By Patricia Weitzel | From the September-October 2020 issue of Strings magazine
Bassist Patricia Weitzel is lecturer of double bass at Columbus State University and the membership chair of the International Society of Bassists, an organization with a mission to encourage excellence in bass performance, pedagogy, research, composition, and lutherie.
TITLE OF WORK BEING STUDIED: Concierto para Contrabajo y Orquesta No. 1 (Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra No. 1)
COMPOSER: Andrés Martín
DATE COMPOSED: 2012
NAME OF EDITION STUDIED: All works by Andrés Martín are available for purchase or rental at andresmartin.net.
I have been interested in performing works by living composers for quite some time. In 2018, I had the pleasure of creating the first Solo Double Bass Composition Competition for Augustana College, which resulted in the premiere of four pieces of music written by Augustana student composers. The idea of interacting and communicating with composers was so fulfilling to me that I have actively tried to perform works by living composers whenever possible. In February 2020, I had the pleasure of meeting composer and bassist Andrés Martín and witnessing Aaron Olguin’s phenomenal performance of the third movement of the Concierto para Contrabajo y Orquesta No. 1 at the Sphinx Competition. I was so inspired by the experience that I decided to include the piece in my next recital.
This is my first time playing the piece. It’s exciting and liberating to play a relatively new composition—there’s no preconceived idea about how it should be performed, which allows performers to experiment more freely musically and artistically.
The piece is as mesmerizing to listen to as it is to perform. It’s a work that features the bass’ capabilities extremely well—from melodic, lyrical passages to dynamic and explosive rhythms. The instrument’s versatility and the composer’s diversity of musical thoughts are displayed in writing influenced by styles that range from tango and impressionism to rock ’n’ roll and heavy metal. The bass writing is also very idiomatic—after all it was composed by someone who knows the bass quite well!
The beauty of this piece is its diversity—it offers bassists the opportunity to express themselves in varied ways while exploring the versatility of the instrument. Bassists will all find moments in which they see themselves in this concerto, which is what I believe Martín intended. He dedicated this concerto “to all bass players in the world” and has been active in providing universal access to this work via performances on social-media platforms and his website. To those approaching this piece for the first time, try your best to embody the message of the piece. It can be done in varied ways—through body movements, facial expressions, exaggeration of dynamics, and playing technique. Don’t be afraid to go for “extremes” in this piece. The concerto includes them all!
It is full of energetic and exciting moments, and it is easy to let your emotions get in the way and move things ahead. However, do your best to maintain the tempo and rhythmic integrity. Andre’s writing is extremely effective—the piece will come to life naturally if you follow the part!
I would absolutely suggest this piece to a fellow player. If this is not part of the standard double-bass repertoire yet, it won’t take long until it is. This is a must-learn piece for every double bassist! I hope it inspires a new generation of composers to add to the double-bass concerto repertoire—yes, the bass can really sing, and it has a beautiful voice.
What Patricia Weitzel Plays
INSTRUMENT: I perform on a 2015 3/4-size violin-corner Solo Model double bass made by Cincinnati luthier Nick Lloyd. The instrument has 40.5″ string length, spruce top, walnut flatback/sides, and a detachable neck for safer air transportation. In addition, the instrument has an extension by luthier Chris Threlkeld-Wiegand. The acquisition of this instrument was supported in part by a Sphinx MPower Artist Grant.
BOWS: I have two Brazilian bows: the one I use the most is by an unknown maker and the other is by Elias Guasti.
CASE: My case is a standard model by Mooradian, a company that unfortunately is no longer in business.