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Sketches for Bass Book 1

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"My studies in Prague in the late 1980s with František Pošta helped to define who I am and he always told me to remember the bassists who had gone before us. I quickly realised, the more immersed I became in the history of the double bass, that every player, teacher, and composer had made a difference, however big or small, to where we are today and we shouldn't forget our history but build on it for a better future. František died in 1991, at the age of 71, and on the anniversary of his 75th birthday I organised a concert in his memory and then did so every five years. For his 90th birthday I received funds from LUSES in Finland to commission 'Double Poem Basso II' from Teppo Hauta-aho, which Teppo and I premiered on 4 October 2009 during Bass-Fest @ Wells at Wells Cathedral School (Somerset, UK).

Since then I have commissioned a number of works in František's memory, as thanks for the great lessons and for inspiring me to go further and higher than I ever thought possible. Having organised a concert every five years for František I suddenly wondered how many more five years I had as a player and decided a yearly concert was probably a better idea and would commission several works in his memory each year. The first commission in the project was to the great French composer Bernard Salles and his 'Trois Pièces Élégiaques' is a brilliant start. Bernard Salles wrote: "I didn't write a traditional sonata as I didn't feel inspired by the form, instead I composed "3 pièces élégiaques pour contrebasse et piano", and the last piece also includes a short vocal intervention at the end: a quotation from Shakespeare's "The Tempest". The three pieces can be played together, to form a kind of sonata, or each piece also works on its own. The pieces have a nostalgic character, and are perhaps a little dark... maybe the effect of the crisis we are all going through at the moment? I hope that you like them and that it is the kind of thing you were looking for to pay homage to František Pošta." The slow movement (Litanie) also became a double bass quartet, which really added to a wonderful first commission - two for the price of one.

I persuaded 25 friends to share the commission fee with me, including players from 8 countries, hopefully resulting in many international performances and the piece will be published in September 2020. Friends are wonderfully supportive of all my projects and it is so encouraging when new bassists ask to be involved, which mean my ideas are resonating far wider than the borders of sleepy Somerset. By the beginning of August Bernard Salles had composed the piece, which was duly typeset and edited for publication, and all the co-commissioners had paid their share of the fee.

I thought that was the end of the commission until Wednesday (26 August) this week when Bernard emailed a suite of 26 new pieces for unaccompanied double bass, one for each of the commissioners. This was totally unexpected and, for once, I was almost speechless. May Halyburton summed it up well on Facebook this morning saying "It’s not every day you take part in a project to commission a new piece to be further rewarded by the composer who has written a short piece for each of the co-commissioners. Thank you Bernard Salles for a beautiful gesture. Absolutely love my piece! Thank you David Heyes for another fantastic project."

This really is the icing on the cake and was totally unexpected. What an amazing gift from Bernard Salles to the double bass world with each of the pieces dedicated to one of the commissioners. It was even more amazing yesterday when my great friend Alberto Bocini, one of the commissioners, suggested that we all record our own piece for his record label NBB Records which adds a very large cherry and plenty of glitter on the cake. I have said it before and I will say it again, this really is a Golden Age for the double bass and we are all so lucky to be part of this revolution and evolution. The new pieces, composed between 12-20 August 2020, will be published by Recital Music, in two books, and this has really been an amazing week. Who would have thought that a young lad from a mining area in South Yorkshire would be rubbing shoulders with great players, teachers and composers around the world! It's not such a bad life... [David Heyes / 28 August 2020]

Bernard Salles was born in 1954 and began his musical education in his home town of Perpignan (France) where he studied double bass, organ, composition and orchestral conducting at the Conservatoire. In 1973 he want to the Conservatoire of Versailles and in 1976, at the age of 22, he was awarded a double bass teaching diploma. Since then he has taught at the Conservatoire of Pau (South-west France) and played with many major French orchestras including the Orchestre de Paris and the National Orchestra of France, under the direction of conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Metha and Lorin Maazel.

In 1983 he began a parallel career as a conductor and was Music Director of the Orchestra of Pau from 1996-2001. He has directed the Orchestra of Pamplona (Spain) and is currently Music Director of the OSSO (Orchestre Symphonique du Sud-Ouest).

As a composer and member of SACEM (Society of Authors, Composers and Editors of Music), he has written over 30 works including two symphonies, a cantata, a psalm for bass and orchestra, a concerto for double bass and small orchestra, Rhapsody for viola and orchestra, Triptych for orchestra, Prelude for cello and orchestra, a symphonic poem for soprano, cello and orchestra, as well as works for chamber groups, and for choir and organ. His pedagogic works are published by G.Billaudot in Paris and his works for double bass are published by Recital Music (England).

In 2010 he began a series of short pieces for unaccompanied double bass - Portraits for Friends - dedicated to his double bass playing friends.


  • 1. Toccata (for Nicola Malagugini)
  • 2. Aubade (for Rob Nairn)
  • 3. Mélancolie (for Christian Paul Chesanek)
  • 4. Incantation (for Susan Hagen)
  • 5. Tarantella (for Sérgio Barbosa)
  • 6. Scherzo (for Chris Clark)
  • 7. Etude (for Dominic Dudley)
  • 8. Complainte (for May Halyburton)
  • 9. Nocturne (for Anthony Stoops)
  • 10. Saltarella (for Martin Penning)
  • 11. Historiette (for David Whitla)
  • 12. Souvenirs (for George Speed)
  • 13. Pantomime (for David Murray)
  • 14. Valse Lente (for David Heyes)

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Cat No. RM1127
Supplier Code RM1127
Price £12.50
ComposerBernard Salles
CategoryDouble Bass Solo
PublisherRecital Music
Difficulty level7 - 8, Advanced
Weight 163 grams
Published 30th November 2020
Availability 8 in stock
See also...
RM970  Portraits for Friends Book VI
RM1116  Trois Pièces Élégiaques (DOUBLE BASS & PIANO)