It’s not all that often that the double bass gets “star billing” in a chamber music concert, which makes a concert Saturday, March 29, by the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento something of a rare opportunity.
Thomas Derthick, a member of the music faculty at the University of the Pacific and a longtime principal bass with the Sacramento Philharmonic, will be the special guest at the Chamber Music Society’s concert.
Featured will be two works associated with the great Italian bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846), who was known as the “Paganini of the double bass” in his day. Dragonetti enjoyed a long career, starting in his native Venice, and then touring Europe extensively, before finally settling down in London during his later years.
Gioachino Rossini, the prominent opera composer, wrote his “Duetto in D Major for Cello and Double Bass” with Dragonetti in mind in 1824, and the piece was premiered at party in London that was held in Rossini’s honor. This duet will be performed on March 29.
Dragonetti also composed several quintets featuring the double bass, including at least two scored for the unusual “low end” combination of violin, two violas, cello and double bass. One of these also will be performed at the local concert.
Also on the program will be a pair of string quartets by composers who lived in what is now Hungary — the “Sunrise” Quartet by Franz Josef Haydn, and the String Quartet No. 6 by Béla Bartók. Both will be performed by the Ariel Quartet (William Barbini and Kineko Okumura, violins; Paul Erlich, viola; and Victoria Ehrlich, cello).
The “Sunrise” Quartet (Opus 76, No. 4) is one of the composer’s mature works, dating from the 1790s. It earned its nickname from the rising sequence of notes (with an accelerating tempo) in the opening of the first movement, which many listeners over the years have felt resembles the first warm rays of the morning sun coming over the horizon, and the music’s generally cheerful disposition.
The Bartók Sixth Quartet, composed in 1939 in Budapest as Europe was sliding into World War II, is a darker piece — it was the last piece of music the composer completed in his native Hungary (never to return), and also his final string quartet. It was premiered in New York in 1941. Bartók became ill not long after, and died in 1945.
The March 29 concert will be the second time the Bartók Sixth Quartet has been performed in Davis this month — the Alexander String Quartet also played it at the Mondavi Center on March 16. It is rare to get an opportunity to hear two different ensembles present a prominent 20th century musical landmark like the Bartók Sixth in concerts in the same city barely two weeks apart.
The Chamber Music Society will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Congregation Bet Haverim, 1715 Anderson Road. The concert will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30, in Capistrano Hall on the Sacramento State campus.