Contrabass Conversations Recital Showcase – Music of Phillip Serna 2

This is a special Contrabass Conversations bonus episode featuring a full-length recital from double bassist Phillip Serna. Phillip was our guest on episodes 5 and 8, and it is a pleasure to present this recital to listeners. Enjoy!

Phillip Serna Recital Showcase
Show Notes

Release Date: 4/26/07

Length: 1:17:08


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This is a full-length recital showcase featuring a performance from double bassist Phillip Serna. Visit Phillip online at

Recital Program

N o r t h w e s t e r n U n i v e r s i ty

S c h o o l o f M u s i c

Presents a Doctoral Recital

Phillip Woodrow Serna, double bass

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree

Doctor of Music in Double Bass Performance


Double Bass Student of Michael Hovnanian

Viola da Gamba Student of Mary Springfels

assisted by:

Shirley Trissell, piano

Sunday, April 27, 2003, 8:30 p.m.

Regenstein Recital Hall
60 Arts Circle
Evanston, Illinois

Sonata in E-Minor, Op.38 (1862-1865) Johannes Brahms
For Violoncello and Piano (1833-1897)

Allegro non troppo
Allegretto quasi

Shirley Trissell, piano


Sonata No.2 in E-Minor, Op.6 Adolf Mišek
For String Bass and Piano (1875-1955)

I. Con fuoco
II. Andante cantabile
III. Furiant: Allegro energico
IV. Finale: Allegro appassionato

Shirley Trissell, piano


Sonata (1956) František Hertl
For String Bass and Piano (b. 1906)

I. Allegro moderato
II. Andantino
III. Rondo: Alla polka, moderato

Shirley Trissell, piano

Program Notes

Johannes Brahms’ Sonata in E-Minor, Op.38 (1862-1865)

In the summer of 1862, Johannes Brahms composed the first two movements of the Sonata for Piano and Violoncello, Op. 38. He later added the final Allegro in June of 1865. Intended as an “homage to J.S. Bach,” Brahms based the principal themes of the outer movements on Contrapuntctus 4 and Contrapunctus 13 from “The Art of Fugue.” Indeed, beyond these thematic references, fugal interplay is the prevailing device employed throughout the work. The sonata was first performed in July of 1865, and submitted for publication to both Breitkopf & Härtel and Simrock in September of the same year. Breitkopf & Härtel refused to publish the work. Simrock soon accepted it, however, and it was probably published in early 1866. Brahms’ famous description of the work, which accompanied his submission to Simrock, remarks that it is “a violoncello sonata which, as regards both instruments, is certainly not difficult to play.

David Cardon, Discordia Music

Discordia Music, a publishing company run by Professor Michael Hovnanian, publishes the edition used for this performance. Discordia specializes in publishing new works and transcriptions for the double bass, as well as to publish premium quality, well-researched,
scholarly editions of music part of the standard double bass solo literature.

Adolf Mišek’s Sonata No.2 in E-Minor, Op.6

The typesetter, composer, conductor, and double bass player Adolf Mišek was born in Modletin, Czechoslovakia in 1875. At age 15, Mišek attended the Academy of Vienna, later conducting as choirmaster of The Czech Choir ,,Tova ovský“ and Slavonic Chorus. Additionally, he conducted The Czech Academic Orchestra in Vienna. From 1890 to1894 Mišek was a student of the famous lecturer, Franz Simandl (1840-1912), who in Mišek’s time was associated with the Vienna Conservatory, an institution that Mišek would later be engaged as bass professor. From 1920 to 1934 Mišek returned to his place of birth in Bohemia. He returned to Prague where he built a career as a soloist with the National Theatre. He died in Prague in 1955.

Mišek composed various works in different genres for voice, violin, chamber ensembles, and lastly for the double bass. His works for bass include a Scales Study, Legend op. 3 for Double Bass and Piano, a Capriccio (1899), Concert Polonaise, Sonata No.1 in A Major, Op. 5, Sonata No.2 in e minor, Op. 6, Sonata No.3 in F Major, and a Concert in C-major.

František Hertl’s Sonata (1956)

Composer and double bassist František Hertl was an active member in Czech music throughout his career. From 1920 to1926, Hertl studied double bass at the Prague Conservatory with Professor Fr. Cerny, also studying composition from 1933 to1936. Hertl was solo double bassist in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (1929-1935) and Czechoslovak Radio Orchestra Prague (1935-1950). Hertl was director as well as performing member of the Czech Nonet from 1936 to 1950 and 1963 to1966 in addition to his duty as conductor of the Radio Orchestra in Brno
(1950-1961). As a pedagogue, Hertl was professor at the Prague Conservatory (1951-1961), at the Leoš Janá ek Academy of Music Arts in Brno (1954-1961), and at the Academy of Music in Prague (1953-1973).

Hertl wrote 35 compositions for orchestra including a Czech Suite (1947), Czech Dances (1947), and a Symfonietta for Oboe and Small Orchestra. Hertl composed a Sonata for Violoncello and Piano as well as various choral works. Hertl also composed a Concert Polka (1948) and a Concert for Double Bass (1957) premiered by František Pošta in 1958. He additionally composed a Prelude, Burlesca, Nocturno, and Tarantella (1969). As pedagogical works, Hertl wrote a Double
Bass School (1962) and 20 Studies (1965) for Double Bass. The Sonata for Double bass and Piano (1956) was first recorded by his pupil Pavel Horak, a member of Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, now in retirement. Hertl was directing during the recording process.

Information courtesy
of Miloslav Jelinek of the Czech Society of Double Bassists


“Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays
good music, people don’t listen, and if one plays bad music people don’t talk.”

~ Oscar Wilde (1854 -1900) ~

I would like to express my utmost gratitude to the following individuals:

Shirley Trissell for sharing the stage with me this evening; Richard Van Kleeck, director of Concert Activities; Miloslav Jelinek of the Czech Society of Double Bassists for the information on Mišek and Hertl; my co-conspirator Martin Starr Simmons and all of our Wizard Weird cohorts and performers; my loyal colleagues and friends in the audience tonight as well as the various orchestras I play with; the members of the Northwestern Bass Studio; the NU Early Music Faculty & Community; the Northwestern University conducting faculty and students Jerry Fuller; Jeff Lambert; Pete Lawson; Courtney Lawhn and Jason Heath; Nathan Mead; Eric Rogers; my DM Committee faculty members Liz Cifani and Linda Austern; my major teachers Michael Hovnanian and Mary Springfels; my supportive family; and lastly to my magnificent girlfriend Magdalena Mikolajczyk, for your affection, encouragement, and companionship has been so crucial to me this year.

Cast of Characters:

An enthusiastic performer of early music, as well as the contemporary, orchestral, and chamber repertoires, Phillip Serna (Double Bass and Viola da Gamba) earned his Bachelor of Music in Double Bass performance with Stephen Tramontozzi at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
in 1998. Phillip later completed his Master of Music in 2001 as a Northwestern University/ Civic Orchestra of Chicago Graduate Fellow. Currently, Phillip is rigorously pursuing the Doctor of Music degree at Northwestern University, studying double bass with Chicago Symphony Orchestra member Michael Hovnanian and viola da gamba with Newberry Consort member Mary Springfels.

Phillip regularly concertises around the Chicago area with the Illinois Philharmonic, Kenosha Symphony, Racine Symphony, Rockford Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as well as the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. In addition to these ensembles, Phillip also performs with period instrument ensembles such as the Classical Arts Orchestra as well as The Forces of Virtue Ensemble and Choir, dedicated to raising money for disaster relief and other charities. On top of his intense performance schedule, Phillip teaches master classes and gives workshops on modern and period double bass in addition to viola da gamba performance. Phillip serves as faculty at Chicago’s Sherwood Conservatory of Music and teaches Double Bass in the Maine Township School District.

In his spare time, along with co-conspirator Martin Simmons in Los Angeles, Phillip is active in scripting, web design, concept art, as well as composing and recording on double bass, viola da gamba, and guitar for their ongoing collaborative recording project WIZARD WEIRD. WIZARD WEIRD is a musical crossover project incorporating multiple artistic and popular musical genres while portraying a childlike story geared for children of all ages.

About Jason

An active double bass performer and teacher, Jason teaches double bass at DePaul University and served on the Board of Directors of the International Society of Bassists for many years. Jason is the current President of the Illinois chapter of the American String Teachers Association. Jason has been a member of the Elgin Symphony since 2000 and has played with the Midsummer’s Music Festival in Door County for the past decade. He is a past member of the Milwaukee Ballet and IRIS Orchestra, and has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Grant Park Symphony, and numerous other professional ensembles.

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