ENDE
Monday December 11, 2017
Silvio Dalla Torre
The Bassetto in History My Bassetto - My Bassetto I - My Bassetto II - My Bassetto III Bassetto Practice

My Bassetto III

Andreas Asper: "Angel with Violon" This fresco from 1665 is situated in the basilica of St. Lorenz in my home town of Kempten. It can clearly be seen that the instrument depicted is a "bass violin". As if that was not an incitement!
February 2007 All my considerations and experiments in connection with the bassetto led me in the direction of having a new instrument built. I was sure that only with an instrument of
a completely new design would it be possible to realise my conception of a sonorous bass with brilliant highs. The following describes the latest developments, in chronological order.

COMMISSION
After having gained experience with the high fifths tuning G-D-A-E and having consequently decided to have a new instrument constructed,
I contacted Carleen Hutchins. She confirmed that the "Small Bass Violin" of her "Violin Octet" was not intended to be tuned A-D-G-C, as is currently usual, but G-D-A-E. Her con-
ception of an ensemble of eight violins constructed in the same way, differing only in their pitch and size, demands the fifths tuning. The fourths tuning for the two basses "Small Bass" and "Double Bass" is an accommodation for the players resulting from the difficulty of playing the fifths tuning on the large instruments. This is however linked with tonal concessions.

Through the mediation of the "New Violin Association Inc." I was put in touch with the violin maker Joris Wouters and commissioned him to build a "Small Bass Violin". Joris Wouters, who lives in Antwerp, Belgium, is one of the two European pupils of Carleen Hutchins and had already built all the instruments of the "Violin Octet" with the exception of the two bass instruments. This made my commission
a very interesting task for him.

CONSTRUCTION
So on with the construction. The wood has been bought - and Joris Wouters' dog has approved it ...
It took quite some time before Joris Wouters could find suitable tone wood that met his quality requirements and the special criteria of Carleen Hutchins’ method. Early in 2005, he finally began the construction of the first "Small Bass Violin" in Europe (some 20 instruments had previously been built in the USA, although all in fourths tuning). After eight months of work, Joris had completed the instrument and adopted the term "Bassetto" for it. 

STRINGS
It was also necessary to develop new strings during the construction of the instrument. The company "Super Sensitive" does make strings for all the instruments of the "Violin Octet", but not for the tuning now required. I could not use the existing bassetto strings because the new instrument has a longer scale, 100 cm, and different resonating properties. Fortunately the Berlin string developer Gerold Genssler was in the process of setting up his own enterprise "SONORES" after having left the company Velvet. After months of test series, a first-class set in the G-D-A-E tuning was obtained.

TONE
In November 2006, the new instrument passed the critical test of the 'Solo Concerto with Orchestra' with flying colours.
The instrument has a completely new sound.
It neither sounds like a double bass nor like a violoncello. Its original name "Bass Violin" provides the best tonal description, since it does in fact sound like an enormous violin: clear, present, radiant, gritty in the bass, and rich but not booming. The power of projection of my new bassetto is amazing, and far superior to that of
a double bass. For this reason its tone comes through well both when it is played with a piano and with an orchestra. It is balanced all the way from the lowest note to the highest. 

MUCH TO LEARN
Although the instrument plays very easily, I now have much to learn. In the first place, to be con-
sistent, a "violin" should be played with a corre-
sponding bow. I will therefore use a french bow for my bassetto in the future as well as a german bow. As well as this, the instrument opens up completely new possibilities which go far beyond what I normally have to do as a double bass player.

NEW COMPOSITIONS
Following the first composition "Aventures" for Bassetto and Orchestra by Bodo Reinke, the composers Istvan Horvath (Hungary) and Bruno Cesselli (Italy) have since also written works for bassetto. It is my hope that many other com-
posers will follow on from these and that the sound and the potentialities of the bassetto will inspire new works.

Andreas Asper: "Angel with Violon" This fresco from 1665 is situated in the basilica of St. Lorenz in my home town of Kempten. It can clearly be seen that the instrument depicted is a "bass violin". As if that was not an incitement!
So on with the construction. The wood has been bought - and Joris Wouters' dog has approved it ...
The ribs are in the vice
The top plate in its raw form
Now for the fine work
The tuning of top plate and back plate is an important element of Carleen Hutchins´ work.
Back plate and ribs are glued.
The first of 15 layers of varnish is applied.
The varnish is finished.
The fingerboard is glued on.
The bridge blank is adjusted.
The finished bridge is set up.
A proud violin maker with his newly completed creation, complete with daughter and dog.
And an equally proud owner of the first European "Small Bass Violin".
In November 2006, the new instrument passed the critical test of the 'Solo Concerto with Orchestra' with flying colours.


Get an impression of my Bassetto's sound!
J.S. Bach:
Menuett BWV 1007