musings of a professional bassoonist

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The French "basson"

The French basson remains a fascination of mine.  A reader of this blog, Brice Mallier who is a French bassoon enthusiast sent me a link to his French basson tribute page

Mr. Mallier also sent this link to Maurice Allard's youtube channel.  Allard is undoubtedly the most famous French bassoonist of all time.

And finally, here's a link featuring the incredible playing of Gilbert Audin in the Poulenc Sonata for Clarinet and Bassoon.

audin gilbert.jpg Gilbert Audin is bassoon soloist at the Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris , and teaches in the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris.  He is known as an ambassador of the French bassoon and is sought after all over the world for master classes.

Audin studied in Nîmes, then at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris in the class of the great Maurice Allard.  At age 19 he won the international competitions of Geneva and Munich and at 24, the first prize of the international competition of Geneva, and two years later, the first prize of the international competition of Toulon.

His discs include J. Haydn (London trio with J.P. Rampal), concertos of Jean Françaix and Marcel Landowski (Sony, RCA), Rossini's quartets, concertos and symphonies of W.A. Mozart and all chamber music of Francis Poulenc (RCA Red Seal).

Gilbert Audin plays the Buffet Crampon Prestige basson.  He is bassoon consultant/tester for Buffet Crampon and is contributing to the development of the instrument.

I am told that the French basson is actually more difficult to play than the German system bassoon (which is hard to believe because they sound so fluid) and that the French instrument doesn't project as well.  A few years ago I heard French bassoons live at an International Double Reed Society conference.  I don't remember anything about the projection capabilities- I only recall that I was enchanted by the sound, flexibility and lyrical capabilities of "le basson français."

11 comments:

RWRoesch said...

I'm intrigued by your appreciation for the French bassoon as many tubists abhor our French counterpart! It's pitched a full octave above the standard contrabass tubas and even above the euphoninum! Euphonium players solve their intonation and range issues with a compensating valve system which basically adds a few inches of pipe here and there so their instrument becomes fully chromatic. The standard among tubas is to add a 5th valve so the half step above our fundamental can be accessed making our instrument fully chromatic. It also gives us the luxury of more fingerings to adjust pitch issues in other octaves, and we also have the ability to pull an offending slide while playing to adjust pitch. With the addition of a 5th valve, even the smaller bass tubas have access to the pedal tones the contrabasses can achieve. The French tuba however was built with many of th French orchestral pieces in mind where the tuba is particularly high. To give them access to the low notes the other tubas can achieve, they added a 6th valve! The intonation is notoriously squirrely even with the addition of valves to fix that issue! Since both hands are required to play the instrument, the ability to adjust pitch by moving slides is lost, and the player has to rely entirely on fingerings. It's only pitched a whole step above the euphonium, so I don't know why somewhere along the line some people collaborated to make the French tuba a compensating C euphonium!

Anonymous said...

Hi Betsy,

Thanks a lot for the link to my page. Just a little correction: my name is Brice Mallier, not Bruce.

Best,

Brice

B.S. said...

Dear Will,
I had no idea that the French tuba was so different! I'm guessing that it isn't played much outside of France, and it sounds very challenging to play. I thought that it was only the French bassoon which was different- thanks for clearing up that mistaken assumption.

Betsy

B.S. said...

Dear Brice,

I knew your name, but didn't catch the typo probably because I have a friends named Bruce so I'm used to that name. Thanks you for providing so much great material!

Betsy

Anonymous said...

Hi Betsy,

Here is a rare find: Maurice Allard recording of 1949, first prize at the Geneva Competition:

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/multimedia/audios_podcast/.html?cid=6516732

Best,

Brice

Anonymous said...

Another nice video:

http://www.idrs.org/multimedia/video/browserecord.php?-action=browse&-recid=879

Wark said...

Am very disappointed with the gradual apparent demise of the Buffet bassoon, especially in major French orchestras. Could not someone at least keep tabs on those orchestras that are keeping their Buffet bassoons and publish it here for example?

B.S. said...

I'm disappointed also. I'll try to find out which orchestras still use Buffets.

Michael said...

I came across this page while doing a little research on the French basson after I saw this video - and I was surprised to see that they still use it in Romania:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=761&v=-pXmMnLALh0

B.S. said...

Wow - I had no idea that the French basson was being used in Romania! I'm glad to know that the basson is a little more in use than I thought.

Thank you for sharing this discovery, Michael!

Betsy

Michael said...

Turns out the orchestra in the video is not a Romanian orchestra, but the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo...I don't know why I didn't catch that earlier but it is possible that the description of the video was originally incorrect and edited later. But I did check just now, it is indeed the OPdMC.