Sonata Op.81

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Available for Orchestral Tuning only.

"My pioneering zeal to create a modern and original solo repertoire for the double bass began in 1981 with Cat and Mouse for soprano and double bass from the London-based composer Betty Roe. To date more than 700 works have been composed for me, by composers around the world, but primarily from composers throughout the UK.

I first spoke to Ruth Gipps by telephone on Saturday 2 March 1996 and had a wonderfully long and animated conversation about her music and passions, about The Ox and the Ass, and about musical life in general. She was wonderfully generous with her time and a few days later a copy of the piece arrived, alongside the poem, and her letter was dated on the day we first spoke - she didn’t waste time.

A few months into our friendship I broached the subject of her writing a new double bass piece for me and, without any hesitation, she agreed to write a sonata for double bass and piano. It was completed on 8 September 1996 and a hand-copied score of the piece arrived a few days later alongside her letter.

“Here is the projected bass sonata. I’m sorry my copying is so horrible - I have difficulty reading my rough notes (Lance [her son] is the only person who can decipher them) and also I have a slightly unsteady hand, and also I’m too lazy to measure or rule anything. My crotchet rests are dreadful (though there’s one quite elegant one at the bottom of page 3 ….)

I have come to the conclusion that after studying music for 71 years my ignorance about the double bass would fill a book. I ought to know something about it, having conducted two bass concertos in the Q.E.H. [Queen Elizabeth Hall, London] - but all I remember is David Jones playing endless harmonics and I had to get the orchestra to keep down…

This copy is not phrased much, or edited, or bowed - you will do all that better; one can’t phrase the piano part until the bass part is done. Please also mark any useful harmonics. I may have been quite wrong making a climax where the bass is high (3 before L).

I’ve marked the slow movement Andante, wanting a beautiful sound (like Quartetto Italiano) on the swaying 2+3, 3+2 - but you may prefer Andantino. So I’m leaving timing to you. Everything goes faster nowadays…Anyway this job is done, and I’ll return to studying Tchaikowsky’s wonderful string quartets and sextet.
With my best wishes - Wid.”

From childhood Ruth Gipps was known as Wid to her family and friends and I was so happy to be included in her circle of musical friends.

The three movement sonata is kindly dedicated to me and was her final work. The musical style demonstrates a composer with a love of colour and texture, primarily using the lower register of the double bass, contrasting an independent piano accompaniment which adds drive and drama.

The first movement (Allegro moderato) is confident and energetic, deftly moving from key to key with the two soloists constantly moving forward until the closing bars which bring the movement to a simple and effective conclusion. The second movement (Andante) is the heart of the work with a beautiful cantilena for the double bass, playing in its middle register, supported by a gently undulating and chordal accompaniment. The textures are rich and luxurious emphasising the sonorous and cantabile qualities of the double bass.
A rhythmic and vibrant Vivace brings the work to a strong and successful conclusion. The introduction of pizzicato adds a new colour alongside jaunty themes and rhythms which add fun and character to a work of great distinction and quality. Ruth Gipps’ Sonata for double bass and piano is a substantial work which gives the double bass equal billing with the piano." [David Heyes]

Ruth Gipps was a self-declared rebel all her life and was one of Britain's most prolific female composers, producing well over 100 works including five symphonies, numerous tone poems, six concertos and various chamber and choral works. 'I've suffered from being unintentionally rather conspicuous. My mother was Swiss and it was natural for me to wear bright colours but polite English society doesn't really go for large, jolly, wide-hipped and colourful females like me.' She was a composer, conductor and professional musician at a time when the profession was male dominated and she became an unwitting pioneer, campaigning ardently for British music and musicians all her life.

Ruth Gipps was born in Bexhill-on-Sea on 20 February 1921 and her prodigious musical talent was discovered at the age of three. By the age of ten she was playing piano concertos with local orchestras and her first compositions were published in 1929. At the age of 15 she was awarded a place at the Royal College of Music, London to study composition with R.O. Morris and Ralph Vaughan Williams, oboe with Leon Goossens, and piano with Arthur Alexander and Kendall Taylor. She won a number of composition prizes at this time and her tone poem 'Knight in Armour' was conducted by Sir Henry Wood at the Last Night of the Proms in 1942.

She played oboe and cor anglais with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1944-5) and subsequently began a conducting career which was certainly an unusual step for a woman in the 1940s and 50s. Undaunted, she founded the London Repertoire Orchestra in 1955, which she ran until 1986, the London Chanticleer Orchestra in 1961, and was offered conducting work with the London Symphony Orchestra, Boyd Neel Orchestra and Pro Arte Orchestra.

Alongside her conducting and composing commitments, Ruth Gipps spent much of her life as a Professor of composition and harmony, including appointments at Trinity College of Music (1960-66), Royal College of Music (1967-77) and from 1977 as Senior Lecturer in Music at Kingston Polytechnic (now University). In 1967 she became the second woman to chair the Composers' Guild of Great Britain and was awarded an MBE in 1981.

Dr. Jill Halstead, a leading academic writes: 'Stylistically her work parallels the other British composers of her generation who were influenced by the folk song revival and the new Franco-Russian movement. Her style is easily accessible and rich in character, marked by use of highly melodic tonal/modal themes and vibrant orchestration; harmonically her work can be chromatically complex yet never fully leaves the realms of tonality.'

Ruth Gipps died on 23 February 1999 at the age of 78.

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Cat No. RM1173
Supplier Code RM1173
ComposerRuth Gipps
CategoryDouble Bass & Piano
Difficulty level8, Advanced
Weight 184 grams
Availability NOT IN STOCK. Sorry for delay!
Available in approx. 7—12 days.
See also...
RM039  The Ox and the Ass (CONTRABASSOON & PIANO)