Post by Terry Dwyer
OK, how about this? Go to
and read it /thoroughly/, checking out the score references wherever
you can (I have.)
This has completely opened my eyes about the needless bass octave
doublings that we have come to take for granted in Bach's orchestral music.
OK, there are several issues here, in no particular order:
1. Consider the size of the ensemble, particularly the one-to-a-part
controversy. If there are only one or two 'cellos, they are unlikely to be
doubled by a double bass.
2. The bass fiddle (conventionally tuned B'b F c g - but that is near
enough to C G d a) was *replaced* as the bass instrument by the 'cello from
about 1700 onwards. Being a smaller instrument, the tessitura of its line
would be higher than that of the bass fiddle, and it would be doubled at the
octave by the double bass in 'orchestral' pieces. So, the thing to do is
look at the tessitura of Bach's "cello" lines - are they higher for any
pieces/periods? I can quite believe that Bach didn't have double basses at
Weimar, for example.
3. I am sceptical about 'cellos and bass fiddles with the same tuning
performing together, but if they did they would play to the strengths of the
respective instruments: the 'cello line should be higher than the bass
fiddle line. Can this be demonstrated to be the case?