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David Heyes

Teppo Hauta-aho: The Double Bass Ballade for unaccompanied double bass

Teppo Hauta-aho: The Double Bass Ballade for unaccompanied double bass

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About the Composition

The Double Bass Ballade is dedicated to American contemporary bassist Robert Black and was completed on 19 June 1991. 

In one extended movement, lasting around eight minutes, the piece employs and explores a range of textural and timbral colours and effects throughout the entire range of the double bass. Contemporary, classical, jazz and improvisation idioms combine to create a magical work which demonstrates the many performance techniques available to the contemporary composer. 

Teppo Hauta-aho writes in a modern but essentially lyrical idiom, combining musical and technical challenges in equal measure, producing a work which would be intriguing for audiences. The piece is episodic, maintaining variety and interest, and opens with a short theme, which the composer has used in a number of previous works, but which develops and extends into new vistas and musical landscapes. The open and vast picturesque landscapes of the composers native Finland is encapsulated in music which is open, expansive and atmospheric. 

About the Composer

Finnish composer and bassist Teppo Hauta-aho was the most prolific bass composer of our time and since the 1970s has composed more than 400 works for double bass - spanning the entire range of standards from beginner to virtuoso. 

Teppo Hauta-aho was born in 1941 and studied double bass with Orvo Hyle and Oiva Nummelin in Finland, and František Pošta in Prague. He played with the Helsinki Philharmonic between 1965 and 1972, and the Finnish Opera Orchestra from 1975 to 2000. Teppo Hauta-aho was an active recitalist, both classical and jazz, gave more than 300 recitals with his duo partner, Carita Holmström, and was at the cutting edge of modern improvisation - performing with leading improvisers throughout the world, for many years. 

Finnish composer Harry Wessman writes: "As a composer, Teppo Hauta-aho has always been his own teacher, basing his technical knowledge on his wide practical musicianship as an orchestral player, chamber and jazz musician. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that he was the jazz bassist most in demand in Finland in the 1970s, and a few of his works are pure jazz compositions. But the compositional techniques and musical means used in the majority of his works originate in an unusual openness for any devices. Along with modern techniques, his source of inspiration includes all the previous stylistic periods in European music, impulses from Oriental music and, of course, jazz. His own instrument, the double bass, has profited especially from his rich inventiveness in finding new means to conjure forth unusual sounds from the instrument, and in applying them in an artistically meaningful and striking way." 

Teppo Hauta-aho's music has been performed extensively in Finland and abroad, notably in America, Britain, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Soviet Union, Australia and Switzerland. He died in Helsinki on 27 November 2021. 

Cover Photo: Sarah Poole 

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