Leonardo da Vinci (15 April 1452 - 2 May 1519) was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and is credited with inventing the parachute, helicopter, and tank. Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as a unique ‘Renaissance Man’ and he is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived.
DA VINCI 500 is an international project bringing together composers to write a work for unaccompanied double bass to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. Each work is inspired in some way by the great man or one of his paintings or inventions and Dritan Gani (Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Ankara, Turkey) recorded all the pieces for YouTube. Concerts on Thursday 2 May 2019 at Silk Mill West in Frome (Somerset) and Sunday 5 May 2019 at Village Hall, Templecombe (Somerset) featured performances of all the works in the project by David Heyes (double bass), Dritan Gani (double bass) and Alexander Heather (double bass).
Composers taking part in Da Vinci 500 are: David Heyes (UK), Bernard Salles (France), Eric Funk (USA), Mary Rae (USA), Graham Boag (Oman/UK), James Marshall (USA), Tony Osborne (UK), John Kinsella (Republic of Ireland), Adam Booker (USA), Luis Guillermo Pérez (Venezuela), James D'Angelo (UK/USA), Peter Byrom-Smith (UK), Simón García (Spain), John Alexander (UK), Michael Montgomery (USA), Ashley John Long (UK), Michal Bylina (Poland), Teppo Hauta-aho (Finland) and P. Kellach Waddle (USA).
Peter Byrom-Smith (UK): Lighting Our Darkness
“You only have to look through the numerous publications, or better still, visit an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's work. Whatever type you choose, art, scientific, technical, you see, and feel what a true genius this human being really was. Not only was he a painter, but also an inventor, and great thinker, who sought out everything around him, things he could see, and things he only imagined. He tried to understand it all, and with this knowledge develop new ideas, and creations, which for all of us are certainly as relevant now as in his lifetime, maybe more so. Through his art, biological drawings, scientific and technological ideas, astounding at that point in European history, which was pretty scary I would imagine to people around him, he truly led us from darkness into the light, helping the development of humanity from total control of church, state, and other powers. He continued his striving for knowledge throughout his life, thus encouraging us all to choose our own paths, develop our own thoughts, and free to explore the universe through our own creative imaginations - indeed 'Lighting Our Darkness’. The actual piece starts with a recurring expressive theme, building up and dying away, as light struggles to gain an opening in our ears. Then enters a more relaxed, although slightly dark melodic theme, bouncing around your head, and the soloist’s fingers, which being continuously interspersed by the ‘light’ theme, before the sun bursts through with a final reprise and the piece finishes.” [Peter Byrom-Smith]
Lighting Our Darkness was premiered by David Heyes (double bass) on Thursday 2 May 2019 at Silk Mill West, Frome, Somerset.
Ashley John Long (UK): Dreams of Flight
"I was delighted when David Heyes asked me asked me to compose for this project as I have always been fascinated by da Vinci's work and find his drawings in particular to be most beautiful. Serendipitously, Cardiff Museum (a stone's throw from my house) was holding an exhibition of da Vinci's work at the time of my composing this piece which allowed me to examine some of his work close-up. I was struck by the finesse of his lines and the strange feeling of simultaneous calm and vitality that his work exudes. My piece is divided into three short movements, each of which explore specific techniques or sonic ideas and are broadly inspired by da Vinci's drawing. The first is a long, slowly unfolding melodic line which traverses the range of the instrument. The second explores harmonic resonance and is predominantly meditative in character. The third movement uses softly billowing textures which are achieved by the rapid alternation of natural harmonics. It is from this sound world, and inspiration from da Vinci's famous 'flying machines', that my work takes its title." [Ashley John Long]
Dreams Of Flight was premiered by David Heyes (double bass) on Thursday 2 May 2019 at Silk Mill West, Frome, Somerset.
Simón García (Spain): La Gioconda
"La Gioconda is one of the most famous paintings in the world and contains many mysteries. My vision of this piece is through one of them ... Why did Leonardo never sell the painting and, taking it with him to every city where he lived until his death? Today we all carry portraits of the people we love on our phones but this was not possible at the Leonardo´s time... Would this be an answer to the mystery? My La Gioconda is a piece played only with harmonics because I wanted to describe the feelings of an old Leonardo remembering this woman in his portrait every day. Using the mixture of major and minor keys I tried to describe the cheerfulness of this mysterious woman and the nostalgia that her memories brought to Leonardo. The theme is repeated in the minor, as if imitating the visual game that the painter does with the smile of his model. Like Leonardo´s secret codes there is a hidden mystery in the reason I only wrote eight different notes throughout the piece and in the same way that in the original it is not clear at all the identity of the model my piece is dedicated to an unknown woman." [Simón García]
La Gioconda was premiered by David Heyes (double bass) on Saturday 23 February 2019 at St. Laurence’s Church, East Harptree, Somerset.
John Kinsella (Republic of Ireland): Da Vinci 500: Three Miniatures
1. Bobbin Winder: The first of these pieces recollects one of Leonardo’s many inventions the bobbin winder. Using a variety of arco and pizzicato techniques I try to set up a repeating mechanical pattern to imitate the movement of such a piece of equipment.
2. Aria: In the second piece I chose a tenor recorder line from an arrangement of a folk song by Josquin, who lived at the same time as Leonardo. It is very possible he would have heard this music. The performer is requested to play a light flautando bowing in an attempt to produce a sound somewhat akin to that of a tenor recorder.
3. Da Vinci's Tank: The final piece recollects another of Leonardo’s inventions, the tank. His sketch shows a four wheeled vehicle with a round top which swivelled to allow the firing of shots in many directions. An ungainly piece of equipment made for destruction. The music seeks to copy the mindlessness of such a weapon. [John Kinsella]
Bobbin Winder and Aria were premiered by David Heyes (double bass) on Thursday 2 May 2019 at Silk Mill West, Frome, Somerset.
Da Vinci’s Tank was premiered by Dritan Gani (double bass) on Thursday 2 May 2019 at Silk Mill West, Frome, Somerset.
James D’Angelo (UK/USA): Neptune (after da Vinci) A Tone Poem
"The drawing entitled “Neptune” (c.1504) by Leonardo da Vinci consists of the fierce looking Roman god Neptune arising out of the tempestuous sea as though riding on a chariot pulled in different directions by three wild horses. The tone poem begins with a musical pun. That is, the opening tremolo middle C = the “sea.” After that the portrayal of a restless sea is given over to a series of accelerating descending semi-quavers. Neptune himself has his own keynote E, in the very depths of the bass (his home) and his own theme, a series of broadening rising 5ths. Other passages feature unrelated broken triads in sets of three which symbolize the three horses. These three creatures could be a kind of substitute for Neptune’s traditional trident. At the end the music returns to the tremolo middle C and then plunges via a glissando back to the bottom of the sea and Neptune’s keynote E. Overall it is a very rhapsodic piece to reflect the wild atmosphere of da Vinci’s magnificent drawing."
Neptune (after da Vinci) was premiered by Dritan Gani (double bass) on Thursday 2 May 2019 at Silk Mill West, Frome, Somerset.
John Alexander (UK): 3 for da Vinci 500
When I composed these three short pieces - 1) man, 2) machine, and 3) nature - I had images in my head that were remembrances of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, and which veered towards the scientific side of his vast and astonishing output. I feel that I do not need to be specific; so I am leaving the titles in a generic form to allow the listener of these pieces to utilise their own imagination and memory. Appreciating art frequently involves trying to understand meaning through representation. Whilst listening to organised sounds that are attempting to express pictorial art work, what we are perhaps trying to do is understand the chosen representation - reflected in a particular piece of music – via our individual imaginations and memories. These three compositions for unaccompanied double bass are warmly dedicated to David Heyes and Dritan Gani." [John Alexander]
3 for da Vinci 500 were premiered by Dritan Gani (double bass) on Thursday 2 May 2019 at Silk Mill West, Frome, Somerset.
|Ashley John Long|
|Category||Double Bass Solo|
|Difficulty level||7 - 8, Advanced|
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