Volume 9, September 2017
Koussevitzky's Double Bass Repertoire: A Reassessment

by Andrew Kohn, Ph.D.

2. Koussevitzky composed some of his own performance repertoire.

Four Salon Pieces

Andante, op. 1, no. 1
Valse Miniature, op. 1, no. 2
Chanson Triste, op. 2
Humoreske, op. 4.

Although Koussevitzky seems to have performed opp. 1 and 4 more than op. 2, the "Valse Miniature" and the "Chanson Triste" are stronger musically, and today they are more played than the "Andante" and "Humoreske." The wrong notes in the piano part of the "Valse Miniature," mm. 32–38, with their gloomy implications for both Koussevitzky's compositional skills and his concern for publishing detail, are discussed in detail elsewhere.14

Concerto (mostly by Reinhold Glière), op. 3. This widely-performed work is generally considered one of the four most important concerti in the bass repertoire.15 The attribution to Glière is discussed in detail elsewhere, along with its source material and its many editions and editorial problems.16 Here, suffice it to say that the piece is, apart from its opening cadenza, uncannily similar to earlier works by Glière, and that the dimensions of this op. 3 would be an enormous stretch for the composer of Koussevitzky's undisputed opp. 1 & 2.

Koussevitzky premiered the piece in Moscow on Feb. 25, 1905; thereafter, he seems to have favored performances with piano accompaniment.17 In addition to Koussevitzky's many performances of the complete concerto in recital, the slow movement seems to have been a recital favorite of Koussevitzky: he performed it at Brown and subsequently recorded it.

Three etudes. Koussevitzky never performed these brief unaccompanied essays; they are included here to complete the double bass portion of Koussevitzky's slight works list. For discussion, see Stiles, Compositions, 59-67, including his plausible proposal that they were composed as sight-reading for auditions.18 The manuscripts are in the Library of Congress; Stiles reproduces them, along with his own analysis of their content, 86-101.