Posts Tagged ‘bassoon’

Paris Conservatoire Contest Pieces for Bassoon

The Paris Con­ser­va­toire has, through its annu­al con­cours (con­test), added a great num­ber of works to the bassoon’s solo reper­toire. Recent­ly, I found myself won­der­ing how many of these works have been uploaded to IMSLP. I start­ed my search by pulling one of the great bas­soon ref­er­ence works off my shelf: Kris­tine Fletcher’s book The Paris Con­ser­va­toire and the Con­test Solos for Bas­soon (Bloom­ing­ton, IN: Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1988). I was lucky enough to buy one of Dr. Fletcher’s last extra copies when I was in grad school, but it’s dif­fi­cult to get your hands on today, out­side of uni­ver­si­ty libraries. I made myself a spread­sheet of all the con­test pieces, and set about search­ing IMSLP and copy­ing links for pieces that have been post­ed there. Part­way through this task, I real­ized that what I was cre­at­ing had the poten­tial to be of great use to oth­ers. So, I’m post­ing it on my site today.

When I ini­tial­ly checked IMSLP, only a dozen of these works (not count­ing Mozart, Vival­di, and Weber) were avail­able. I’ve uploaded an addi­tion­al 4 pieces by Eugène Jan­court over the last week or so, and have one by Hen­ri Büss­er in process. Some of the 19th-cen­tu­ry works may nev­er have been pub­lished, and many of them have titles that are prob­a­bly too gener­ic for pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (e.g. “Con­cer­to”). But, there are still anoth­er 20+ pub­lished works out there that are poten­tial­ly in the pub­lic domain (at least in the US), and could be added. I’ll keep work­ing to track these down and make them avail­able. If you have orig­i­nal print­ings of any of them, please get in touch!

The table of con­test pieces needs a lit­tle extra space, so I’ve put it on its own page. You can get there either via the “Resources” tab above, or sim­ply by click­ing the image of the table below:

Table of Paris Conservatoire Contest Pieces

Paris Con­ser­va­toire Con­test Pieces—click to view the entire table

Garfield Plays Hindemith

Hindemith playing his Heckel bassoon, 1940

Hin­demith play­ing his Heck­el bas­soon, 19401

Ger­man com­pos­er Paul Hin­demith wrote more than forty sonatas. In addi­tion to at least one sonata for each stan­dard orches­tral wood­wind, brass, and string instru­ment, he wrote for a num­ber of less-com­mon solo instru­ments, includ­ing the Eng­lish horn, the vio­la d’amore, and the althorn. Although he was pri­mar­i­ly a vio­la play­er, Hin­demith owned and could play many of the instru­ments for which he wrote; he appar­ent­ly had a par­tic­u­lar inter­est in the bas­soon. An entry in the Heck­el visitor’s log indi­cates that Hin­demith pur­chased a bas­soon from the firm on Octo­ber 9, 1927.2

Hin­demith wrote his Sonate for bas­soon in 1938, dur­ing a tumul­tuous time in his life. Per­for­mances of his music had been banned in Ger­many in 1936, and in May 1938 he was one of the com­posers sin­gled out for scorn at a Nazi exhib­it of Entartete (Degen­er­ate) Musik in Düs­sel­dorf. He soon decid­ed to leave Ger­many, and emi­grat­ed to Switzer­land in Sep­tem­ber 1938.3. The pre­miere of his Sonate for bas­soon took place in Zurich on Novem­ber 6 of that year, per­formed by bas­soon­ist Gus­tav Studl and pianist Wal­ter Frey. The con­cert also includ­ed his Sonata for Piano, four hands, per­formed by Frey and Hin­demith him­self.4

Bernard Garfield in the mid-1960s, with his black 7000-series Heckel

Bernard Garfield in the mid-1960s, with his black 7000-series Heck­el (more info)

The ear­li­est record­ings of Hindemith’s bas­soon Sonate were made in the Unit­ed States, to which the com­pos­er had emi­grat­ed in ear­ly 1940. As far as I can tell, the very first record­ing of the piece was made by Bernard Garfield (with pianist Theodore Lettvin) on EMS Record­ings, released in 1950. I con­tact­ed the Hin­demith Insti­tute in Frank­furt, and they con­firmed that the Garfield record­ing is the ear­li­est of which they’re aware. Leonard Shar­row also made an ear­ly record­ing of the piece for the Oxford Record­ing Com­pa­ny, prob­a­bly some time in the 1950s, but I have been unable to find pre­cise dates of record­ing or release.

Garfield, who will turn 93 this Fri­day, is best known for serv­ing as the Philadel­phia Orchestra’s Prin­ci­pal Bas­soon­ist from 1957 to 2000. He is one of my grandteach­ers — Jef­frey Lyman, with whom I stud­ied at Ari­zona State, stud­ied with him, among oth­ers. Garfield has also com­posed a num­ber of works, most­ly fea­tur­ing the bas­soon in var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions. His record­ings of some of the pil­lars of the bas­soon reper­toire are still in print, and are eas­i­ly obtain­able, includ­ing the Mozart Con­cer­to and Weber Andante e Ron­do Ongarese (both with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadel­phia Orches­tra).

But, his record­ing of the Hin­demith Sonate has nev­er been re-released, and is quite dif­fi­cult to find (this like­ly has to do with the fact that the own­er of EMS Record­ings, Jack Skur­nick, died sud­den­ly in 1952, leav­ing the company’s record­ings to lan­guish). I must admit that I wasn’t even aware Garfield had made a record­ing of the piece until San Fran­cis­co Sym­pho­ny prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist Stephen Paul­son made a Face­book post about three months ago, ask­ing about its avail­abil­i­ty. It took me quite a while to track down a copy, although unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s a some­what worn and crack­ly one. But, I’m still hap­py to present a dig­i­tized ver­sion here:

Listen to Bernard Garfield and Theodore Lettvin - Hindemith <em>Sonate</em> for bassoon and piano (1950)

EDIT: Accord­ing to Antho­ny George­son, Garfield acquired the 7000-series Heck­el in the pho­to above after he made this record­ing; he’s using a 9000-series here.

EMS-4 Label


  1. Source: http://www.hindemith.info/en/life-work/biography/1933–1939/work/the-sonatas/ 

  2. Gun­ther Jop­pig, “Heck­el­phone 80 Years Old,” Jour­nal of the Inter­na­tion­al Dou­ble Reed Soci­ety 14 (1986), 73. 

  3. Gisel­her Schu­bert, “Hin­demith, Paul,” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online. Link 

  4. Robert Peter Kop­er, “A Styl­is­tic and Per­for­mance Analy­sis of the Bas­soon Music of Paul Hin­demith,” (Ed.D. diss., Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Urbana-Cham­paign, 1972), 115. 

1916 Recording of Auguste Mesnard

August Mesnard

Auguste Mes­nard, c. 19171

Auguste Mes­nard was born Novem­ber 17, 1875 in Cognac, France. He began his musi­cal career as a vio­lin­ist, study­ing at the Ecole Nationale de Musique d’Angoulème, and earn­ing a first prize from there in 1891. After an unsuc­cess­ful audi­tion to enter the Paris Con­ser­va­toire, one of his musi­cal col­leagues in Angoulème sug­gest­ed that he take up the bas­soon instead. He evi­dent­ly took to the instru­ment right away, as he man­aged to gain entry to Eugène Bourdeau’s bas­soon class at the Paris Con­ser­va­toire only two years lat­er (Novem­ber 1893). He won a first prize there in 1897, and went on to bas­soon posi­tions in the Con­certs Rouge, Orches­tra Lam­oureux, and Soci­eté Nationale de Musique. In his posi­tion as sec­ond bas­soon­ist with the Orches­tra Lam­oureux, he played the pre­mieres of Debussy’s Noc­turnes and L’Après-midi d’un faune.

In 1905, Wal­ter Dam­rosch, music direc­tor of the New York Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra, trav­eled to Paris in search of prin­ci­pal wood­wind play­ers for his orches­tra. Mes­nard audi­tioned for Dam­rosch and was hired, along with flutist George Bar­rère, oboist Mar­cel Tabuteau, and clar­inetist Léon Leroy. Mes­nard played under Dam­rosch for the the 1905-08 sea­sons, and then took a posi­tion with the Chica­go-Philadel­phia Grand Opera Com­pa­ny. In 1912 he turned down a job with Leopold Stokowski’s Philadel­phia Orches­tra, but soon returned to New York to join the New York Phil­har­mon­ic under Josef Strán­ský. Willem Men­gel­berg suc­ceed­ed Strán­ský in 1922, and did not get along with Mes­nard. Mesnard’s col­league Ben­jamin Kohon relat­ed a pos­si­ble rea­son:

Mes­nard and I were asso­ciate 1st bas­soon­ists with the N.Y. Phil­har­mon­ic Orches­tra for 2 sea­sons under W. Men­gel­berg, con­duc­tor. I imag­ine that Men­gel­berg did not like the French bas­soon sound and thus was pick­ing on Mes­nard. They had an argu­ment after a rehearsal and Mes­nard resigned. And I would have done the same thing if I had been treat­ed in a sim­i­lar man­ner.2

Mesnard’s career con­tin­ued for anoth­er 20+ years, play­ing with the tour­ing Wag­ner­ian Opera Com­pa­ny, the Cap­i­tal The­ater Orches­tra under Eugene Ormandy, the Roxy The­ater Orches­tra, and an orches­tra sup­port­ed by the Works Progress Admin­is­tra­tion.3 Mes­nard retired in 1945 at the age of 70, and died in New York in Octo­ber 1974, just shy of his 100th birth­day.4

Mes­nard began writ­ing his mem­oirs in 1943, short­ly before his retire­ment, and worked on them over the next decade or so. These were nev­er pub­lished, but copies of the type­script reside in the libraries of South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty and the Inter­na­tion­al Dou­ble Reed Soci­ety. I haven’t been able to exam­ine this yet myself, but French bas­soon spe­cial­ist Lau­rence Ibisch wrote an arti­cle about Mes­nard in the Octo­ber 1978 issue of The Dou­ble Reed, with infor­ma­tion tak­en from the mem­oirs.5 Unless oth­er­wise not­ed, all the infor­ma­tion in the pre­ced­ing bio­graph­i­cal sketch comes from Ibisch’s arti­cle.

Ibisch also owns and reg­u­lar­ly plays on Mesnard’s Buf­fet bas­soon — the very one in the pho­to above.6 It was made in 1900, and has six­teen keys (rather than the 22 present on the Jan­court “per­fect­ed” sys­tem). Buf­fets are com­mon­ly made of rose­wood, but this instru­ment has only a rose­wood wing joint. The rest of the instru­ment is made of much lighter maple, which is more com­mon for Ger­man bas­soons.

Columbia A2161

Colum­bia A2161

Dur­ing his tenure with the New York Phil­har­mon­ic, Mes­nard also worked worked as a record­ing artist for the Colum­bia Gramo­phone Com­pa­ny. Record­ing com­pa­nies in that era gen­er­al­ly didn’t cred­it indi­vid­ual orches­tra mem­bers, so it’s prob­a­bly impos­si­ble to know how many ensem­ble record­ings he par­tic­i­pat­ed in. His one record­ing as a soloist was made on Octo­ber 14, 1916 — a duet with harpist Charles Schuet­ze. The piece they record­ed, Ser­e­nade by Edmond Fil­ip­puc­ci (1869–1948), is almost cer­tain­ly an arrange­ment. Filippucci’s music is not easy to come by today either in print­ed or record­ed forms, so I haven’t been able to iden­ti­fy the piece itself. But a like­ly can­di­date is his 2 Pièces pour vio­lon avec accom­pa­g­ne­ment de piano: Nº 1. Séré­nade, pub­lished in 1894.

Mes­nard and Schuet­ze record­ed four takes, the last of which was issued on Colum­bia A2161 in 1917 (backed with the Colum­bia Minia­ture Orches­tra play­ing The Music Box).7 This is from the era of acoustic record­ing (no micro­phones), and my copy of the disc has been well-used. So, the record­ing has a fair amount of back­ground noise. But, it’s still quite enjoy­able. Lis­ten to Ser­e­nade here:

Listen to Auguste Mesnard and Charles Schuetze - Filippucci <em>Serenade</em> (1916)

While you’re lis­ten­ing, read this short review of the record­ing, pub­lished in the Bridge­port (CT) Evening Farmer in March 1917:

An extra­or­di­nary Colum­bia record­ing is a wood­wind (bas­soon) and harp duet: Filipucci’s “Ser­e­nade,” played by Auguste Mes­nard and Charles Schuet­ze, solo mem­bers of the New York Phil­har­mon­ic Soci­ety. A zephyr-like harp intro­duc­tion is fol­lowed by a love­ly inter­weav­ing of beau­ti­ful inspir­ing notes. The light del­i­cate voice of the harp over the deep under­tones of the bas­soon is indeed elo­quent of evening—shimmer-moonbeams gleam­ing over the shad­ows of night. So far as is known, the “Ser­e­nade” is the only record­ing extant of a harp and bas­soon duet.8

Mesnard’s also record­ed “The Ele­phant and the Fly” with flutist Mar­shall Lufsky in Decem­ber 1916, but this was evi­dent­ly nev­er released.9 His col­league Ben­jamin Kohon record­ed the same piece in 1918 for Edi­son Records. That ver­sion was released, and is avail­able to stream from the UCSB Cylin­der Audio Archive.


  1. Arthur Edward John­stone, Instru­ments of the Mod­ern Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra: A Pic­to­r­i­al and Explana­to­ry Guide for Music Lovers (New York: Carl Fis­ch­er, Inc., 1917), 32. 

  2. Ben­jamin Kohon, “Let­ter to the Edi­tor,” The Dou­ble Reed 2, 1 (1978).  

  3. The Fed­er­al Music Project of the Works Progress Admin­is­tra­tion was respon­si­ble for the cre­ation of 34 new orches­tras around the coun­try, and also sup­port­ed a vari­ety of oth­er per­for­mance, edu­ca­tion­al, and schol­ar­ly activ­i­ties relat­ed to music. Pre­sum­ably, Mes­nard was a mem­ber of the New York Civic Orches­tra, but I haven’t yet been able to con­firm this. 

  4. Unit­ed States Social Secu­ri­ty Death Index,” data­base, Fam­il­y­Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VSNF-26P : 20 May 2014), Auguste Mes­nard, Oct 1974; cit­ing U.S. Social Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion, Death Mas­ter File, data­base (Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia: Nation­al Tech­ni­cal Infor­ma­tion Ser­vice, ongo­ing). 

  5. Lau­rence Ibisch, “A French Bas­soon­ist in the Unit­ed States,” The Dou­ble Reed 1, no. 2 (Octo­ber 1978): 5–7. 

  6. Lau­rence Ibisch, e-mail mes­sage to author, March 20, 2017. 

  7. Discog­ra­phy of Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Record­ings, “Colum­bia matrix 47068. Ser­e­nade / Auguste Mes­nard ; Charles Schuet­ze,” accessed March 19, 2017, http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/2000024351/47068-Serenade

  8. Talk­ing Machine Records,” Bridge­port Evening Farmer (Bridge­port, CT), Mar. 9, 1917. 

  9. Discog­ra­phy of Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal Record­ings, “Colum­bia matrix 47247. The Ele­phant and the Fly / Mar­shall P. Lufsky; Auguste Mes­nard,” accessed March 19, 2017, http://adp.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/matrix/detail/2000024530/47247-The_elephant_and_the_fly

Writing Cadenzas for Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto

Last school year, I was lucky enough to be invit­ed to play Mozart’s Bas­soon Con­cer­to, K. 191 with Sac State’s Uni­ver­si­ty Orches­tra under the direc­tion of Leo Eylar. The Mozart con­cer­to is the piece that fol­lows bas­soon­ists around for their entire careers. A teacher once told me:

There are two types of audi­tions: ones that ask for the Mozart con­cer­to, and ones that ask for a con­cer­to of your choice, which means play the Mozart con­cer­to.

I’ve worked on the Mozart con­cer­to on and off since high school, have played it for count­less audi­tions, and have per­formed it with piano accom­pa­ni­ment. But this was my first shot at play­ing it with an orches­tra, and I decid­ed to mark the occa­sion by writ­ing my own caden­zas.

Mozart wrote out caden­zas for some of his piano con­cer­ti, but none for any of his wind con­cer­ti. Per­form­ers in his day would have been expect­ed to write—or bet­ter yet, improvise—cadenzas of their own. Today, some edi­tions of Mozart’s Bas­soon Con­cer­to come with writ­ten-out caden­zas, and many oth­er caden­zas are pub­lished sep­a­rate­ly. Pri­or to last year, I had always used caden­zas writ­ten by Milan Turkovic, which are includ­ed with the Uni­ver­sal edi­tion of the con­cer­to.

My first step in cre­at­ing caden­zas of my own was to exam­ine a selec­tion of those writ­ten by oth­ers, includ­ing Bernard Garfield, Jacques Ibert, Frank Morel­li, Gabriel Pierné, and Eric Varn­er (all pub­lished by Trevco Music Pub­lish­ing); Ger­not Wolf­gang (Doblinger); Milan Turkovic (Jones—not the same as the caden­zas in the Uni­ver­sal edi­tion); and unpub­lished caden­zas by the late Cal­i­for­nia bas­soon­ist Robert Danziger. I also con­sult­ed Sarah Anne Wildey’s 2012 dis­ser­ta­tion, which presents and ana­lyzes caden­zas from eigh­teen bas­soon­ists, includ­ing Steven Braun­stein, Daryl Dur­ran, Miles Man­er, Scott Pool, William Win­stead, and Wildey her­self.1 Play­ing through and pick­ing apart all of these helped me devel­op a sense of what I like (and don’t like) in a caden­za for this piece. I also lis­tened to the twen­ty-five record­ings that I own of the con­cer­to (Har­ry Sear­ing has cat­a­logued more than 100 extant record­ings), learn­ing some licks along the way.

Jotting Down Cadenza Ideas

Jot­ting Down Caden­za Ideas

Once I’d digest­ed all of these print­ed and record­ed caden­zas, I set about devel­op­ing some ideas of my own. I began by just impro­vis­ing in B-flat major in a pseu­do-Mozartean style dur­ing breaks from prac­tic­ing the con­cer­to prop­er. When I came up with a chunk of music I liked, I’d write it down. After a few weeks of prac­tice ses­sions, I had about three pages’ worth of melod­ic chunks, but they weren’t in any par­tic­u­lar order. It took me quite a bit longer to fig­ure out which of these would fit togeth­er in what order, to tweak them a bit, and to come up with some extra bits of musi­cal mate­r­i­al to glue them togeth­er. I didn’t actu­al­ly write out the caden­zas in their com­plete form until a cou­ple of days before the per­for­mance! But all of time I’d spent work­ing on them made it easy for me to play them from mem­o­ry in the con­cert.

In writ­ing my caden­zas, I had three goals:

  1. ref­er­ence melod­ic mate­r­i­al from the con­cer­to itself
  2. quote musi­cal mate­r­i­al from else­where
  3. show off some of my strengths

In the first move­ment caden­za, I took care of goal #1 right away: it begins with a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the concerto’s open­ing motive, moves to the dom­i­nant, goes through anoth­er ver­sion of the open­ing motive, and then returns to the ton­ic. (Only lat­er did I real­ize that the first few mea­sures of this are sim­i­lar to the first few mea­sures of the oth­er pub­lished set of Milan Turkovic’s caden­zas). The very next pas­sage ful­fills goal #2; it’s a quo­ta­tion from the aria “Non più andrai,” from Mozart’s opera Le Nozzi di Figaro:

figaro-combined

Top: the open­ing of Figaro’s aria “Non più andrai“2Bot­tom: MM. 8–17 of my mvt. 1 caden­za

The sec­ond half of this pas­sage is almost the inver­sion of my mod­i­fied ver­sion of the open­ing motive of the con­cer­to, and com­ple­ments it well. Also, it seemed fit­ting to quote this here because the con­cer­to already has a con­nec­tion to the opera: Mozart lat­er reused the open­ing motive of the sec­ond move­ment in the aria “Por­gi amor.” “Non più andrai” (sung by Figaro) is the last aria in Act I of Le Nozzi di Figaro, while “Por­gi amor” (sung by the Count­ess) is the first aria in Act II. So, this is my own lit­tle nod to Mozart’s self-bor­row­ing.

A sec­ond quo­ta­tion in the mvt. 1 caden­za allowed me to hit all three goals: it is based on a pas­sage from the Turkovic caden­za I’d used pre­vi­ous­ly (goal #2), it draws on mate­r­i­al from the con­cer­to itself (goal #1), and it allows me to show off two of my strengths: fast tongu­ing and high reg­is­ter facil­i­ty (goal #3). I always felt a lit­tle restrict­ed in Turkovic’s ver­sion of this passage—it’s meant to accel­er­ate, but it’s also too short to build up the kind of speed I want­ed. For my ver­sion I extend­ed it by sev­en beats, which also allowed me to push much high­er in the bassoon’s range.

Sixteenth note passage from my mvt. 1 cadenza

MM. 24–28 of my mvt. 1 caden­za. The begin­ning of this pas­sage is tak­en from one of Milan Turkovic’s caden­zas; I extend­ed it by sev­en beats to end on E-flat instead of F.

There’s actu­al­ly yet anoth­er lev­el of quo­ta­tion going on here; Turkovic took this pas­sage from a caden­za writ­ten by Roman­ian-Vien­nese musi­col­o­gist and com­pos­er Euse­bius Mandy­czews­ki (1857–1929). So, I’m quot­ing Turkovic quot­ing Mandy­czews­ki para­phras­ing Mozart.

The first idea I jot­ted down was an end­ing for my mvt. 1 caden­za (shown below), and I don’t think it ever changed. This pas­sage is solid­ly in the pur­suit of show­ing off my high range (goal #3), and as such doesn’t strict­ly fit with­in peri­od-appro­pri­ate per­for­mance prac­tice.3 But even if it goes high­er than bas­soon­ists in Mozart’s time were like­ly to have played, I feel that it’s in the spir­it of caden­zas as vehi­cles for show­ing off.

mvt-1-cadenza-ending

The end­ing of my Mvt. 1 caden­za, and the first idea I wrote down. I knew I want­ed that high G!

This pas­sage works chro­mat­i­cal­ly up to an extend­ed high F (top of the tre­ble clef staff). And just when you think that’s high enough, it con­tin­ues up chro­mat­i­cal­ly to G. In per­for­mance I added to the decep­tion by putting a long decrescen­do on the F, as if fad­ing away, before com­ing back up to forte to con­tin­ue up to G. In the writ­ten-out ver­sion of my caden­zas (down­load­able below), I’ve pro­vid­ed an alter­nate end­ing for those who’d rather avoid the high G.

Watch the first move­ment caden­za:

My process for writ­ing the sec­ond move­ment caden­za was much the same. But in keep­ing with the movement’s char­ac­ter, I focused on beau­ty much more than vir­tu­os­i­ty. Also, not want­i­ng to go over­board with quo­ta­tion, I used only one motive from the con­cer­to itself and didn’t quote any oth­er works.

mvt-2-cadenza-quotation

MM. 4–7 of my mvt. 2 caden­za

The end of this pas­sage comes from the movement’s reca­pit­u­la­tion, although I’ve tak­en it down an octave here. I use the same motive, mod­i­fied only so that it descends every time, to get there from what had come before.

As far as I know, the rest of my Mvt. 2 caden­za is orig­i­nal mate­r­i­al (although it’s cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble that parts of it were uncon­scious­ly inspired by some of the many caden­zas I read through at the begin­ning of my process). Here’s the sec­ond move­ment caden­za:

Download the Cadenzas

If you’d like to try my caden­zas out for your­self, you can down­load a PDF below. If you use them in per­for­mance, please let me know!

Wells-Mozart-Caden­zas
(Released under a Cre­ative Com­mons Attri­bu­tion-Non­Com­mer­cial-Share­Alike 3.0 Unport­ed license)


  1. Sarah Anne Wildey, “His­tor­i­cal Per­for­mance Prac­tice in Caden­zas for Mozart’s Con­cer­to for Bas­soon, K. 191 (186e)” (DMA Diss., Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa, 2012). 

  2. Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart, Le nozzi di Figaro (Bonn: Sim­rock, 1796). Accessed online: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:fhcl.loeb:3382512 

  3. A 1780 fin­ger­ing chart by bas­soon­ist Pierre Cug­nier goes up to high F, but there’s lit­tle evi­dence for any­one play­ing stratos­pher­ic notes in per­for­mance before Carl Almen­räder in the ear­ly nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. 

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: yprcrg.blogspot.com. 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),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/remembrances.html

  3. Mrs. Ivan Kemp­n­er, “Elias Car­men — Farewell,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/carmen.html

  4. Don­ald Mac­Court, “Elias Car­men on Record­ings,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/elias.html

  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).