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David Heyes

Vincent Novello: Thy Mighty Power for soprano, double bass & piano

Vincent Novello: Thy Mighty Power for soprano, double bass & piano

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About the Composition

Vincent Novello composed Thy Mighty Power for a concert at the Hanover Square Rooms, London, on Monday, 24 April 1837. His daughter Clara (1818-1908), a noted singer of the day, was intending to study in Italy in the autumn of 1837 and this concert was an opportunity 'to take leave of her Friends' as the playbill notes. Composed for soprano, double bass and piano, it was remarkable that Dragonetti, at the age of about 74 years, performed as the double bass soloist at a time when he no longer performed solos in public and he agreed to perform because of his close personal friendship with the composer and his family.

The double bass part remains in the bass clef throughout and is in orchestral tuning.

Thy Mighty Power is a fun and exciting work that exploits the tessitura differences between the high soprano and low double bass and works well as the final item in a concert. It is fun and lively, has great player and audience appeal, and doesn't outstay its welcome.

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About the Composer

Vincent Novello (1781-1861) was an organist, pianist, conductor, composer, editor, and publisher, and also the founder of Novello's publishing house, which is still in existence today. He was a successful and popular musician throughout his lifetime and was a prolific composer, although his daughter Mary wrote that his compositions were "overshadowed by his still more abundant arrangements." Novello edited and produced editions of many choral works at a price that was affordable - with the addition of a piano or organ accompaniment, and these were the foundation of his publishing empire.

Vincent Novello would have known many of the leading figures of his day, and of particular interest to double bassists is his long and enduring friendship with Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846). Dragonetti had lived in London since 1794 and was one of the most famous and beloved musicians of the first half of the 19th century. His cello-bass partnership with Robert Lindley (1776-1855) was legendary and it was said that no musical festival was complete without the participation of these two musicians. Novello was one of the executors of Dragonetti's will and he spent a number of years collating and documenting the manuscripts of this great Italian double bassist which he presented to The British Library in 1849, on his retirement to Italy.

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