Music, School of


Date of this Version

April 2006


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Musical Arts. Major: Music. Under the Supervision of Professor Russell White
Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2006
Copyright 2006 Maurice Kelley.


This document deals with performance practice issues in the four original short solo double bass compositions of Serge Koussevitzky. There has been minimal literature published concerning performance practice issues for the double bass as a solo instrument. By analyzing the 1929 recording Koussevitzky made of two of his pieces for double bass and the 1988 recordings modern bass virtuoso Gary Karr made of Koussevitzky’s four short pieces a direct comparison of performance practice issues can be made. The four short pieces, Andante, Valse Miniature, Chanson Triste, and Humoresque were written by Koussevitzky around 1900. His recording of Chanson Triste and Valse Miniature provides the opportunity to compare the first known recording of a double bass virtuoso performing his own compositions to that of a modern virtuoso. By comparing Koussevitzky’s recordings to those of Karr performance practice issues such as vibrato, rubato and portamento can be analyzed and changes in their use can be determined. The outcome of this comparison will provide performers with the tools necessary to produce a historically informed performance of all four pieces.

This study examines the most striking differences between the Koussevitzky and Karr recordings in regards to performance practice, focusing on tempo manipulation (tempo rubato), vibrato, and portamento. Chapter Two analyzes tempo manipulation as it applies to recordings of Valse Miniature and Chanson Triste. Chapter Three focuses on the use of string instrument vibrato during the late nineteenth century and includes an analysis of Koussevitzky’s use of vibrato. The use of portamento by Koussevitzky’s and Karr’s recording of Chanson Triste is examined in Chapter Four. Chapter Five brings together the material collected in previous chapters and presents a detailed method for creating an historically informed performance of the two pieces Koussevitzky did not record, Andante and Humoresque. Chapter Six concludes the study by addressing the issue of authenticity and balancing the primary source material (the recordings of Koussevitzky performing his own compositions) with the expectations of a twenty-first century audience.

Advisor: Professor Russell White

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