Tuesday, January 20, 2015

More Geekyness

To the shock of everyone, Thursday saw an explosion in the money markets. In a matter of minutes after the Swiss central bank removed the policy of keeping the franc to euro ratio at 1.20 to 1, the euro fell and the franc rose to the point that they sit this weekend almost exactly on par. Tough as it will be as a Canadian abroad (the Canadian dollar is sitting at an all time low against the franc), as a reed-maker I benefitted greatly from the volatility of the market on Friday morning.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Baroque Bassoonist's Paradise

Today I write from the train to Schipol after spending most of the morning with Peter de Koningh. Back for usual maintenance, my Eichentopf instrument feels like it did when it first arrived in Ottawa nearly three years ago. While I was there I had the chance to 'toot' a number of instruments in PdK's shop including the anonymous 440 instrument used in Sergio Azzolini's most recent recordings, and the new "Rockobaur" instrument at 415. Boy, what a treat.

It was very interesting to hear the variety of timbres between the three instruments, my senses being more acute to their qualities by the fact that they stood side-by-side. Each instrument could play easily chromatically up to high a, with Bb not far out of reach for one who was a little more familiar with the instrument. The anonymous instrument had that incredible 'Ferrari'-like sound we've come to know from Azzolini's Vivaldi recordings; the Rockobaur had a very deep, smooth lower register with an even tone and intonation on easy fingerings (think of a Denner model, except better); and my Eichentopf stood almost exactly in between combining a vibrant sound with facility and depth in the low chromatics.

I was most surprised to find that my reed for the Eichentopf model seemed to worked very well with both the Rockobaur and the anonymous instrument, playing at pitch and with just as much flexibility and subtlety of sound. Interesting though that the characteristics of each instrument still shone through, as if my reed acted solely as the key to unlocking each one.

As a modern bassoonist I have been taught that there are so many variations in reed making, and each can have a profound effect upon the sound and playability of an instrument. Just read this. What is easily forgotten in the modern world is that of all the bassoons out there, most are essentially minor variations on the same prototype. Yes there are differences between makers and models, but the biggest differences in heckle-system instruments between 1950 and 2014 pale in comparison to an HKICW and a Prudent. Reed making has become such a precise science today to meet the demands for technical 'perfection' from the modern instrument that many fail to appreciate how far we've come in terms of equipment. 

Of course, someone proficient on one instrument might have preferences in their reeds depending on their taste (in this case, my 'standard' Eichentopf model) or the demands of a work, but imagine my surprise to find that the same reed functioned easily on three very different models!

P.S. in reading above you might label me a 'de Koningh Artist', if that were such a thing. But c'mon. Try the instruments for yourself.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Definitions


This post is one I've been meaning to make for a long time. Below you will find my own definitions to terminology I use periodically.

The Performance

A sacred act in music. The moment when energy, which exists without form, is formulated by, and transmitted through the performer(s). The energy is then received by an audience, whose response returns back to the performer(s). The performer(s) prepare for this activity yet they are guided in the act by inspiration (sprezzatura). The goal of this activity is a shared experience between performer(s) and audience. 

Historically-Informed Performance (HIP)

Movement in 20th/21st Century classical music involving numerous aspects of performance. Musicians self-identifying in the HIP movement perform on period- and regionally-specific instruments (or copies of instruments) relating to a given work. Emphasis is placed on the understanding of past performance practices and contextual research. Any work from any time period can be subject to an historically-informed performance. 

Early Musician

A musician who has undergone a reevaluation in their development. One who has gone through the traditional classical music upbringing and is later introduced to HIP. This reevaluation includes a period of time focused on developing skills on a period instrument (or instruments), study of primary sources relating to performance practice, period-specific contextual studies, as well as an analysis of the goals of that musician and how they relate to the goals of HIP.

Period-Instrument Performer

Musicians who self-identify with the HIP movement but who have not undergone the above-mentioned reevaluation. Most often this musician plays a period instrument (or copy), or owns relevant equipment to perform with early musicians (baroque bow, gut strings, etc.). However, a period-instrument performer can have spent their whole development in HIP. Regardless of their introduction to the movement, period-instrument performers have not often fully considered the goals or merits of the movement and how they relate to their own. The technical level of these players can vary from amateur to world-class professionals.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Enlightenment

Eubo's last six concerts have been quite intensive for its bassoonist. With solos or soli sections in Jean-Féry Rebel's Les Éléments, as well as a number of vigorous passages in our combination suite of dances from Rameau's Zaïs, Platée, and Les Boréades, I've had to work harder than ever before in concert and there is no doubt that any bassoonist would shudder a little to think of how much energy it would take to go the distance. What kept me looking forward to every night wasn't the challenge, however, it was the opportunity to play Rameau's Entrée de Polymnie, from Les Boréades. It is one of, if not The, most beautiful pieces ever written for strings, flute, and obbligato bassoon.
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