Sergey Koussevitsky, double bass soloist and noted orchestra conductor.
b.1874 Tver, Russia d.1951 Boston, USA
I met Sergey Koussevitsky in the late ‘forties when he conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, London. It was his farewell tour and just before the concert he gave us all a red carnation to wear in his remembrance.
He was fairly tall, medium built and with thinning gray hair. He must have been in his late seventies, but he was very energetic and alert, and was a great conductor, having a deep insight into the music and being able to draw out magical sounds from the orchestra.
Unfortunately one little mishap spoiled the programme. In Beethoven’s Symphony # 1. last movement, he botched the lead in to the allegro and some of the violins came in raggedly. He stopped and commenced again and led the orchestra to a brilliant finish, in fact, the whole concert was wonderful, except for this little slip. Coincidentally some time later Sir Adrian Boult conducted the same piece in the same venue and made the same mistake
When I asked him for some advice on bass playing all he would say was ‘ To get ze good tone you must grip bass hard’. At the time I was not impressed with his remark but later on I found the wisdom of it.
In his solo days Koussevitsky had played the Bottesini Duets for Two Basses with Victor Watson, principal bass of the LPO, and Victor passed on to me some valuable tips that he had gained from Koussevitsky that I have included in a CD recording I recently made accompanied by Mary Rannie, principal bass of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Canada.
After his death Koussevitsky’s wife presented his very fine solo bass to my good friend Gary Karr, the famous double bass soloist who played it often in public and on some of his many recordings. I can remember the glorious sound he obtained from it when he was the soloist at concerts that I also played with the Pro Arte Orchestra and when I was principal bass of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.