I went to Kronach, Germany to visit the Wolf workshop. It was on a day off between operas at the Wagner Ring festival in Bayreuth which is about a 40 minute drive away. I had made an appointment with Peter a few weeks prior and he was very nice to give so much of his time to talk to me and show the instruments. He had brought the Kronwalt and Contraforte for people to try at IDRS in Boulder, CO this year but I wasnt able to attend.

Contraforte 75 & 76

Here are Contrafortes #75 & 76.

It was interesting to learn that it has become industry standard that the workers who fabricate the keywork work almost entirely from home, in their own personal shops. I always thought they would be in a giant room at work benches along side each other, but the workshop is empty.

The legendary Bassoforte!

The side of the workshop is a room full of historic instruments, prototypes, and examples of current instruments being produced. I was surprised that there were so many pieces of lupophones around the shop, but I think they tried many versions before finalizing the design. And of course the Bassoforte was there which I have been so curious about, although it is dusty, there are recent finger prints on it. So someone had played it, or moved it. I decided not to ask to play it as I was taking so much of his time. Peter said that it doesn’t sound like a bassoon in any way, but it has it’s own voice. And there is not much function for it among bassoon players currently.

The Kronwalt

The Kronwalt contrabassoon is a modern version of a contrabassoon which does directly follow the path of other contrabassoons. It has a smaller form function by sending the big bend and bell over the front instead of off to the side, and as an option the instrument comes apart into 2 halves for storage in the case. That case for 2 halves is the size of a cheked roller bag suitcase,  and a brand new gig bag has been created which is essentially a slightly taller Kim Walker style drop in case. The divided instrument is an option and doesnt have to be included as a part of the instrument. I was weary of this design because the bassoon has bridge keys connecting the wing joint and boot joint for the low E to whisper key connection. This single bridge key on bassoon is not a good design and goes out of adjustment when the cork compresses, or when the wing joint is assembled at a slightly different angle. Kronwalt has bridge keys which are tenons which slide together. Just as the main body sections slide together, the key bridges have male and female ends which connect, without cork or rubber bumpers.

My first time playing it was not great! I had a Contraforte and currently play on a 1980’s Heckel, and this is not like either of those. I thought the contraforte fingers that I still knew would translate directly, but the CF has an automatic octave key. When pressed the CF octave will open the middle vent when the third left hand finger is down and switch to the upper vent when the third finger is lifted. So on CF tenor C# is always played with lower vent, and there is no choosing otherwise. The Kronwalt has the 2 traditional regular independant vents so if you would like to play C# with upper vent that is easy to do.  So on Kronwalt everything above the staff has options for which vents to open. This basically made Contraforte fingering impossible for me to bring to Kronwalt because on CF I am not thinking of which vents open for which notes, it’s happening on it own. I think with time this will not be an issue. Peter also said that the Kronwalt can be converted to the automatic system at any time.

There is a preliminary fingering chart which at this point extends to G, the space above treble. This is a fifth lower than a CF can play, but he is still getting new fingerings sent to him from players. For me the extreme high register has potentional but I was mainly impressed with the basic scale of the instrument. Just like CF, the Kronwalt has virtually every tone hole fitted with a stack/riser. This allows each individual note to be tuned and voiced and can be changed at any point. This is the direction new Heckel contras have been taking in the last 15 years, although the Heckel tone holes are made of resin.

I placed my order, and the plan is to return in a year or so to pick it up. So far they have made 7, and he predicts making 2-3 per year. I ordered the low A attachment although it does not fit into the current case, it would be transported seperately. In my limited time playing a few notes, I preferred the sound with the Bb bell, so I would probably only take the A for specific pieces.

A Contrabassoon has entered my life recently and I am very excited to start using it. This instrument was owned by Steve Braunstein. He ordered it from Heckel while he was playing with the Toronto symphony, it was finished 1984. Over the summer I trialled 2 other Heckel contras and this instrument was by far the standout. I am very lucky to be the custodian of this horn for a few years.

I get asked about the Contraforte vs. Contrabassoon and I mostly stay quiet. But I think that the entire repertoire is accessible to either instrument. I would like to experiment with using both instruments this season, choosing the instrument that fits the character of the piece.

Heckel 5751

This week I had Heckel 5751 on trial from RDG woodwinds. This bassoon was made in 1922 and has been modernized with a high D key, E key, rollers, and tone hole inserts. The stain and lacquer is in amazing condition, maybe part of the restoration.

Heckel 5751

The new keys have been added in a tasteful way and the key casts match the originals. However this bassoon still has the original ivory bell which makes it difficult to travel with.

Heckel 5751

This bassoon has a lovely sparkling voice and is still available at RDG

Heckel 5751
Heckel 5751

Heckel 5751

Heckel 5751

I have started to develop a bit of a bassoon collection and I don’t get to play some of them.


Bassoon Collection

My high school bassoon is usually rented out to students, but it has been sitting in my closet for the last year. So I’m going to sell it! It’s up on eBay if anyone is interested. This is a King Symphony Bassoon made by Schreiber in Germany and stamped by King, the America instrument manufacturer.

King Symphony Bassoon

Heckel Bassoon


A few months ago I had my first correspondence with Heckel. I am looking for my next bassoon and I have play tested a few new Heckels that I really liked. After emailing back and forth to find out what options were possible, they sent me a mail packet with an order form. I thought that I knew the bassoon options that I wanted, but seeing all of the options layer out on a list was overwhelming!

I am going over the new instrument piece by piece to figure out how it will all look together. I don’t EVER want to buy another instrument after this so I need it to have everything on it that I would need for the rest of my career. Like how high E was a standard key for a while but in the past few years the high F key is becoming normal.  I haven been able to make decisions about most things, except for the bell options. The French and Italian bells look great and then the gentleman vs. regular bell lengths…

Italian Bell Gentleman (current favorite)

Italian Bell Heckel

German Bell Gentleman

German Bell Heckel

French Bell Regular

French Bell Heckel