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Inside the Music

Doubling a Double Bass: The Story of William Schrickel’s Instruments

A portrait of William Schrickel wearing formal concert attire and holding two large string basses.

When Assistant Principal Bass William Schrickel sat for a portrait with photographer Zoe Prinds-Flash earlier this year, he brought not one but two instruments to pose with—a 300-year-old Venetian string bass and another bass that, if not for its shiny varnish, looked like a near-exact replica. Below is the story of these instruments—bringing a whole new meaning to another name for an orchestral string bass, a double bass—as told by Schrickel, the self-described luckiest person in the world.

When I perform on the Orchestra Hall stage, I play on a string bass that was made in Venice three hundred years ago by the great Italian luthier Matteo Goffriller. The instrument is one of several that were donated to the Minnesota Orchestra some years ago by two couples who had a long history of making generous contributions to the Orchestra: Ken and Judy Dayton, and Doug and Louise Leatherdale.

The Goffriller had previously been owned by a player in the Toronto Symphony. During his time with the bass, he took it to a Canadian instrument maker named Peter Chandler and asked him to make an exact copy of it. Chandler took extremely detailed measurements and made drawings of the bass, which he worked from to create his copy. And then Chandler sold the “blueprints,” though it’s not clear to whom. They circulated for years among different luthiers until Steve Koscica, a bass player in the Phoenix Symphony who also owns and operates a musical instrument business called the String Emporium, got hold of them.

Steve has worked with a network of instrument makers in Romania, and he asked one of these skilled luthiers to make a Goffriller copy from Peter Chandler’s blueprints. The copy was wonderful, and Steve asked to have a couple more copies made so that he could sell them in the United States through String Emporium.

I wasn’t aware of any of this until about two years ago when Matt Frischman, one of my colleagues in the Orchestra’s bass section, said to me in passing, “Hey, I was looking at basses on the internet—there’s a place in Phoenix that sells a Goffriller model bass, and I think it might be a copy of the bass you're playing on here.” I made a couple phone calls and was flabbergasted to find that Matt was correct­—the model Steve Koscica was selling was created in Romania from Peter Chandler’s drawings of the same Goffriller I had been playing for several years at Orchestra Hall.


I wasn’t sure what to do with this newfound information. I was not in the market to purchase another instrument. But this bass that was an exact copy of “my” Goffriller! How could I not follow up on this amazing coincidence? So last January, I took a trip to Phoenix and made an appointment to play on the Romanian-made bass.

An image of William Schrickel, wearing formal concert attire and holding two large string basses.

Schrickel poses with the 1710 Goffriller to his left and the copy to his right. Photo: Zoe Prinds-Flash

Now, one must remember that no modern instrument is going to truly duplicate the sound of a bass made in the 1700s by one of the world’s greatest makers. But the size, the shape of the upper and lower bouts, the string length and the feel in my hands were a perfect match for the Orchestra’s Goffriller! The bass projects well, it has a strong low range and it’s easy to play. And, it cost a fraction of what the original is valued at. It ended up being a no-brainer—I had the bass shipped to Minneapolis, played it on the stage for a week, had all my colleagues play on it and listen to it (it was a unanimous decision—the instrument is a keeper), and I immediately snapped it up! So now I have a rare Venetian beauty to perform on and a sweet Romanian copy on which to practice at home. I know of no one who is luckier than I.

Assistant Principal Bass William Schrickel, a native of Iowa, joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 1976. He recently released Vintage '88, a CD on Centaur Records comprising chamber works by Peter Schickele, Laura Karpman and Stanisław Skrowaczewski. He has appeared as soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra three times, once under the baton of Andrew Litton and twice with Leonard Slatkin, performing music of John Tartaglia and Giovanni Bottesini.

Schrickel was the music director of the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra from 2000 to 2023. He led a critically acclaimed performance of Dominick Argento’s one-act opera, The Boor, in 2017, and he and the MSO gave the first performance of Osmo Vänskä’s The Bridge in 2008. He was music director of the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra from 2002 to 2008, and during the 2005-06 season he served as an assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra.