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

by Andrew Kohn, Ph.D.

5. He also performed extant chamber music.

Henri Casadesus ("Luigi Borghi"), Sonata no. 3 for viola d'amore and bass. Casadesus performed this work as early as the end of 1905, joined by Édouard Nanny, in concerts of the Sociéte de Concerts des Instruments anciens.29 Koussevitzky performed this piece repeatedly with Casadesus, including in several venues between 1907 and 1909, in Paris in 1921 (and perhaps 1923), and in Boston in 1928.30 Koussevitzky's bass part is in BPL and is reproduced in Stiles, Compositions, 161-63.

Although the real Luigi Borghi wrote an undisputed work for viola d'amore and double bass (known as Sonata no. 1),31 and although the manuscript attributes this Sonata no. 3 to Borghi, there can be no doubt that this is another composition by Henri Casadesus, as others have noted.32 This is particularly believable in light of how many of Henri Casadesus's compositions he attributed to Borghi (second only to Lorenziti in number of his misattributions). This sonata is, therefore, another of Casadesus's spuriosities (to use a word from Cudworth) — albeit a better stylistic imitation of its model than many such.33 This assessment is based solely on the bass parts and on reviews of performances: sadly, there seems to be no surviving copy of the viola d'amore part.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, "Per Questa Bella Mano," K. 612. This concert aria for basso, string bass obbligato, and orchestra is one of the brightest gems of the bass repertoire. Koussevitzky included it in his Boston recital of Oct. 22, 1929. Intended for what is called "Viennese third-fourth" tuning (from top to bottom, A, F-sharp, D, A, and often a fifth string of variable pitch, most often F-natural), the piece is extremely demanding when played on an instrument tuned entirely in fourths, which has given rise to a range of editions. More recently, players are increasingly recovering the original tuning. Koussevitzky's solo part, using the standard solo tuning of A-E-B-F# and transposed from the original key of D into C, along with his copy of the vocal part, are in BPL; they are reproduced in Stiles, Compositions, 164-72. As noted in the review of Koussevitzky's 1908 premiere with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, "Per Questa" was (erroneously) believed to have been unperformed since Mozart's death, lending special emphasis to Koussevitzky's later revival of the work.34

Franz Schubert, Piano Quintet in A Major ("Trout"), D. 667. This, the most famous chamber composition in the bassist's repertoire, needs no discussion here. Koussevitzky included the variations and finale from this work in his first Boston recital.