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David Heyes

Domenico Dragonetti: 12 Waltzes for double bass & piano (arr. Luis Guillermo Pérez)

Domenico Dragonetti: 12 Waltzes for double bass & piano (arr. Luis Guillermo Pérez)

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Double Bass part edited by David Heyes. Piano accompaniments by Luis Guillermo Pérez 

About the Composition

Originally for unaccompanied double bass, this edition includes the addition of new and inventive piano accompaniments by Luis Guillermo Pérez. In the 19th-century piano accompaniments were composed for many unaccompanied violin and cello works by J.S. Bach, which are less popular these days so there is a precedent, 

These waltzes were particular favourites of Dragonetti and were discovered amongst his manuscripts after his death in 1846. Each has its own charm and character, offering study and recital repertoire for the good intermediate bassist with effective musical and technical challenges throughout. 

This edition has returned to the original manuscript to create a playable edition with a limited number of editorial additions. Overall, this edition is very close to the composer’s original intentions, with the occasional slur or articulation added if they were included in a similar phrase. 

There are many opportunities for bassists to add dynamics and new articulations to create unique interpretations with the intention of bringing these charming and stylish early 19th-century waltzes to new audiences today. 

With these new piano accompaniments, my aim is to motivate double bassists to learn, discover and enjoy these 12 Waltzes, which are so well written, and also to develop the technical control of both hands alongside mature interpretations. 

All the waltzes are in major keys, written in fast tempos except for two, and structured in four parts that are mostly repeated. Each of the sections are contrasted, with modulations to close keys, moving from major to minor keys or vice versa. The dynamics and bowings are Dragonetti’s own and some have been suggested but performers should create their own interpretation. [Luis Guillermo Pérez] 


“These extraordinary specimens of “the Waltz style” as applied to the capabilities of such an instrument as the Double Bass were some of the last “playful Exercises” which Dragonetti wrote to evince his wonderful command over that Gigantic instrument. He was fond of playing them to me in his own room (although no terms ever induced him to perform them in public), as he knew that I was acquainted with the complete and usual limits of the contrabasso in the hands of other performers, and that I therefore was perfectly aware of what was going forward when he was applying his own system of bowing, peculiarity of expression, striking character et cetera, to them; and certainly the mode in which he performed these admirable and masterly compositions of their class, was such as I never expect to hear again accomplished, as long as I may live; and which will probably never again be heard by anyone, on the Double Bass, as long as the world lasts.” [Vincent Novello] 

In 1849, three years after the death of Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) and before he retired to Italy, Vincent Novello (1781-1861) donated Dragonetti’s manuscripts to the British Library. Novello, an executor to Dragonetti’s will, had tried to collate and organize the vast collection of manuscripts. The words above, oft-quoted, were written on the first page of the Twelve Waltzes for unaccompanied double bass. They give a clear indication of their close friendship and also of Novello’s great admiration for the famous double bassist. Novello was present when Dragonetti died, inherited most of his archive, and, thanks to his foresight, the eighteen volumes of manuscripts have survived to the present day. 

About the Composer

Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) was the leading double bassist of his generation and lived in London from 1794 until his death. He was one of the highest-paid orchestral musicians of his day and appeared at the leading concerts and festivals in London and the provinces for over 50 years, alongside his continuo partner, the cellist Robert Lindley (1776-1855). Dragonetti often performed as a soloist during his first years in London and it is likely that much of his music was written at this time. 

In his will, Dragonetti bequeathed his manuscripts to his good friend Vincent Novello, the composer and founder of Novello's publishing house, who donated them to the British Library a few years later on his retirement to Italy. The manuscripts have been a fascination to bassists for over 150 years and the 21st century has seen a resurgence of interest in Dragonetti's music. 

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