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The Montreal Symphony Orchestra's new octobass has arrived

Robert Rowat

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra just announced that it has acquired an octobass, the largest and lowest-sounding instrument of the string family, becoming the only orchestra in the world to have this rare instrument in its ranks.

“For many years, we at the OSM have strived to present performances of great 19th-century repertoire inspired by the perspectives offered by recent scholarly research,” said music director Kent Nagano in a press release. The orchestra takes a step closer to that goal by the addition of the octobass, long missing from the modern stage and advocated by many composers, notably Hector Berlioz.

Standing 12 feet 8 inches tall, the octobass comprises hundreds of parts and a system of levers that make it possible for an experienced musician to play with a bow.

The instrument, a faithful reproduction of the original built by Jean-Baptiste Villaume, will first be heard on Oct. 20, 22 and 23 in concerts featuring Schumann's Cello Concerto, Strauss's Ein Heldenleben and a new work by José Evangelista. Double bassist Eric Chappell will specialize in its performance.

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra receives its new octobass.