Subject to all forms of jokes and insults, there are some admitted quirks to the instrument. For one, the bassoon is big. A performer has to strap it to the chair or the floor or to their person just to hold it. A cheap one costs as much as a good used car, and a nice new one as much as a small BMW. Fingering is incredibly complicated, there is a huge variety of playing styles and methods, reeds need to be custom-cut, and there are two significantly different systems of construction. And once upon a time in the 1960s, the father of erectile dysfunction medicine- a Knight Grand Cross of the British Empire, famous for once demonstrating the positive effects of his chemical treatments by dropping his drawers in the middle of a urological conference- tried to turn the instrument electric. It didn't take.
It's a frequently mocked, maligned, and altogether under-appreciated instrument. Which is quite sad, really; think of all the great places where the sound of a bassoon just works. The creepy opening solo in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The bassoons (and contrabassoons!) in Beethoven's 9th. The stiff-but-smooth, so-very-Edwardian baritone running throughout the works of Elgar. Nothing but bassoons. Blast it, imagine some other instrument as grandfather in Peter and the Wolf (I'm lookin' at you, cello- knock it off). The bassoon is a wonderful instrument.
Happily for your loyal blogger, we're gonna have a bassoon here at the Library Society next week. Yuriy Bekker, concertmaster, alongside seven other CSO principal musicians, will perform Schubert's Octet in F Major next Wednesday, January 26th, at 7PM. Tickets for the event, Time Machine: Schubert in Vienna will be available at the door starting at 6PM. $15 ($10 for students). Check out CharlestonSymphony.com for more details.
And to get you in the mood: some bassoonists playing Lady Gaga!