Xavier Foley, a dazzling double bass player, is a multi-talented musician who is breaking boundaries. A prizewinner of the 2016 Young Concert Association Susan Wadsworth International Auditions, the 2014 Sphinx Competition, and a 2018 Recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, he is in demand for his virtuosic playing as well as his stunning compositions. In fact, he was named by the Washington Post as one of 23 classical music composers to watch in 2023.
Xavier was born in Marietta, Georgia, and is a graduate of the Perlman Music Program and the Curtis Institute of Music.
Prestigious commissions have been coming in for Xavier. His For Justice and Peace co-commissioned by the Sphinx Organization and Carnegie Hall, a work for violin, double bass, and string orchestra, was given its premiere at Carnegie Hall in 2019 and since then it has been widely performed. Soul Bass, his bass concerto, was commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony in 2022. This season, he is on an extensive touring schedule with the Sphinx Virtuosi, performing his Galaxy Concerto, a work for two double basses and strings co-commissioned by the Sphinx Virtuosi, New World Symphony, and Carnegie Hall.
If that wasn’t enough, for the next three seasons, Xavier is artist-in-residence with the Oregon Symphony. His whirlwind timetable includes performing his own works from Oregon to Chicago, and Kansas to South Carolina, chamber music appearances with the Ying Quartet of a new bass quintet, and recitals across the country. Phew.
Xavier Foley: Shelter Island (Randall Goosby, violin; Xavier Foley, double bass)
But certainly, what stands out is that Xavier effortlessly moves not only all over the bass in registers one would rarely hear, but his compositions are also infused with diverse musical styles such as traditional folk music, African Spirituals, R & B, and classical, pop, and jazz genres.
Bass Sonata Latin Paradise with piano
Foley was heavily influenced by and drew inspiration from both Beethoven and Mahler—two towering figures in the history of classical music. When a commission request came in to compose a new work for the 2023 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music with generous support from the Mahler Foundation, and instigated by Mahler’s granddaughter, Xavier jumped at the chance. He decided to honor the composer by shaping his piece around two symphonies that feature the double bass—Symphony No. 1, the Titan, which has the prominent bass solo in the third movement, and the opening to the Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection.”
The program entitled Wild Geese Grand Finale, featured premiers of works by Kevin Puts, and Anna Clyne, as well as Xavier’s Resurrection of Titan, a double concerto for violin and bass with violinist Eunice Kim.
Foley’s music not only transcends boundaries, but he also has so much humor in his approach. Take, for example, this tongue-in-cheek rendition of the famous Grand Duo by Bottesini with Augustin Hadelich and his composition Hair Buster Solo. In the notes for this solo, he cautions (with some wit) that an average of 6-8 bow hairs at least (!) are usually broken during this piece.
Bottesini Duo with Augustin Hadelich
See what he means in this performance for an Edgar Meyer masterclass at the Curtis Institute of Music. His playing covers the gamut of sonorities from mournful to sparkling soulful to impish.
Hair Buster solo
The double bass, with its limited repertoire, is not usually heard as a solo instrument. Its bulk adds to the complications of traveling and practicing. Foley is expanding the catalogue with the intention to include new concertos, solo pieces, and chamber music. His website is not only the usual artist destination where one can see and hear about performances. Xavier, the entrepreneur, sells his vast catalogue of musical compositions, with such catchy titles as Upright Metal and The Spirit of the Ice Bear, and he sells bows and T-shirts as well!
The Spirit of the Ice Bear with Eunice Kim
It’s difficult to imagine how Xavier manages to balance his busy performance schedule with time needed alone and without distractions to compose. In a 2023 interview with Forrest Howell for I Care if Your Listen he concedes that this juggling act requires constant flexibility and adaptability. He’s certainly not the only one to struggle with the challenges of finding the right environment to compose. Both Leonard Bernstein and Gustav Mahler spring to mind! But if his output so far is any indication, Xavier Foley is managing quite well.
His goals are admirable. “What’s great about music,” he says in a recent interview for the New West Symphony in 2022, “is that we’re able to translate how we feel. And it’s great that we’re having a conversation about the role of music and how it can be a little more diverse and can give voice who haven’t necessarily been given a voice.”
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