Weber Rondo for Children

I’ve writ­ten pre­vi­ously about the three ear­li­est record­ings of Carl Maria von Weber’s Andante and Hun­gar­ian Rondo — two fea­tur­ing German-American bas­soon­ist William Gruner (1920 and 1926), and one with French bas­soon­ist Fer­nand Oubradous (1938). As a num­ber of peo­ple pointed out, I left out another early record­ing by Eli Car­men from the late 40s. I didn’t have a copy at the time, but I’ve man­aged to get my hands on one now. This one’s a bit of an odd­ball: it’s only the Rondo, it was recorded for a children’s record label, and it was released on a vinyl 78rpm disc. As far as I can tell, this record­ing has never been rere­leased, but you can lis­ten to it below.

Eli Carmen Weber Labels

Both labels of my disc — a later Children’s Record Guild release, orig­i­nally recorded for Young People’s Records.
Click for a larger version.

Eli Carmen

Eli Car­men

Elias Car­men was born in New York in 1912 to Russ­ian immi­grant par­ents. His father was a tai­lor.1 He started on the French sys­tem, but switched to the Ger­man bas­soon when he began stud­ies with Simon Kovar. Car­men and Sol Schoen­bach were the first two Ger­man bas­soon stu­dents at Juil­liard.2 Car­men played with many orches­tras dur­ing his carer, most notably the Min­neapo­lis Sym­phony, the Cleve­land Orches­tra, the NBC Sym­phony, and the New York City Bal­let. He taught at both the Man­hat­tan School of Music and Yale. Car­men died fol­low­ing an auto acci­dent on Decem­ber 21, 1973.3

Car­men appeared on a great num­ber of orches­tral record­ings with the NBC Sym­phony, as well as record­ings of cham­ber music by Beethoven, Lud­wig Spohr, Arthur Berger, and Mel Pow­ell. He also recorded Vivaldi’s Con­certo in G minor, “La Notte” with flutist Julius Baker on Odyssey.4 But this par­tial Weber is his only truly solo recording.

YPR 1009 Cover

YPR 1009 Cover

Young People’s Records was estab­lished in the late 1940s, and sold records on a sub­scrip­tion model. Exist­ing children’s records were meant to be played for chil­dren by their par­ents or teach­ers. But YPR wanted kids (ages 2 to 11) to actu­ally use the records them­selves. To this end, YPR was one of the first com­pa­nies to exclu­sively use the then-new flex­i­ble vinylite for their discs, rather than the older and much more frag­ile shel­lac. A large quan­tity of the recorded mate­r­ial was writ­ten specif­i­cally for YPR — mainly songs in var­i­ous styles, but also instru­men­tal works and even mini-operas. YPR’s edi­to­r­ial board, which included emi­nent Amer­i­can com­posers and teach­ers Howard Han­son and Dou­glas Moore, no doubt encour­aged the preva­lence of new com­mis­sions. Record­ings of Clas­si­cal or Roman­tic com­posers, such as Weber, com­prised a rel­a­tively small por­tion of YPR’s cat­a­log.5

Records of YPR’s record­ing ses­sion dates evi­dently haven’t sur­vived, but Eli Carmen’s Rondo was released in Novem­ber 1949. Max Gob­er­man con­ducted this and YPR’s other clas­si­cal selec­tions, and what’s billed here as the “YPR Sym­phony Orches­tra” was assem­bled largely from Goberman’s own New York Sin­foni­etta. YPR empha­sized music’s edu­ca­tional and devel­op­men­tal ben­e­fits in both its adver­tis­ing and its pack­ag­ing. The text on this record’s sleeve give a kid-friendly expla­na­tion of Rondo form:

Rondo for Bas­soon and Orches­tra
by Carl Maria Von Weber (pro­nounced Fon Vaber) 1786 — 1826

When you tell an idea in words, it is called a story. When you tell an idea in music, it is called a melody. Just as you can tell a story in many dif­fer­ent ways, so you can tell a melody in many dif­fer­ent ways — and one of those ways is a rondo. (Other ways are marches, dif­fer­ent kinds of dances, sonatas, sets of vari­a­tions. None of these ways of telling a melody have words or sto­ries attached to them.)

The rondo way of telling musi­cal ideas is to keep com­ing back to the first idea, or melody. In this rondo — its full name is Hun­gar­ian Rondo for Bas­soon and Orches­tra — we hear a melody, then a new melody, then the first melody, then another new melody, then the first melody again. Some­times these melodies are played by the bas­soon alone, some­times by the orches­tra alone and some­times by bas­soon and orchestra.

And a fur­ther note “To Par­ents” explains why this par­tic­u­lar work was cho­sen for the series:

…Young People’s Records believes the rondo to be a good form for children’s lis­ten­ing because it is read­ily appar­ent and accept­able. The recur­rence of a basic melody is some­thing the child can eas­ily fol­low with­out becom­ing lost in intri­cate prob­lems of design and form. We have cho­sen this par­tic­u­lar rondo for chil­dren because of the appeal of the bas­soon as an instrument.…

Hear Eli Carmen’s Rondo here:

Listen to Eli Carmen - Rondo for Bassoon and Orchestra (1949)

For more about Young People’s Records and the Children’s Record Guild, see David Bonner’s 2008 book Rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing Children’s Records and his web site: The Shel­lackophile has also dig­i­tized and posted a num­ber of YPR titles, which you can down­load (thanks to him for the image of the cover above, as it’s miss­ing from my disc).

  1. 1920 United States Fed­eral Cen­sus, Brook­lyn Assem­bly Dis­trict 2, Kings, New York (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: National Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion, micro­film pub­li­ca­tion T625, roll T625_1146, page 6A). 

  2. Sol Schoen­bach, “Remem­brances of Eli,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),

  3. Mrs. Ivan Kemp­ner, “Elias Car­men — Farewell,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),

  4. Don­ald Mac­Court, “Elias Car­men on Record­ings,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),

  5. David Bon­ner, Rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing Children’s Records: The Young People’s Records and Children’s Record Guild Series, 1946—1977 (Lan­ham, MD: Scare­crow Press, 2008). 

The Numbering of Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerti

If you’ve ever played, lis­tened to, or researched any­thing by Anto­nio Vivaldi, then you’ve prob­a­bly run into the mish­mash of dif­fer­ent num­ber­ing sys­tems for his works. There are in fact five sep­a­rate cat­a­loging schemes for Vivaldi’s instru­men­tal pieces, each with its own inter­nal logic, and there’s no sim­ple way to con­vert from one to another on the fly. It can thus be incred­i­bly frus­trat­ing to go from a schol­arly arti­cle to per­form­ing edi­tions to crit­i­cal or com­plete works edi­tions to record­ings, as each of those media may well ref­er­ence a dif­fer­ent num­ber for the same piece.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time think­ing about Vivaldi’s 39 bas­soon con­certi. The Meg Quigley Vivaldi Com­pe­ti­tion, for which I’m the Direc­tor of Oper­a­tions, uses a dif­fer­ent Vivaldi con­certo each time around. I wrote the liner notes for the first disc of Nad­ina Mackie Jack­son’s series of all the con­certi. Last year I cre­ated a new per­form­ing edi­tion of his Con­certo in g minor, RV 495. Through­out, I’ve been able to keep all the num­ber­ing sys­tems straight thanks to Jef­frey Lyman’s excel­lent Table of Con­cor­dances: Vivaldi Con­certi for Bas­soon. This table lists all 37 com­plete con­certi along with their des­ig­na­tions in each of the five num­ber­ing sys­tems, and builds on work by Trevor Cramer and George Conrey.

My only com­plaint about this table is that it presents the data sorted by only one sys­tem, which means that it some­times takes a while to hunt through the other columns to find what you’re look­ing for. So, I decided to make the com­pletely sortable ver­sion below. As long as you have Javascript enabled, you can click on any col­umn header to sort the by that num­ber­ing sys­tem. This should make it easy to locate whichever num­ber you need. I’ve also added in Vivaldi’s two incom­plete bas­soon con­certi, just for the sake of com­plete­ness. Below the table you’ll find expla­na­tions of the num­ber­ing sys­tems, if you care to know why we have so many.

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Updated Fingering Charts

Fingering Chart v.2

I first pub­lished my own bas­soon fin­ger­ing charts a lit­tle over two years ago. That post is far and away the most pop­u­lar on this site, and I’ve heard reports from all over of peo­ple using the charts. It was always my inten­tion to tweak the charts as I used them for teach­ing and received feed­back from other users. But I lost my source files shortly after pub­lish­ing the first charts, and have only been able to make very minor changes since then. Now, finally, I’ve rebuilt the things from the ground up and made some alter­ations that were long overdue.

The charts show my basic fingering(s) for each note. I may at some point add charts for alter­nate fin­ger­ings and/or trills, but they aren’t there yet. There are now four sep­a­rate ver­sions of my fin­ger­ing chart, suit­able for dif­fer­ent uses:

  • The Begin­ner Chart includes fin­ger­ings for the first three octaves of the bas­soon (Bb1—Bb4), uses only bass clef, and shows vent­ing rather than flicking.
  • The Stu­dent Chart extends up to E5, uses tenor clef, and shows flick­ing keys in red.
  • The Pro Chart goes all the way up to Bb5 for the adventurous
  • The Extreme Range Chart just shows the very top end of my fin­ger­ings, for those who don’t need any help in the stan­dard range

The charts now reside on their own sep­a­rate page under my Resources tab. That way I can just post future updates there with­out hav­ing to make a new post every time. Grab them here: Fin­ger­ing Charts.

AnyWhen Ensemble — The Bright and Rushing World

Douglas Detrick's AnyWhen Ensemble - Bright and Rushing World

I have long intended to write more here about spe­cific jazz record­ings that include bas­soon. I have many favorites span­ning basi­cally the whole his­tory of jazz, which I’ll get to even­tu­ally. But I’ve decided to start with a recent album from a band that’s new to me. Last month I received a copy of The Bright and Rush­ing World by Dou­glas Detrick’s Any­When Ensem­ble (thanks, Dad!). This, the group’s third album, was recorded in 2012 and released in March of this year. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to the disc on and off over the past few weeks, and I quite enjoy it.

The ensem­ble describes them­selves on their web site thus:

We believe in the unex­pected. Our sig­na­ture instru­men­ta­tion sets us apart, but we make our real impact through bold new com­po­si­tions that inte­grate cham­ber music con­cep­tion with jazz spon­tane­ity. We believe that great music can hap­pen any­where, any­how, any­why, and any­when — ours is fit­ting music for this bright and rush­ing world.

Indeed it was their uncom­mon instru­men­ta­tion that drew my atten­tion in the first place. The group is a quin­tet con­sist­ing of trum­pet (Dou­glas Det­rick), sax­o­phone (Hashem Assadul­lahi), cello (Shirley Hunt), bas­soon (Steve Vac­chi), and drums (Ryan Bie­sack). This very assem­blage of instru­ments seems to bridge the cham­ber music and jazz worlds rather nicely. Although they all cer­tainly appear in both realms, sax­o­phone and drum­set tend to be asso­ci­ated with jazz while bas­soon and cello tend to be asso­ci­ated with clas­si­cal music. Trum­pet is the one instru­ment here that com­monly appears in both musics, and it’s per­haps fit­ting that Det­rick, the group’s leader, occu­pies that linch­pin posi­tion. Det­rick also serves as the ensemble’s chief com­poser. In fact, the quin­tet got its start play­ing music for his grad­u­ate com­po­si­tion recital at the Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon, where Steve Vac­chi is Pro­fes­sor of Bas­soon and Cham­ber Music.

The Bright and Rush­ing World is a sin­gle album-length com­po­si­tion, divided into ten movements/tracks. They aren’t all com­pletely con­tin­u­ous, but most flow into each other with­out sub­stan­tial breaks or strong cadences. The first word that came to my mind to describe this music was “atmos­pheric,” but that’s not exactly right. “Spa­cious” might be a bet­ter descrip­tor. Det­rick makes judi­cious use of silence, as well as trans­par­ent tex­tures. The pac­ing is also gen­er­ally grad­ual — themes, tex­tures, and grooves are given plenty of time for devel­op­ment. There are a few hur­ried moments, such as pointil­lis­tic inter­jec­tions in “Into the Bright and Rush­ing World.” But even these are rel­a­tively short, and are book­ended by silence, laid back drum grooves, and/or much sim­pler melodic mate­r­ial. It is often dif­fi­cult to tell exactly where the com­posed music ends and the impro­vised play­ing begins, which I imag­ine is by design.

Det­rick pro­vides the ensem­ble with many oppor­tu­ni­ties for explor­ing inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tions of tone col­ors. In the first move­ment (“The door is open”), sax­o­phone, cello, and bas­soon act like a sin­gle instru­ment, cre­at­ing a lush organ-like accom­pa­ni­ment for Detrick’s some­what mean­der­ing melody. In the mid­dle of the sixth move­ment (“You never thought to give a name”), the four melody instru­ments play over­lap­ping slith­er­ing lines, almost the sonic equiv­a­lent of a mass of writhing ten­ta­cles. Cello, bas­soon, and trum­pet var­i­ously emerge as solo lines from this tex­ture, then melt back into it. It’s a very cool effect, and I can’t really do it jus­tice with a writ­ten descrip­tion. What really makes these and other timbral/textural devices within the piece work is that these play­ers blend with each other excep­tion­ally well. This, com­bined with the fact that Det­rick often places the instru­ments (par­tic­u­larly the bas­soon) in extremes of range, stretches the listener’s ear, some­times mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to iden­tify exactly who is playing.

Although Det­rick cer­tainly has his own par­tic­u­lar treat­ment of tim­bre in this piece, it is not uncom­mon for a bas­soon­ist to appear in jazz groups that make inter­est­ing tone col­ors a fea­ture of their music. Sym­phonic jazz ensem­bles of the late 1920s and early 1930s employed all man­ner of instru­ments in an ongo­ing search for new and dif­fer­ent sounds and tone color com­bi­na­tions. The band­leader Paul White­man employed at least six wind play­ers who dou­bled on bas­soon, most notably Frankie Trum­bauer. Later, in the cool jazz of the 1950s, arrangers favored thick tex­tures and warm tim­bres. They made fre­quent use of instru­ments such as the bas­soon, French horn, tuba, and cello to achieve their desired sounds. Gil Evans, the most promi­nent cool school arranger, used bas­soons in his arrange­ments for Miles Davis, Char­lie Parker, Don Elliott, Lucy Reed, and Kenny Bur­rell, as well as on some of his own albums.

But while some sym­phonic and cool jazz groups kept their bas­soon­ists in the back­ground, Det­rick treats all of his play­ers as basi­cally equal here. I’ve touched on Steve Vacchi’s ensem­ble play­ing above, but he also takes sub­stan­tial solo turns in the third, sixth, and eighth move­ments. His solos are fluid, and he sounds at home in the mixed chamber/jazz idiom. Over the course of the album, he explores most of the bassoon’s range, from the bot­tom reg­is­ter all the way up to high E. The record­ing qual­ity is excel­lent, and Vacchi’s rich tone comes through quite well. Here’s the third track/movement, “A seeker, insub­mis­sive,” which has lots of promi­nent bas­soon work — Vacchi’s solo starts at about 1:48:

Buy/stream the album: Ama­zon | iTunes | Spo­tify | Naxos | Clas­sic­sOn­line

If that’s not enough to con­vince you to go buy this album, then you can hear more sam­ples here. The Bright and Rush­ing World is an inter­est­ing and valu­able addi­tion to the bassoon-in-jazz canon, and I’m look­ing for­ward to check­ing out the Any­When Ensemble’s two pre­vi­ous albums some­time soon: Walk­ing Across (2008) and Rivers Music (2011).

Spring Recitals

This spring, I’ve finally got­ten my act together enough to give nearly back-to-back recitals at CSU Stanis­laus and Sacra­mento State. The two pro­grams are very sim­i­lar, and fea­ture French music from the 1930s and ‘40s. I’ll be play­ing two pieces for bas­soon and piano, both con­cours pieces from the Paris Con­ser­va­toire: Gabriel Pierné’s Prélude de Con­cert sur un thème de Pur­cell, Op.53 and Henri Dutilleux’s Sara­bande et Cortège. At CSU Stanis­laus, these will be accom­pa­nied by Eugène Bozza’s Sonatine for flute and bas­soon. At Sac State, they’ll be paired with two reed trios: Jacques Ibert’s Cinq pièces en trio and Dar­ius Milhaud’s Pas­torale.

I’m espe­cially excited that the sec­ond half of each con­cert will fea­ture my swing quin­tet, Hot Club Faux Gitane (with Billy Gay and Eric John­son on gui­tars, Gary Williams-Guichard on man­dolin, Jake Myers on bass, and me on bas­soon). This group (seen in the posters below), is loosely mod­eled on Django Rein­hardt’s Quin­tette du Hot Club de France, which was active in Paris in the 1930s and ‘40s. I’ve been play­ing with the group for almost three years now. We play a mix­ture of the clas­sic gyspy swing reper­toire, other jazz stan­dards, tunes from the post-Django gypsy tra­di­tion, and orig­i­nals. This will be the group’s sec­ond appear­ance at CSU Stanis­laus, but the Sac State con­cert will be our Sacra­mento debut. Details and posters for the two con­certs are below.

Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 20, 7:30pm
Snider Recital Hall, CSU Stanis­laus, Tur­lock, CA (map)
Buy Tick­ets — $12/$8 stu­dents and seniors
With: Yan Yan Chan (piano), Jean­nine Den­nis (flute), and Hot Club Faux Gitane

Sun­day, Feb­ru­ary 23, 6:00pm
Music Recital Hall, Sacra­mento State, Sacra­mento, CA (map)
Buy Tick­ets — $10 general/$7 seniors/$5 stu­dents
Live Stream
With: John Cozza (piano), San­dra McPher­son (clar­inet), Deb­o­rah Shi­dler (oboe), and Hot Club Faux Gitane

Spring 2014 Poster - StanislausSpring 2014 Poster - Sac State

Posters for CSU Stanis­laus (left) and Sacra­mento State (right). Click for larger versions.