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The Unbearable Lightness

for seven double basses

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The double basses carried almost a human conversation with the audience, as the range of sound and emotion evoked from these instruments went far beyond the expected deep bass of these somber giants massed on the small stage.

Mark Kuznetsov  Educational Bridge 


I have always felt that the increasing virtuosity of modern- day solo bass players has left room for further musical exploration. The surprising commission from Tanglewood to write for an ensemble of seven double basses, and the chance to work with players of the TMC caliber, provided me with a creative opportunity to address this challenge. As inspiring as this was, composing for seven double basses proved to be a rather difficult task. Quite early in the process, I decided to split the players into two groups of three, with a soloist in between. However, I spent months trying to think of a musical reason substantial enough to justify scoring for such a peculiar, though exciting, combination.

The trigger for the “Gestalt” of this piece eventually came from an extra musical source – a film by the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, “Separation.” The film focuses on a girl, desperately moving between her two parents in the process of divorce, against the difficult reality of life in Iran. The deliberate choice of the director to eliminate music

throughout “Separation,” accentuated the prevailing sense of anxiety. And yet, amidst waves of tension, there were sudden islands of subdued lyricism, which I felt, had an almost illusory quality. Although it was quite clear that there could be no real solution, in these brief moments we managed to move beyond the hardship and imagine a beautiful, though impossible, alternative.

The title of the work, alluding to Milan Kundera, refers to a similar sense of illusion – wanting to obtain something, which is beyond reach. The piece is dedicated to the memory of my uncle, Misha Rivlin, who passed away prematurely while I was in the process of composition. The ending Coda and the transformation of the soloist that occurs towards the end have been influenced by this loss.

—Mátti Kovler




Seven double basses

July 8, 2012


Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood

Tanglewood Double Bass Fellows

Todd Seeber - coach

Commissioned by Tanglewood Music Center, with the generous support of the Merwin Geffen, M.D. and Norman Solomon, M.D New Commissions Fund.

In Memoriam Misha Rivlin


The Unbearable Lightness | Tangelwood

Tanglewood Fellows, Mátti Kovler, conductor

1:29 min, excerpt

The Unbearable Lightness | Power Center (2012)

Diana Gannett, double bass, Bill De Young (choreography)

17:46 min, full (choreographed)

The Unbearable Lightness | ISB Convention (2013)

Diana Gannett, double bass

14:29 min, full




Amanda Cooper, ALC Management 



Inquiries for ‘Here Comes Messiah’, ‘Ami & Tami’, ‘The Drumf & the Rhinegold’:

Floating Tower

Erin Simmons, producer


139 Jackson St. Suite 4B 

Brooklyn NY 11211

tel: +1 469 826 0000

Mátti Kovler's scores and recordings are published exclusively by BarkolMusic [ASCAP] and Floating Tower Records. 


Inquiries regarding all European engagements: 

World Entertainment Company

Luca Ceretta, managing director

Király utca 56. 1. em 5

1068 Budapest

cell HU +36 3067 49980

cell ITA +39 329 472 1404

For Repertoire advice, commission inquiries and general information about scores and individual works please contact Mátti directly at

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