I have already written quite a few concerti for less familiar solo
instruments, such as Recorder, Horn and Trombone, in a desire to
acquire more intimate knowledge about the mechanics and
characteristic sounds of each instrument. I am familiar with Enno
Senft's playing from a variety of concerts of different repertoire
he has given with the London Sinfonietta, including some of my own
compositions. It was partly as a result of his versatility and
partly because of his humorous criticisms of the way I was writing
for double bass that I decided to write a concerto for him and
embrace the opportunity of working with such an outstanding player
to better understand the instrument's character and even its
In advance of the concerto I had a chance to write a work for solo
instrument in celebration of the London Sinfonietta's anniversary;
naturally I chose Enno and his double bass. The piece entitled
"es" was born. The bottom string of the instrument is detuned to
E-flat which is "es" in
German (and other three strings are also detuned to B-flat, D-flat
Enno Senft is German, and his initials E.S. are the same for
E-flat in German. I spent many hours at his house during which he
patiently illustrated just what the double bass is capable of and
explained how it differs from the other stringed instruments.
I like writing a small solo piece as a "seed" of the
concerto, but normally don't use it directly in the final
concerto. This time I had to promise Enno I would, so it was a
challenge for me to develop the concerto from the starting point
of the 3-minute work, rather than starting from scratch.
For the concerto, I wanted to describe the journey of a human
picking up the instrument for the first time, playing it with the
palm/flesh of his/her hands, hits the Double Bass strings by hand
to produce a gentle, gong-like sound (This is only effective
because, despite its size, the double bass is so sensitive).
After this section, a human learning to play with his/her
fingernails, here he/she plays percussively, playing harshly
across the strings rapidly and strumming the strings between the
left hand on the fingerboard and the scroll, as if playing a
Spanish guitar on its side (unorthodox for the Double Bass.).
And then by pizzicato, which is one of the essential
characteristics of the double bass. at last picking up the bow
playing lyrical phrases while the ensemble is playing
energetic contrasting materials, then finding the natural
harmonics (with tremolo) at the end. (Since all the strings are
detuned, hopefully the natural harmonics also sound unique).
The ensemble reacts to what the Double Bass plays. The ensemble
consists of higher pitched instruments and they act as the
distorted harmonic series which flies into the ensemble from the
notes the soloist plays.
Dai Fujikura (edited by Miranda Jackson)