Daryl Runswick writes:

I began this piece in 1981 aged thirty-five – and finished it in 2012
at sixty-five. In the meantime I'd given up playing the double bass to do other things, then started again just for fun. Below you'll find a programme note and the first few pages of the music. If you'd like a copy of the CD or the complete
score, please email me.

On this recording I'm playing my
NS Design Omni Bass, a rather
high-class electric instrument (see picture below).

 

 

          Between the summer of 1967 and the autumn of 1983 my job (one of my jobs, anyway) was that of a professional double bass player. The period this covers can be determined very accurately because it begins when I came down from Cambridge aged 20 and ends when I did my final gig as a bassplayer, for the London Sinfonietta at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on the eve of my 37th birthday. In between I played at some of the top venues in the world with some of the world’s biggest names. But by 1983 major changes were taking place in my life and it might not be too outlandish to say that on that October day in 1983 I renounced the double bass. I hardly touched it from that time until the happy moment at christmas 2011 when, simply for fun, I began playing again.

          On quitting as a bassplayer I left behind an unfinished solo sonata. It was quite large in scope, an ambitious piece synthesising my jazz and classical bassplaying experience. The sketches still exist, dated 1981, including a fifteen-page mock-up of a ‘complete version’ cobbled together with as yet no proper ending. I actually performed from this mock-up in a recital I gave at the Horniman Museum in London in late 1981 (I must have improvised around it). I was aware at the time that the piece had promise, but I was going in a different direction by then and the omens were not propitious. My return to the bass at the age of 65 was a joyous one and the sonata soon came out of its cardboard folder for a fresh airing. What I discovered was a succession of good and, it must be admitted, less good bits, much in need of an overhaul, but with distinct possibilities. My task now was not only to tidy up an old and overgrown garden but also to get inside the head of the young composer, distantly related to my present self, who had begun this piece more than thirty years previously. I must revise and complete the Sonata in his style, no longer mine.

          The old piece contained four continuous sections, slow/fast/slow/fast. I don’t remember whether I originally intended improvisation to play a part in the finished work (it no longer does). The new Sonata is also in four sections. The 1981 version’s slow Introduction is mostly retained, and the following Allegro is more or less the same as before. But then there follows a Theme and Variations newly composed in 2012 (though developed directly from the old materials). Finally the continuing variations morph into a Recapitulation of the Allegro (something the 1981 Runswick didn’t plan). Thus the piece emerged in 2012 as an extended ‘symphony-sonata’ in the manner of the Liszt Sonata in B minor or Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony. Odd, perhaps, because I was experimenting with sonata shapes in the early 80s but didn’t plan this piece as one: whereas by the Millennium I had arrived at substitute sonata shapes of my own (eg the scafra forms in Third Sonata) but for this piece gravitated naturally back to the traditional forms.

          The Sonata is dedicated to the memory of Robin McGee, principal double bass with the London Sinfonietta in the days when I played with them, and something of a mentor to me. It lasts about 25 minutes.