CDE84661 The South African Double Bass

The South African Double Bass

The South African Double Bass

Product Description

The South African Double Bass

Leon Bosch - Double Bass
Rebeca Omordia - Piano
Grant McLachlan - Sonatina
Michael Viljoen - Canticles for Peace
Peter Klatzow - Isipho
David Earl - Nocturne ‘Old Nectar’
Paul Hanmer - Scratch + pad – and – six
Anton Pieterson - From the Heart
Hans Roosenschoon - Bepeinsing
Allan Stephenson - Some Thoughts on African Beer for Solo Double Bass
Hendrik Hofmeyer - Preludio E Umdanso

The South African Double Bass

Grant McLachlan: Sonatina

 Abdi - Nocturne - Fugue

The opening material for the first movement, ‘Abdi’, comes from music originally composed for a documentary of the same name. The film documented a Somalian filmmaker returning to Africa from America to film wildlife in Zimbabwe and Zambia, and the music is inspired by the music of those countries. The metre is an irregular 9/8 (2+2+3+2) which is juxtaposed as a polyrhythm with the more common configuration of 3+3+3. The pace of the movement is gentle and rolling, making use of continuous cyclical movement. The solo double bass opens the ‘Nocturne’ in reflective mood; with the entry of the piano, the music moves in a cyclical pattern of dissonance and tension which is resolved on each return to the pivotal consonant G major chord. A simple melody forms the central section before the return of a variation of the cyclical pattern. The movement ends quietly with a series of remote harmonies on the piano over sustained harmonics in the double bass, before the piano finally resolves on the ubiquitous G major chord. The ‘Fugue’ starts out with very good intentions, but soon abandons trying to be a fugue and resorts to reprising material from the first two movements. The main fugue subject is however presented in different forms, such as stretto and inversion. The Sonatina ends with a strident recall of the opening theme from the first movement. - Grant McLachlan

The Sonatina for double bass and piano was composed for Leon Bosch in 2016. The first performance took place at the Baxter Concert Hall in Cape Town on 1 October 2016, performed by Bosch and Albie Van Schalkwyk.Grant McLachlan (born 1956) is a South African composer based in Cape Town. He holds music degrees from Magdalen College, Oxford and King’s College, London, and a film music degree from Bournemouth University. He studied with the Swiss pianist Lise-Martine Jeanneret, and was active as a composer and pianist at her annual Music at Mill House festivals. He also studied with the composer Jeremy Dale Roberts. He returned to South Africa in 1994, and embarked on a career in composing for the screen, specialising in natural history. In 2007 the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed Ocean Voyagers live to picture for Animal Planet’s 10th anniversary. He won Best Music at the Inside Film Awards for the Australian film The Jammed, directed by his sister, Dee McLachlan. His chamber music output includes Oesterwal Landscape, a quintet commissioned in 1992 by the Music Group of Manchester, of which Leon Bosch was a member; a work for harpsichord and African percussion commissioned by Elisabeth Chojnacka; Shingalana and Mbira for two pianos; and a sonata for cor anglais. He also has produced a considerable body of choral works, including the South African Christmas carol, ‘Come, Colours Rise’, and Of Light, a setting of poems by four South African female poets.

Michael Viljoen: Canticles for Peace

I share the heart of Madiba for all of our nation to be free and reconciled to each other. And for us all to remember our humanity and our belonging to each other. From a place of solemn sorrow the bass solo calls for peace, interspersed with fragments of plainsong. The changing metres and keys eventually resolve to an impassioned plea for peace. This gives way to shouts, clapping and dancing as Mbaqanga [a style of music with Zulu roots originating in the 1960s], Marabi [a South African township jazz style that developed in the 1920s and 1930s] and plainsong are woven together. The sweeping figures of the coda speak of hearts fluttering with hope and joined raised hands: believing this togetherness will be our shared future - Michael Viljoen

Michael Viljoen is a South African-born cellist, composer and conductor now living in New Jersey, USA. He obtained his BMus at Stellenbosch University where he studied composition with Hans Roosenschoon. He plays with and has conducted several orchestras in Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as the Fenix Strings and Celli of the North, both of which he founded. His works have been featured at the International Horn Symposium, the Grahamstown National Festival of the Arts and by new music group, the Paz Consort.

Peter Klatzow: Isipho

The connection between composer and dedicatee of Isipho dates back to Bosch’s time as a student at the University of Cape Town, where Klatzow was head of composition. The work, whose title means ‘gift’ in Xhosa, was written after their recent reconnection. A concisely written concert piece for double bass and piano, it features the two instruments in close interplay. A scurrying, scampering opening section is followed by a lilting middle section (marked espressivo in the double bass) in 6/8 then 9/8, which winds down to a short coda in which the first music returns. The nervy four-note signal heard in the piano at the very start punctuates the piece throughout, sometimes obviously, sometimes with a slight rhythmic variation or perhaps woven into a piano texture.

Peter Klatzow was born in Springs, Transvaal in 1945. He came to London in 1964 on the South African Music Rights Organisation scholarship for composers, studying composition with Bernard Stevens, piano with Kathleen Long and orchestration with Gordon Jacob. He spent the following year in Italy and in Paris, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger. Since returning to South Africa in 1966 he has worked at the SABC as a music producer, and in 1973 was appointed to the University of Cape Town, where he is associate professor of composition and where, in 1986, he was elected to the rank of fellow. One of the few South African composers to achieve international recognition, Peter Klatzow has won prizes in Spain and Toronto and his works have been performed in various European centres and the United States. In South Africa he was awarded the prestigious Helgard Steyn prize, worth £6000, for his piano suite From the Poets. His major works include a full-length ballet on Hamlet, music for ballets on Drie Diere and Vier Gebede and concertos for various solo instruments (piano, clarinet, organ, marimba) and a double concerto for flute and marimba.

David Earl: Nocturne ‘Old Nectar’

Old Nectar is the name of an estate near Stellenbosch, South Africa, whose gardens have become nationally famous. It lies amid mountains in the Jonkershoek Valley, and overlooks the tree-shaded, boulder-strewn Eerste River. My parents rented a cottage there soon after their marriage in the 1950s, and I had the great good fortune of experiencing early childhood in this idyllic environment.

In ternary form, the Nocturne fleetingly evokes a myriad of sense impressions recalled from more than half a century ago, as well as from more recent times. It follows several other works inspired by Old Nectar’s haunting beauty: Old Roses and the first piece from the suite Scenes from a South African Childhood, both for solo piano; and the Concerto for double bass and orchestra. - David Earl

South African-born pianist and composer David Earl broadcast for the SABC when he was 16, and a year later made his concerto debut with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. He moved to London, having finished school, to study piano and composition at Trinity College of Music. During this period he gave the first of a number of solo piano recitals at Wigmore Hall, and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. After seven years based in Oxford, he settled in Cambridge where for over two decades he has taught piano performing to undergraduates at Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin University, as well as supervising Tripos composition students. David’s professional career as a composer began in 1980 with the premiere of Chéri, an hour-long commission for the Scottish Ballet, given at that year’s Edinburgh Festival. In addition to six more commissioned ballet scores, he has also written eleven concertos, a variety of chamber and solo piano music, song and choral settings, and four operas.

Paul Hanmer: Scratch-Pad and Six

Much of the music of Scratch-Pad and Six behaves, I imagine, like one of the clockwork mechanisms of which Ravel was reputedly so fond. Many elements in the parts for both instruments are rhythmically intertwined and are in constant and intricate conversation. Only the fourth section of the piece functions somewhat differently, being rather like a declamatory arioso episode – for lyric operatic tenor voice perhaps? Here the bass soloist has to summon his or her sense of drama and really sing, so bringing this journey to a close. - Paul Hanmer

Composed as a 50th birthday present for Leon Bosch, Scratch-Pad and Six takes its inspiration from an occasion when, after one late night gig, Hanmer handed a colleague half a dozen matches and a torn-off piece of matchbox strip – without a coach-and-four to pick him up, at least he would have a scratch-pad-and-six to see him home. There are other connotations too: scraping pennies together, making something out of nothing. But it is also intended as a reflection on the quarter century of social and political change in the country in which Hanmer and Bosch grew up together.


Born in 1961, Paul Hanmer is one of South Africa’s foremost jazz musicians. Influenced by Keith Jarrett, he has worked with artists including Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Gilberto Gil, Ray Phiri, Sipho Gumede and McCoy Mrubata. He has been composing for classical musicians since 2003 and in 2019 registered for a PhD at Rhodes University; he was also awarded a grant by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation to facilitate the writing of an orchestral work which he hopes to present as his doctoral portfolio. In January 2020, Hanmer released his first new albums in 14 years through a brand new label, Hanmerecords: a solo piano album Concordia and a duo album featuring Robert Pickup on clarinets entitled Morning into Evening. Recent compositions include a Requiem for the First Peoples which incorporates standard Latin and Greek texts from the Roman Catholic liturgy as well as English, French and SeTswana texts; it was first performed in 2018 as part of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival.


Anton Pietersen: From the Heart – An Improvisation for Double Bass and Piano

I composed my first piano piece at the age of 11 years for my girlfriend, a formidable sight reader at age 10 years; I believe the score is still in her possession, 51 years later. At age 14 I started writing ballads for piano and voice as well as guitar and voice. My work, which was generally intended to be in a light style, in the end always seemed to have a strong classical element which I had difficulty in suppressing. It was Leon Bosch who recently put me to the test by commissioning me to write something for double bass and piano. The end result is a transcription and development of one of my ballads for voice and piano into an improvisation for double bass and piano.

- Anton Pietersen

From the Heart, which Leon Bosch describes as ‘a passionate and heart-breaking piece of music that is as gratifying to perform as it is uplifting to listen to’, received its first performance in 2017 in the lunchtime concert series at Imperial College, London. ‘Anton, previously a fellow student in Cape Town, ‘possesses magical capabilities at the piano, and most colleagues remember him for the romantic ballads he composed and performed during our time at university. I commissioned him to compose a ballad for my wife’s 50th birthday, but persuading him to write a piece for double bass really took some cajoling; this would be the first piece of music he had ever composed for the concert platform and that worried him. But he need not have worried.’


Anton Pietersen was born in 1957 in the Paarl Valley, Western Cape. Having begun to learn the piano with his father, he continued his studies at the South African College of Music under Lamar Crowson, where he also completed three years of a music degree before having to abandon the course. He eventually completed a diploma in music teaching at the University of the Western Cape, focusing on piano teaching, orchestration, music arrangement and choir conducting.

Hans Roosenschoon: Bepeinsing

The original version of Bepeinsing, for cello and piano, was written in 1973 when Roosenschoon was a cello pupil of the well-known South African cellist and teacher, Betty Pack. He made this version for double bass and piano at the request of Leon Bosch. It is in a different key from the original and includes some slight technical modifications, reflecting the composer’s understanding of the double bass. But it remains a poignant work, an introspective berceuse that alternates lilting calm with moments of more intense feeling. Hans Roosenschoon studied music in South Africa and in the UK, and holds postgraduate qualifications in composition from the universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town, as well as the Royal Academy of Music, London. After nearly two decades in broadcasting, Roosenschoon embarked on an academic career that led to his appointment as professor and chair of the department of music at Stellenbosch University in 1998. From 2008 he spearheaded the composition specialist course at SU, where he retired at the end of 2017. Roosenschoon’s music has been performed and broadcast in the USA, in several western and eastern European countries, Scandinavia, Australia, Brazil and in the UK. But he is probably best known in South Africa for his multifaceted music and for the plurality of his eclectic voice.

Allan Stephenson:

Some Thoughts On African Beer

Some Thoughts On African Beer (‘Theme courtesy of Willy Haubrich’, as the score states) dates from February 2000. William Haubrich is a San Diego-born brass player, multi-instrumentalist and composer who established himself in the South African jazz and African music scene after his arrival in as an orchestral musician in Cape Town in the 1980s. That certainly gives Stephenson’s piece for solo double bass its flavour: it begins with an eight-bar figure characteristic of many a bassline. These bars, however, do not so much provide a harmonic structure to the piece in the manner of a blues as set the soloist off on a kind of cheerfully capricious fantasy that occasionally threatens to come off the rails. But it ends with not a little sense of triumph – even if in a very different key from the one in which it began.

Born in Cheshire in 1949, Allan Stephenson studied cello at what was then the Royal Manchester College of Music before moving to South Africa in 1973 where he taught at the University of Cape Town. He has written concertos for a number instruments, including piano, cello, bassoon, clarinet, French horn, piccolo and a double concerto for oboe and viola; a recording of his concerto and Burlesque, both for double bass and small orchestra and with Leon Bosch as soloist alongside the Cape Philharmonic conducted by the composer, is available on the Meridian Records label (CDE84602). It was Stephenson who offered Leon Bosch, then a cellist, a place at the University of Cape Town, thus putting him on the path to his career in music.

Hendrik Hofmeyr: Preludio e Umdanso

The Preludio e Umdanso attempts an integration of certain elements of Western Classical and African music; the two movements are performed without a break. The Preludio combines the traditional slow Baroque prelude and its fugal second part with elements commonly found in some African musics, such as the pentatonic scale and modal inflections. The starkness of the harmonic language evokes the character of the open plains of Africa. The piece is virtually monothematic: the opening idea and the lyrical motif heard in alternation with it are both derived from a fragment of a San song in the Bleek Collection and return at the climax of the fugal section, the subject of which is derived from the opening idea. ‘Umdanso’ denotes a dance in Zulu. The influence of African music can be heard in features such as the repetitive melodic figures, modal inflections and irregular metre. The use as harmonic basis of two alternating notes a tone apart is typical of much of Nguni music, but the quartal harmony generated from these notes is derived from modern Western practice. The piece is in expanded ternary form (ABABA).

- Hendrik Hofmeyr

Hendrik Hofmeyr was born in Cape Town in 1957. His first major success as a composer came in 1988 with the performance at the State Theatre of The Fall of the House of Usher, which won the South African Opera Competition and was also awarded the Nederburg Opera Prize. In the same year, Hofmeyr, who was furthering his studies in Italy during ten years of self-imposed exile as a conscientious objector, obtained first prize in an international competition in Trent with music for a short film by Wim Wenders. In 1992 he accepted a post as lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, and in 1997 won two further international competitions: the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition of Belgium (with Raptus for violin and orchestra) and the Dimitri Mitropoulos Competition in Athens (with Byzantium for high voice and orchestra). Hofmeyr is currently professor and head of composition and music theory at the University of Cape Town, where he obtained his doctorate in 1999. His oeuvre includes six operas, two ballets, two symphonies, twelve concertos and numerous vocal and instrumental works, of which some 130 are commissions.

The South African Double Bass