François Rabbath is one of the most important bassists in the international double bass world today. His new ideas and approach to playing and technique have challenged the standard and traditional way we hold the instrument, use the bow, and think about the Simandl positions. At the age of 90 he is still a great player, is an amazing teacher, and has written a wealth of music for the double bass which, I am certain, will remain in the repertoire as long as the double bass is played.
David Heyes writes: "I first heard François play in October 1980, during my first few weeks at the Royal College of Music in London, when he gave a masterclass at the college and a recital at the Wigmore Hall the following evening. His playing and approach were revolutionary at the time, which suited my anarchic spirit in my early 20s, and I loved his music and bought the two available LP's (Live in Paris/Multi-Bass) and a book of solo pieces published by Liben Music. The next time I met François was in Paris about 20 or so years ago. My friend Thierry Barbé had invited me to give two days of masterclasses at the Paris Conservatoire and the evening before we went to an open dress rehearsal of Monteverdi's The Corontaion of Poppea at the Paris Opera. That evening I met François, and also Ken Poggioli from Australia, and after the opera Thierry and I went to François's apartment, where he showed me his basses and the new endpin, and also showed me a video of him playing some of his music. We had dinner at his favourite Chinese restaurant afterwards, and this is an evening I will remember forever. It is a very strange feeling to meet one of your heroes but I can confirm that he is both an amazing person and musician and it's a privilege to know him, albeit at a distance."
François Rabbath celebrated his 90th birthday on Friday 12 March 2021
John Alexander (UK) - traverse the glistening sand
In describing part of his left hand technique for playing the double bass, François Rabbath recalled in his youth watching a crab run and jump along the beach without stumbling. What he detected was how comparable the movement of this crustacean was to that of a human hand. The young François ran home and wrote more than 20 pages of technique that interpreted the sturdiness of the crab’s movements into a way of ‘walking’ with the left hand, a semitone at a time, along the fingerboard of the bass. This innovative method has served the discoverer (Rabbath) successfully and securely ever since throughout his performing career.
In composing this piece for unaccompanied double bass, I wanted to try to embody in music the fanciful idea of moving across time simultaneously in at least two ways: 1) a crab being observed travelling over a beach, grains of sand maybe reflecting the morning sun; and 2), the depiction of a man sustaining a memory and a self-taught technique over a multitude of performances, lighting up thousands of listeners’ lives like grains of tide-wet sand in moonlight. It is with cordial respect that I dedicate this little piece to the extraordinary François Rabbath in celebration of his 90th birthday.
Rodrigo Mata (Mexico) - La Paix
'La Paix' is a work dedicated to the legendary double bass player, pedagogue and composer François Rabbath, who throughout his career has made a great musical contribution in different ways both in his teaching techniques, his compositions and his multiple recordings of excellent quality. This piece takes its name in reference to Rabbath's piece entitled 'La Guerre et la Paix' (The War and the Peace) for solo double bass, tries to extract only a part of this title, highlighting what the French word “paix” (peace), giving importance to one of the most representative languages for the Master, French, and seeks to translate these features into a new musical idea.
The piece is written in a very particular way and secretly introduces some compositional characteristics of Rabbath's music, such as the contrasts of energy, the motifs that spread repeatedly, giving rise to the gradual appearance of a powerful climax, the character tempestuous, the use of arpeggios and agility in the use of the bow, these elements are intertwined with a contemplative theme using double stops with real note and natural harmonic, a spaced introduction that comes from far away, executed with the flageolet pizzicato technique and the ricochet and finally a coda that takes up the main theme to end with a substantial chord, showing the low end and the high end of the double bass register and the combination with the left-hand pizzicato.
Daniel Chiva Sanz (Spain) - Brief Breiz
"This small piece is not only a homage to the figure of François Rabbath. With this piece, I want to thank him for, through his book of solos for double bass and especially because of Breiz, introducing me to the world of unaccompanied music for double bass. I used similar techniques like the modal melodies and the use of double stops. This is a colourful and energetic piece with many changes of mood. It is meant to be challenging but also fun and enjoyable to play, as I have always found Rabbath's music." [Daniel Chiva Sanz]
P Kellach Waddle (USA) - There Were Also Darknesses Emerging from the 90 French Lighthouses: Impression For Solo Double Bass Op.689
Like many of us bassists and bassist/composers of a certain generation — it is patently impossible to remember a time where the figure, legend, and persona of François Rabbath didn’t loom large and glorious in our lives. When I was only 16 years old, my beloved teacher of those years, Sidney King, first taught me to use some of the scales in book three to develop a whole new sense of not just intonation practice but fingerboard positioning. My main undergraduate teacher, Paul Ellison, was arguably the first artist of renown who took a leave of absence from his already established career to go to study with François in Paris for Paul to wholly adapt his teachings into his already legendary playing. My audition tape (remember tapes?) for my graduate school applications was a set of orchestra excerpts, then my only two solo selections were indeed the now ubiquitous at-pitch Rabbath transcription of the first Bach solo cello suite and his legendary work, Voyages. I also was blessed to study with Rabbath for several weeks at the 1990 Summer Bass School at Cincinnati Conservatory and with him again in 1993 when he came for a many-week residency at The University of Texas at Austin where I did both of my Masters Degrees. During those wonderful intervals, I continued study of many FR pieces and transcriptions indeed with the master himself (many of which I had started studying with Paul) such as the second Bach suite at pitch in FR’s transcription, Ordis, Spanish Ode, Concerto In One Part, Inti Raymi, etc. etc.
It was then of course a given that I had to dedicate one of my first ever published pieces to Maestro Rabbath. The volume of pieces containing this work I even named after one of Rabbath's seminal collections — indeed entitling it “Solos For The Double Bassist — Volume 1” — the volume that launched my continuing so-very-blessed journey of continuing to write a huge amount of solo bass works. This work dedicated to Rabbath in that volume (a volume now in its 10th printing since it’s first release in late Spring 1991!) is called “Lighthouses, Op. 26.” (We can tell how early the opus number is in my oeuvre because the title is just one word, not one paragraph!) So, when I was thrilled to be invited to write a piece the celebration of FR’s 90th birthday, I decided there must be some sort of mention of French — and then I decided to so something I have done EXTREMELY rarely in my composition career.
While I continue to write a great deal of pieces based on themes of others (my 2nd published volume of pieces is indeed a set of twelve pieces based on themes from Romantic Violin Concertos — also now in its 10th printing ) — I oh-so-rarely have done what I did in this piece — I wrote a new piece based around a theme/motive/gesture of MY OWN from an older work!
Indeed, “Lighthouses” written in 1991 contains as one of its main motives the interval of a rising perfect fifth in a triplet, with the last note of the triplet landing on a longer note, sounding the perfect fifth all at once as a double stop. I already had a rather dramatic, dark, declarative melody of motives circling Ab minor in my sketches for this work. I took that melody, then interpolated iterations of this perfect fifth/triplet in and around it — expanded said perfect 5th idea in different ways — and then voila! — I had all the material for this work.
While many of my long, brooding, spun out melodies often spend most of a given piece in dynamic mf or quieter — most of the time in this work the “dark” melody is very loudly proclaimed. Said melody is heard in various variations until the loudest rising variation of it is heard in longer note values — followed by a long silence — then at last the music fades to nothing returning back to the Ab minor tonality outlined at the opening. (Another departure for me! — I rarely have my end cadence “land” in the tonality in which I began the piece.)
As always, profuse thanks to my dear friend David Heyes for yet another wonderful consortium to be a part of — and Happy 90th François!!!! — I respect and love you beyond measure!!!
|Daniel Chiva Sanz|
|P Kellach Waddle|
|Category||Double Bass Solo|
|Difficulty level||8, Advanced|
|Published||24th August 2021|
|Availability||8 in stock|
|RM1156||Happy Birthday François Rabbath Book 1|