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An Evening of Music for Double Bass


James Coyne, Double Bass

Cheryl Ziedrich, Piano


Suite No. 1 in G Major for Solo Double Bass           J. S. Bach






Menuet I

Menuet II




Concerto No. 2 in B minor                                              Giovanni Bottesini


Allegro Moderato





Sonata for Double Bass and Piano                             Paul Hindemith


I.   Allegretto

II.  Scherzo

III. Molto Allegro



Two Pieces for Contrabass and Piano, Op. 9           Reinhold Glière






Bach to Blues                                                                     John Clayton

                                                                                                (b. 1952)


Program Notes


The Cello Suites are believe to have been written between 1717 and 1723, a period when Bach worked at the court in Cöthen as director of chamber music.  Since the Prince was a Calvinist and did not desire elaborate religious music for liturgy, he encouraged Bach to write secular instrumental music.  During this short period of Bach’s career, he composed some of his most glorified works, including the Brandenburg Concertos, the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Violin Partitas and Sonatas, the English and French Suites, the Inventions, and the six Cello Suites.  For many years these pieces were thought to be music etudes, or exercises for students, and were not widely known.  It was not until the esteemed cellist Pablo Casals recorded them in 1925 that they became some of the most sought after cello works of all time.  All six suites share the same general structure, consisting of a prelude followed by a variety of dances.  These include the German Allemande as the second movement, followed by an Italian Courante and a Spanish Sarabande.  The fifth movement can vary between a pair of Minuets, Bourrées, or Gavottes.  All the suites end jovially with an English Gigue as a sixth movement.  The Suite No. 1 in G major is arguably one of the most recognizable pieces of classical music today.  Excerpts from the suites can be heard today on almost any instrument, and the entire first suite has been adopted into the double bass repertoire.


Bottesini was an Italian bass virtuoso, conductor, and composer.  He was born in Crema, Lombardy, and was exposed to music from an early age by his father, a talented clarinetist and composer.  By age eleven he had already shown much promise as a musician by filling the role of timpanist at the Teatro Sociale.  He had hoped to study at the Milan Conservatory as a violinist, his initial instrument of study, but his family lacked the money.  However, at that particular time the conservatory was offering scholarships for bassoonists and double bassists.  Therefore, Bottesini used his violin skills to learn the double bass.  In only four years of studying the bass he became a musical sensation, concertizing and touring in Europe and America.  After spending some time in America, he was offered the position of principal bassist at the Teatro Tacón in Havana, Cuba.  Havana is also where he debuted as a composer, where his first opera was premiered.  As a composer, Bottesini wrote much instrumental music, often showcasing the bass, and like most reputable Italian composers of his day, he also wrote several operas.  He eventually left Havana for Europe where he was in demand as a conductor a well as a bass soloist.  In fact, he was such an accomplished conductor that Verdi, a friend of Maestro Bottesini, selected him to conduct the premier of Aida in Cairo in 1871 for the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal.  Before Bottesini and earlier virtuosi, the bass had very few opportunities to solo and have a melodic role in an ensemble.  However, the successful careers of the early masters like Bottesini exposed new technical possibilities of the bass and proved it to be a worthy solo instrument.  In regards to the unfortunately sparse bass repertoire, Bottesini’s Concerto No. 2 is quite a cherished and popular contribution.  It is written in a bel canto, lyrical style, with the allegro moderato introducing a swaggering and brash melody.  The andante begins in a bittersweet mood and progresses into a dialogue between tenderness and somberness.  The bombastic and operatic style of the first movement reappears in the finale with even more panache, full of thrilling runs and skyrocketing arpeggios.  The cadenza of the first movement was composed by Bottesini.


Sonata for Double Bass and Piano (1949)

Paul Hindemith was a German composer, conductor, performer and teacher.  He grew up learning the piano, drums, violin and viola.  However, throughout his career he became rather proficient at most of the major orchestral instruments.  His ability to play the violin and viola was known to be exceptional, if not virtuosic.  His musical career began by performing in dance halls, cafes and theaters.  In 1914 he became the concertmaster of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra and later went on to tour Europe in carious string quartets playing second violin and viola.  His focus later shifted to composing and the teaching of composition.  Hindemith’s works were initially written in a late-romantic style but gradually matured into a more expressionist approach that was almost neo-classical at times.  His writing is generally considered tonal, but not diatonic, for it continually changes keys or tonal center.

Being a multi-instrumentalist and having a multi-faceted musical career is evidence that Hindemith had a practical attitude about music.  This is further demonstrated in his compositions, notably in his series of works called Gebrauchsmusik (music for use).  These works were usually intended for musicians of the amateur or student level.  However, this genre also included music written for professional players typically on instruments that are neglected by composers and seldom written for (harp, E flat alto horn, trombone, etc.).  The last two sonatas Hindemith wrote in this genre were for the orchestra’s foundation: the tuba and the double bass.  The Sonata for Double Bass was written in 1949 in America during his tenure as a teacher at Yale University.  Hindemith wrote the piece while driving from New Haven to Colorado Springs to conduct and lecture.  The first movement opens up with a re-occurring march-like melody from the bass where the piano responds with a second theme.  In the B section the bass has a brief melody played almost entirely with harmonics, and ends with a repetition of the main theme.  In the animated Scherzo, we hear a brief principal theme from the bass, a middle section with fast blasts of passagework from the piano, and finally the main theme again.  The expressive Adagio contains multiple variations on a theme, with more solo piano sections.  The bass comes to a halt as the piano takes over in the gloomy Recitativo section.  The sonata ends with a more celebratory and dignified Lied as the postlude.


Reinhold Glière was initially a violin player who studied composition at the Moscow Conservatory and in Kiev.  He eventually became a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory, where his students included Prokoviev, Miaskovsky and Khatchaturian.  Although Glière composed in both the styles of late Romanticism and Modernism, he is more associated with the former.  His best-known works are the ballets “The Red Poppy” and “The Bronze Horseman”, and perhaps his greatest work, the Third Symphony “Ilya Murometz”.  Although his chamber music is not as widely known, the Intermezzo and Tarantella for Double Bass and Piano is a popular work in the bass repertoire.


John Clayton is an American jazz and classical bassist.  A student of jazz legend Ray Brown, Clayton at age nineteen was bassist for Henry Mancini’s television series The Mancini Generation.  Clayton toured with the Count Basie orchestra and was also the principal bassist for the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra for five years.  He later moved back to the US to focus on playing and composing jazz music.  Shortly thereafter he formed the Clayton Brothers with his saxophonist brother Jeff Clayton.  John has been artistic director for many jazz workshops and festivals and has arranged and composed for artists including Diana Krall, Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole and The Tonight Show Band.


James Coyne fell in love with the electric bass at age eleven, eventually learning to play guitar as well.  Shortly after buying his first upright bass, he joined his first band, The Savage Ones, an instrumental surf/garage/rockabilly trio.  After transferring to Dominican University from San Francisco State, he declared a music major and began studying double bass with Mark Culbertson.  It was then that James took a heavy interest in playing classical music.  Outside of various ensembles at Dominican, James enjoys playing with various community orchestras in the Bay Area.  He has also played with the East Bay metal group Curmudgeon B.C., and has recorded and toured the US and Canada with the San Francisco-based punk/rockabilly group The Mutilators.

St. John’s Ross         connect     December 18, 2011



Two of the three anthems the St. Hildegard Choir will offer today were composed by our own parishioner Cheryl Ziedrich.  Cheryl based “Two Carols for Two Parts” on an old French Christmas carol, and then combined it with a Hungarian folk tune.  The result is a highly original piece that the choir has enjoyed learning.  She arranged “Rise up, shepherd, and follow” especially for our intermediate singers to sing today and Christmas Eve.  Not only is it great to have such a talented musician in our parish, but it’s also wonderful to demonstrate to our young singers that composers can also be living women that we know, not just men in fuzzy portraits from centuries past!

Cheryl Ziedrich,
Aug 10, 2012, 11:22 PM
Cheryl Ziedrich,
Aug 10, 2012, 9:36 PM
Cheryl Ziedrich,
Aug 10, 2012, 9:33 PM
Cheryl Ziedrich,
Aug 26, 2012, 4:29 PM
Cheryl Ziedrich,
Aug 10, 2012, 9:32 PM
Cheryl Ziedrich,
May 7, 2011, 9:56 PM
Cheryl Ziedrich,
May 7, 2011, 9:56 PM