Koussevitzky & Piston: Concertos
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL248     Release Date: 2010-08-15
Gary Karr, bass; Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; Alfredo Antonini, conductor;
Emerson Quartet: Eugene Drucker, violin; Philip Setzer, violin; Lawrence Dutton, viola; Eric Wilson, cello; Juilliard Orchestra; Sixten Ehrling, conductor

Serge Koussevitzky, whose achievements as conductor of the Boston Symphony were legendary long before his death in 1951, and whose championing of new American music has never been equaled by other conductors, began his career as a performer on the largest member of the viol family, the double-bass. He was only 14 when, as a scholarship pupil in Moscow, he chose to study this bulky instrument, and only 20 when he replaced his teacher at Moscow's Philharmonic Conservatory. In 1898 he appeared as double-bass soloist in Berlin, immediately bepedestalling himself in the historical procession begun by Domenico Dragonetti, a century before, and followed by Giovanni Bottesini, half a century later. Koussevitzky played on one of the three instruments made by the celebrated 17th century violin maker, Amati.

Traveling as a recognized virtuoso, the young Koussevitzky soon felt the shortage of music for his rare instrument, so he created some. In addition to transcriptions of music written for other instruments, he composed several short original works, and, in 1902, completed his Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra. He first performed the concerto in Moscow, then in Berlin and Leipzig under Nikisch, in Dresden under Schuch, in Paris under Colonne. In 1905, the young virtuoso turned his energies to conducting, and in 1910 founded his own Symphony Orchestra in Moscow. In 1924, following three years of conducting activities in Europe, he was appointed conductor of the Boston Symphony.

The only manuscript score of the Concerto remained for years in Koussevitzky's personal library, until Alfredo Antonini re-discovered it and, with his customary thoroughness, set about making it ready for use.

Despite the great amount of time Walter Piston spent on his theoretical works and in his classroom at Harvard, he composed a formidable amount of music — almost all for orchestra or instrumental ensemble. This Concerto, one of his last works, was written for the string quartet of the Portland (Maine) Symphony Orchestra, he said. “after they gave me the finest performance of my Fourth Quartet that I ever heard . . . I had a wonderful time writing it . . . In most concertos for quartets, the soloists are swamped by the strings of the orchestra, so I wrote music, for winds and percussion only.” It is in one compact movement that was described by the composer as “a set of variations, in a way, with the themes growing out of one another.” The music falls into three principal sections, in the fast-slow-fast sequence of the classical concerto.


This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available as a burn-on-demand CD (CD-R) or download in MP3/320, FLAC or WAV formats. CD-Rs come in a protective sleeve; no print booklet or jewel case included. Full liner notes are accessible via the link above.

Gary Karr

Koussevitzky & Piston: Concertos

MP3/320 $7.99
FLAC $7.99
WAV $7.99
CD-R $7.99
CD-Rs come in a protective sleeve; no print booklet or jewel case included.


Track Listing

Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra: I. Allegro
Serge Koussevitzky
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Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra: II. Andante
Serge Koussevitzky
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Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra: III. Tempo 1
Serge Koussevitzky
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Concerto for String Quartet, Wind Instruments and Percussion
Walter Piston
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