Posts Tagged ‘recordings’

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

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). 

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.

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