CONCERT PREVIEW: Double Bass Ensemble to play Britten, Bartok, Balch, Balliett at the Linde Center

Double bassist Edward Kass will perform with six other bass players at the Linde Center in Tanglewood on Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m. Photo courtesy of the artist

LENOX — Double bass ensembles are a thing — rare but not unheard of — because the sound of six or eight double basses playing together is quite incredible. That’s why they had to invent subwoofers. But while the sound of a bass section is essential to the sonic character of a symphony orchestra, we rarely hear that particular sound without some 70 other musicians playing and practically drowning it out. What we need is a double bass recital, like the one the Linde Center in Tanglewood presents Sunday 10 April, at 3 p.m.

On Sunday’s program, “Canticle V: The Death of Saint Narcissus” by Benjamin Britten, op. 89, for tenor and harp; Bartok Duos; “Kalesa Ed Kaluca” by Katherine Balch, for bass septet; and Douglas Balliett”Beast fights.”

Sunday’s seven bass players — listed, presumably, per Katherine Balch’s demands — are members of the Boston Symphony Benjamin Levy, John Stovall, Todd Seberand carl andersonas well as independents Edward Kass, Peter Walshand Charles Clement. As talented as BSO’s regular bass players are, it would be a shame to never hear from these “other” players.

It is worth taking a close look at Kass, Walsh and Clements, as their contribution to a recital such as this goes far beyond their ability to read and play their parts with precision. These three are champions of contemporary chamber music – evangelists, even – in addition to having versatility in genres such as jazz and bluegrass. These are exactly the types of players you want to play in an adventurous repertoire – people who can do more than their share of heavy lifting.

Watch what BSO bassist Todd Seeber has to say about former student Kass and his Departure Duo“What Eddie and Nina do in the departing duo is inspired and world-class. With a fearless approach to daunting material, consistent versatility and allegiance to the composer, their performances immediately connect with audiences. And so, Kass is in the group.

Clements, another of Seeber’s alumni, was a member of the Tanglewood Music Center for two summers, winning the Maurice Schwartz Award for Musical Achievement in 2010. He has performed for many distinguished orchestras, collaborates in the Boston area on projects ranging from American Roots to Baroque, and is a regular stand-in with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he and his brother George, billed as The Clements Brothers, produced a recording of their original music, a fusion of “roots, rock, bluegrass, jazz and classical influences.”

Pete Walsh is Principal Bass of the New Bedford Symphony and Phoenix, a Boston-based chamber orchestra. He is Deputy Principal Bass of the Cape Cod Symphony and has performed with many well-known chamber groups in the Boston area, including Emmanuel Music and Marsh Chapel Collegium. He has worked with Thomas Adès, Osvlado Golijov, John Harbison and other great contemporary composers. Pete studied with BSO bass players Benjamin Levy and Edwin Barker, and now teaches in the Wellesley Public Schools Instrumental and Vocal Extension Program.

Before the seven bassists take the stage on Sunday, tenor Eric Carey and harpist Charles Overton will perform “Canticle V: The Death of Saint Narcissus” by Britten, op. 89.

The Sunday program is for adventurers, and that includes musicians. They love their Bach and their Beethoven, but they can’t live without the challenges, thrills and unexpected pleasures of Balk and Balliett’s new music.

About Roy B. Westling

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