Tell us about the upcoming Sperger Competition. What is your involvement and how can students prepare for this competition?
The next Sperger Competition is in March of 2022. The founder of the Sperger Society asked me five or six years ago if I could run it, and I agreed to do it for a time. My initial interest came from the creative idea within it, but I never thought it would be so much work! The whole competition is quite expensive, mostly because we wanted it to be very professional with some real prizes. It’s a big deal for bassists. But of course, if we want it to be big, we have to find the money and that takes a lot of time and energy. I’m not alone, thankfully. Two former students of mine are helping me put it all together, along with a host of others. At first I thought I would only be the Artistic Director of the competition, but this part went quick. The organizational element is what seems to continue to be a challenge. I’m thankful for what I have learned from this process, and when we host the competition, we are all reminded of why we put in the long hours to make it happen. What a joy it is to hear everyone play and be in such good company. 2020 was a challenge for us for obvious reasons (Covid 19), but we had the idea to make some virtual options for those still willing to compete. We actually had double the amount of participants at our very successful International Double Bass Quarantine Challenge 2020. None of us are professional organizers by trade, but we have managed to do a decent job. I don’t give myself up entirely to Sperger but my music and technique are based on classical music and style. All musicians should be familiar with classical style because it lays the foundation for how we play the instrument properly. Most orchestra auditions have a classical piece on it, so it is very much worth it to work on pieces by Sperger, Vanhal, and Dittersdorf.
Next year will be the first time we open the competition to solo tuning and Viennese tuning. I think the time has now come for this. The Sperger sonatas are not originally for double bass and piano, they are for double bass and viola or double bass and cello. It’s a nice idea to get the violists and cellists to play with us, but it’s also more work to organize. We have new editions of the Concerto No. 2, based on Urtext, which was just released by Paladino Editions. It’s easy to figure out the musical problems, it’s really just the money thing that poses a challenge. The online application is open now, it will be held in Northern Germany, and we will have fun!
Do you have advice for those looking to compete in this competition?
It’s just like preparing for an audition, but you will just play more notes. Also, your preparation time is longer. You have more time to choose what pieces you are going to play and if you want to learn a new piece or pick up an older piece you already know. You need a lot of time to prepare because we are asking for a lot of music. Do not get started too late, especially if you are unfamiliar with Sperger’s works. The pieces are not so difficult, and yet it can be very difficult to make them sound good. Some pieces you need time for all the notes, but for these pieces you need time to get the style right and to grow into them musically.