IDRS Podcast with Rolf Van der Geest

Terry B. Ewell, Interviewer

2018 Aug. 28. Granada, Spain


Terry B. Ewell: It is my pleasure to be here with Rolf van der Geest. I first met Rolf at the West Virginia [IDRS] conference in 2001. At that time, he had this incredible collection of stamps that featured the bassoon. We made [supplied] a big case for him and things like that. I understand that he continued to collect all these years. So, I wanted to bring this information to our double reed artists. Rolf, tell me, how did you start collecting paraphernalia for bassoon?

Rolf van der Geest: Well, I started playing bassoon 41 years ago. Last year was my fest [celebration], my big fest. [Years ago] I met Henk de Wit in Amsterdam. At his workshop he had 150 bassoons in his place where he lived. He had stamps, he had post cards. He also had, for instance, the Turkish instruments that were played on double reeds. What you could imagine—it was there! He knew everyone. He also knew the bad rumors about people, but also the good rumors. At that time, he gave me a collection of eight cards—black and white cards—that he had been printing. At that time, I didn’t think much of it. It was just a gift.

But later on, I came across a Dutch organization, de Nederlandse Vereniging tot Documentatie van Prentbriefkaarten (NVDP) (Dutch Society for Documenatation of Postcards) I have this on my [web]site if you really want to look for it. They could tell me where in The Netherlands postcards were sold and how to give them a date, and information about the way they were printed and their makers. Generally, there are two types of postcards. There are cards about cities and places and there are types of cards on subjects. So, I started with subjects. Soon I found another card, which was a card of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (city museum, of The Hague) with the Wijne bassoon. (made in the province of Leeuwarden, The Netherlands). And I added it.

So, slowly I made friends, I made contacts who were willing to search for me and knew what I was willing to buy. That was the other part, you had to buy because you were the only one. Lot’s of people didn’t know what the bassoon was. I often brought them pictures to show them what it was. And slowly, not only postcards became my interest, but also, like you said in 2001, the stamps became my interest. Stamps were later and even more lately when I went to Belgium (Antwerps and Brussels) or Germany (Frankfurt) for fairs where there are other cards. (The fairs organized by Manneke Pis). There I learned that pre-war cards have another size (9x13cm).

You see the postcards go back to 1895, when the first postcards were printed. I have in my collection a very rare card from Heckel, dated in 1897, two years later, announcing the number 4,000 bassoon that had been produced at that time. Mrs. Reiter [spelling?] from the Heckel Company had asked me to copy it and send it to them because they don’t have it. They also agreed that I could print the cards if I made an Internet site.

This issue of making an Internet site concerns copyrights. Sometimes you know it, sometimes you don’t because it is not on the back of the card. What I did, was that I enlarged the card by many centimeters on each side on the length and the width. I put a light grey maze over it that is finely graded. You can still see the image, but you know that it is not the original. That is the whole thing to avoid copyrights.

TBE: Copyrights, yes.

RvdG: On the other hand, I wrote to museums I had cards of, I wrote to people I had cards of to ask their permission if I could put the cards on the Internet. Never was I refused. People were always pleased that I was ready to do that.

Then in another later period, and I am talking about 2010 or 2015, I came across cards that were not postcards and were not sent but were sort of company cards going back before the Second World War: 1910 maybe 1905. They are smaller in size. That is not yet ready, I am going to do that next winter. I have found a friend in the southern part of The Netherlands who is making cards with Eastern Indian ink, his specialty is that ink. There is a series of 100 cards also with the bassoon on it.

TBE: Give us your website. Where is this website found?

RvdG: …

I have made numbered series

TBE: So that is, “” I sure that is going to be fascinating for everyone to see that.

RvdG: I hope so.

TBE: Besides the Internet site—of course you have many things that will not be on the Internet site—tell me about the other collectables you have.

RvdG: Ha, ha! Do you have an hour?

TBE: You need, I know one of your concerns was that when you retire, what happens to all of this incredible bassoon collection. We need a wealthy patron, we need a university that will preserve it. Can you tell us about the needs with this?

RVdG: Well, I first have to tell you about the additional items. I have etches going back to the the 17th century. The Lutherie etches, the original Diderot et d’Alembert encyclopedia etches. I have tiles, but not the ones you know, the single tiles from Delph blue (Called Makkummer aardewerk). I have coarse tiles, but I also have double tiles. That consist of two tiles above each other but is one bassoon. I have newspaper articles. I have collected advertisements, if there was an advertisement in a newspaper saying that a bassoon was for sale, I cut it out and kept it.

TBE: Oh, my.

RvdG: But my Mom, for instance, who died fifteen years ago, she gave me every fifth year something special that she had made for me. So, I have horseshoe nails which are made into a bassoon. I have a bronze bassoon, and a special silver bassoon downscaled to 10cm that is identical to the 201D Fox bassoon that I have, that has been made by a silversmith. But like you said. What should happen to the collection? That is a very difficult issue.

I have been talking with Mr. Sweger of IDRS.

TBE: Keith Sweger.

RvdG: Yes, Keith Sweger. For a while this went very well, for he said that there was a university that was ready to take the whole lot when I die. But after the Tokyo Conference, there was not communication coming out any more. So, I still didn’t know. And the Dutch bassoon organization said that they didn’t want it because they didn’t have the people nor the place to put it.

I still have now, I don’t know if you know his name, my bassoon repairman, his name is Maxime Vera in Wormerveer (The Netherlands) It is now put in my last will that the whole collection should go there. He might have the contacts to put it somewhere.

TBE: You mentioned that this is valued at really quite a hefty sum.

RvdG: The most expensive stamp that I have is 950 Euros. The cheapest card that I have is 1 Euro. Everything between it goes. The total values is over 50 maybe 20 thousand Euros. If I would leave out the money involved and see it as a grown out of a hobby, then I still need a young preferably Western Europe person whom I can pass on the knowledge.

TBE: Yes, that is incredible. I think you have made such a service to the double reed enthusiasts around the world, particularly bassoonists, that I just want to alert them to the fantastic collection that you have made over the years. It is amazing. I am sure that they will want to visit the website. I am hoping that in the future out there that there is some way to preserve this tremendous legacy you have given us.

RvdG: Yes, you know this would be fantastic. For me it was and still is a hobby. I am an amateur player, I am not a professional player. I just did it for fun. I always like to encounter people and speak to them to talk about my hobby and my fun.

TBE: Thank you so much, Rolf

RvdG: A pleasure. Thank you, my friend.


Copyright © 2018 By Terry B. Ewell. All Rights Reserved.