Chamber Music for Bassists

Syllabus- a proposal for a paper for Dr. Michael Montgomery's class:
Survey of String Literature MUHS 4703, University of Arkansas, Fall 2011
A survey of solo and chamber music literature involving stringed instruments (esp. bass.)

Not so long ago the double bass student, when he first considered playing music with a small group of instrumentalists in a chamber music setting, may have felt there that there were not so many pieces to choose from, especially if he wanted to play standard chamber music literature by well known composers that included a part which had been written specifically for the double bass. Today, however, the list of available literature may seem almost overwhelming. The following two websites may give some indication of how true this is:http://www.paulnemeth.com/basschamber.htm and http://www.double-bass.org/music.htmlModern composers such as Frank Proto (http://www.liben.comare constantly expanding this list.

Despite the fact that today there is such a large amount of repertory to choose from, there IS a smaller body of chamber music repertory that might be considered almost standard for the double bassist, and it would perhaps be good for students to at least have a sampling of this music before delving into lesser known works. At the core of this paper are one dozen of the arguably best known chamber music works, written by some of history's most famous composers- works which include a part originally intended for the double bass. The purpose of this class is to get a closer look at this repertory and share insights about it.

Included with the works on this list is a short bio about each composer that describes briefly his place and that of the composition in music history and literature, as well as thoughts about the bass part itself (level of difficulty, accompanimental or somewhat independent, etc.). The comments about the composer and the writer's impression of the bass part and performance make up the annotation for each work. Links to .pdf files of the bass parts of these works, most from International Music Score Library Project (http://www.IMSLP.org), and performances of each on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com) are also included for this online version, while the printed parts are included with the hard copy of this paper. This forms the main body of the paper.

The goal and purpose for doing this research is to have a useful reference for other bass students to use in the future when searching for chamber music to perform. With a brief commentary about the bass in chamber music (including a quick look at the origins of the instrument and the way its use evolved in common settings - playing, for instance, the basso continuo in the Baroque era ensembles, in the string section of the symphony orchestra in the classical and romantic periods, and as part of the rhythm section of jazz groups in more recent times) asintroduction, a closing summary, an appendix with a more comprehensive (not annotated) list of chamber pieces with bass (including a handful of the more popular standard repertory for double bass and piano) and finally abibliography of sources, the writer hopes to have created a helpful resource for students and teachers of the double bass.


A list of some of the most popular chamber works written with an original bass part
arranged chronologically by composers' birthdates
.

Bach, Johann Sebastian (1685-1750)
Six Brandenburg Concerti, BWV 1046-1051
Four Orchestral Suites, BWV 1066-1069 
.PDF for parts of Orchestral Suite No. 2, BVW 1067 (1725+):http://imslp.org/wiki/Orchestral_Suite_No.2_in_B_minor,_BWV_1067_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian)#Complete_2

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)
Sextet for Two Violins, Viola, Bass and Two Horns, K. 522, "The Village Musicians"
http://imslp.org/wiki/Ein_musikalischer_Spa%C3%9F,_K.522_(Mozart,_Wolfgang_Amadeus)#Parts

Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827) 
Septet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn, Opus 20 (1800)
http://imslp.org/wiki/Septet_in_E-flat_major,_Op.20_(Beethoven,_Ludwig_van)#Parts

Hummel, Johann Neomuk (1778-1837) 
Quintet for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 87
http://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Quintet,_Op.87_(Hummel,_Johann_Nepomuk)#Scores_and_Parts

Onslow, Georges (1784-1853)
Various Quintets for Two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 17-44
Quintet for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 70
http://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Quintet,_Op.70_(Onslow,_Georges)
Nonet for Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass, Op. 77

Spohr, Ludwig (1784-1859)
Nonet for Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass, Op. 31
http://imslp.org/wiki/Nonet,_Op.31_(Spohr,_Louis)#Parts

Rossini, Gioachino (1792-1868)
Six Sonatas for Two Violin, Viola, and Double Bass, written in 1804.
http://imslp.org/wiki/Sonatas_for_Strings_(Rossini,_Gioacchino)

Schubert, Franz Peter (1797-1828)
Quintet for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 114, "The Trout"
http://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Quintet_in_A_major,_D.667_(Schubert,_Franz)#Parts
Octet for Two Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn, Op. 166

Mendelssohn- Bartholdy, Felix (1809-1847)
Sextet for Piano, Violin, Two Violas, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 110
http://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Sextet,_Op.110_(Mendelssohn,_Felix)

Saint-Saens, Charles Camille (1835-1921)
Septet for Piano, Trumpet, Two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 65
http://imslp.org/wiki/Septuor,_Op.65_(Saint-Sa%C3%ABns,_Camille)#Parts

Dvorak, Antonin (1841-1904)
Serenade for Strings (Violins 1 & 2, Violas, Celli, Bassi), Op. 22
Serenade for 10 Wind Instruments, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 44
Quintet for Two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass, Op. 77 (1875)
http://imslp.org/wiki/String_Quintet_No.2,_Op.77_(Dvo%C5%99%C3%A1k,_Anton%C3%ADn)#Parts

Stravinsky, Igor (1882-1971) Written in 1918
Septet for Violin, Bass, Trumpet, Trombone, Clarinet, Bassoon, Percussion, "A Soldier's Tale"
http://imslp.org/wiki/L%27histoire_du_soldat_(Stravinsky,_Igor) without bass part

Martinu, Bohuslav (1890-1959)
Nonet for Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass, H 144.
http://imslp.org/wiki/Nonet_(Martin%C5%AF,_Bohuslav)#Parts

Prokofieff, Serge (1891-1953) 
Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, Violin, Viola, and Double Bass, Op. 39 (1923)
http://imslp.org/wiki/Quintet,_Op.39_(Prokofiev,_Sergey)#Parts

 

Referenced websites include:

http://www.IMSLP.org

http://www.paulnemeth.com/basschamber.htm

http://www.double-bass.org/music.html

http://www.liben.com