Montreal Symphony Orchestra acquires a rare octobass
The newest member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s ensemble has a sound so gruff and guttural it will turn your knees to jelly.
Like an acoustic subwoofer, the octobass is the largest three-stringed instrument in the world and is 90 per cent larger than a double bass. Rising up from the back ranks of the orchestra, it dwarfs those around it standing at 3.6 metres tall and 131 kg.
The Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) will be the first to have access to the three-stringed instrument.
“For many years, we at the OSM have strived to present performances of great 19th century repertoire inspired by the perspectives offered by recent scholarly research,” wrote Maestro Kent Nagano, the orchestra’s music director, in a press release. “We eagerly await our chance to introduce this fascinating instrument to our public.”
The octobass was first invented in Paris in 1849 by Jean-Baptiste Viullaume. It plays more than an octave below a standard double bass and can reach the lowest threshold of human hearing.
Originally there were only three of these musical monsters crafted. Of those originals, only one remains. It lives in the Musée de la Musique in Paris.
This newcomer isn’t an original, but a replica purchased by a Quebec-based parts manufacturing company, Canimex, headed by classical music patrons Roger and Huguette Dubois who loaned the rare instrument to the OSM.
There are only three replicas that exist around the world; however the others are non-operational, which has elevated the octobass’ status to a nearly mythical level.
The octobass is composed of 237 moving parts played by manoeuvering a system of levers and pedals coupled with playing the strings with a bow. In order to play the beast properly, a musician needs to stand on a platform to achieve the right height.
The octobass made its first appearance at a concert on Oct. 20.
With files from CTV’s Genevieve Beauchemin in Montreal