Second opinion

by Jukka Isopuro

Camerata Hall

The overall effect of Camerata Hall is even in sound, i.e. there is no noticeable distortion. The resolution is rather strong and therefore favors modern music. However, the ensemble blend is acceptable. Audibility and projection are good. The viola seemed to sound exceptionally brilliant, maybe because of the role Vaughan Williams gives it with a lot of solo material. In this hall the double bass sounds rather rich and balanced throughout the whole register. The rare over-resonation is most likely due to the few wolf tones of the instrument itself. I did not detect any stage resonation, which had been the concern of the acoustician Henrik Möller.

Dutilleux

A new world opened to the double bass and its coloring function was very strong. The flaws became virtues. Nasality in the high register, a relatively feeble ring, mumbling softness, and noisy attack qualities were in surprising, versatile use. The bass defended its sound territory well in the deliberately odd quartet, but also integrated beautifully. The texture of the double bass moved out interestingly from its conventional range into a "wrong" direction and area within the ensemble sound. Even when the double bass had a melodic/harmonic function, the color was important.

Hindemith

Surprisingly, the double bass did not need to fight for sound territory. The percussive nature of the piano kept the sound worlds apart. However, the texture in the fast passages remained a little less clear than it would have with the double bass on its own. With no cover by the other string instruments, the soloist bass kept up rather well. The melodic line of the slow movement was pleasantly profiled.

Vaughan Williams

The double bass has a natural, orchestral role in the ensemble, doubling the cello and the bass line of the piano. The fine sonority of the bass suits the wide, long lines of the music well. The rare breakaways from the orchestral role are pleasantly distinctive.

Conclusions

When the double bass acts as a member of a traditional ensemble, melodic distinction may be a problem, while paradoxically, in string ensembles, the sound kinship may actually emphasize the effect. The sound of the double bass differs from the other string instruments the way that solo passages can draw extra attention. The situation changes when the double bass is originally meant to act as a solo instrument, as in the Hindemith piece. Then it has a continuing profile of its own compared to the piano, which is a percussion instrument (after the attack, the sound attenuates quickly). With a good pianist, sound clashes do not necessarily occur. The double bass has a lot to give as a colorist, especially in contemporary music.