Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bowing du jour

As I mentioned, Abbado’s parts were highly marked with phrasings and bowings. The second movement passage for cellos and basses had divisi bowings. Something like this, although I didn’t take the part home and may not recall exactly.

Two not so good bowings in my opinion. I’ve always been a big fan of 4 notes to a bow throughout, even for

With the syncopated bowings, what I usually hear from students is something like


The A flat either gets an accent when the bow is yanked before the string crossing, or it is inaudible due to lack of sustain. Slurring across the string crossing (minor seventh) forces the legato. That’s my opinion anyway.

The scherzo bowings were traditional – starting down-bow, although the cellos started the passage beginning on the low ‘F’ up-bow while the bass part had the opposite. I’m not sure if this was consciously done, or an error that crept into the parts.

The trio had some interesting markings.

I have to say that this passage was not really together at the Thursday concert although I can’t blame Mr Abbado for that.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

This week's schedule

This week’s CSO Program

Haydn - Symphony No. 93
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 17
Beethoven - Symphony No. 5
Roberto Abbado, conductor
Alfred Brendel, piano

This week’s Film Night Program

John Williams - The Cowboys Overture
Elmer Bernstein - The Comancheros - World Concert Premiere
Dmitri Tiomkin - The Alamo
Elmer Bernstein - True Grit
Waxman - Prince Valiant
Waxman - Sunset Boulevard Suite
Waxman - The Bride of Frankenstein Suite
Waxman - The Philadelphia Story
Waxman - Katsumi Love Theme from Sayonara
Waxman - Ireland from Spirit of St. Louis
Waxman - Ride of the Cossacks from Taras Bulba
Richard Kaufman, conductor

This week’s Ars Viva Program

Paul Creston A Rumor
Charles Ives Symphony No. 3
Jon Polifrone Ballad (on the one-year anniversary of Jon’s passing)
Aaron Copland Old American Songs
Copland Three Latin American Sketches
Alan Heatherington, conductor
Patrick Blackwell, baritone
I have no idea what the program order is.


2-5 Ars Viva rehearsal

10-12:30 1:30-3:30 CSO rehearsals

10-12:30 CSO rehearsal
8 CSO concert

12-3 Film Night rehearsal
8 Film Night concert

3-6 Ars Viva rehearsal
8 CSO concert

2-5 Ars Viva rehearsal
7:30 Ars Viva concert

7:30 Ars Viva concert

The Abbado/Brendel program is only played twice. I’m not sure why film night was stuck into a week with a very popular program. Beethoven 5 – if that doesn’t sell, we may as well fold up the whole operation. And in fact the concert Thursday evening was well attended. Perhaps there is a good explanation why Abbado and Brendel will be cooling their heels back at the hotel (I don’t expect them to be at film night) instead of repeating the concert on Friday.

Abbado had interesting approaches to the Beethoven and Haydn symphonies. The orchestra was reduced in size – only 4 basses on the Beethoven, three on the Haydn, and two on the Mozart. He arrived with parts marked with all of his phrasing ideas, some of which were ambiguous. His brisk tempos were along the lines of an original instrument performance. Anything different from the way we ordinarily do things always elicits howls from some of the more small-minded member of the orchestra, so the response to Abbado was nothing unexpected. Some players complained he was hard to follow, but I found him no more or less clear than what we usually see.

The biggest surprise he pulled off was wearing the traditional white tie and tails – almost never seen on the podium these days anymore. Conductor apparel has become a rogues gallery of Neru jackets, priestly robes, or other unidentifiable garb. It was a pleasant surprise seeing something that didn’t produce titters and rolled eyes from the orchestra and audience when he appeared on stage for the concert.

Brendel was his usual superlative self. I am a big fan of his refined understated style. Always a pleasure to hear a real pro do his thing.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Return to boredom

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. Some non-music things have been eating up all of my free time lately. On top of that, my laptop crashed last week. Among the many things lost was a post on the Alpine Symphony. The quick synopsis of that is the piece is a masterwork, but I despise it. The parts were a mess and poorly bowed. Not much new there…

Recently, a colleague pronounced my blog 'uninteresting'. Maybe he used the word 'boring'.

So, in the interest of spicing things up, I include here the Gloria from the Schubert Mass MOB played last week. I actually did get the music before the first rehearsal but totally guessed wrong on the tempo and didn’t practice this movement. The marking of Maestoso e vivace was misleading – much more of the latter than the former.

This makes a good etude, I think. The tempo marking is about what we played. The fingerings are what I pulled out of my – well, hat – when scrambling through it at the first rehearsal.