Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Baroque Bassoon in North America, 2011

I've decided that, rather than update the same old post as new information comes up, I am going to write a quasi state-of-the-union in baroque bassooning once a year. It makes the most sense, as everything I write seems to fall out of date pretty quick, and with the more I learn about the scene, the more there is to write.

I should also add that I am not an authority on baroque bassoons and bassoonists, I am only sharing the answers to the questions I've posed in the hopes that a few youngsters see that learning this instrument can be made a reality for them. When I was younger, before I began playing the baroque instrument, I found it very difficult to find any information on it with regards as to where to study, what instruments were being played, etc. and I hope this will make it much easier for others.

Instruments being played

Currently, the instrument of choice for those modern players switching over to the baroque counterpart is the HKICW copy, made by Guntram Wolf. It's popularity could be explained by its price-tag, the non-existent waiting list, and it making the switch from the modern instrument with relative ease.

After the HKICW, the field really diversifies. I would say the Eichentopf copy, made by Leslie Ross, is commonly found, and after that, it's a mix of the Prudent instrument, by Peter de Koningh; the Prudent and Bizey instruments, by Olivier Cottet; the old Stanesby Sr. copy, by Phil Levin; as well as some Denner instruments, whose makers are unknown to me (though I suspect one of them is by Matthew Dart).

As I have mentioned before, I play on a W. Milhouse instrument c.1800 which plays at a415. I have also have a copy of a Wietfeld instrument (a415) by Pau Orriols which I'm still breaking in. The instrument is making quite a bit of headway in Europe, I saw five on one day in Basel, Switzerland, last summer. I've also been borrowing a Bizey /Cottet (a392) instrument from Mathieu which is currently in the shop.


Don't get me started. Reeds vary incredibly from person to person. So far I have seen reeds with a total length of 63mm all the way to 69mm, a tip width from 16mm to 21mm, and a first wire that's almost rounded to completely flat. Tube forming processes are across the map as well. There's no point in giving you an idea of what a 'standard reed' is, as none exist.

Places to study

Though I haven't looked into whether you can do both undergraduate and graduate work on period instruments at the following schools, certainly graduate work is available. I should also warn you that, presumably, this list isn't complete, but it does give you a good start if you are, in fact, looking to pursue a master's degree on the baroque bassoon.

Indiana University at Bloomington, Bloomington IN
Instructor: Michael McCraw

McGill University, Montreal PQ
Instructor: Mathieu Lussier

Longy School of Music, Cambridge MA
Instructor: Andrew Schwartz

The Juilliard School, New York NY
Instructor: Dominic Teresi

University of North Texas, Denton TX
Instructor: Keith Collins

Unvisited of Wisconsin at Madison, Madison WI
Instructor: Marc Vallon
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