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The role of the double bass in contemporary and orchestral ensembles frequently encounters technical demands that extend far beyond traditional practices. While students of the double bass acquire their instrumental skills through the study of classical and romantic repertoire, the instrument’s role in chamber music remains rather underrated. Meanwhile, the formation of Double Bass Ensembles from school to professional level has ultimately caught the attention of prominent composers. Bertold Hummels “Sinfonia Piccola” , Tabakovs “Lamento” or Jörg Widmanns “Teiresias” have been performed by both students and professionals on international stages. The current project takes a look at this new repertoire and at some of the techniques that have to be developed for a successful performance. Ultimately, learning to perform in this formation might well benefit the enhancement of skill in Chamber Music and Orchestra Performance settings.
Jorg Widmann – Teiresias for 6 Double Basses
Bertold Hummel – Sinfonia Piccola for 8 Double Basses
Emil Tabakov – Lamento for 12 Double Basses
Performers: 12 Students of the Double bass Studio of ESMAE
Direction and Presentation: Prof. Florian Pertzborn, ESMAE
Jörg Widmann – Teiresias para 6 Contrabaixos
“An oracle for six double-basses” – this is how Widmann calls his composition which he wrote upon commission of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on the occasion of the 75th birthday of the conductor Claudio Abbado. The subtle theme seems to be the saga of Teiresias, the blind prophet, from Greek mythology. According to Widmann himself, he imagined a sound for the unusual instrumentation of six double-basses that ‘is both blind and seeing’ in its enigmatic whispering.
Bertold Hummel – Sinfonia Piccola para 8 Contrabaixos
“ The attempt is made to utilise the instruments to produce symphonic gestures and developments. During the four movements, a variety of playing techniques are displayed and allocated to contrasting formal developments. The wide range of tonal colours. includes harmonics, glissandi, pizzicato, tapping on the fingerboard and body of the instrument, solo passages and ensemble playing. The palette of the musical content ranges from a lyrical style to jazz and the fundamental character of this miniature symphony is determined by both pathos and scurrility.”
Emil Tabakov – Lamento para 12 Contrabaixos
… shows effective idiomatic use and sophisticated choreography for 12 double basses. In his composition Emil Tabakov, himself double bass professional and conductor, ha the genius but simple idea to incriminate the western classical twelve tone system to twelve double basses. The result is bombastic: From sonorous virtuosity to lyrical paraphrases, mystical depths and pizzicati that emerge more sonorous than “the tuned drumbeat” draw a paraphrasal arc that comes close to Thomas Mann’s quote in Doctor Faustus…
ESMAE Double Bass Ensemble
The “Orquestra de Contrabaixo da ESMAE – ESTA – PORTO 2024” is the current Chamber Music Project of the Double bass studio at ESMAE. During the school year, students work on a detailed curriculum for the acquisition of contemporary performance techniques as well as on a wide range of skills to enhance the ability to perform within a musical ensemble.
Florian Pertzborn is Co Principal Double Bass at the Concerthouse Orchestra Porto – Casa da Musica and professor of double bass at the Superior School of Music and Performing Arts ESMAE/IPP in Porto, Portugal. He graduated under Michinori Bunya at the HFM – University of Arts in Würzburg, obtained his Master of Music Degree at the University of Sheffield and obtained a PhD in Performance Science under Daniela Coimbra from the University of Porto.
Florian is the author of “The Hummel Bass Ensemble Project” which he initiated with his double bass class and now networks with some of the finest double bass performers worldwide.
For the ESTA 2024 Porto Conference he reestablished the ESMAE Double Bass Ensemble with whom he will perform the Portuguese first performance of Jorg Widmanns “Teiresias”.