History II Term Paper Mark Stefaniw

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Haydn’s Double Bass Tracing the development of the violone through Haydn’s symphonies concertante no. 6, 7, 8, 31, 45, (48), 72


1 Introd Introduct uction ion.. The intent of this paper is to study the development of the double bass through the lens of six different symphonies concertante concertante of Joseph Haydn.

In his symphonies numbered 6, 7, 8, 31,

45, and 72, Haydn wrote extended solos for the double bass violone (referred to as violone from this point forward). forward). Each of these violone violone solos will be examined in this this paper for range, difficulty and ensemble. In the end, we will see a correlation of Haydn’s evolution of writing style for the violone with some amount of dev elopment of the violone in terms of player  p layer  technique, strings, bow, tuning, and construction.

2 Overview Overview of eightee eighteenth nth century century violone violone tuning tuning Seventeenth and eighteenth century ce ntury composers were keenly aware of instrument tuning, especially of the viols with their flexible tuning traditions. By contrast, nineteenth century composers had comparatively little concern of instrumental tuning or idiomatic facility as they expanded the melodic and harmonic language of music. This is evidenced by post-classical post-classical era orchestral works written in key signatures with extreme numbers of sharps and/or flats. As the violin family instruments became standardized and ruled the orchestra string sections the lesser viols fell from favor, except for the violone with its comparatively large tone and the need for a contrabass (i.e. sixteen-foot sixteen-foot register) register) stringed stringed instrument in the orchestra.

This big

tone and tuning flexibility of the seventeenth century contra bass viol no doubt ensured its transition to the eighteenth century century violin based orchestras such as Haydn’s. The contrabass instrument that dominates in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in the Austro-Hungarian (i.e. Esterhazy) region is the “Viennese” four and five string fretted double bass violones. Well-known touring violone virtuosi of Haydn’s time such as Josef Kampfer, and Johann Matthias Sperger made this this instrument popular. Haydn’s own violonista, George Schwenda, Schwenda, was apparently good enough to inspire Haydn to write a violone concerto in 1763 for him (still lost). There is substantial evidence of this violone co ncerto in a bill found in the Esterhazy estate 2

records, dated August 1763 from Haydn’s long time copyist Antonj Adolph.

Adolph’s bill has

a line that reads that parts for “a new concerto for Schwenda on the double bass” were copied out.1 In Joelle Morton’s “Bass World” journal article, she refers to Haydn’s own “EntwerfKatalog ” of his works, where Haydn made an entry for this concerto listed as “Concerto per il  [contra] violone” showing the open bars of the first movement.2 Hopefully, one day this concerto will be recovered. One can only hope that it did not perish in one of the three fires that affected Haydn. The Viennese four string violone is tuned A’-D-F#-A, and the five stringers have a low F’. This tuning, known as “thirds-fourths” tuning, facilitated natural resonance in keys such as D major, A major, and F# minor, as well as it facilitates efficient fingerings for the typical classical triadic phrases such as the violone solo in Haydn’s symphony number seven. However, coming from a viol tradition, the violonista could easily raise or lower one or more strings on his violone by a step to accommodate the music. An example of this would be the violone solo in Haydn’s symphonies number seven and eight, which are in C major. The five-string violonista could drop the fourth string down to G’ in order to reach the few low G notes, or lower all strings by a step to Eb’-G’-C-E-G to put his violone in a C-centered tuning. Indeed, even today’s modern double bassist often employ “drop-D” tuning where the low E’ string is lowered by a step. This tuning flexibility is all but unheard of in the other instruments of the violin family. H.C. Robbins Landon in his book, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, believes the Haydn’s violone was a four string instrument tuned to A’-D-F#-A. This belief is based upon bills for bass strings, and the frequent use of open A string in the violone solo in Haydn’s symphony number seven, as evidence of the low-A’ limit.3

This logic is incomplete because low G’ is indeed found in the

violone solos of both symphonies seven and eight. This low-G’ note could be played on either a 1

H.C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, vol. 1 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1976-1980), 647. 2 Joelle Morton, "Haydn’s missing Double Bass Concerto," Bass World, International Society of Bassists, vol. XXII, 3 (fall 1998): 30. 3 H.C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, vol. 1 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1976-1980), 557-558.


on a four string violone with the fourth string dropped to low-G’, or (more likely) on a five string violone with a low-F’. On the topic of violone low range, the Musicologist Anthony Hodgson (b.1939), in his book  The Music of Joseph Haydn, The Symphonies, wrongly believes that Haydn’s violone had a low C’ based on his symphonic bass parts that frequently reached low D’ and C’.4 But there is no such evidence in string purchase bills (as documented in Landon’s Haydn Chronicles) that indicate that Haydn’s violone’s had a low C’ string.

More importantly, drop tuning the low-F’

string on a Viennese violone to a low-C’ is impossible. Hodgson may well be confused by the fact that the violone and cello players played from the same score (often marked “bassi”), and the cello often has a written low C note (not a contra C).

Hodgson makes references to

recordings of Haydn’s symphony number 48 where at the end of the trio there is a low-C’ in the score, and the basses in the recording leap up an octave “to disconcerning effect”5. He goes on to admonish orchestras into having at least one five string bass with a low-C’ (i.e. contra-C), but it is clear that Haydn’sViennese bass has only a low-F’, which could only be detuned by a step to low-E’, but not low-C’. Of course, today’s modern fourths-tuned five string basses, tuned C’-E’A’-D-G can certainly provide Hodgson’s low-C’ note, as well as modern four stringers with a low-C’ extension. However, purists would say that playing these contra-C’ notes in Haydn’s symphonies would not be authentic. As interesting as this low-C’ discussion is, further research is not within the scope of this paper.

3 Haydn’s Violonistas Haydn’s history at Esterhazy is well documented, and Johann Georg Schwenda was Haydn’s violonist from 1761-17676. Program notes and pay receipts show that Schwenda was a multiinstrumentalist, also playing second bassoon. In 1768, Schwenda was replaced by another 


Anthony Hodgson, The Music of Joseph Haydn, The Symphonies (London: The Tantivy Press, 1976), 44-45. Ibid. 6 H.C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, vol. 2 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1976-1980), 70-91. 5


violonista, Karl Shiringer, who also doubled on bassoon. Such instrumental versatility is not matched in today’s modern era of single instrument specialists. Since most of Haydn’s early orchestral works required only one bassoon, one can assume that Schwenda was predominantly a violone player. The following is a list of Haydn’s violonistas by dates of service7, and based on composition dates Schwenda played all of the violone solos except for symphony number 45 (“Farewell”), which was played by Shiringer. • • • •

1758-1768, Anton Kuhnel, princely church choir – part-time player. 1761-1767, Johann George Schwenda, capelle orchestra, primary violonista. 1768-1790, Karl Shiringer, capelle orchestra – highly respected violonista and composer. 1775-1806, Johann Dietzl, princely church choir – Haydn thought highly of his abilities.

4 Fire! There were three great fires that affected the composer Haydn, as well as musicologists today (by way of historical losses). Two fires at Eisenstadt in 1766 and 1768 where, in addition to surrounding structures in the town of Eisenstadt, Haydn’s own home sustained near total losses.8 The third, and most tragic fire was in the grand Chinese ballroom of the Esterhaza palace on November 24, 1779. The ballroom, all setup with Haydn’s orchestra for a wedding the next day, went up in flames when some ornate Chinese woodstoves (intended as decoration in the ballroom) were inadvertently lit the night before by and could not contain their fires.9 Many of  Haydn’s orchestra instruments left in the hall (probably including at least the violone(s), harpsichord and tympani) went up in flames. The Prince also kept much of Haydn’s music collection in the palace, and that too went up in flames as the fire expanded beyond the ballroom. Unfortunately, as a result of these fires, there are no existing autograph scores, or original performance parts (i.e. from Haydn’s copyist Antonj Adolph), for Haydn’s first fifty symphonies.10


Ibid. H.C. Robins Landon, Haydn: A Documentary Study (London: Thames and Hudson, 1981), 77. 9 Ibid, 83. 10 H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 1 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), XX. 8


5 Haydn’s Symphonies Concertante Haydn wrote six symphonies concertante which feature extended violone solos. They are symphonies numbered 6, 7, 8, 31, 45, and 72. Numbers 6, 7 and 8 were among the first pieces that Haydn wrote for the Esterhazy family, who were renown connoisseurs of music, art and literature. Certainly Haydn wanted to open his career on a good footing, so these three symphonies show off Haydn’s orchestra players nicely. Since the original working scores and parts for Haydn’s first fifty symphonies perished in the fires, Landon had to use secondary sources for his critical editions, such as score copies from the Esterhazy archives and early-published scores. As such, there are some discrepancies as to which instrument (violone or cello) should play the solo “bass” parts in these symphonies. In these cases, other scholarly sources will be referenced in this paper for additional insight. The ranges of the violone solos of these six symphonies seem to be the predominant force behind editors and publishers to not believe that Haydn’s violone solos are properly identified as violone solos. For example, the violone solos in symphonies number 6 and 7 are given to the cello by at least one editor/publisher (detailed below). The date, key and range of the violone parts of the symphonies studied in this paper are as follows:

Symphony #6 “Le Matin” (1761)

Symphony #7 “Le Midi” (1761)

Symphony #8 “Le Soir” (1761)

Symphony #31 “The Horn Signal” (1765)

Symphony #45 “Farewell” (1772)

Symphony #72 (1763-1765)


5.1 Symphony number 6, “Le Matin”, (ca. 1761) Landon cites seven sources, labeled “A” through “G”, for his critical edition of this symphony, but only one of these seven sources (source labeled: “E - printed score by Le Duc, Paris, c. 1802”) is an actual score, whereas the other sources (A, B, C, D, F and G) are parts. These seven sources came from two separate libraries in Germany (A&B), the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello in Italy (C), the Paris Conservatory (E), a Benedictine Monastery (D) from the lower Austrian region, and the Monastery of St. Peter in Salzburg (F). 11

In this image

snippet below from Landon’s critical edition endnotes, based on sheer majority rule, he is convinced that the violone should carry the entire solo in the trio12:

Unfortunately, it appears that Landon made the same mistake in his critical edition (see trio score excerpt below) and “wrongly” published version (E) that shows the cello taking the second half of the trio! This seems like a reasonable mistake, only because he probably otherwise approved of the Le Duc score, and simply reprinted it for his critical edition forgetting to correct the mistake.13


H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 1 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), XLIX. 12 Ibid. 13 See encircled footnote on score excerpt on the next page.


Figure 1. Symphony number 6, third movement, minuet and trio14 The character of this baroque style trio in d-minor beautifully showcases the violone, bassoon and viola. Note that in this [Le Duc?] score excerpt from Landon’s critical edition, the cello usurps the violone solo in the second half of the trio (highlighted by the red circles). Landon, in his Haydn Chronicle, describes the violone solo in symphony number six as “grotesque” and “pattern setting” for the subsequent two symphonies.15 By “grotesque” does he 14

H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 1 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), 143-144 15 H.C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, vol. 1 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1976-1980), 556.


mean beautifully fantastic by its extent, or musically ugly and crude? From a bass players perspective, a solo of this magnitude in a symphonic setting is extremely desirable, regardless of  someone’s opinion of its musicality. This solo, with it’s A-based alberti-bass like opening figure (circled in red) would definitely be easier on the violone with its open a-string. The modern fourths tuned bassist would have to work real hard to get that figure in tune.

5.2 Symphony number 7, “Le Midi”, (ca. 1761) Landon cites only three sources16, labeled “A” through “C”, for his critical edition of this symphony. Of these three sources, A is an autograph score from the Esterhazy archives (nonperformance score) found in the Budapest National Library. The other two sources (B and C) are parts taken from the aforementioned Budapest score, and an unspecified number of “fairly reliable”17 parts found in Vienna (c 1765) respectively. Landon’s critical edition endnotes (excerpt shown below) indicate the confusion regarding the violone solo between sources A/C and source B in this symphony.18

Landon properly published his critical edition giving the solo in the trio to the violone, as per  sources A and C. He offers no explanation as to the copyist’s apparent error with the violone solo parts B. Another example of a publisher giving the violone solo to the cello is found in an edition edited in 1935 by the noted German music historian Dr. Ernst Praetorius (1880-1946). The page in the score entitled: “Editor’s Note”, signed by Praetorius, states: “The autograph of the score is in the archives of Prince Esterhazy. It is headed: Le Midi …”. That is all he mentions of the source, so it is assumed that he used the same source score (A), and quite possibly parts (B), as Lando n 16

H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 1 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), XLIX. 17 Ibid, L. 18 Ibid, LII.


found in Budapest. However, Praetorius also decided to give the violone solo in the trio to the cello instead. At performance tempo, the triplet figures are certainly challenging on a modern four string double bass tuned E1-A1-D-G, which is undoubtedly what Praetorius was editing for  in 1935. In addition, Haydn wrote a triple stop in measure 44 and an A-a octave leap in measure 53. Both of these maneuvers (circled in red below) are difficult on the modern fourths tuned bass, but comparatively much easier on the Viennese tuned bass. Further research into why Praetorius made this decision is out of the scope of this paper.


Figure 2. Symphony number 7, third movement, minuet and trio19 This violone solo is in the third movement’s trio with the first and second violin providing mostly harmonic support leaving the violone exposed to play a rather technical solo of running triadic triplets. By comparison to the previous violone solo in symphony number six, this violone solo is not nearly as lyrical. Also, the other two trio instruments (violin I&II) provide no real counterpoint to the violone. This trio can hardly be characterized as musically conversational by any means, but obviously serves to spotlight the violonista’s technical abilities. 19

H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 1 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), 183-184


Also notice in measure 40 the low G’ note which gives evidence that Haydn’s violone was a five string instrument with a low F’.

5.3 Symphony number 8, “Le Soir”, (ca. 1761) Similarly plentiful as the sources for symphony number six, Landon cites eight sources, labeled “A” through “H”, for his critical edition of symphony number eight. These various sources appear to be only parts (i.e. no score). They came from two separate libraries each in Germany and Italy, the Paris Conservatory, and the Monastery of St. Peter in Salzburg. 20 Here too, among the sources, there is some confusion regarding the violone solo as evidenced in Landon’s critical edition endnotes excerpt shown below:21

Landon, in his Haydn Chronicles, believes that the trio of symphony number eight is the most popular in the trilogy. However, compared to the trio in symphony number six, this violone trio solo, while certainly grander in scale, is not as intimate. Specifically, unlike symphony number  six, there is no duet, or trio concept. Referring to the image of symphony number eight’s trio on the next page, the violone solo is more like a string section soli lead by the violone. There are four instances where the violone plays some unaccompanied modal scales. Measures 59-63 have an interesting sequence of parallel sixth chords (I6-ii6-iii6-IV6-It+6-V) featuring a held trill on an Italian augmented sixth chord and resolution to the dominant providing the only real interest of  this trio.


H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 1 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), LII. 21 Ibid.



ii 6

iii 6

IV 6



Figure 3. Symphony number 8, third movement trio22


H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 1 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), 215


5.4 Symphony number 72, (ca. 1763) Like symphony number 31 (“The Horn Signal”), symphony number 72 is one of Haydn’s hunting symphonies featuring a horn choir, however this symphony remains unnamed. Unlike the violone solos in symphonies number six, seven and eight, there are no questions by Landon, or in any of the source material, that this is a solo written for the violone. The violone solo is in variation four of the fourth movement, and is very lyrical, almost Italianate, with light accompaniment from the rest of the strings. This desirable solo is not overly challenging on either a Viennese violone, or modern fourths tuned bass (except for maybe the a-A o ctave leap in measure 78). And since it is fully encapsulated in the variation, the violonista controls the tempo at which it is played.

Figure 4. Symphony number 72, fourth movement, variation IV23


H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 7  (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), 324-325


5.5 Symphony number 31, “Horn Signal”, (ca. 1765) The violone solo is in variation seven of the fourth movement. Again like the violone solo in symphony number 72, the violone gets light accompaniment from the rest of the strings. Compared to the solo in symphony number 72, this violone solo is quite a bit more technical in its disjunctive melody ranging from its low A’ to b. In measure 115, the violone does a double string crossing to leap two A’-a octaves. In measure 121 the violone leaps an A-a octave flirting on the edge of thumb position to finger the subsequent higher b note. This solo is definitely easier on the Viennese violone. On the modern fourths tuned bass, the octave leap in measure 121 would be difficult, but not impossible. In Landon’s critical edition endnotes (excerpted below) he comments that many bassists could not p lay this solo at measure 11524, but on a Viennese tuned bass, those low A and D notes would simply be played on open strings and perhaps not be that difficult after all. The modern bassist has the same advantage.

The Kalmus edition score of this symphony gives variation seven away to the cello. Some listeners will notice that the cello previously had a solo in variation two. A performance from this version of the score would surely leave the bassist in an awkward position in a concert. Thankfully, Landon properly publishes this symphony in his critical edition with the violone solo.


H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 3 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), XXXIII.


Figure 5. Symphony number 31, fourth movement, variation 725


H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 3 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), 89


5.6 Symphony number 45, “Farewell”, (ca. 1772) This particular violone solo is unremarkable in that it presents no new material. What is notable is, that at this point in the symphony, all the wind players have played their last few bars and have left the stage leaving the strings behind. The violone is the first of the strings to get their exit opus, getting a full twelve measures of music. Notice how the open-A string of the Viennese tuned violone anchors the first few measures. It would be fairly difficult, although not impossible, to play well on a modern double bass.

The remaining measures of the violone solo

are also easier to execute on the Viennese tuned bass because of its thirds tuning. The register is high enough, and the length of the solo is long enough that the Prince would have surely looked up to notice something was amiss with Haydn’s orchestra. Especially given the abrupt key change that follows the violone’s exit (circled in red in the score excerpt below).


Figure 6. Symphony number 45, fourth movement (finale)26


H.C. Robbins Landon, Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien vol. 4 (Vienna: Universal Edition, 1965-1968), 171


6 Conclusions The violone solos studied in this paper show a progressive development of writing from Joseph Haydn, always pushing the violonista to greater heights. To recap, the violone solo in symphony number six has a blend of moderately technical and beautiful lyrical writing set in trio of  bassoon, viola and violone. Symphony number seven’s violone solo moves more towards the technical aspect with its slurred triads in triplet. And symphony number eight’s violone solo is more like a string section soli lead by the violone featuring an interesting harmonic progression with a held trill over an Italian augmented six chord. The bar is raised significantly in the violone solo in symphony number 72, which is encapsulated in an entire variation in the fourth movements theme and variations. What is notable about this solo is that it exists in the first place. All of the string principles, except the viola, get an entire variation to themselves in this movement. The violone solo is by no means condescending to the bass, and is in fact written as well as the violin and cello variation solos that precede it. Like the solo in symphony number 72, the violone solo in symphony number 31 is also a bit of a conundrum.

One thing is certain is that for Haydn to continue to write

violone solos of this caliber in his symphonies, that Georg Schwen da must have been a magnificent violonista. One last final note, based on low note analysis of symphonies number seven and eight in this paper (pages 3-4), I do believe that Georg Schwenda had a five-string Viennese violone at his disposal. Although he may have preferred to play a four-string violone when possible simply because of it’s comparative nimbleness versus the larger five-string instrument.


Bibliography Chapman, David. “Historical and Practical Considerations for the Tuning of Double bass Instruments in Fourths.” The Galpin Society Journal 56 (Jun, 2003): pp. 224-233. Fuller, Jerry. The Double Bass and Violone Internet Archive. Chicago, IL: Early Music Chicago. Available from http://www.earlybass.com. Accessed 24 February 2010. Hodgson, Anthony. The Music of Joseph Haydn, The Symphonies. London: The Tantivy Press, 1976. Landon, H.C. Robbins. Haydn: A Documentary Study with 220 Illustrations, 44 in Colour , London: Thames and Hudson, 1981. Landon, H.C. Robbins. Haydn: Chronicle and Works, volumes 1-5, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1976-1980. Landon, H.C. Robbins. Joseph Haydn: Kritische Ausgabe Samtlicher Symphonien volumes 1-12, Vienna, Germany: Universal Edition, 1965-1968. Morton, Joelle. "Haydn’s missing Double Bass Concerto." Bass World, International Society of  Bassists XXII, no. 3 (1998): pp. 29-38. Planyavsky, Alfred. The Baroque Double Bass Violone. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc, 1998. Musical Score, “Symphony No. 7, C major”, edited by Dr. Ernst Praetorius, London, Great Britain: Ernst Eulenburg, Ltd, 1935. Musical Score, “Symphony No. 31”, edited by Edwin Kalmus, N ew York, NY. Webster, James. “Violoncello and Double Bass in the Chamber Music of Haydn and His Viennese Contemporaries, 1750-1780.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 29, no. 3 (autumn, 1976): pp. 413 –439.


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