Are there composers

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Jan 29, 2014.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    that you feel were "symphatethic" to double bass players, in the way they wrote the music, do you think, and conversly, are there others that seemed to have it in for us all? :meh:

    Thanks for reading!
  2. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I think there are some composers that knew the instrument far better than others, and that is reflected in some of their writing. Ravel and his extensive use of harmonics comes to mind. Hindemith might not be something that appeals to everyone, but he knew what the instrument was capable of. Berlioz wrote in some treaties that he saw the benefit of three string basses in 5ths, 4 string basses in 4ths, 5 string basses with a low C, and the Octobass, and how he would have a combined section of all of the options because of the various benefits of the different instruments. Beethoven wrote some fantastic bass lines, featured the instrument (albeit usually with cellos) in various parts of his works, and knew when to separate the two quite effectively. Some of his music is extremely difficult at the tempos we like to take it at today which may or may not be "accurate" but I get the feeling things like "the storm" were intended to be messy and sound like a storm. Mahler wrote some fantastic bass lines, besides just the one that is usually played quite horribly.

    Still others wrote great music, and left getting around the instrument up to the bassists. The Strauss tone poems aren't exactly easy to play, but they are fantastic music.

    I am leaving out the "great" bass composers here intentionally. Most of them were bassists and wrote for the current tuning system quite well. I will leave it up to you as to whether or not you think Dittersdorf was inspirational.

    As for composers that "had it out for us" I hesitate to go there. I would say that a lot of the Mozart and Haydn symphonies are very challenging just by the nature of how many notes there are and how fast they go by, but I wouldn't say they particularly had a problem with bassists. It just seems like they wrote for cellists, and hoped we would grab a couple of notes here and there in the fast movements. I have encountered numerous student composers who have absolutely no idea how the instrument works, what it is capable of, what kind of leaps and weird lines are playable and what are completely awkward messes, but I would attribute that to them still learning.

    As I've been in 5ths for quite a while, my perspective has also changed. Some things are more challenging than they would be in 4ths, some are easier, and some are about the same. Most standard rep is fine, but I don't envy anyone who has to play Mendelssohn 4 or Smetana's Bartered Bride any time soon.
  3. notabene


    Sep 20, 2010
    SF Bay area