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COFFEE BREAK | Watch Joel Quarrington Amaze With Bach's Sixth Cello Suite On Double Bass (Video)

By Michael Vincent on January 3, 2019

It has become a right of passage for double bass players to perform movements of the Bach cello suites, especially or orchestral auditions. But to hear them played well is a rare feat.

So when we found this video of National Arts Centre Orchestra Principal Double Bass Joel Quarrington performing J.S. Bach’s Sixth Cello Suite, we dropped everything to take notice.

Performed at St-Stephen’s Parish in Chelsea, Québec, the video shows Quarrington navigating the 30-minute work with such incredible agility, that one could wonder if the piece might have been originally written for the bass.

The challenge for the cello is difficult, let alone the bass, which often requires the original key and octave to be transposed.

Why this is so astonishing is because the double bass sounds an octave lower than written, and is typically tuned in fourths, rather than in fifths as is the case for cello. Here, Quarrington plays it at pitch, and has tuned his Giovanni Paolo Maggini bass in fifths, exactly like a cello, which allows him to make the piece sound idiomatic to the instrument, providing a rich, more hearty colour to the sound.

This video is a testament to the incredible virtuosity of both J. S. Bach and Quarrington — a match captured in wonder in this extraordinary video.

Joel Quarrington is a former principal bass of the London Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and currently principal of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.

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You can catch Quarrington perform in Toronto with David Jalbert (piano), Yehonatan Berick (violin), Jethro Marks (viola), and Carol Sirois (cello) at Walter Hall, Feb. 28. Details, here.

Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is the Editor-in-chief Ludwig Van and CEO of Museland Media. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor for over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
Follow me
Michael Vincent
Follow me

Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is the Editor-in-chief Ludwig Van and CEO of Museland Media. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor for over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
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By Joseph So on February 25, 2019

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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Ivan Fischer's Mahler 7 Just Might Be The Best Yet

By Norman Lebrecht on March 22, 2019

Unlike other maestros, Ivan Fischer does not try to improve Mahler —  and also why this new release of the 7th Symphony is in such high regard.
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THE SCOOP | Banff Centre Announces $10M Donation From Alberta Oil Industry

By Michael Vincent on February 26, 2019

The Banff Centre receives one of the largest donations ever received in their 86-year history.
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