Anyone who sits in the concert hall in the evening and looks into the orchestra can see that there are still male bastions in classical music: Firstly, the profession of conductor – although women are slowly catching up here.
On the other hand, there are still hardly any female players playing the trombones and trumpets, the double basses and the percussion. Because girls often opt for the supposedly typically female instruments, i.e. the small, dainty ones like the flute and violin.
Maria Krykov, on the other hand, was aiming for the largest of the string instruments at the age of six when she was given the choice in elementary school. And she gets along very well with the double bass: she enjoys practicing, every day she has lessons in her music-focused school in Helsinki, four times a week in a group, once individually.
After graduating from high school, she began studying at the Sibelius Academy in her native town, met a professor from the Essen Folkwang School at a Finnish festival and moved to Germany. She then gets the finishing touches from Matthew McDonald, the principal double bass player in the Berlin Philharmonic, who teaches at the Hanns Eisler University.
After corona-related delays, Maria Krykov can finally take her concert exam. And in public, with an appearance in the “Eisler Stars” series, which the university organizes together with the Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt.
She wants to prove that the double bass is an underestimated instrument. She will perform arrangements of Maurice Ravel’s violin “Habanera” and Johannes Brahms’ cello sonata in E minor, as well as an original composition by Giovanni Bottesini, who conducted the premiere of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida”, but above all as the greatest double bass virtuoso of his time was valid and composed a lot for the instrument.
But in the end, even he couldn’t keep up with the stubborn prejudices: the double bass is considered cumbersome, bulky, unwieldy, even clumsy. “When playing fast,” one reads in “Riemann’s Handbook of Instruments,” “the flow of such low notes always has something grotesque about it.”
The most brutal characterization, however, can be found in Patrick Süskind’s 1980 one-man play Der Kontrabass: “He looks like a fat old woman. The hips too low, the waist totally crashed; and then those narrow, drooping, rickety shoulders – to drive you crazy.”
No wonder that the basses are relegated to the back of the orchestra. As the Sisyphuses of the music business, they do their job, only provide the acoustic foundation and are never allowed to play the beautiful melodies.
But if you let them step out of the shadows, they reveal undreamt-of qualities: This trumm is not only an excellent singer, with a vocal range of almost five octaves, from the elemental growl that goes into the chest to the fluting harmonics, but also the most physical , yes, the most erotic of all instruments. Just compare the squished postures of the violinists, watch the harpists barely tickling the strings. Brass players need pursed lips, percussionists strike.
There is only a similarly close physical contact with the cello. But while the players always dominate there when they clamp the instrument between their thighs, the balance of power with the double bass remains tingly in the balance. He can be a big brother or a tall lover. The players nestle against its wood, embrace the body and let the instrument dance at their side.
Compared to fellow violinists, however, the double bass players have to dash back and forth on the fretboard with their left hand in virtuoso pieces in such a way that they should be paid a mileage allowance. And the question of transport is a horror anyway.
With the luggage box, the thing weighs 33 kilos – and with many airlines it is difficult to put it in the hold. If you choose the lighter variant of the padded transport cover, you have to be extremely careful on the train and bus that no mishaps happen. You can use the cover as a sleeping bag in an emergency.
Maria Krykov started taking part in competitions early on in her studies – and winning prizes. More important to her, however, was the opportunity to gain practical experience. “As a double bass player, you don’t often get to perform as a soloist with an orchestra,” she says. “Anyone who makes it into the final round of a competition gets this opportunity.” And afterwards they might be invited to other concert appearances. Maria Krykov was able to show her skills as a soloist in Baden-Baden, Trier and with the Munich Chamber Orchestra.
This was followed – while she was still a student – by an orchestral internship in Cologne, a period as an academic with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and finally, in 2019, her first permanent position in her home country. “I applied to the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra together with my friend Piotr Zimnik, who also plays the double bass,” reports Maria Krykov. “I got the job back then, he only got a temporary contract. That’s why he looked around – and then won the audition with the Berlin Philharmonic. After that I looked around the city again.”
And successfully: in April she was hired for the position of solo double bass player with the Konzerthausorchester from the coming season. Her “Eisler Stars” recital at Gendarmenmarkt is also Maria Krykov’s official graduation – and her solo debut in the house that will be her artistic home.