Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Letter on my Journey to The Schola Cantorum Basiliensis

The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to Dominic about my time in Basel. I'll follow up with a proper blog post about my trip later this week. 

In my 30 hours in Basel, quite a bit happened. Donna and I talked alot about The Hague and the Schola and she showed me around the school and a bit of the town as well before we went back to her place. We talked about music non-stop from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday evening!

Donna uses 0.6mm wire from Reeds'n Stuff. Slightly thinner than 22 gauge. I have two blanks of hers (her hand profile, Marca cane, from RnS) and a reed she was making out of Medir cane which is close to completion. You should see her shape - very interesting.

There are 8 people in Basel who own a Wietfeld, but many of them have yet to make a complete switch. Of the 3 (that I know of) that have completely switched over, I met one of them on Wednesday: Carles Cristobal. He found the original in a church in Poland in January of 2009. He sounds amazing on it. Of the six which were together at the gathering of bassoonists on Wednesday afternoon, he liked my Wietfeld very much - good news?

On his reed, my instrument played very easily - we played various movements from Les delices de la solitude and the instrument played extremely easily and in tune. All easy fingerings too - it was hard getting used to!

Carles made a great reed from the Medir cane that we were trying to make work last week. They tend to make reeds over the course of a week - scraping a tiny bit everyday - and their results are very different from what you, Mathieu and I are used to. Similar to a John Klauser/David McGill reed for the modern bassoon, you have to have an extremely (well, maybe not extremely but it's the opposite of my approach to the Milhouse) open and loose embouchure. The reeds are closer to a parallel profile rather than a tapered profile. Also, they strive to play with a smooth, dark sound. I'd match it with the sound Sergio Azzolini made in his latest recording of the Hertel Concerti.

I think the overall feeling over the Wietfelds can be described in a sentence Chris Millard once said to me about his Walther instruments - hard to tame but very satisfying in the long run (although I'm sure they'd be great instrument to start on with the right reed).

Interestingly, even now there are (or seem to me to be) large national divisions in bassoons and reeds in Europe. Wolf bassoons dominate Germany and the reeds made are similar to what you and Anna are coming up with. France is supplied by Cottet and Verjat with Paris being the place to learn internally-scraped reeds - although there are differences of opinion as to what a good sound is. The rise of the Wietfeld in the Basel circle seems to have begun a Swiss school of playing (if there wasn't one already). Although Donna's reeds are the smallest, her student's are not far behind. And, as usual, England is all over the map.

Also - there is a ton of music going on there, equally baroque and classical. Although I didn't get to hear alot about it, I suspect the modern orchestras are slowly starting to drop the 'early' rep. Donna told me of a story where a modern orchestra did a show on period instruments - they had to hire a new wind section for the concert. Surprisingly, there isn't any lack of work for the 28 bassoonists in Basel - although they do have other interests too (some are modern players as well, one was auditioning as a choir director on Wednesday evening...etc.).


Most of this letter is based on conversations over the course of 30 hours. I may be off base a little. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for your website, and for sharing all your knowledge! Best regards from Cadiz (Spain).


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