I was recently talking to my neighbor about what I do, and it turns out that he used to be a clarinet player. He said that he didn’t continue on to a professional level because he needed to invest so much in equipment. To be a pro clarinet player, he said, he needed to buy a whole family of pro clarinets and he just wanted to play Bb soprano clarinet. So this got me into talking about the bassoon tangents that people get into, in a professional or sub-professional way. Every bassoon player plays bassoon for a while and then there are a few different directions to go experimenting.

Probably the most responsible secondary horn is contrabassoon. This is very practical since it’s also used in the orchestra and most bassoon teachers can help with it. The only obstacle with contra is getting access to one since they are expensive and unpopular. As a student in college it’s becoming standard to take out extra loan money to finance a new instrument, but usually graduate programs are more lenient on addition loans.

contrabassoon

French Basson is mostly dead at this point. People play them out of curiosity and on a hobbyist level. I had one for many years and I was never tempted to take it to a gig instead of a Heckel system bassoon. That being said, french bassoon can be a cool thing to pull out on a recital or for chamber music. My high point was being able to play the Saint-Saens Sonate on it, but it never made it out to a recital. This scratches the itch of wanting to play a historical instrument but its also pretty easy to learn.

French Bassoon

Baroque bassoon is another route that some players go. Baroque orchestras are becoming much more popular in California and New York, and so there are maybe a few more gigs for baroque players on top of regular orchestra gigs. Baroque is much more difficult to play well and isn’t as pleasing to listen to unaccompanied, so learning it can be tedious. When I have done “baroque” orchestra gigs, it usually ends up being some sort of mixed ensemble. The woodwinds and principal strings play baroque instruments, but the rest of the strings play on modern setups. I am not a baroque bassoon player but I do sometimes want to play historical literature on the authentic instruments. Baroque bassoon are also much much cheaper than modern bassoons.

Baroque Bassoon

The bassoon has recently been modernized even further with the addition of an electric pickup. With a modified bocal, players can plug into an amp and use the same filters and effects that an guitarist can use. There are so many great electric players but not so many gigs. This isn’t so much a career path as it is a way to bridge the gap and get into jazz or rock etc.

Electric Bassoon

SOLDIERS TALE POSTCARD

The Southeast Symphony (including me!) is putting on a production of Soldier’s Tale by Stravinsky. I invite anyone and everyone to come out and see it, this Thursday at 8pm. The address is on the above postcard, and you can purchase tickets beforehand at ticketpeak.com

Soldier’s Tale is a piece for Chamber orchestra, actors, and dancers. The story is based on the Russian folk tale “The Runaway Soldier” which is about a soldier’s encounter with the Devil. The work heavily features the violin which is a large part of the story.

 

Our performance was video recorded and is now up on youtube!

The usable range of the Contraforte is from A0-C5. This is an improvement on the contrabassoon range by a few steps. Although I know some very talented contra players that can play almost as high as any contraforte. Im mostly posting this so that composers are able to hear the timbre change of the different registers.

The Contraforte does not have a dependable high D but it is possible. Here I play the opening bassoon solo from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, at actually pitch. I used an extremely thick reed with a lot of resistance.

Contraforte Fingering Chart

There are 2 Buffet Contrabassoons for sale on Musical Chairs. These are contras built with the french fingering system and a different bore than a Heckel system contra. They appear to be in great condition and I’m sure will sell quickly. This is the instrument intended for in the works of Debussy, Stravinsky, and Ravel.

French Buffet Contrabassoon
French Contrabassoon

Buffet Contrabassoon

 Les Siècles performed Rite of Spring using period instruments at the BBC Proms. The bassoon section uses old french bassoons and tall construction french contras.

Thomas Adès

This weekend (March 5,6,7) Thomas Adès with be conducting his own composition with the San Francisco Symphony. His piece “In Seven Days” is based on the seven days of creation outlined in the book of Genesis. It is a multimedia piece including video projection and he scored it using a contraforte!

Bay area people should all go and hear some contraforte in Davies hall!

SF Symphony Tickets

This is the first time that contraforte has been used in the San Francisco Symphony and it will be performed by Steven Braunstein.

Steven Braunstein Contraforte

Steve Kris ContraforteHere I am visiting the Contraforte tamer

 

Green Reed

I tried an experiment last week involving a Green Reed for Contraforte. I just harvested some cane in early January and decided to try to immediately make a reed out of it instead of letting it dry. And this is what turned out! I regular reed that sounded and acted like any other reed but it was fresh green cane and didnt need to be soaked in water before I played on it. The texture was similar to a very hard piece of cane so I had to make this thinner than I would normally. After a few days it started to dry out and warp and is now is playing very sharp. Next I’m going to try this on regular bassoon.

I would suggest trying it to all of the cane harvesters out there!

Suite V

This fall I am returning to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for a PSD (professional studies degree) in bassoon & contrabassoon. I am really excited to be studying with both Steve Paulson and Steve Braunstein and I think that my contrabassoon skill will increase significantly!

I am planning out a few recitals, and since this degree doesn’t require any academic requirements, I can program some difficult works. I haven’t decided on the order of the recitals yet but I have planned four recitals, two for fall and two for spring. So these are the possible programs in no particular order:

 

Paris Conservatory Commissions

Jolivet Concerto

Saint Saens sonata

Dutilleux Sarabande et Cortège

 

Villa Lobos (or just loosely South American themed)

Concerto

Duo (oboe, bassoon)

Bachianas Brasileiras bassoon No. 6 (flute, bassoon)

maybe a few Mignone Waltzes

 

Solo Baroque

Bach Cello Suite V

Bach Cello Suite II (possibly on contra)

Telemann Fantasias (some on contra)

 

IDRS repertoire

Vivaldi Concerto C Major RV477

Hummel Concerto

Dutilleux Sarabande et Cortège

Carter Retracing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

broken D key

The unthinkable happened, in my absence my bassoon took a fall. I left it on a bassoon stand and left my room for a few hours. Some combination of either pets or siblings knocked it over and there was MAJOR damage done to my left thumb keywork.

The D key completely broke off and the C key was bent outwards by about half an inch. After finding it and nearly having a heart attack I immediately called Daniel Deitch. He scheduled me for a repair the very next day! I had a service of Marriage of Figaro the day and it only took him a few minutes to repair it.

He said that there had been a hairline crack in the key since the pieces were so oxidized at the ends and that maybe that key was damaged years before.

 

There is a spot missing in the plating but bassoon is back to %100

Daniel Deitch is amazing! If you are in SF you should really go and see him.

www.danieldeitch.com

 

Fixed D key

I have been lucky enough to get some opera work this summer, and even luckier that the orchestra is all great players! We are playing Marriage of Figaro with the Opera Academy of California. The venue is by the sea in San Francisco’s Fort Mason center which prompted me to revive my Legére reed.

My last Legére reed had so many cracks in it that it was eventually unusable and so I went right back to cane reeds. However this year at the IDRS convention I picked up a new one to see if maybe I had a dud before. So far this reed sounds great but there are cracks down one of the blades so we will see how much longer it will last!

Legére reed

This year was my first IDRS conference yet and it was amazing! I met so many legendary players and nice people. There was an entire room of vendors and instruments to try as well as a room full of music provided by trevco. The bassoon selection was impressive and included:

Püchner

Fox

Moosmann

Walter

Wolf

Schreiber

and oboes were brought by

Marigaux

Buffet

Fox

Püchner

It was odd that even though there were Loree oboes and Heckel bassoon at the conference. Loree and Heckel were not there only their used instruments were sold through other sellers.

Legère reeds were there and many more bassoons were hooked onto some synthetic reeds. Other innovations were brought by Guntram Wolf. They brought a Lupophon and the Contraforte.

Now this is particularly interesting to me because I have been seriously getting into contrabassoon and I feel a strong pull towards the contraforte. I am now raising funds to buy a contraforte to take auditions with. I have a list of repertoire to perform and record on it and was a great treat to get to play another one this week. If you ever get a chence to get your hands on a contraforte, test it! the dynamics, range, note connection is all much easier.

contrafortekris

 

 

Lupophonkris

 

 

 

Baroquecontrabassoonkris