Basso profondo (Italian: "deep bass"), sometimes basso profundo or contrabass, is the lowest bass voice type.
While The New Grove Dictionary of Opera defines a typical bass as having a range that is limited to the second E below middle C (E2), operatic bassi profondi can be called on to sing low C (C2), as in the role of Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier. Often choral composers make use of lower notes, such as G1 or even F1; in such rare cases the choir relies on exceptionally deep-ranged bassi profondi termed oktavists or octavists, who sometimes sing an octave below the bass part.
According to Rousseau (1775): "Basse-contres – the most profound of all voices, singing lower than the bass like a double bass, and should not be confused with contrabasses, which are instruments."
An oktavist is an exceptionally deep-ranged basso profondo, especially typical of Russian Orthodox choral music. This voice type has a vocal range which extends down to A1 (an octave below the baritone range) and sometimes to F1 (an octave below the bass staff) with the extreme lows for oktavists, such as Mikhail Zlatopolsky or Alexander Ort, reaching C1.
Slavic choral composers sometimes make use of lower notes such as B♭1 as in Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil, G1 in "Ne otverzhi mene" by Pavel Chesnokov, or F1 in "Kheruvimskaya pesn" (Song of Cherubim) by Krzysztof Penderecki, although such notes sometimes also appear in repertoire by non-Slavic composers (e.g. B♭1 appears in Gustav Mahler's Second and Eighth Symphonies).
- Owen Jander; Lionel Sawkins; J. B. Steane; Elizabeth Forbes. L. Macy (ed.). "Bass". Grove Music Online. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2006.; The Oxford Dictionary of Music gives E2 to E4 or F4
- "Lowest vocal note by a male". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1775). Dictionnaire de musique (in French). Paris. p. 66.
- Galbraith, R. (28 March 2018). "Russian Basses". Russian Sacred Music. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
- Camp, Philip Reuel (2002). A Historical and Contextual Examination of Alexandre Gretchaninoff's Second Liturgy of St. John Chrysotom, Opus 29 (PDF) (PhD. Thesis). Texas Tech University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
- Croan, Robert (7 October 2010). "The basses of 'the Barber'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
- Morosan, Vladimir Choral Performance in Pre-revolutionary Russia, UMI Research Press, 1986.ISBN 0-8357-1713-5
- Ritzarev, Marina (2006). Eighteenth-century Russian Music. Ashgate Publishing. p. 255. ISBN 0-7546-3466-3. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
- 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
- Smirnov, Georgy (1999). Basso Profondo From Old Russia (CD Liner notes). "The Orthodox Singers" male choir. Moscow Conservatory: Russian Season. RUS 288 158. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
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Bass range, C to F