Memphis Symphony principal bassist (and my stand partner for the IRIS Orchestra) Scott Best will be performing the Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra by John Harbison of February 9 at the Cannon Center in downtown Memphis and February 10 at the Germantown Performing Arts Center. Details are available on the Memphis Symphony website.
Memphis Symphony Music Director David Loebel wrote a personal preview of this upcoming concert titled Best’s Bass and Joey’s Oboe. He writes:
It is only in recent decades, through the efforts of such artists as Gary Karr and Edgar Meyer, that the double bass is thought of as a solo instrument. That one of our finest American composers, John Harbison, has composed a widely-played and successful concerto shows how far the bass has come. There are certainly more oboe concertos than bass concertos, and Richard Strauss’ autumnal effort is one of the finest. The MSO is fortunate indeed to have such excellent principal players as Scott Best and Joey Salvalaggio and we’re pleased to feature them on these concerts.
Read Loebel’s complete preview here.
The model (described by San Diego principal bassist Jeremy Kurtz as a ‘rolling premiere’) which which this piece was commissioned is quite interesting to analyze and is likely to become more common in the future. The International Society of Bassists organized this multi-participant commission, with each participating organization sharing in the costs of the endeavor.
This model (extensively described on the ISB website) is an excellent way to commission new works for the double bass from composers with an international reputation. While one orchestra may not have the funds or desire to commission such a work on their own, pooling the resources of multiple organizations helps to mitigate the cost, while at the same time providing the composer with multiple performances (15 for the Harbison to date) rather than one premiere alone.
Also, there is a certain momentum that builds up when multiple organizations take part in such a project. While it is unlikely that all 15 of these orchestras would have commissioned their own independent double bass concertos during the same time period, having a preconceived project that they can simply sign on with makes participation smoother and therefore much more likely.
Interested in seeing a performance of the Harbison even if you can’t make it to Memphis? There will also be upcoming performances with the Florida Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra. University of Iowa bass professor Volkan Orhon also has a video of himself performing the work with the university orchestra. Check it this video of Volkan here.
Memphis Symphony principal bassist Scott Best is also the individual who came up with the Virtual Master Class Project that is active here on doublebassblog.org. Learn more about the Virtual Master Class here.