Musicians of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Eric Chappell and Scott Feltham perform Fauré’s Après un Rêve -  with an octobass!

The orchestra acquired this unique instrument in 2016, built by French luthier Jean-Jacques Pagès in 2010. It is based on the model built by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume in 1849. Due to its height of over three metres and the thickness of the strings, the instrument is operated by levers and pedals that depress the strings.The player, at about half the height of the instrument, bows down below. 

Fellow French composer Hector Berlioz was enamoured by the octobass. In 1851 he attended the Crystal Palace Grand Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, where he first encountered the aforementioned octobass built by Vuillaume. Its lowest note was a C an octave lower than a cello, the same as the lowest note on a modern double bass with an extension. Absolutely transfixed by the instrument and its sound, Berlioz described the octobass as having ’a sound of rare beauty, full and strong but without any roughness’. He even went so far as to say that any orchestra of importance should aspire to have at least two octobasses! 

Watch: Montreal Symphony Orchestra acquires a rare octobass

Watch: Double bass and octobass duet

Read: The Venetian double bass: Venetian splendour