Dario Calderone gives regularly masterclasses all over the world. He has been invited as teacher at the Impuls Academy of Graz in 2019 and 2015, in Uzbekistan for the Omnibus Laboratorium at the State Conservatory in 2013 and 2014 and in Amsterdam during the Atlas Academy in 2012 and 2013. He also gives private lessons in his studio in Amsterdam.
The art of playing the doublebass has changed a lot during the last 50 years. Masters such as Fancesco Petracchi, and Ludwig Streicher refined the technique of playing and systematized the learning methods in a way that it’s not possible anymore to ignore their system of fingerings and positions of the left hand (including extensions) and the technique of the bow. Moreover the innovations that contemporary music and jazz repertoire has brought to the normal practice, have extended the possibilities of the instrument.
The figure of the musician, what a music student expects from a music lesson, and what the musical market expects from the young professionals has radically changed, probably because of the reduction in number of the symphonic orchestras and the rising of popularity and professionality of musical languages alternative to classical music. Whilst 50 years ago the musical instruction was just aimed to “create” a doublebass player who was able to win an audition and play in an orchestra, nowadays the most important thing is, in my opinion, to create a strong individuality, able to develop his/her own path and take personal artistic decisions, in order to contribute actively to the general “liquid“ musical scene.
Luciano Berio once said in an interview about who is a virtuoso nowadays: “he is someone that sees his instrument as medium to research, and who is able to contribute to the musical thinking without the fake humility of those who say that they only serve the music”. If a Virtuoso is someone who puts his virtues into music, I believe that today musicians should not be judged only if they play more faster and louder, but also for the amount of conscious choices that they make in their interpretation.
-What is the result that my students would need to achieve?
Through my classes I aim to give to my students a number of competences about the doublebass and the repertoire in general, as well as some musical skills.
I could define competences as:
-Knowledge and mastery of the doublebass on a technical point of view.
-Knowledge of the stiles from baroque music to classical, romantic and contemporary music, also through references of different forms of art.
And I could define skills as:
-Capability to overcome any difficulty on the doublebass, thanks to a rational approach that analyzes the characteristics of a difficult passage or piece of music.
-Capability of listening to himself from an external point of view. Especially when playing the doublebass, the long distances of the shifts, the hard pressure and physical strength needed to press them, might close the performer in a shell, and distract his attention to what is really important, which is the music and the listener.
-Capability of establishing a social relation with the other players. Although this is something that can hardly be taught, I think it is important to bring the student’s attention to the psychology of communication. A nice working environment contributes to better quality results and a more tight playing together.
-Anxiety and stage fear control. The young professional should have tools to recognize and control his negative emotions.
-How could I help them in achieving these goals?
-Individual path/specific literature. Learning to play an instrument is in my opinion all about establishing a personal path, strengthening the individual attitudes while completing the knowledge and skills in which the student is more weak. Therefore this path cannot be a pre-made system generalized and anonymous, but tailored specifically on a human being. A special emphasis will be given to literature of the last 50 years.
-Technical exercises. Each student should be able to recognize the basic skills of playing the doublebass. for example left hand articulation, sound production, shifts of the left hand, positions of the left hand, and specific bow techniques. At the end of the course each student should know himself and his weak points in order to develop a series of daily technical exercises to improve his limits.
-Yoga and meditation basics. Meditation and Yoga are an incredible tool to help concentration and relaxation of the body. Basic principles of the Alexander Technique also help in overcoming psychological obstacles, such as stage fear, but also more simply in building the needed confidence in the self not to be afraid of difficulties. These can be approached through individual and group lessons.
-Improvisational approach. Improvisation classes offer to the student a tool to develop a different way of listening to each other and himself. Helps the performer to concentrate on the final result, rather than on which finger should be moved. Actually this part of my teaching activity is intended first of all as a listening exercise. Improvisation classes will be always made in groups, focusing on issues such as imitation, contrast, form, intonation etc…; therefore the students will be encouraged in sharing their thoughts and feelings with the rest of the musicians. This will build also a strong communication tool, by finding the right vocabulary and the right way of communicate disappointment or enthusiasm.
-Description of methods used:
-Ludwig Streicher: My way of playing the doublebass. It is an amazing extensive method, which provides a systematical and progressive study of the positions of the left hand, and different bowing techniques. The methods also includes passages from the solo literature as well as orchestral excerpts, when they are relevant to the left hand position in focus. Moreover the whole method includes an extensive range of exercises with a special focus on dynamics: this is a perfect school preparation for orchestral playing.
-Francesco Petracchi: Metodo per contrabbasso. Differently from the previous one, this method includes a number of technical exercises for the advanced student, in a non-progressive way. It is divided in different chapters, each one focusing on a specific technical issue. This method is meant as a series of daily exercises to cover technical lacks and for the advanced student to keep in a good physical shape.
-Stefano Scodanibbio: Sei Studi. Stefano Scodanibbio was worldwide considered as the author of the “doublebass reneaissance” in the ’80s. He premiered and collaborated with composers such as Giacinto Scelsi, Luigi Nono, Bryan Ferneyough, Iannis Xenakis, Salvatore Sciarrino and Luciano Berio; in one sentence we could say that the whole contemporary music scene of the last 40 years has been modeled on his innovations on the doublebass. He also composed a corpus of pieces for solo doublebass, using extended techniques, which provided the instrument with new possibilities. I think that students should be aware of this latest developments: the six studies for solo doublebass offer a tool to access to the extended techniques that he has developed and that are now considered as a basis of what the doublebass can do.
–Specific literature. This could be grouped in different categories:
a- Baroque and Classical literature: Bach cello suites (played from manuscripts, following the school of Anner Bylsma), Eccles Sonata, literature from the Viennese doublebass school (Sperger, Hoffmeister, Dittersdorf, Vanhall etc..) Schubert, Dragonetti and Mozart’s chamber music.
b- Romantic Literature: Bottesini’s compositions (especially in their connection with Belcanto), Kusevickij, Misek and transcriptions.
c- Contemporary music: The student will learn from the most defined notation (L. Berio’s sequenza XIVb, F. Donatoni’s LEM, I. Xenakis Theraps, G. Scelsi Le reveil profond, J. Druckman Valentine etc…) to more conceptual composers such as J. Cage, J. Tenney and R. Ashley. Students will also be encouraged to develop, under my supervision, collaborations with the composition and the electronic music students in order to create new pieces for solo doublebass.