Six Sonates: Book 1 - Sonatas 1-3 (Solo tuning) - Antonio Vivaldi/ George Speed
Double Bass and Piano. Solo tuning. Advanced level.
I enjoy these pieces for their relative simplicity, but also for their musical vibrancy. I have examined earlier Vivaldi sonata transcriptions in which the solo bass part sounds an octave below original pitch, and while one can certainly appreciate Vivaldi's genius in those editions even the best performances lack a certain brilliance of sound. In my transcriptions I have attempted to capture the original, virtuosic spirit of the pieces, while at the same time showcasing the natural timbre and resonance of the bass. I have sought to select an idiomatic key and flattering tessitura for each sonata – neither too low nor too high for effective performance on the bass – and I have also allowed for performance in either orchestral or solo tuning, depending on the needs and preferences of the performer. The only sonata that retains its original key and tessitura is the third, which sounds in A minor when played in solo tuning. The others range from a fifth below original pitch (Sonata No. 5, originally in E minor, transposed to A minor in orchestral tuning) to a minor second below original pitch (Sonata No. 1, originally in B-flat major, transposed to A major in solo tuning).
A secondary, but no less important, issue is the style of the accompaniment. I enjoy playing these pieces with a simple bass line accompaniment, but I recognize that most players prefer a more substantial and supportive keyboard accompaniment. My main concern was avoiding an overly busy or convoluted piano part, a problem that I've experienced with many 20th century transcriptions of Baroque repertoire. I therefore tried to keep the keyboard texture as transparent as possible while still providing adequate support for the solo line. In most instances the piano part is limited to 2 contrapuntal lines, or simply block chords, thus allowing the solo part to shine.
My principal source for these transcriptions was the first printed edition of the works, published in Paris by Le Clerc in around 1740. In addition, I used two primary sources that predate the more standard Le Clerc: a manuscript of Sonatas 1-6 from the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and a manuscript of Sonata 6 from the library of the Counts of Schönborn-Wiesentheid in Wiesentheid, Germany.
I hope that my transcriptions inspire many other bassists to explore these fantastic works of art.
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