"The Golden Age of the Double Bass:
Vienna in the 18th Century"
A unique, historically-informed recital of works by Mozart,
Sperger and Vanhal, this program was commissioned by the
Musée d'art et d'histoire de Genève.
An unexpected muse?  A little known phenomenon from the 18th century is the extensive use of the
double bass as a solo instrument.   Even Haydn and Mozart fell under the charm of this cumbersome
instrument that became light, lyrical and acrobatic in the hands of a few exceptional virtuosos.

The story begins in 1760 in the orchestra of Joseph Haydn where a brilliant Hungarian bassist tuned
his instrument in the key of D, in intervals of the third.  This opened up technical possibilities that
were previously unimaginable.  Inspired by this new potential, Haydn wrote a bass concerto (which
is unfortunately lost) and solos for the instrument in six of his early symphonies.  For the first time in
its existence, the double bass had a starring role!  Although this unusual tuning never left the
region of Vienna, during the next 30 years it became fashionable for the composers of this city to
write impressive pieces for the instrument.  And, as good fortune would have it, Vienna was the
epicenter of the musical world at that moment in time.  This repertoire reached its glorious peak with
a  beautiful love duet composed by Mozart for bass voice and double bass.   It was composed nine  
months before his death in 1791, just as he was about to begin work on his opera "The Magic Flute".

The Viennese double bass (or "terzviolone" as it was called) was fundamentally linked to the
classical aesthetic , being built on arpeggios and the interval of the third.  With the chromatic
evolution of music, this tuning became inefficient and it died out with the era that gave it life.
Johannes SPERGER  (1759-1812)
Quartet for double bass, flute, viola and cello  (Vienna, ca. 1775)

Johann Baptist VANHAL (1739-1813)
Concerto in D Major  (Vienna 1773)

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
"Per questa bella mano" K. 612 for bass, double bass, quartet and flute (Vienna 1791)

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K.525  -  original version for string quintet  (Vienna 1787)
Cléna Stein can be engaged to perform this program either with a quartet or with the ensemble
"La Nouvelle Ménestrandie" under the direction of Leonardo Garcia Alarçon at the fortepiano.
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The Golden Age of the Double Bass:
Vienna in the 18th Century
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Mozart: "Per questa bella mano"
Vanhal: 3rd movement,
Concerto in D