Symphony Fantastique

This is my arrangement of Symphony Fantastique movement 4, March to the Scaffold. This contains a passage which is one of our great bassoon excerpts, originally it’s for the entire bassoon section to play as a 4 player soli. But I set it here as 3 bassoons 1 contra with the other parts playing the pizz. string lines. I think that this arrangement would also work if played on all bassoons without contras.

Symphony Fantastique PDF

Smetana Die Moldau

Die Moldau by Bedrich Smetana represents a river that flows through Prague. It’s in compound meter and has sixteenth notes running constantly in the accompaniment parts, which gives the piece a flowing feeling. I set the viola line into the bassoon 3 part which is pretty busy but fun.

The ‘big melody’ of this movement is a tune called “La Mantovana” dating  from the sixteenth century. It has been used in many pieces, my favorite being Hatikvah which is the national anthem of Israel.

The PDF of my bassoon quintet arrangement is here:

Die Moldau Score pdf

Bassoon Keywork Replating

Last summer I had time to send my bassoon in to get replated. When I bought it, I really liked the sound and response but it felt physically rough to play and some of the keys had pitting.

I sent my bassoon to Chad Taylor in Illinois and he ended up removing the plating himself. He then sent the instrument’s keys and metal bands out to be worked on.

After getting the keyword back he repadded the bassoon and redid all of the bumpers, corks, and felts. It took him a few months to do the whole project, but it ended up looking and feeling much better. Contact Chad about bassoon repair at chadtaylorwoodwinds.com

Leitzinger Contrabassoon Bocals

This week I had a few Leitzinger Contrabassoon Bocals on trial from Forrests Music. I had a Leitzinger NML2 bassoon bocal  a few years ago when I played on a Fox 601, but I sold it since it didn’t pair so well on my Heckel 10k. What I so appreciated about that bocal was the easy high note response and clarity in the tone. That bassoon had some funny pitch issues (saggy middle E) that the Leitzinger fixed immediately.

I have been using a Heckel C2 that suits the instrument well, so trying new bocals is just out of curiosity. Forrests has a large selection of Leitzinger contra bocals so I got to try each type and plating option, I ended up really liking a F2 Gold plated and an F2 platinum. Now that I have had them at home for a few days I have a sense of what these are able to do.

I notice almost no difference in response, pitch, or tone from the Heckel and the high notes are just as solid. The one improvement I do notice is when I use a light reed and play loud sfz attacks sometimes the pitch can sag with the Heckel, and the Leitzinger is more stable. However I do not like the bend, it angles down much more than I would like which forces me to change the instrument position. And lastly the price point is high. This thing comes in at $2,300 which is much more than a new Heckel bocal, without a huge sound difference. I am impressed by the sound and quality of this bocal but it’s a little too much for me!

Contrabassoon

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.