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March 24 Concert Promo

Photo by SSgt Tucker Broadbooks

Marine Chamber Orchestra Presents “Bartók Divertimento”

18 Mar 2024 | SSgt Tucker Broadbooks United States Marine Band

The Marine Chamber Orchestra will perform a program entitled “Bartók Divertimento” at 2 p.m. on March 24 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va. Coordinated by concertmaster and violinist Gunnery Sergeant Karen Johnson, this innovative program will highlight the unique qualities of the double bass in a variety of musical settings. The concert is free to the public.

“After this concert, I hope people look at bass players, especially ours, with fresh eyes and ears” Johnson said about the program. “I included both classical and jazz pieces in the program to show the evolution and range of the instrument. The audience will see a lot of things during the performance; history, musicality and versatility chief among them.”

Program and Notes

Heinrich Biber’s Battalia opens the program with a Baroque work for string orchestra. Biber was among the first to showcase techniques including col legno (tapping the strings with the wood of the bow) and snap pizzicato. In Battalia, these creative techniques depict the sounds and imagery of battle and musket fire. “Bass players are now well known for snap pizzicato, but Biber was the first to write the technique into his music,” said Johnson.

The program next moves to the Romantic period with Giovanni Bottesini’s Gran Duo Concertante, originally composed for a pair of double basses. While not a household name, Bottesini was referred to in his time as the “Paganini of the double bass” and composed operas, chamber music, and many works for the instrument.

A highlight of the March 24 show is a performance of Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk” by a double bass trio. “’Blue Monk’ is the exciting encore of the concert,” Johnson said. “There’s no better way to capture the spirit of this show than a performance by all three of the Marine Chamber Orchestra’s bassists.” Thelonius Monk recorded “Blue Monk” more than any other song in his catalogue. It appeared on no less than 11 albums during the artist’s career, including almost all of his live recordings.

Rounding out the program is Béla Bartók’s Divertimento, written in 1938 for the Basel Chamber Orchestra in Basel, Switzerland. “Biber pioneered snap pizzicato in the 1600s, but it was largely forgotten until Bartók repopularized it. Plus, Divertimento is an iconic string work!” Johnson exclaimed. Bartók popularized the technique such that it is now frequently referred to as the “Bartók pizzicato.” Much of Bartók’s music was deeply affected by the folk traditions of Hungary and Romania, an influence apparent in this piece. The first movement follows a classical sonata model, the second is in three-part form, and the final movement is a rondo.

The concert is free and will take place at Northern Virginia Community College's Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria.

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