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Double bassist Gannett will open UI School of Music faculty recital series Sept. 13

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The double bass -- the lowest instrument in the orchestral string section and the last instrument at the bottom of orchestral scores -- goes to the head of the line when bassist Diana Gannett plays the first faculty recital of the University of Iowa School of Music fall season at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Gannett, who teaches double bass at the UI School of Music, will perform with fellow bassist David Murray and pianist Anne Chamberlain. Their performance will be free and open to the public.

Because of its size and low pitch, the double bass is not often thought of as a solo instrument outside of jazz, but in recent years Gannett has made double bass recitals a regular part of the UI School of Music faculty performance series. She has not only played works from the instrument's extant solo repertoire, she has added considerable variety to her programs by performing arrangements, many of them her own, of works originally composed for other media.

The Sept. 13 recital will continue that pattern with a program that ranges from a showpiece by the first composer to make the double bass a virtuoso instrument, the 19th-century player/composer/conductor Giovanni Bottesini, to arrangements of Baroque string music and Chopin's cello sonata.

Moving into repertoire that might not be expected for a double bass recital, Gannett will acknowledge the centennial of the birth of American composer George Gershwin by presenting versions of two songs from the iconic Broadway opera "Porgy and Bess": "Bess, You is my Woman Now" arranged for two basses and piano by Murray, and Gannett's transcription of a Jascha Heifitz violin-and-piano arrangement of "It Ain't Necessarily So."

Other works on the program will extend the double bass repertoire in other directions. Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen wrote a set of variations for violin and viola, based on a theme by Handel, in a style that is reminiscent of Norwegian folk fiddle styles. Gannett has arranged Halvorsen's "Passacaglia" for two basses.

Similarly, she has arranged two traditional Scottish fiddle tunes for basses, "Wet is this night and cold" and "Many are the cries and shrieks of woe." "These tunes were old when they were collected in 1784," Gannett noted, "and they were a comfort to the Scots of the northern parts and western isles where living is particularly difficult. If they weren't fighting for their land, there was always the cold, wet, overcast weather to contend with, yet they lived on a land of incredible beauty and strong spirit."

A thoroughly Romantic musician, Bottesini had three careers: as double bass virtuoso, as conductor and as opera composer. This triple career took him all over the world, from Italy to St. Petersburg, Paris, London, Cairo --where he conducted the first performance of Verdi's "Aida" --, New York, Havana and Mexico. His works for double bass are highly melodramatic and sentimental, with alternating passages of virtuoso brilliance and bel-canto style lyricism. His works, which show off the full expressive range of the double bass, have become staples of the double bass repertoire and of Gannett's recital programs.

For the Sept. 13 recital she will play Bottesini's "Fantasia on Bellini's 'Straniera'." A popular genre of the 19th-century virtuosos, the fantasia allows the composers and performers a free flight of imagination in showing off their technical accomplishments. Most commonly, these works constitute a set of variations of increasingly dazzling difficulty based on a theme taken from the popular operas of the time. Bellini was a favorite source for the Romantic virtuoso composers, no doubt because the simple structure and lyrical beauty of his themes made them ideal for variation.

The Baroque period is represented on the program by Georg Philipp Telemann's "Gulliver Suite," part of a series of duets written so they could be played by whatever pair of instruments were available. Gannett has arranged the attractive duets inspired by the popular 18th-century novel "Gulliver's Travels" for two basses.

A graduate of the UI School of Music, Gannett returned to the UI to teach double bass in the fall of 1992. She also is the principal double bass of the Quad City Symphony.

As a teacher and performer she has had an active career including appointments at Yale University, the Hartt School of Music, Oberlin College and the University of South Florida. She has been principal double bass of the Gulf Coast Symphony, the Black Hills Festival Orchestra, the Eastern Music Festival and the Bronx Symphony, and she been a member of the New Haven and New Jersey symphonies.

As a chamber musician she has performed with members of the Guarneri, Emerson, Laurentian and Stanford string quartets and the Borodin Trio. Her frequent solo appearances have included many premieres and solo improvisations as well as traditional repertoire. She has recorded for Irida Records and has a solo CD, "Ladybass."

At the UI Gannett studied with Eldon Obrecht, whom she has succeeded on the faculty. She has also studied with legendary double bass virtuoso Gary Karr at Yale, where she earned both master's and doctoral degrees, and with Stuart Sankey at the Aspen Music Festival.

Gannett is currently president-elect of the International Society of Bassists, and will host the annual convention of the society at the UI during the first week of June, 1999.

Anne Chamberlain teaches piano at Simon's Rock College in Great Barrington, Mass. she has performed both solo and chamber music throughout the U.S., Europe and Israel. She was the recipient of the John Knowles Paine Award for performances of late 20th-century North American music and has recorded for Nonesuch and CRI records. She received her musical training at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Juilliard School. Numerous world premiers of contemporary concert music have been performed by the pianist at Lincoln Center in New York City.

David Murray teaches double bass at Butler University in Indianapolis. He is a graduate of the Hartt School of Music, where he studied with Gary Karr. He won the Aspen Bass Concerto Competition, the 1988 solo competition of the International Society of Bassists and the Canada Music Competition. He has been a soloist in recital and with orchestras throughout Canada and the United States. He has taught bass at the Sorak Festival in South Korea and the International Bass Conference IVEINCO in Brazil. His CD "Vocalise" will soon be released by Lemor Music.