Singing Against the Grain

Sarah-Bob-piano-and-Sirgourney-Cook-soprano2Playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter era

Johann Baptist Vanhal’s Concerto in D Major is a standard of the string repertoire. A Czech composer and musician who performed with Joseph Haydn, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Vanhal most likely wrote the bright and shimmery concerto for double bass in the 1760s, around the same time that he was saving money to purchase his freedom from a Bohemian count. Secure as it is in the canon of string music, it is a testament to the underdog that the composition even exists. Concertos were not intended for the double bass, which is often excluded from the circle of solo instruments. It can be plucked. It can hum the harmonic foundation of a symphonic overture. It can scat the bass line in a Cole Porter song. But unlike its lighter, supposedly more versatile sibling, the violin, the double bass is not supposed to sing. Full story.
Kira Thurman (The Point)

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