This piece was awarded in the Indianapolis Composition Contest 2001 and received positive reviews in DoubleBassist Magazine – Summer 2004 . Advanced level of playing required.
Review from Double Bassist
Summer 2004 Issue, Number 29
Quartet no.2 for db quartet
We played Swedish bass player, composer and teacher Jan Alm’s first double bass quartet at the UK Bass Club summer course in 1999, where Alm was invited as guest tutor. Our event encouraged him to write this second quartet and the first two movements were played in 2000 at the Bass Club, The work was completed in 2001 and won the International Society of Bassists composition contest.
Each player is given an equal part across the four movements. Having been conceived as a string quartet, it is not a work that finds a single top part playing high and the other parts providing what might be considered ‘boring’ supporting roles. Alm’s style of writing shows his love of harmony and uses very characteristic enharmonic changes – there is clear influence from the Romantics. As a bassist himself, his writing is perfectly idiomatic and although a lot of it is virtuosic. It is all playable.
The piece opens with sensitive part-writing around a dotted figure interspersed with a quaver motif, which runs throughout the work. This is developed and opens out into a rhythmic section with answering fragments before a main tune. Influences from Alm’s early days as a jazz pianist slip in for a few bars before a revisit to the earlier melodic material. There is a charming pizzicato meno mosso before an accelerando to the closing section of the movement. Near the end the texture is light, and there is a nice moment where answering pairs have a quaver figure off the string which is always fun to rehearse, This movement is particularly well suited to stand alone performance in a concert.
The second movement, as with the fourth, has a happy, summer sense of fun. It begins with an introduction with arpeggios across the parts, in 2/2 before a 6/8 moderate, which is full of rhythmic drive and clever use of unisons and chromatic passages. There is a wonderful climax before an F major flourish downwards preceding a very effective subito meno mosso.
An atmospheric andante third movement reveals some gorgeous melodic writing. It is beautifully written with some lovely rhythmic twists of fours against threes and is challenging to get in tune. The mood is thoughtful but always hopeful and finishes with some effective false harmonics in the first part. The work concludes with a driving rhythmic sense where the triplet figure holds attention – again a very nice melody well treated throughout. In the middle there is quite a tricky syncopated passage where the second and fourth bass answer each other, Endless rehearsal fun can be had with the passage.
This work is one of the best examples of well-crafted meticulous quartet writing by an artist who understands the instrument. The main test is that, if played well, it stands as a piece of music, not just another bass piece, and can be enjoyed by any audience.
Finally, you might like to note its presentation. The score and the parts are beautifully written by hand and the cover is reproduced from a painting that Alm created himself.
Reviewed by CAROLINE EMERY