The Popkin-Glickman Bassoon Camp is a great way to focus on all things bassoon for ten days in the beautiful mountains of Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Our friend, James Poe is the reed making expert at the camp.
The authoritative edition of Mozart’s bassoon concerto KV 191 is published by Bärenreiter with cadenzas by Jane Gower. One of the most popular performing editions was edited by Walter Guetter and is published by TrevCo. A classic edition is published by Universal, edited with cadenzas by Milan Turkovic. There are many editions and cadenzas available from TrevCo-Varner Music.
For recordings, the classics include Sherman Walt with the Boston Symphony, Klaus Thunemann with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Bernard Garfield with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Willard Elliot with the Chicago Symphony, Maurice Allard with the Mozart Academy Orchestra in Salzburg, and Leonard Sharrow with Toscanini and the NBC Symphony.
Danny Bond’s subtle classical bassoon version with the Academy of Ancient Music is a delight, as is Jane Gower’s elegant performance. Any chance to hear Concertgebouw, especially with the virtuoso Gustavo Núñez is essential. Frank Morelli recorded a crystal clear rendition with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The consummate technique of the young David McGill with the Cleveland Orchestra is not to be missed. And, Dag Jensen is always a pleasure to hear.
Here are some iTunes links:
Coming up this week—Friday, October 17, 2014 @ 8:00 PM in Pease Auditorium:
Using the first five reeds made with Neuranter gouged cane and Rieger 1A shaper. They sing! Really happy with the tone and agility. The cane isn’t too hard, but not so soft that it sounds mushy. Great when cane vibrates . . . just ordered more Neuranter cane–a winner!
The Protec bassoon reed case is a very nice inexpensive alternative. Five reeds are held in place with dense foam. The case is made of high quality durable plastic, and is designed with excellent ventilation to allow the reeds to dry thoroughly. A spring latch securely keeps the case closed.
Meridian Winds has a huge inventory of bassoons available for sale! Most of these are Walter Kroner bassoons. The “Walter Kroner” label was a store brand of Custom Music Inc. These are bassoons made in workshops in the Vogtland region in Germany. Some of these bassoons were produced before the reunification, and some just after. They are fully equipped and play very well. Here is the item from Meridian Winds:
Attention Music Educators, Bassoonists, Bassoon Teachers/Instructors, Bassoon students . . . Meridian Winds has recently acquired several dozen top quality Hard Rock Maple bassoons from German makers, Adler, Kroner/Adler, Walter Kroner / B&S, Schreiber, Muller, Sonare, Puchner, Kohlert and Amati. These bassoons are all in excellent condition, have been checked over as needed in our shop by our bassoon specialist and are in excellent playing condition. Recently noted Music Educator, Adjudicator and Bassoonist David Fitts spent the day at Meridian Winds play testing each instrument and selecting the best bocal for each instrument. These fine instruments are New / Old stock and are all in like new condition. If you, your school or your student/s are looking for a great selection of quality instruments from which to choose you will want to make an appointment to stop by the shop or call and we can select an instrument for you. These instruments are priced to sell and are all in the $2500 to $4000 price range. All are in excellent condition cases with a case cover and new bocals as needed, with crutch and seat strap.
New recording for Music Minus One:
These are the old standards that every student should know! A great deal–sheet music solo parts for twelve pieces, plus accompaniment CD.
For many years now, I’ve had a plaque on the wall of my bassoon studio which reads, “Control, Concentration, Consistency”—the three “C-s.” After so many years of teaching, I would now add three “B-s”: “Breath, Beauty, Boldness.” These are the qualities of a fine performance—to take the risks necessary for expressivity and musicality, but to maintain poise and reliability. So much of the bassoonist’s lyrical playing is truly “singing without words.” The great singers thrill audiences by risking all and going for the high note—right to the edge of the technique—but manage to execute technical feats with sure-footed grace and seeming effortlessness. And, consummate musicianship.
Accurate bassoon intonation depends on:
- instrument in adequate if not good mechanical condition
- bocal of appropriate length and focused tone quality
- reed in proper adjustment
- player with excellent pitch sense and understanding of the tendencies of the bassoon
The mechanical adjustments must be made by a qualified repairman, the instrument “voiced” to a relatively even scale. Leaky pads, or pads which open to the wrong height can be detrimental to your ability to play in tune.
The bassoonist would do best to combine a bocal and reed that feature a very centered (focused), perhaps dark, tone. A centered tone makes it easier for the other instrumentalists in the ensemble to hear, even feel, the pitch so that they may more easily find and match that pitch. Pitch ambiguity is often the result of a bright tone quality that features unusual strength in overtones and weakness in the fundamental, hence a quality that may imply to some listeners pitch other than the one desired. I used a Heckel “CC” bocal for many years, and still like it. Recently, though, I switched to the new R2 Fox bocals and believe they are even better! I think most Fox CVX vocals may be too bright for modern bassoons (Fox CVC bocals are better). The newer Fox “Double Star” bocals are excellent and can make any bassoon sound better. As always, though, try as many bocals as you can to find one that matches your instrument. What about length? Most bassoonists use a Heckel #1 or #2 (comparable with Fox #2 or #3). Your particular reed style and instrument will determine the length you need.
A reed that is adjusted to play especially well in the lowest octave is recommended since the bassoon is scored predominantly as the bass voice in the ensemble. (There are other ways to improve response in the upper register.) The bassoon player is cautioned, however, against allowing the free-blowing reed to be too low in pitch, since constant “lipping-up” of pitch eliminates any resonance benefit to the lowest octave. The reed that is strong in the lowest octave, in combination with the bocal that produces a compact sound–strong in the fundamental partial, will produce a resonant darkness in tone quality that is desirable in ensemble performance. I tell my students to aim for a reed which is 56-57 mm long. Then, if the “one finger E” drops too easily, there is still room to clip the reed without making it too short to play the octaves in tune.
The bassoon player must be aware of the pitch tendencies of each of the notes and registers of the bassoon. The reed must be flexible enough to allow embouchure adjustment of the pitch for the full range of the instrument, especially so that the player may accommodate certain sharping or flatting tendencies of the other instruments in the ensemble.
So many factors come between you and a good bassoon tone:
YOU . . .
. . . BEAUTIFUL TONE
So, to improve the tone, one must seek to improve every link in the tone production chain.
The serious bassoonist makes many reeds. The idea here is to improve the chances of finding a good one. Since commercial reeds are so expensive, and, usually, not particularly well-suited to the individual needs of every player, the best way to improve reeds is to learn to make them. Work with your private teacher, go to clinics and seminars, attend summer camp, and read a book (e.g. The Art of Bassoon Playing by William Spencer). One way or another, you can learn to make and adjust the reeds you play.
Most generic bocals used with school bassoons are just plain awful. Bocals, too, are quite expensive. But, a professional bocal will help you sound better and, incidentally, will improve your intonation. There are some new bocals on the market now which have been getting good reviews, but prices vary widely. If at all possible, you should try before you buy or, at least, order bocals from a dealer who will offer a trial period (10 days or so). Here are some bocals to try:
Heckel (prices ca. $900) try CC-2
Fox (ca. $750) try *CVC-2* or *CVX-3* (the new R2 models are fantastic!)
Yamaha (standard bocals ca. $200; Super bocals ca. $300)
Many school bassoons are in poor repair; many weren’t good instruments to begin with. A good instrument costs a lot of money. Occasionally a decent used instrument can be had, but buyer beware! Always get a second opinion!
Probably the best deal in a popular mid-priced bassoon these days is either the Fox Renard Model 220 or 240. For a little less, a perfectly serviceable instrument is the Fox Professional Model III (a polypropylene instrument).
Your embouchure may be as unique as you are. Often, though, tone is negatively affected by pinching. Be sure to OPEN UP AND BLOW. Keep your lips tucked in, keep your lower jaw down, and pull the corners of your mouth in toward the reed.
Take a deep breath (as if you are about to swim underwater the length of the pool). Hold it. Keep your shoulders down! Hold your lips as if you were about to blow out a candle. Allow the air to escape, without blowing hard at first, then increase abdominal muscle tension to BLOW the air out under pressure. How long can you last?
Good bassoon tone depends on ample breath support. Don’t let the air out all at once, but you have to work to move the air through the instrument. In the words of one artist player, “THE BASSOON IS A WIND INSTRUMENT!”