Monday, June 9, 2008

Old reedy things...

Having fielded several questions at the "Duelling Divas" reception about the wind instruments used during that program, I thought I'd devote a few blogs to that topic this summer. I got these photos just recently, from someone in France who is trying to sell an 18th-century bassoon. It's always surprising to see a surviving wind instrument from this era, since they are prone to self-destruction on account of the humidity that eats away the interior of old oboes, bassoons, flutes et al. This one looks pretty well preserved, but I've no idea whether it's playable.

The key different between a baroque bassoon and a modern one is the lack of many keys on the baroque instrument. Notice the fairly large fingerholes, which (as on a recorder) are the means by which a bassoonist changes from one note to the next. This is a three-keyed instrument, which was typical in the 18th century. The sound of an instrument like this is both earthier and quieter than a modern bassoon, and it blends beautifully with the quirky sound of the baroque oboe and fits seemlessly with cello and bass in a continuo line of a baroque orchestra.

The case is also quite extraordinary, a beautiful piece of furniture in its own right!

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