Archive for September, 2009

September 13, 2009

Berg – Excerpts from Wozzeck

As promised yesterday, the particularly unpleasant solo from the second of three excerpts from Berg’s Wozzeck.


Key points:

  • No key signature, and he prefixes every note with some form of accidental.  This is most unfriendly.
  • It’s very exposed, and part of a fugue subject.  First, voice.  Then viola, then violin, then you.
  • On the plus side, however – it’s nice and slow!

I also like the way that Sibelius 5 shows every note apart from the b flat in red, indicating that this might be a bit on the high side!

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September 12, 2009

It’s a lonely life…

One of the reasons behind the name of this blog is that last year, I was playing in Gotterdammerung, and I was the only double bass.  Which wasn’t really so bad, all things considered, except when the part said “nur 4” (only 4).  However, when the part said “nur 8”, I did wonder just how big was the bass section for which Wagner was writing?

Anyway, just for a change, this year I am not the only double bass in the Northern Wagner Orchestra.  The programme this year is a little lighter than it has been, after we completed the Ring in 2008.  The programme:

  • Wagner – Wesendonck Lieder (nothing to worry about here for the bass section.)
  • Berg – excerpts from Wozzeck (tricky and exposed solo in the second excerpt, the notes of which I shall attempt to post up here tomorrow.  The rest is straightforward.)
  • Stravinsky – Rite of Spring  (oh dear.  I’ve done this before, and forgotten just how fiendish it is in places.  The notes themselves aren’t so bad, but the rhythms, particularly at the end.  Why couldn’t he just pick a time signature and stick with it?)

I’m sorry – did I say “lighter” music?  Since when was that little lot “light”?

Where was I?  Oh yes.  I have been joined this year, swelling the section to two.  Luxury!  But still not enough, for the bass part in Rite divides into 6 at the top of page 2.  Ah well…  There’s a rumour that there’ll be a third player tomorrow, but, given her previous record, I’m not holding my breath.

September 4, 2009

Haydn – Farewell Symphony

I was recently asked to join a local orchestra for a performance of Haydn’s Symphony 45 – “Farewell”. Unfortunately, I was unable to accept their invitation; however, an alarm bell did start ringing…

So I found a copy of the cello / bass part, and had a quick flick through. Nothing to worry about by looking at the first page – 3 sharps, big deal. But my memory was telling me there was a passage in 6 sharps, and a rather exposed bass solo. And, me being a bit pessimistic about these things, I thought that it might be that the solo itself was in 6 sharps. Oh dear. So I had to keep looking…

First movement – nothing to worry about. Second movement – an awkward “Scotch Snap” type rhythm at the beginning of the second half, but not much of a problem. Third movement – Minuet & Trio – again, nothing there apart from the 6 sharp key signature. It must be in the Finale.

The finale. “Presto”. Oh dear. Thankfully, only 3 sharps in the key signature. But again, nothing immediately obvious until I turned on to the last page, where the presto leads into an Adagio passage (whew!) in 3/8, which seems to be about the point where Haydn starts sending the players home. And there we have it – the dread phrase “uno Basso solo”, with an exposed triplet semiquaver passage.

And here’s that passage for future reference (click for a bigger version suitable for printing and practising):