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The Swan

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100 publications in this series

The Transcriptions Series series

Recital Music publish a wealth of original works for double bass alongside a popular, accessible and growing range of transcriptions for bassists of all ages and abilities. Most transcriptions published by Recital Music are by David Heyes, who has a successful and proven track record when arranging for double bass.

This edition includes one piano part and three solo bass parts - one in G major for orchestral tuning and two in F major (high and low) for solo tuning.

In 1855 Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) published 'Harmonie et Melodie', a collection of critical writings which contained his own 'Gallic scepticism' and academic attitude to the music and cult-like status of Wagner and Bayreuth. The book and its reviews hardly went unnoticed in Germany, and in January 1886, during Saint-Saëns' German tour as composer and pianist, he met a degree of hostility from the press and public alike. His biographer, Bonnerot, noted that 'it was as much to forget this affront as to rest from the tour' that in February Saint-Saëns visited a small town in Austria to recuperate. He had taught at the École Niedermeyer in Paris from 1861-65 and always intended to write a work for his pupils there, but the lack of time had always prevented him from doing so. Now he had the time and 'The Carnival of the Animals' was written as a method of relaxation. Subtitled 'Grande Fantasie Zoologique', it has fourteen movements, is scored for two pianos and chamber ensemble, and is a rare work of musical humour which never fails to thrill its audience, young or old. The first performance was on 9 March 1886 at the annual Shrove Tuesday concert organised by cellist, Charles Joseph Lebouc, Emile de Bailly was the double bassist, and the pianists were Louis Diemer and the composer himself. A few days later it was played at the Lentern concert of 'La Trompette', a select Parisian chamber music society, but was then withdrawn for over thirty years. Saint-Saëns' misgivings about the popularity of 'The Carnival of the Animals' overshadowing his many other great achievements was entirely accurate, and it was not released for publication until after his death in 1921. His will contained the clause: 'I expressly forbid the publication of any unpublished work, except The Swan, which may be issued by my usual publishers, M.M. Durand et Cie'. The Swan was published in 1887 and the complete work in 1922, just over thirty-five years after its composition. The Swan (Le Cygne) is the thirteenth of the fourteen movements, creating a moment of calm and beauty before the spirited and vibrant finale, and was originally scored for cello solo and two pianos. Piano one has the main accompaniment which is played today and piano two points the harmonies with arpeggiated chords and the occasional chordal music or counterpoint. In 6/4 time and in the key of G major, piano one produces a sparkling and gently undulating accompaniment above which the cello sings its plaintive and poignant melody. At only 28 bars, this is pure perfection and it is understandable why the composer allowed this one piece to be published when he forbade publication of the other movements - he knew a winner when he wrote one! The Swan has had a varied and exciting life and has been arranged for many instrumental ensembles. In the 1890s, Louis van Waefelghem adapted it for viola or viola d'amore and piano, which was published by A.Durand & Fils (Paris) in 1895. Other editions published by Durand include ones for solo piano, piano (four hands), violin and piano, flute and piano, clarinet and piano, piano and harmonium, organ, harp, mandolin and piano, 2 mandolins and piano, mandolin and guitar, 2 mandolins and guitar, cello and orchestra, but no version for double bass and piano... In 1922 Durand published a version for voice and piano, transcribed by J.Samm and with an English translation by J.N. Scholefield. Gary Karr's 1962 performance of The Swan with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra was a seminal point in the development of the double bass as a solo instrument. Bernstein introduced the performance noting that it was to be played on "of all things, the double bass, that heavy clumsy instrument that we heard a few minutes ago describing elephants, but this is a double bass with a difference, a double bass that sings and it is played by Gary Karr who is already, at the age of twenty, a master of this unlikely instrument...but every once in a while someone comes along who bowls you over by being able to manage this ungainly instrument so that it really sings and Gary Karr is one of these...as graceful a swan as you are ever likely to hear..." Gary plays the piece at pitch, presumably in F major and in solo tuning, and it is a truly amazing performance even today, but in 1962 it must have been out of this world for the audiences and the double bass has never looked back. There are a few published editions today (IMC/Bärenreiter) and a new edition is in preparation from Recital Music. Many bassists have recorded it on CD or for YouTube, sometimes at pitch and sometimes an octave lower than the cello version, but it works in any range or key and demonstrates that the double bass is a singing instrument, whatever other musicians and even some bassists, say. Lasting around three minutes, this is the most perfect transcription which always connects with an audience. I wonder what Saint-Saëns would have written for the double bass if he had heard Gary Karr's performance in 1962? A sonata or two and a concerto at least. If only.... [David Heyes / 18 June 2017]

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Cat No. RM963
Supplier Code RM963
Price £6.00
ComposerCamille Saint-Saëns
ArrangerDavid Heyes
CategoryDouble Bass & Piano
PublisherRecital Music
SeriesTranscriptions Series
Difficulty level7 - 8, Advanced
ISMN 979-0-57045-963-6
EAN-13 9790570459636
Weight 80 grams
Published 27th June 2017
Availability 3 in stock