Basso profondo

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Basso profondo (Italian: "deep bass"), sometimes basso profundo or contrabass, is the bass voice subtype with the lowest vocal range.

Basso profondo voice range (C2–C4) indicated on piano keyboard in green with dot marking middle C.

While The New Grove Dictionary of Opera defines a typical bass as having a range that is limited to the second E below middle C (E2),[1] operatic basso profondos can be called on to sing low C (C2), such as in the role of Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier. Often choral composers make use of lower notes (G1 or even F1).

Definition[edit]

Range of a basso profondo according to the Italian definition ranging from F4 to C2

According to the Italian definition,[citation needed] any singer with an E2 in fortissimo is a basso profondo. Italian composers considered basso profondos as basses with a large voice, which can descend lower than the usual bass singers with a range of E2 to E4. The essential part being the large sonorous voice and not the lower register.

A historical reference of the basso profondo range was published in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Dictionnaire de musique (1775), which states: "Basse-contres ~ the most profound of all voices, singing lower than the bass like a double bass, and should not be confused with contrabasses, which are instruments."[2]

Russian composer Pavel Chesnokov divides the bass section into these groups:

  1. baritones
  2. light basses
  3. strong basses
  4. strong basses with a good low register
  5. oktavists with medium range, power and a soft sound
  6. strong and deep oktavists

Groups 5 and 6 are considered basso profondos.

Oktavist[edit]

An oktavist is an exceptionally deep-ranged basso profondo, especially typical of Russian Orthodox choral music. This voice type has a vocal range which extends down to A1 (an octave below the baritone range) and sometimes to F1 (an octave below the bass staff).

Slavic choral composers sometimes make use of lower notes such as B1 in the Rachmaninov Vespers, G1 in "Ne otverzhi mene" by Pavel Chesnokov or F1 in "Kheruvimskaya pesn" (Song of Cherubim) by Krzysztof Penderecki. Russian composers often make no distinction between a basso profondo, an oktavist or a contrabass singer.

Because the voice usually takes a long time to develop and grow, low notes sound most resonant and full when the singer matures to 40 or 50 years of age;[citation needed] thus oktavists are often older men.[3]

Sergei Kochetov, Vladimir Miller and Mikhail Kruglov recorded a number of classic Russian folk songs and similar music, singing them in a low-pitched key to invoke the old oktavist tradition which dates back to the Tzar's court.

Notable basso profondos[edit]

Operatic[edit]

Oktavists[edit]

Other[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Owen Jander, Lionel Sawkins, J. B. Steane, Elizabeth Forbes (ed L Macy). "Bass". Grove Music Online. Archived from the original on 13 June 2006. Retrieved 14 June 2006. ; The Oxford Dictionary of Music gives E2 to E4 or F4
  2. ^ Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1775). Dictionnaire de musique (in French). Paris. p. 66. Basse-Contres ~ les plus graves de toutes les Voix, qui chantent la Basse sous la Basse même, & qu'il ne faut pas confondre avec les Contre-basses, qui sont des Instruments. 
  3. ^ Croan, Robert (7 October 2010). "The basses of 'the Barber'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Morosan, Vladimir Choral Performance in Pre-revolutionary Russia, UMI Research Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8357-1713-5
  • Rommereim, J. C., "The Choir and How to Direct It: Pavel Chesnokov's magnum opus", Choral Journal, Official Publication of the American Choral Directors Association, XXXVIII, no. 7, 1998

External links[edit]