Three new instruments and a bow

No fewer than three instruments and a bow were purchased by Foundation Concertgebouworkest last month to be made available on loan to the orchestra’s musicians. So what are the stories behind the two double basses, the set of timpani and the bow?
The label affixed to the double bass built by Vincenzo Corain in 1848.
The label affixed to the double bass built by Vincenzo Corain in 1848.

Purchasing the very best instruments for the orchestra’s musicians is one of the Foundation’s most important goals, making it a major fund-raising objective among the orchestra’s private donors.

Last month, the Foundation was fortunate enough to purchase two double basses, a very special bow and a set of timpani for outdoor use. Below you can read all about the stories behind these acquisitions.

Double bass built by V. Corain now on loan to Théotime Voisin

Théotime had for some time been on the lookout for the right double bass to use in the orchestra. Thanks to his close ties with the Amsterdam-based luthier and repairer Harry Jansen, this particular double bass was flown over from the US especially for him. The instrument was built around 1848 by Vincenzo Corain in Trieste. Little is known of Corain, and only one other double bass has ever been documented. Following the listening test in the Main Hall of the Concertgebouw, an integral part of the selection process, the double bass section were all very enthusiastic about the sound of the instrument, even going so far as to call it a ‘lucky find’. The Corain has since been purchased thanks to the support of a large external fund.

Double bass built by J.F. Lott now on loan to Olivier Thiery

Club Night Olivier Thiery (foto: Renske Vrolijk)
Double bassist Olivier Thiery performs on a Club Night (photo: Renske Vrolijk).

Olivier Thiery fell head over heels for this double bass built by J.F. Lott II in London around 1850. After a trial period and research into the instrument’s origin and condition, the double bass was purchased for Olivier by Foundation Concertgebouworkest.

The varnish on this double bass is still a subject of discussion for the section and a number of experts, as it can easily fall prey to the ravages of time, its strong craquelure being one indication. One of the experts consulted says this is a common problem, but that it would be a very fine thing indeed if the process could be ‘managed’.

The double bass will certainly need to undergo several revisions before Olivier can start playing it. The approach taken in respect of the varnish will be decided based on continued discussions between the player and the expert carrying out the work. We look forward to seeing the final result!

Violin bow built by Tourte now on loan to the orchestra’s leader Liviu Prunaru

Vioolstok van Tourte detail: slof
Detail of the heel of the violin bow built by Tourte

After a lengthy search, the orchestra’s leader Liviu Prunaru tried out this bow while the Netherlands was in lockdown, comparing it to a number of other potential candidates. Liviu eventually chose this one with full conviction, despite having had little opportunity to perform with it owing to the coronavirus restrictions in place.

One of the experts who examined the bow was very impressed and was in no doubt as to its authenticity, despite a few details which are not original. He recommended that the bow should be reappraised in Paris. The response there, too, was very positive.

The bow was purchased after successful negotiations conducted by one member of the Foundation Board. Liviu recently used it in a performance with pianist Jeroen Bal given during the Master Dinners on 2 and 3 November in the Amsterdam Hall.

Timpani for outdoor use purchased for timpanists Nick Woud and Tomohiro Ando

Nick Woud had requested the purchase of a new set of timpani for use specifically on outdoor concerts. When performing out of doors, the orchestra’s principal timpanists Nick Woud and Tomohiro Ando prefer not to play on drumheads made of calfskin, since fluctuations in humidity and temperature can cause the instruments to quickly go out of tune.

Thanks to these new timpani with plastic drumheads, the timpanists can now fulfil their role with confidence when performing in the open air, as on a concert like the recent Opening Night on Dam Square. This set of timpani was purchased thanks to a wonderful financial contribution from a couple from Switzerland.