical and technical assurance beyond his years and was able to explore and demonstrate the many tonal, timbral and sound effects available to the modern double bass. The concert ended with an evocative and thought provoking performance of The Last Poppy by David Heyes and a rhythmically charged and engaging Mali-malist by Simón García.

Directed by David Heyes, the evening was overseen by Mark Stringer, Director of Music who was impressed by the depth of skill in the bass department this year. David proudly announced Alex H’s selection for this year’s National Youth Orchestra and Jan’s two years as principal double bass of the National Children’s Orchestra. Cedars Drawing Room was full, with some spectators standing or sitting on the floor, in this magical Wedgwood painted room.

This was an exciting start to what will surely prove to be a memorable and high achieving year for the double bass department.

Steve Wragg wrote, “The concert could not have been better conceived and Mark Stringer, intervened to insist on a final storm of applause. What a band. They certainly put the ovation into musical innovation!”

Photo credit: Sarah Poole