Sunday, February 7, 2010

le basson français

I have been fascinated by the French basson for a long time.  In the hands of masters such as Maurice Allard, Paul Hogne, Julien Hardy and Gilbert Audin, it is a hauntingly beautiful instrument, noted for its smooth, singing, lyrical capabilities.  Yet the French basson can also perform acrobatics unthinkable on the much more common German bassoon.

I often search YouTube for examples of French basson playing, but I am invariably disappointed.  Why has the classical music world all but abandoned this unique and intriguing instrument?

Imagine my delight when I happened upon this video streamed all-Ravel concert  today:
streaming video of Philharmonique de Radio France
The bassoons in the video are indeed French bassons, even though German bassoons are becoming increasingly common even in French orchestras.

Vivent longtemps le basson français !


Kerry said...

This is so funny! I was just talking to a friend about how much I love french bassoon and think it's sad how little of it is being played. Thanks for the link! I'm enjoying the concert. Also, I grew up in Columbus and have always admired your playing.

B.S. said...

Dear Kerry,

I'm glad that you are also a fan of the French bassoon. I really don't understand why it isn't more popular!
And thanks for the compliment.


bassoon said...

Thanks for the great blog Betsy,

Yes! Although I grew up playing the German system and play a 13000 series Heckel I have also been fascinated by the French bassoon! The recordings of Maurice Allard are legendary and worth digging out. And Luc Loubry is playing the French system with some beautiful recordings. The stories of Daniel Barenboim's insistence on the German system whilst in Paris are legendary. But the contra player in this concert you link to seems to be playing a Mollenhauer or similar?! Would be nice to have a French Beast as well as basson in the Goose!

B.S. said...

Dear Tom,

I was disappointed that the contra in the link is German. It would have been so great to hear a French contra, especially on that particular solo!

I have added your blog to my blog list on the sidebar of my blog. I loved reading about Reed Rage!


TB said...

I've long associated the French basson with a thin sound, but I didn't get that from the recording. I am definitely a fan of heavy, gut-wrenching German romanticism :)

I was amazed at how the conductor was almost expressionless throughout the recording, and he was in control yet mostly keeping time, as if he was trying to stay out of the way of the music.

I am curious to know how the French system is easier? I am all for that!

TB said...

And I will second... third... that I love your blog, and have been a fan of your playing for a long time!!

B.S. said...

Dear TB,

Maybe you can find a French bassoon on eBay. I think it would be very confusing to switch!

I agree with your conductor assessment. I'm constantly analyzing conductors because we're searching for a Music Director now.

And thank you for the compliments!


Laurence said...

I have played the French bassoon for many years. Currently, I am involved in restoring French bassoons. I play a Buffet that was owned by Auguste Mesnard the last bassoonist with the NY Philharmonic to play French bassoon.

Larry Ibisch, NYC

B.S. said...

Dear Lawrence,

I was wondering if there were French bassoon players in the U.S. I'm glad to know that you're one, and that you even play on a famous Buffet.

I found another video of a French orchestra with french bassoons which I'm going to be posting on this blog.

Thanks for commenting~

Anonymous said...


I play French Bassoon (amateur) and I live in California.

My website:

and my page/tribute on the French bassoon:


Brice Mallier

B.S. said...

Dear Brice,

Thank you for commenting. I am always thrilled to hear of people in the U.S. who appreciate and even play the French bassoon!


Anonymous said...

This basson, must not pass into extinction on out watch! Are there any other Americans who play the instrument?

B.S. said...

I've only heard of a couple of Americans who know how to play the French basson. And I don't think they really have many opportunities to play it. Hopefully there are bassoonists in France who will strive to keep the French basson alive!