The Scottish conductor and music director of the Grand Teton Music Festival shares his preference for large double bass sections in his orchestras
An orchestra not only tunes from the bass up, but the motor is so often in the lower register. In our festival concert hall, in particular, the difference between eight and seven double basses is colossal. I love double bass sounds and think the orchestra deserves this really rich bass resonance. So I will always go for bigger double bass sections. One of the most exciting sounds in the world is eight basses and ten celli, as we have here at Grand Teton, playing triple piano – it’s less a sound and more of a vibration that can draw an audience in.
And of course we have an all star orchestra here, comprised of leading players from orchestras across the US, so you may have eight basses somewhere else, but here you have eight bass leaders all playing together. This is not to say that eight leaders will necessarily always work well together – that in itself is not the reason that you will have a big sound. But the passion with which our musicians play is palpable, the physical thrill they get from playing with each other and the love in the room. There is no hierarchy – they just want to make great music with great friends.
The annual Grand Teton Music Festival is currently taking place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming from 3 July to 20 August 2017, featuring soloists including Augustin Hadelich, Yo-Yo Ma and James Ehnes. http://gtmf.org/
Photo: Donald Runnicles in Grand Teton. ©Florence McCall