Octavist or oktavist is a type of male singer who sings an octave below the normal bass part, especially typical of Russian Orthodox vocal music. This voice type has a much lower vocal range than what the Western school of music terms "basso profondo". Indeed, a man of this voice type sings a full octave below the normal bass register, having a comfortable vocal range of E1-E3. This practice and tradition is illustrated in the CD "Basso Profondo From Old Russia". On the sixth track, "Do Not Reject Me In My Old Age" (Ne Otverzhi Mene) by Pavel Chesnokov, the oktavist soloist sings a G1.
- Vladimir Pasyukov
- Yuri Wichniakov
- Vladimir Miller
- Laszlo Domahidy
- Mikhail Kruglov
- Alexander Ort
- J.D. Sumner
- Tim Storms
In recent years, the warm, powerful oktavist sound has gained quite a following online. There are several videos on Youtube showcasing this unique sound, the comments on those videos are rife with praise and discussion, and there is even a Basso Profundo Blog. Old masters such as Vladimir Pasyukov (born on July, 29th, 1944) and Yuri Wichniakov, as well as younger singers like Vladimir Miller (1964) and Mikhail Kruglov (1972) are all hailed for the power in their voice. All four have recorded Pavel Chesnokov's Do Not Reject Me In My Old Age (Ne Otverzhi Mene). Vladimir Pasyukov retired a few years ago and is being lauded by many as among the very finest oktavist singers in history. He died a few weeks ago, on June, 20th 2011.
Along with a third oktavist, Sergei Kochetov, Vladimir Miller and Mikhail Kruglov recently recorded a number of classic Russian folk songs and similar music, singing them in a low pitched key. The idea was to invoke the old oktavist tradition which dates back to the Tzar's court, where there would be several oktavists assembled to sing when called upon. The trio also sang in a number of concerts as a part of the project.
As it says on the Bass Wikipedia page: "Parts for basses have included notes as low as the B-flat two octaves and a tone below middle C (B♭1), for example in the Rachmaninov Vespers, G below that (e.g. Measure 76 of Ne Otverzhi Mene by Pavel Chesnokov) or F below those in Kheruvimskaya pesn (Song of Cherubim) by Krzysztof Penderecki." This last song is rarely performed as it was written by Penderecki, since it is very, very rare to find a man who can sing a contra F-note.
Scarcity of oktavists
Vladimir Miller once said: "One million people, one Basso Profundo" (refer to his masterclass in the Netherlands, the year 2006). Using this approximation, one could reach the conclusion that there are roughly 6000 men in the world with basso Profundo range. Of course, this should be taken with a grain of salt, given the lack of real numbers.
Notes and references
- Basso Profondo From Old Russia, Liner Notes, Russian Season, CD: RUS 288 158, 1999. Accessed 8 January 2009.
- Camp, Philip Reuel, A Historical and Contextual Examination of Alexandre Gretchaninoff's Second Liturgy of St. John Chrysotom, Opus 29, PhD. Thesis, Texas Tech University, 2002, p. 63. Accessed 8 January 2009.
- Ritzarev, Marina, Eighteenth-century Russian Music, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006, p. 255. ISBN 0754634663
- Morosan, Vladimir Choral Performance in Pre-revolutionary Russia, UMI Research Press, 1986. ISBN 0835717135
- Rommereim, J. C., "The Choir and How to Direct It: Pavel Chesnokov's magnum opus", Choral Journal, Official Publication of the American Choral Directors Association, XXXVIII, no. 7, 1998