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Wiener Philharmoniker Bass Section

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Snakewood, Jan 27, 2006.


  1. Snakewood

    Snakewood Guest

    Dec 19, 2005
    Hey, just curious if anyone knows what kind of basses members of the VPO use? I've never seen any extensions of sorts, just five string models. The majority of bassists in the section didn't even use extensions. Were they tuning in fifths? Or is the VPO historically known for either use a five string bass or no extension at all? Could it be Scordatura?

    thx
     
  2. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    The Wiener/Vienna philharmonic is very perticular about their instruments. I know that the non-bass string players all have used the same instruments for 100s of years. Every string instrument is owned by the orchestral and loaned to the players, this is why the orchestral claims to have the same sound it had during Mozart's time.

    Obviously the basses are not from that era however they are all fivers.
     
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I just had a quick look at the website but can't see the Basses that clear. Having played a 4-string, 5-string and 4-string with 3 different types of Extensions I can tell you that the music actually tells you what is needed. In Europe, many think that an Ext is a cheap fix for not having a 5-string Bass. In some orchestras they may all have Exts in USA or only some and split the parts for clarity. If the music is written down low and the VPO does not use all 5s, then I can only assume the conductor acceps splitting the parts.

    For some pieces going down low, the 5 is best. Some though is easier on an ext but if you play 5 alot, that's what will get used regardless of the bow crossings.

    I think Fifths tuning is very rare although someone is always trying to bring something back from the past. I believe 5-string Basses first appeared in Europe as far back as the 18th century.

    Oh, the question on the kinds of Basses. If they are Gamba then I would guess mainly German, Bohemian, Austrian and Hungarian. There could be Italian Basses there but the Vienna string sound is not dependent on the greatest instruments according to the website.
     
  4. I honestly would love to have a 6 string. I know it would be a big finger board but if i can get used to it it would be extremely helpfull. BEADGC. That would be great or maybe a 7 string throwing in a F string JK just 5 or six string. Im buying a 5.
     
  5. bassist14

    bassist14

    Oct 17, 2005
    Germany
  6. Snakewood

    Snakewood Guest

    Dec 19, 2005
    wow! 13 active players. That probably explains why I see a new principal every other concert! I watched Gurtler and Sikorski do St. Mathew's Passion...it was the best bass playing i've ever heard, and I was at the very back.
     
  7. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    They are probably all five stringers. That goes for probably all orchestras in Austria and Germany, and maybe France as well. Since I've been here in Germany (4 years), the only extension I've seen is my own. I played 3 years for a small orchestra in central Germany. We all played Poellman 5-saiters owned by the orchestra. It is easier to play those low passages on a five string, but my preference is still 4 strings with or without C-extension. I find that the extra tension and the thicker top and bar makes the instrument less responsive and reduces dynamics and tone. How many notes do you play below E anyway? Bill Merchant said once told be that he felt that the assymetry inherent in having 5 strings lying on the bridge interferes with good resonance. Could be.

    Another question is, what about three strings? I was just in Rome and saw a lot of street folk bands. The bassists all had the crappiest plywoods you could imagine. They were all strung up with three flourescent green gut or synthetic (I didn't ask) strings, and you could hear them from far away, unamplified, with Roman traffic all around. They could really swing, although what they did with the left hand didn't seem very important to them or their colleagues.

    I heard that the Italian bassists in the early romantic times were very negative toward the increasing popularity of the four string, fourths tuned system. I actually had my E-string break once just as I was about to go onstage to play a Haydn mass in Tuscany. I played the concert with three strings, and found that my bass was amazingly responsive, and there really weren't many notes below the open A anyway.Of course this would be different for Brahms or Strauss.

    I'm not about to change to three strings, but I am firmly fixed to the idea that adding strings subtracts sound!

    Robobass
     
  8. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    Like Ken Smith wrote, they have a mix of 5 and 4 string basses.

    No expensive basses, just mid-priced middle-european basses.

    Like Snakewood mentioned about his Matthew Passion experience, they sound like a dream. If any of you have seen Guertler, he is so overweight he can barely get his hands around the instrument, but when he plays a solo or a continuo you realize why he is sitting principal.

    Lots of younger faces these days, I think a lot of players are retiring. Lets hope the sound doesn't become generic like it has happened in so many orchestras.
    I heard them a few months ago, Guertler was principal and 3 younger guys were playing with him (Haydn "Surprise"), and the new guys sounded very much like the old guys, only better. They followed Guertler beautifully, like chamber music.

    So there is hope.
     
  9. Allan Santos

    Allan Santos

    Dec 17, 2005
    It looks like the the opera orchestra has a compliment of 13 players and the philharmonic being at 10. This isn't too different from the Met orchestra if you include the Associate Artists they use in the pit compareed to what they use for orchestra concerts at Carnegie.


    Allan
     
  10. Allan Santos

    Allan Santos

    Dec 17, 2005
    I've heard only tremendous things about one of the younger pricipals, Alois Posch. He was apointed at a very young age 21 or 22 or somewhere around there. I'm hoping to get the chance to see the orchestra when they come to the States later this year.

    I don't think the sound in the Wiener Philharmoniker will change anytime soon. It's an ensemble with a deep rooted tradition and I can only imagine that the musicians take it as a big responsibility in keeping that tradition alive. The fact they don't have a music director will also ensure that the sound continues as long as the musicians want it.



    Allan
     
  11. bassist14

    bassist14

    Oct 17, 2005
    Germany

    he was 18...
     
  12. Allan Santos

    Allan Santos

    Dec 17, 2005
    Incredible.......
     
  13. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I blew up every pic I could find on those links and every Bass was a 4-string!!!! Not a single 5er in the bunch. That only means that in those concerts the played only E or higher. I am sure if they played the 5th, we would see some 5s in the group.
     
  14. Snakewood

    Snakewood Guest

    Dec 19, 2005
    Indeed. When I was in Vienna I saw them play Mahler's 2nd Symphony. 10 Bassists, 3 of them were five strings, the others just 4. It looked like the guys with 4 strings just jumped the octave, and to be honest it sounded more powerful than the N.Y Phil, who's member's all use extensions.
     
  15. Johonn

    Johonn

    Nov 19, 2004
    Brunswick, ME
    I've noticed that when a note is doubled on the octave, it usually does tend to be more powerful then just doubling on the same tone... im sure there is some kind of physics involved with that phenomenon.
     
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    It depends on what your frame of reference and comparisons are...I've seen/heard Russian orchestras playing in London, where the Bass sections had all 5 strings (maybe the odd extension) and they had a huge, almost "brutal" sound in Shostakovich symphonies, for example!

    Vienna is assiocated with a refined, classical sound - if you want "powerful" listen to the best Russian Orchestras!! :)
    Unfortunately - they haven't been recorded that well - maybe too great a dynamic range? - but in the concert hall - incredibly stirring and passionate!!
     
  17. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    I agree about the russian orchestras.

    Vienna does have a refined sound, but it's very powerful all the same, it's like being hit with a pillow. Sorry about the stupid analogy.
     
  18. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    one of the older principals plays a Maggini and an 18th century German 5 string bass.
     
  19. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I stand corrected. I was extrapolating what I've seen in Germany to Austria. In Germany most bassists have four stringers at home, which they use for solo and chamber playing, but on the orchestra stage it's pretty much 5 strings all around.
    Robobass
     
  20. Why would the basses not be from that era? Is it necessarily so that noone made or owned 5-strigers 1750 to 1791? Do the current members have only newer basses?