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.

Klaus Thunemann’s Foray into Jazz

Michael Naura - Vanessa

The vast major­i­ty of peo­ple who have record­ed bas­soon in jazz con­texts have been dou­blers who pri­mar­i­ly play sax­o­phone, such as Illi­nois Jacquet, Frankie Trum­bauer, and Ben Wen­del. A very small num­ber of play­ers (Paul Han­son and Michael Rabi­now­itz are the best known) tru­ly spe­cial­ize in play­ing jazz on the bas­soon. But there is a third cat­e­go­ry as well: orches­tral bas­soon­ists who have occa­sion­al­ly ven­tured into jazz con­texts.

In 1935, Sol Schoen­bach record­ed four tunes by British jazz pianist Regi­nald Foresythe in a small group that also includ­ed Ben­ny Good­man and Gene Kru­pa. Ken­neth Pas­man­ick, long­time prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the Nation­al Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra, played on two albums by gui­tarist Char­lie Byrd. And Manuel Ziegler, prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the New York Phil­har­mon­ic from 1957 to 1981, record­ed a num­ber of albums in the late 1950s with Gun­ther Schuller, the Mod­ern Jazz Soci­ety, and the Mod­ern Jazz Quar­tet.

But one of the most sur­pris­ing (to me, at least) and impres­sive jazz out­ings by an orches­tral bas­soon­ist is Klaus Thune­mann’s appear­ance on Ger­man pianist Michael Naura’s 1975 album Vanes­sa (ECM 1053). Nau­ra and Thune­mann are joined by Wolf­gang Schlüter on marim­ba, Eber­hard Weber on bass, and Joe Nay on drums. Schlüter and Nau­ra worked togeth­er exten­sive­ly, and Weber and Nay col­lab­o­rat­ed with them on a num­ber of albums. But this is Thunemann’s only record­ing with the group, and as far as I can tell, his only jazz record­ing peri­od. On the back cov­er of the album, Nau­ra writes:

…we team up with Klaus Thune­mann, who is solo bas­soon­ist in the ‘North­ern Ger­man Radio Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra’ (NDR), pro­fes­sor at the Han­nover Col­lege of Music, and who plays Schön­berg under Pier­re Boulez equal­ly as com­pelling­ly as he does Vivaldi with the ‘I Musi­ci di Roma.’ I believe it was pre­cise­ly this dis­tance from which Thune­mann has for many years and with inter­est viewed jazz, that pro­vid­ed the stim­u­lus which inspired us when we made this record­ing.

Thune­mann fig­ures promi­nent­ly in three of the album’s six tracks. “Sal­va­tore” opens the album, and at 11:38, is by far the longest tune on the record. It fea­tures a soar­ing, lyri­cal bas­soon melody fol­lowed by two and a half min­utes of impro­vi­sa­tion by Thune­mann. Schlüter takes his turn, then the whole group engages in some very open-ended impro­vi­sa­tion, includ­ing some bas­soon mul­ti­phon­ics. The bas­soon melody returns at the end. “Baboon” begins and ends as a dirty, funky tune in which Thune­mann explores a rough and even some­times growl­ing tone. The mid­dle is a blaz­ing­ly fast group impro­vi­sa­tion that does not include bas­soon. Thune­mann gets a co-writing cred­it on the album’s last tune, “Black Pigeon”. It opens with almost two min­utes of bas­soon impro­vi­sa­tion — much of it com­plete­ly solo. About two min­utes in, it launch­es into a mid-tempo groove, with bas­soon melody and a long marim­ba solo from Schlüter. Thune­mann takes anoth­er solo turn before return­ing to the melody at the end.

All in all, this album con­tains the most exten­sive and impres­sive impro­vi­sa­tion I’ve heard from some­one we think of as a one of the giants of the “legit” bas­soon world. Thune­mann sounds at ease in the ensem­ble, and uses his con­sid­er­able tech­nique to great advan­tage, run­ning all over the horn and engag­ing in extend­ed tech­niques such as mul­ti­phon­ics, growl­ing, and pitch bends. He even, much to my delight, explores realms of tone very dif­fer­ent from what you hear on, say, his well-known record­ing of the Weber Con­cer­to. You can read a more gen­er­al review of the album on the between sound and space blog.

I learned of the exis­tence of this album while work­ing on my dis­ser­ta­tion on the bas­soon in jazz, and includ­ed it my discog­ra­phy. But at the time I wasn’t able to actu­al­ly get my hands on a copy — it hasn’t ever been rere­leased on CD. The first time I heard any of it was when Jolene Masone post­ed one track last year as part of the “Best Bas­soon Week Ever!” series on her blog. That one tune blew me away, and I renewed my search for the album, final­ly snag­ging a copy on eBay.

At this point in the post, I would typ­i­cal­ly include one track trans­ferred from the album. But this time I can do one bet­ter — I man­aged to dig up and post video footage of Thune­mann with the Michael Nau­ra Quin­tet play­ing “Sal­va­tore” at the Kon­gresshalle in Frank­furt am Main, Sep­tem­ber 27, 1974:


Be sure to check out the free impro­vi­sa­tion (includ­ing bas­soon mul­ti­phon­ics), which starts around the 10-minute mark in this live ver­sion. And if that’s not your thing, the band returns to the form around 12:25.

A New Edition of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor, RV 495

I’m very excit­ed today to release some­thing to the world on which I’ve spent a great deal of time: a new per­form­ing edi­tion of Anto­nio Vivaldi’s Con­cer­to in G minor for bas­soon, strings, and bas­so con­tin­uo (RV 495), pre­pared using a copy of Vivaldi’s own man­u­script. You can down­load the whole thing (for free!) at the end of this post. But first I’d like to talk a bit about my path to the piece and my meth­ods in cre­at­ing this edi­tion. I hope that this will all prove use­ful to some­one out there, par­tic­u­lar­ly since this is one of the required pieces for the 2014 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Com­pe­ti­tion.

Vivaldi Autograph

I’ve played a cou­ple of Vivaldi’s oth­er con­cer­ti in the past. But my rela­tion­ship with this piece began last year, after Nad­i­na Mack­ie Jack­son did me the hon­or of ask­ing me to write the lin­er notes for the first disc in what will even­tu­al­ly be a set of all the Vivaldi bas­soon con­cer­ti. I dove into the project with my cus­tom­ary gus­to — books lit­tered my desk and floor, and PDFs of mis­cel­la­neous Vival­diana deliv­ered to me by the wiz­ards of Inter­li­brary Loan sim­i­lar­ly clut­tered my lap­top screen. As far as I’m con­cerned, research is the fun part. If I could just keep find­ing and absorbing more sources with­out ever hav­ing to actu­al­ly write any­thing, I’d be that much hap­pier. But aside from the var­i­ous print mate­ri­als, I had a more-or-less con­stant Vivaldi bas­soon con­cer­to sound­track — most­ly pre-release mix­es of Nadina’s record­ing, but also ver­sions by Michael McCraw, Ser­gio Azzolini, Mau­rice Allard, and oth­ers.

By the time I had fin­ished the notes for Nad­i­na, I was thor­ough­ly fired-up about Vivaldi and his 37 bas­soon con­cer­ti (plus two incom­plete works). So much so, in fact, that I asked Lor­na Peters, Sacra­men­to State’s won­der­ful harp­si­chord (and piano) teacher, if she’d con­sid­er pro­gram­ming one of them with Cam­er­ata Capis­tra­no, the school’s Baro­que ensem­ble. Hap­pi­ly for me, she agreed, and I set about pick­ing a piece. It’s prob­a­bly not sur­pris­ing that I chose one of the con­cer­ti from Nadina’s disc (RV 495), with which I’d been singing along for weeks. There are many things I love about this con­cer­to. The first move­ment is fiery and flashy. The sec­ond move­ment foregos the upper strings entire­ly, cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful and pas­sion­ate dialog between soloist and con­tin­uo. The third move­ment is just all-out inten­si­ty — it starts with the whole ensem­ble in dri­ving unison (almost the Baro­que equiv­a­lent of pow­er chords), and con­tains what I think is one of the best licks ever writ­ten for bas­soon (mm. 53–56).

I first per­formed the piece with Cam­er­ata Capis­tra­no in Feb­ru­ary of this year, and luck­i­ly we’ve had many chances to present it again since then. Our ten­th per­for­mance will come this Sun­day, as part of the Bravo Bach Fes­ti­val in Sacra­men­to. This is the first time I’ve per­formed a sin­gle solo work so often, and I’ve found it to be an incred­i­bly instruc­tive and free­ing expe­ri­ence. The abil­i­ty to actu­al­ly take chances and try new things over the course of mul­ti­ple per­for­mances can shape your per­cep­tion of and rela­tion­ship to a piece in ways that are dif­fi­cult — if not impos­si­ble — to recre­ate in the prac­tice room or in a stand-alone per­for­mance. Even though I fin­ished school a num­ber of years ago, the one-and-done degree recital men­tal­i­ty is some­thing I’m still try­ing to shake. But that’s a top­ic for anoth­er post.

As soon as I’d set­tled on this con­cer­to, I knew that I want­ed to cre­ate my own per­form­ing edi­tion. At the time, I couldn’t locate an edi­tion with string parts (I’ve since found one, avail­able only from Ger­many). Plus, what bet­ter way to learn a piece back­wards and for­wards than to study the man­u­script and make up a new score and set of parts? I could eas­i­ly have used as my source the score pub­lished in 1957 as part of Ricordi’s Com­plete Works edi­tion. But the edi­tor, Gian Francesco Malip­iero, pro­vid­ed no crit­i­cal com­men­tary and appears to have made some edi­to­ri­al deci­sions with­out explic­it­ly indi­cat­ing that he’d done so. So instead, I went right to Vivaldi’s own man­u­script.

Vivaldi's shorthand for whole-ensemble unison writing

Vivaldi’s short­hand for whole-ensemble unison writ­ing

Vivaldi’s bas­soon con­cer­ti (and indeed most of his works) were not pub­lished in his own life­time, and are only known to us through a mas­sive col­lec­tion of man­u­script scores that now resides at the Bib­liote­ca Nazionale in Tur­in, Italy. Most of the­se are in the composer’s own hand, and the col­lec­tion con­tains many incom­plete sketch­es and drafts. The­se are strong indi­ca­tions that the col­lec­tion was Vivaldi’s own com­pendi­um of his works, and as such, the scores are far from performance-ready. The com­poser made exten­sive use of short­hand tech­niques, includ­ing dal seg­ni that would be awk­ward in per­for­mance and sim­ply indi­cat­ing unison parts instead of writ­ing out the same music on mul­ti­ple lines (see the exam­ple at right).

Beyond expand­ing this short­hand, I endeav­ored to keep my edi­to­ri­al hand as light as pos­si­ble. But inevitably, there were a few instances in which I made changes or inter­pre­tive deci­sions. I have detailed the­se in a crit­i­cal report with­in the score. I have not added any artic­u­la­tions, dynam­ics, orna­ments, or any oth­er per­for­mance sug­ges­tions; the­se are total­ly “clean” parts. There are, how­ev­er, a few impor­tant ways in which this edi­tion dif­fers from the Ricordi edi­tion (and oth­er edi­tions that have used Ricordi as their source):

  • Through­out the con­cer­to, Vivaldi indi­cates that the soloist should join the con­tin­uo line dur­ing tut­ti sec­tions. Except for the few pas­sages in which Vivaldi did not make such an indi­ca­tion, I have pro­vid­ed the soloist with the bass line in small nota­tion. The Ricordi score leaves rests for the bas­soon in all of the­se pas­sages.
  • Mea­sures 211–214 of the Presto are in D minor in Vivaldi’s man­u­script. In mea­sure 211 it appears that he has writ­ten and then wiped away or scratched out a sharp sym­bol on an F in the Vio­la part, but there are no oth­er F-sharps marked in those mea­sures. There is then a sud­den change to D major in mea­sure 215. The Ricordi score places the whole pas­sage in D major.
  • Mea­sure 260 of the Presto does not exist in the Ricordi edi­tion. This comes at the end of the last solo sec­tion, and the final ritor­nel­lo is a repeat of mea­sures 23–55. In Vivaldi’s man­u­script, he wrote out a full mea­sure of res­o­lu­tion (my bar 260), and then indi­cat­ed a dal seg­no to mea­sure 23. Ricordi omit­ted this mea­sure, and instead elid­ed the last solo cadence with the begin­ning of the final ritor­nel­lo.
  • Vivaldi wrote artic­u­la­tion marks over the eighth notes in the solo part in mea­sures 249–252 and 258–259. The Ricordi edi­tion ren­ders all of the­se marks as stac­cati. But in Vivaldi’s hand, the marks in mea­sures 258–259 are clear­ly longer than those in 249–252 (see below). Thus, I have marked the eighth notes in 249–252 as stac­ca­to and those in 258–259 with wedges.
Two types of Vivaldi's articulation marks

Two types of Vivaldi’s artic­u­la­tion marks

For the actu­al engrav­ing of the score and parts, I used Lily­Pond, which I also used for my fin­ger­ing charts. It can be kind of a has­sle but pro­duces very ele­gant results. Also like my fin­ger­ing charts, I’m releas­ing this under a Cre­ative Com­mons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Basi­cal­ly, it means you can use, alter, copy, or dis­trib­ute this how­ev­er you’d like, so long as you give me cred­it and don’t sell it.

It is impor­tant to note that this edi­tion does not include a key­board reduc­tion. It is suit­able only for study or for per­for­mance with string play­ers and a com­pe­tent harp­si­chordist. If you need a ful­ly written-out key­board part, I would rec­om­mend the new bassoon/piano edi­tion pub­lished by TrevCo Music Pub­lish­ing (they list it under its Fan­na num­ber: F8#23).

And now, with­out fur­ther ado, here it is:

Complete Score and Parts (ZIP)

Vivaldi RV 495 — Com­plete Set

Individual Files (PDFs)

Vivaldi RV 495 — Bas­soon
Vivaldi RV 495 — Vio­lin 1
Vivaldi RV 495 — Vio­lin 2
Vivaldi RV 495 — Vio­la
Vivaldi RV 495 — Bas­so Con­tin­uo
Vivaldi RV 495 — Bas­so Con­tin­uo (alter­nate ver­sion with the sec­ond move­ment in score)
Vivaldi RV 495 — Score

Although I’ve gone over all of this with a num­ber of fine-tooth combs, I’d wel­come any cor­rec­tions, com­ments, or oth­er feed­back.

An Inexpensive Cane Scoring Tool

Scor­ing is the process of cut­ting a num­ber of par­al­lel ver­ti­cal lines in the bark a piece of gouged, shaped, and pro­filed cane. The­se cuts make it eas­ier to form the cane into a cylin­dri­cal tube and help pre­vent crack­ing dur­ing the form­ing process. Dif­fer­ent reed mak­ers have var­i­ous the­o­ries of scor­ing, involv­ing dif­fer­ent num­bers, spac­ing, length, and depth of score marks. There is also quite a vari­ety of tools one can choose from to actu­al­ly per­form the scor­ing, rang­ing from a $4 util­i­ty knife to Rieger’s €946 scor­ing machine. The tool I have used for years is close to the inex­pen­sive end of this spec­trum. It is sim­ply a tap (a tool for cut­ting screw threads) mount­ed in a file han­dle.

Parts and Assembly

Left: file han­dle and tap. Right: assem­bled scor­ing tool.

I cer­tain­ly can’t claim to have invent­ed this — I saw Pro­fes­sor James Lotz at Ten­nessee Tech Uni­ver­si­ty demon­strate such a tool when I was a bud­ding reed mak­er in high school. Miller Mar­ket­ing also sells a scor­ing tool that looks to be basi­cal­ly the same thing, made by 2XReed. I don’t remem­ber what the orig­i­nal tap and han­dle cost (I’ve been using the same scor­ing tool for about 15 years). But I recent­ly made a sec­ond one to keep in my office, and the parts came to a whop­ping $8. Here are a tap and han­dle sim­i­lar to the ones that I recent­ly pur­chased. If you’re lucky, the tap will just fit snug­ly in the han­dle — my first tool went togeth­er that way with a sim­ple fric­tion fit. If you’re unlucky (as I was with my recent parts), you’ll have to glue the tap into the han­dle to keep it in place. No big deal. There are prob­a­bly high­er qual­i­ty file han­dles out there with more con­sis­tent con­struc­tion, but this is what my local hard­ware store had.

Tap Close-up

Detail of the tap

The speci­fic size of the tap isn’t crit­i­cal — you just need some­thing with cut­ting teeth (close up at right) with the spac­ing you want to achieve in your scor­ing lines. I use a tap for cut­ting 10–24 threads; the 2XReed tap looks big­ger. If you actu­al­ly buy your tap at a hard­ware store rather than online, you can just looks at all the dif­fer­ent choic­es and pick one that looks right to you.

To use the tool, first put your piece of cane on an easel. Then, hold the tool per­pen­dic­u­lar to the cane at the point you want to start your score lines — I like to start just above the sec­ond wire. Make sure that you have the edge of one set of cut­ting teeth lined up to dig into the cane, apply a bit of pres­sure, and draw the tool straight down your cane. I like to plant my thumb on the back end of the easel and use a sort of closing-the-hand motion to help keep my lines straight. One pass with the tool with score about half the width of the cane. To score the oth­er side, just repeat the action on the oth­er side. You can put one tooth of the scor­ing tool the last exist­ing line to keep the prop­er spac­ing and direc­tion of your score marks. I’ve thrown togeth­er a quick ani­ma­tion of the scor­ing process:

Scoring Animation

Click to see an ani­ma­tion of the scor­ing process

Finished Cane

Cane after a cou­ple of pass­es with the tool

And there you have it: eight or nine per­fect­ly par­al­lel score marks in a mat­ter of a few sec­onds. Above right you can see a piece of cane after a cou­ple of pass­es with the scor­ing tool. I went a lit­tle too high on the left side of this piece of cane, but it’s not a big deal. It does take a lit­tle prac­tice to align the cut­ting teeth prop­er­ly, and also to make the first cut per­fect­ly straight. But get­ting the hang of it doesn’t take very long, and pret­ty quick­ly you’ll be get­ting very con­sis­tent results. The one draw­back of this method is that it doesn’t quite cut as deeply as I’d like; I like my scor­ing to go all the way through the cane at the back end. So, I typ­i­cal­ly deep­en the marks with a util­i­ty knife — anoth­er pret­ty quick oper­a­tion.

Three Early Weber Recordings

Most of the ear­ly record­ings that fea­ture the bas­soon did so in a com­i­cal fash­ion. A hand­ful of artists record­ed Quentin Ashlyn’s song “The Bas­soon” in the first decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry, and I have in my col­lec­tion a cou­ple of very strange (at least to mod­ern ears) “laugh­ing records” from the same era that include the bas­soon. In 1911, Carl Borg­wald record­ed Julius Fučík’s clas­sic “Der Alte Brumm­bär” in 1911 (released as “Polka Fan­tas­tique” in the U.S.). And in 1918, Edis­on released two some­what sil­ly piccolo/bassoon duets: “The Ele­phant and The Fly” and “The Nightin­gale and the Frog”, both fea­tur­ing Ben­jam­in Kohon, who would lat­er become prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the New York Phil­har­mon­ic. The ear­li­est “seri­ous” bas­soon piece on disc (the ear­li­est that I’ve been able to locate, any­way) was not the Mozart Con­cer­to, as one might guess. Rather, it was Carl Maria von Weber’s Andan­te e Ron­do Ongare­se. In fact, this Roman­tic show­piece was record­ed three sep­a­rate times between 1920 and 1938.

Aside from being his­tor­i­cal curiosi­ties, the­se record­ings give us a glimpse of ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry bas­soon play­ing. And as far as I can tell, none of the­se record­ings have ever been re-released. Below you will find copies of all three, dig­i­tized from discs in my col­lec­tion. I’ve applied a bit of noise reduc­tion and removed the worst of the pops and clicks, but the­se are far from professional-quality trans­fers. I’d rec­om­mend lis­ten­ing to the­se on head­phones or real speak­ers, as they may be a bit dif­fi­cult to hear on lap­top, tablet, or phone speak­ers.

Weber Recordings

The three discs in chrono­log­i­cal order. Click for a larg­er ver­sion.

The first two of the­se were in fact made by the same man: William Gruner, who played bas­soon in the Philadel­phia Orches­tra 1906–1917 and 1929–1951. Gruner was born in Berlin on Jan­u­ary 12, 1883 and arrived in the Unit­ed States aboard the S.S. Deutsch­land in April 1906. He became a U.S. cit­i­zen in 1914, and lived near Philadel­phia until his death in Feb­ru­ary 1971. In the peri­od between his two stints with the Philadel­phia Orches­tra (1917–1929), Gruner worked for the Vic­tor Talk­ing Machine Com­pa­ny, mak­ing numer­ous record­ings with the Vic­tor Orches­tra and numer­ous small­er groups.1

William Gruner

William Gruner, from his 1923
U.S. Pass­port Appli­ca­tion

Gruner and the Vic­tor Orches­tra first record­ed Andan­te e Ron­do Ongare­se in June 1920. They record­ed ten takes over the space of three record­ing ses­sions in Victor’s Cam­den, New Jer­sey stu­dios. The last of the­se, record­ed on June 24th, was issued as “Hun­gar­i­an Fan­tasie” on the B side of Vic­tor 18684, a ten-inch 78rpm disc. The piece was severe­ly cut down to fit this for­mat: it lasts a mere three min­utes and thir­teen sec­onds. (For com­par­ison, com­plete record­ings I have by Milan Turkovic, Nad­i­na Mack­ie Jack­son, and Masahi­to Tanaka clock in at 9:53, 9:02, and 9:20, respec­tive­ly.) After the ini­tial 16 mea­sures of the Andan­te, a two bar orches­tral tran­si­tion launch­es us right into the Ron­do. The Ron­do is a bit more sub­stan­tial, but is miss­ing huge chunks (includ­ing most of that dread­ed last page of 16th-note triplets). The end of the piece has been rewrit­ten, too. Hear it for your­self:

Listen to William Gruner - Andante e Rondo (1920)

When Gruner made this record­ing in 1920, the tech­nol­o­gy involved was quite sim­i­lar to that invent­ed by Thomas Edis­on 43 years ear­lier: the per­form­ers played into a large horn that trans­mit­ted sound waves to a flex­i­ble diaphragm con­nect­ed to a sty­lus that cut the sound direct­ly onto a wax disc. This method pro­duced record­ings with lim­it­ed fre­quen­cy and dynam­ic range and required per­form­ers to crowd around a sin­gle horn to be heard. But in 1925 Vic­tor (and many of their com­peti­tors) adopt­ed a new elec­tri­cal record­ing process that used micro­phones, vac­u­um tube ampli­fiers, and an elec­tro­mag­net­ic record­ing head. This sys­tem allowed for much greater dynam­ic and fre­quen­cy respon­se, and pro­duced a gen­er­al­ly much bet­ter sound­ing record­ing.

Gruner and the Vic­tor Orches­tra returned to the stu­dio on Octo­ber 19, 1926, and record­ed an addi­tion­al five takes of the Weber with the new elec­tri­cal record­ing sys­tem. They used the same pared-down arrange­ment — elec­tri­cal record­ing did noth­ing to mit­i­gate the format’s time con­straints. This new record­ing was released in June 1927 as the B side of Vic­tor 20525, anoth­er ten-inch 78rpm disc. Although Vic­tor didn’t set about re-recording their entire cat­a­log after switch­ing to elec­tri­cal record­ing, this is in instance in which they clear­ly want­ed to re-create an ear­lier disc. The A sides of the two discs are record­ings of Tour­bil­lon (Whirl­wind), a piece for flute and piano by Adolph Krantz, albeit fea­tur­ing dif­fer­ent per­form­ers.2

If you made it all the way through Gruner’s 1920 record­ing, you prob­a­bly don’t need to lis­ten to all of this one. His inter­pre­ta­tion doesn’t change appre­cia­bly, although it is inter­est­ing to hear the dif­fer­ences between the two record­ing process­es.

Listen to William Gruner - Andante e Rondo (1926)
Fernand Oubradous

Fer­nand Oubradous

The French bas­soon­ist Fer­nand Oubradous record­ed Andan­te e Ron­do Ongare­se in Paris in 1938, accom­pa­nied by the Orchestre de la Société des Con­certs du Con­ser­va­toire under the direc­tion of Roger Désormière. Oubradous was born in Paris on Feb­ru­ary 12, 1903. He won his Pre­miere prix from the Paris Con­ser­va­toire in 1923 — after only a sin­gle year of bas­soon study. He played with the Paris Opéra, the Orchestre Lam­oureux, the Orchestre de la Société des Con­certs du Con­ser­va­toire, and the Trio d’Anches de Paris. In addi­tion to Weber’s Andan­te e Ron­do Ongare­se, Oubradous record­ed con­cer­ti by Mozart, Weber, and Bois­mortier and a great deal of cham­ber music. But his first job after grad­u­at­ing from the Con­ser­va­toire was as music direc­tor of the Théâtre de l’Atelier, and he received much acclaim as a con­duc­tor through­out his career. Oubradous died in Paris in Jan­u­ary 1986.3 For more on Oubradous, see the­se two sites (both in French): fernand.oubradous.free.fr and Fer­nand Oubradous — Site de l’association Fou de Bas­son.

Oubradous’s record­ing of the piece is near­ly com­plete, thanks to it being issued on both sides of a twelve-inch 78rpm disc (L’Oiseau-Lyre O.L. 14). This is like­ly attrib­ut­able to the fact that Édi­tions de l’Oiseau-Lyre has always had a more spe­cial­ist and schol­ar­ly focus than more mass-market com­pa­nies like Vic­tor. Side A is the Andan­te, which is just over four min­utes long. The Ron­do (on side B) is slight­ly longer at four min­utes and six­teen sec­onds. The Ron­do had to be cut down a bit to fit; forty-two mea­sures have been excised. This is most­ly most­ly repeat­ed themes and sec­tions of orches­tral inter­ludes, but the entire last state­ment of the ron­do the­me has been removed as well. There’s one oth­er inter­est­ing change: the four mea­sures of quarter-note trills in the mid­dle of the last flashy sec­tion have been tak­en out of the solo part and given to one of the orches­tral bas­soon­ists!

Listen to Fernand Oubradous - Andante et Rondo Hongrois (1938)

It’s clear that record­ing tech­nol­o­gy and disc man­u­fac­ture had improved quite a bit in the 12 years since Gruner’s sec­ond record­ing. The bas­soon is clear­er and more present (the fact that he was play­ing a French bas­soon helps, too), and the orchestra’s sound has far more depth and def­i­n­i­tion. Frankly, the qual­i­ty of the bas­soon play­ing is much high­er, as well. Although this par­tic­u­lar record­ing hasn’t been rere­leased, you can occa­sion­al­ly find Oubradous’s Mozart Con­cer­to on CD on Ama­zon, or as mp3s here.


  1. John Ardoin, The Philadel­phia Orches­tra: A Cen­tu­ry of Music (Philadel­phia: Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1999); William Gruner, Peti­tion for Nat­u­ral­iza­tion, March 20, 1913, Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Peti­tions for the East­ern Dis­trict of Penn­syl­va­nia, 1795–1930 (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion, micro­film series M1522, roll 93), 335; William Gruner, 165–03-6373, Social Secu­ri­ty Death Index, 1935-Current (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Oper­a­tions Inc, 2011); William Gruner, Draft Reg­is­tra­tion Card, Sep­tem­ber 12, 1918, World War I Selec­tive Ser­vice Sys­tem Draft Reg­is­tra­tion Cards, 1917–1918, (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion, micro­film series M1509, roll PA83), 278. 

  2. The ear­lier disc (Vic­tor 18684) fea­tures flutist Arthur Brooke of the Boston Sym­pho­ny, while the per­for­mance on the lat­er disc (Vic­tor 20525) is by Clement Barone, a mem­ber of the Vic­tor Orches­tra and for­mer­ly prin­ci­pal flutist of the Philadel­phia Orches­tra. 

  3. Jean-Pierre Seguin, “Fer­nand Oubradous: A Half-Century of Wood­wind His­to­ry,” trans. Philip Got­tling, The Jour­nal of the
    Inter­na­tion­al Dou­ble Reed Soci­ety
    , no. 14 (1986),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/Journal/JNL14/JNL14.Seg.html