Double bassist Edgar Meyer says that audiences "tend to have low expectations" for his instrument when it is cast in a symphonic solo role. But he's not making a pun about one of the deepest voices in the orchestra.
He's referring to the fact that the classical solo repertoire for the largest member of the violin family is rather scant."It's actually a wonderful solo instrument," Meyer said during an interview from his home in Nashville. "It has a suprising lyric quality, and in many ways it's easy to get around on.
"People are interested in the extreme ranges of the bass - and if nothing else, it's a different sound, a darker sound. A change is a nice thing."
These days, neither the repertoire nor the role of the instrument - called "string bass", or "bass fiddle" by jazz and country musicians, and "bass", "double bass," or "brass viol" by classical musicians - are as little-known as they once were.
And Meyer is the reason.
Local audiences will get a chance to find out for themselves when Meyer performs his own Concerto in D for Double Bass and Orchestra with the Utah Symphony next weekend.
Speaking of the concerto he composed and will play with the Utah Symphony on Friday and Saturday, Meyer says, "There's not one outstanding influence. Structurally it's like a 19th century classical concerto, and it's not unrelated to the virtuoso tradition of violin and cello music, but indirectly there is influence from jazz, fiddle music, and pop music."
Meyer's impeccable credentials in the world of classical music include regular appearances as a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and as a performer and composer in festivals throughout the world.
But that's only part of the story. The busy musician can be heard on recordings with a wide assortment of artists, such as Garth Brooks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Hank Williams Jr., Emmylou Harris, James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, T-Bone Burnett, Reba McIntyre, the Indigo Girls, Travis Tritt, and the Chieftains.
Meyer finds his involvement in a colorful cross-section of musical interests to be very enjoyable and a natural outgrowth of his upbringing in Tennessee, where he was exposed to a wide variety of musical styles.
"I do music," he explained. "I don't have it partitioned off, and I'm interested in whatever wets my whistle.'
The Utah Symphony Masterworks performances featuring Edgar Meyer will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 17 and 18, at Abravanel Hall at 8 p.m. In addition to the Meyer Concerto in D for Double Bass and Orchestra, the symphony will perform Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn and Prokofiev's Symphony NO. 5.