Comments on print, recorded, and online resources for mastering orchestral excerpts for the bassoon. By Terry B. Ewell. Bassoon Digital Professor #99. www.2reed.net.
Hello, this is a brief overview of resources for bassoon orchestral excerpts. I am Terry Ewell and I will be your “tour guide.” If you studied bassoon 20, 30, or even 40 years ago you would have been largely limited to finding the music, listening to some recordings, and then studying with a teacher. For a few decades, however, there have been print publications where professionals in the field have discussed their suggestions for how to perform orchestral excerpts and also how to audition. I want to alert you to those resources. You can find a bibliography that is prepared for you at www.2reed.net/auditions.html (direct link here). If you scroll down the page you will find a link to the bibliography. I encourage you to look at these writings. Many of them appear in The Double Reed or other journals of the International Double Reed Society. They represent the collective wisdom of many fine players.
An important development in the mid-1990s was the release of Orchestral Excerpts for Bassoon by David McGill in which he provides commentary and demonstrates those excerpts. This was followed up a few years later by Christopher Millard who added some other excerpts. These are excellent. I encourage you listen to those.
What is exciting nowadays is that there are so many new online resources. I want to make you aware of these. Now you can obtain the music, often at no cost at all, by going to Petrucci Music Library at www.imslp.org. There are many materials that you can pull up. Let’s say, for instance, that we are going to use online resources entirely to study the famous passage from Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony. Well here is the music that I pulled up from the Petrucci Music Library. This has that passage. There you can pull up some scores, recordings, and in addition the part for just bassoon.
Having obtained the part from Petrucci Music Library, it is now time to move on to a brand new website that I am very excited to introduce to you. The website is by Brett. I don’t want to mispronounce his last name so I will just call him “Brett” in this video. Let’s take a look at this website. This was part of his doctoral project at Indiana University. In it he has collected some of the principal excerpts. Here we have our excerpt from Beethoven’s Fourth. A wonderful thing about the website is that he has many additional helps. He has something he calls “pedagogy,” where he provides a discussion of the excerpt, performance suggestions, and ways to practice the excerpt. In addition is this wonderful feature where he has collated little fragments of the excerpt from different recordings. Here, for instance, is the Vienna Philharmonic with Simon Rattle. Let’s play this one.
<music: Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, IV, passage with the famous bassoon solo>
Isn’t that wonderful? In one convenient site you can listen to multiple recordings. I strongly encourage you to take a look at this site and the many fine features it contains.
Now, having visited Brett’s site it is time to move on to several materials that I have prepared. One area you should be aware of: the many MIDI files that are housed at the International Double Reed Society website. These MIDI files allow you to play along with an accompaniment at various tempos. For instance, for Beethoven’s Fourth we have three tempos set up here. I have one that is at mm. 126, another that is at 132, and another that is at 138. You can practice at these various tempos in order to master it and to get a sense of what the orchestral accompaniment is like when you are performing. There are many important excerpts given there that you can work with on MIDI files.
Also I want you to be aware that there are resources that are available for fingerings. I have drawn from print resources that I have found. This is a project that was developed in the mid-1990s, which drew upon the collective wisdom of many professional bassoonists. So if you go to the “Bassoon-Family Fingering Companion” you can find a section that provides fingerings for the German bassoon, the Heckel-system bassoon. You will notice that there is something titled “Suggested fingerings for musical passages.” If you select that you will find some suggestions for Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony among others. Now other online resources are available for the French bassoon. You can find those at the same location.
Now, I want to make you aware that there are drones available. This is on www.2reed.net. These drones are available as mp3 files. You can download those and play them for your intonation with excerpts.
Some other online resources you are probably aware of are in the Bassoon Orchestral Excerpts Channel at YouTube. My user name at YouTube is “tewelltube.” That is, t-ewell-tube. You can find that by searching my channels there on YouTube. So, I hope that this guide has been useful to you, that you have found some useful information. Don’t neglect to look at all of these if you want to be an informed bassoonist. Why not search out the wisdom of the many who have come before you and the advice that they have. I wish you all the best. Bye.