Baroque bows … or are they?

I often see very talented baroque bass colleagues in concert, on TV, on the internet, in conservatories and universities … and depending on which country you or they are in, you’ll see bass players playing overhand (“French”) or underhand (“German”).

So let me just say one thing right off the bat: there is, as far as I know at the time I am writing this article, zero – zero – evidence that any¬†overhand bass bows ever existed during the baroque era. The reason people call them French is because they were developed and made popular in France –¬†in the mid-nineteenth century. Read More

A word about recitatives, and “Simandl says”

Wenzl Hause seems to have been the first bass player to talk about the use of the bass in recitatives, at the end of Volume 1 of his Complete Method. But he was by no means the only one: Franz Simandl’s New Method, first published in 1874, also has a whole volume dedicated to this practice (Part 1, Volume 5). Simandl basically says the same things that Hause does – one particular thing they both emphasize is for bass players¬†not to hold out long notes in¬†secco¬†recitatives. Read More

Making up your own history …

I just came across a book about playing the bass in fifths C-G-D-A … ok, if you want to make your life unnecessarily difficult, on purpose, go right ahead. What really got me going, though, was a phrase in a letter enclosed with the book. The author gave a copy of the book, with the letter, to a famous early-music conductor (who in turn passed it on to me). If you want to know what the book is and who the author and the conductor in question are, send me a message. Read More

Why Hause Etudes are so important

Wenzl Hause was the first active bass player to write a method for the instrument, published in its final form around 1825, and he tried to incorporate as many practical elements into it as he could. The second of the three volumes of his method is a book of 90 exercises. That sounds like overkill – until you look at them more closely, at which time you’ll see that some of them aren’t more than half a page long in the original edition. Short, concise, to the point – that seems to have been Hause’s idea, rather than pages and pages of repetitive browbeating. Let’s take a look at one of these exercises, number 20, and see what issues it addresses. The fingerings are Hause’s. Read More

Appoggiaturas? Grace Notes?

I’ve always wondered why lots of players – and not only bass players – seem to play appoggiaturas or grace notes without thinking about why they are there, what they mean, and how they are supposed to be played. Here’s an example.

Let’s take a look at the bass (or violone) solo in the Trio of the Menuett of Haydn’s Symphony No. 8, “Le Soir.”¬† Read More