Monday, May 25, 2015

Old wood and music

My father loved wood and eventually became a wood turner. At the bottom of each piece he wrote the species of wood he had used. You could often guess the species as the colour of the wood was similar to the fruit, for example apricot wood has an orange hue.

I thought of that on Friday as I watched Maxime Bibeau play his new honey-coloured double bass. I think must have been made by bees. Bibeau says it was made in the late sixteen century but that some of the wood in the instrument can be traced back to 1266. My Dad would have loved that idea as a lot of people brought him wood for turning and he had a large selection, some of it very aged (though not 750 years). 

Bottesini (above)
Bibeau sketch (below)
Bibeau's new 'old' double bass is not only beautiful, it has the vocal range of a whole orchestra. We are used to hearing the double bass as bass, baritone or sometimes perhaps as tenor. On Friday we heard her soprano range and it is quite extraordinary.

The ACO Mostly Mendelssohn concert included the Grand Duo Concertante for Double Bass and Violin by Bottesini (1821-1889). You could tell Bottesini must have been a bass virtuoso himself as only an accomplished bass player would know how to produce the high notes required in this piece. Stefan Jackiw played violin and at times it was difficult to tell which instrument was playing which part. Watching these two virtuosic musicians play extraordinary music, accompanied by the always-able ACO was a real pleasure.

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