Topic: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

Contrabassoonists and others:

I'm curious to know what makes of contrabassoon are used most commonly by symphony orchestra players these days, because I imagine there is much more variety than in the makes of bassoon. I'm nearly certain that Arlen Fast of the New York Philharmonic plays a Fox, and that Gregg Hennegar of the Boston Symphony plays a Mollenhauer. Does anyone know of any others? Is anyone out there a pro contra player with good experiences to share about a certain maker? I've played on an Amati (earlier model; not very good) and a Mossmann (pretty solid). Just trying to get a little more educated.

Phil
NYC

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

I'm almost positive Mark Ortwein of Indianapolis plays a Mollenhauer.  He'll correct me if I'm mistaken, however.

Bryan Cavitt
Bassoon Dad; Bassoonist, Twin City Concert Band

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

I believe the contrabassoon I subbed on at the Metropolitan Opera a few years ago was a Heckel (owned by the Met).

James Jeter, D.M.A., NYC Bassoonist
"To love human beings is still the only thing worth living for; without that love, you really do not live." Soren Kierkegaard
"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Mahatma Gandhi  "Mach' es kurz! Am Juengsten Tag ist's nur ein Furz!" Goethe

Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

My bassoon teacher plays for the Spokane Symphony and he loves his Guntram Wolf contraforte.

Nancy Williams

"There are 2 means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats" - Albert Schweitzer

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

The contra player in the Seattle Symphony plays on a Fox.

"It's not my job to give you the pulse! It's your job to figure it out!"
-An Allegedly Professional Conductor

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

In all the Sydney videos that I have seen the contra player uses a contraforte.

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

Thanks everyone...keep em coming! Trent, what happened to your post? It was great!

Phil

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

I don't know?!?! What happened? I didn't delete it.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

Bryan is correct - I play a Mollenhauer with a Heckel bocal.

Mark Ortwein
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
OrtweinWoodwinds.com

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

We have two Mollenhauers in our orchestra, (Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, or Galicia Symphony Orchestra, northwest corner of Spain),  Alex our contra player uses a Heckel bocal on our Schreiber/Mollenhauer ( we had the additional octave vent installed), I have an old Kohlert bocal I used on the other Mollenhauer for an Adams chamber symphony gig I did last season. We are looking to change to a Heckel or a Contraforte when Spain pulls our of its financial crisis. We rented the Contraforte last season for Shostakovich and Mahler and were quite impressed. We have an Amati in our local conservatory that is ok, not much volume and another conservatory an hour and a half south, has a Moosmann that plays well now,  after some major adjustments to springs and pad heights.

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.

Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

Thanks for all of the responses; I'd love to keep it going! Any other professional or avid contra players out there willing to comment on their preferred instrument maker? Thanks.

Phil
NYC

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

I have seen many Mollenhauers, and Heckels, but also Foxes. They all have their advantages. I love the sound of the Heckels, but they are very variable. Some project and others don't. The Foxes project well and the Mollenhauers less so I think, but they have a very nice sound. This is my perspective, only as a principal player, as I've only played Mollenhauers and Heckels and only rarely.

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

In the Tulsa Symphony, we have a wonderful Heckel contra that is owned by the orchestra.

Last edited by bassoonorama (2013-11-27 23:39:55)

Richard Ramey
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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

I stumbled upon this thread while searching for something else. It's old, but what the heck. I can add some information.

Fast-system Fox contras are played in the NY Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Cleveland Orchestra, and Atlanta Symphony.

(The Met and the NY Phil own Heckels, last I heard, but Mark and Arlen, respectively, play on their Foxes.)

The Wolf Contraforte is played in the National Symphony.

Mollenhauer is used in the Boston Symphony, Colorado Symphony, and several other orchestras.

Heckels are used in various orchestras such as the San Francisco Symphony. The former (now retired) contrabassoonist of the St. Louis Symphony played on one.

Regular Fox contras are used in various orchestras (I can't name one for sure offhand.)

I've seen freelancers use Heckel, Fox, Fast-system Fox, Mollenhauer, Wolf (both the Contraforte and the contrabassoon), Moosmann, Puchner, Adler, and other brands.

I think I once saw a Buffet, but won't swear to it.

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

Minnesota Orchestra owns a Heckel but Norbert plays on his own regular Fox.

I think the winner of the CSO contra position won it on a Mollenhauer but I don't think that the individual owned the instrument.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

As for brands and models, the two game-changing instruments are the Fast-system Fox, and the Wolf Contraforte.

The Fast system Fox is basically the same as a standard Fox from low Bb until open F. But everything starting with the half-hole G# is transformed: the notes speak much better, are much better in tune, have much more even tone color, and have fewer complicated cross-fingerings. All those problems around written middle C? Gone. The high Bb in Mother Goose? Just finger and play. And the instrument adds an extra usable octave of range.

The Contraforte is a clean sheet redesign. It has a completely different bore and physical layout, and a different sound to go with it. This brings advantages, disadvantages, and differences in taste.

You can search this site for more detailed write-ups on these instruments.

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

ortreed wrote:

Bryan is correct - I play a Mollenhauer with a Heckel bocal.


I am curious about this! How were you able to adapt the heckel bocal to fit with the mollenhauer? I was told you can't use different brand bocals with mollenhauer. Any info would be very helpful, thanks!

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

agenemans wrote:
ortreed wrote:

Bryan is correct - I play a Mollenhauer with a Heckel bocal.


I am curious about this! How were you able to adapt the heckel bocal to fit with the mollenhauer? I was told you can't use different brand bocals with mollenhauer. Any info would be very helpful, thanks!

Not who you referred to, but:

Total misnomer, not sure where that thought came from with the Molls. I've found in at least two cases Heckel bocals substantial improvements to Molls over the included bocals.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

No adaptation needed!  I use a Heckel C3 pulled out about a half inch on the Mollenhauer.  So maybe they mean the Mollenhauer bocals are longer - which they are.

Mark Ortwein
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
OrtweinWoodwinds.com

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

ortreed wrote:

No adaptation needed!  I use a Heckel C3 pulled out about a half inch on the Mollenhauer.  So maybe they mean the Mollenhauer bocals are longer - which they are.

That is very interesting! I'm using my schools new Moll now and its a sweet instrument, but the bocal could be better. I'm in the market for a contra so being able to adapt a Heckel bocal is kind of a game changer.

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

My first teacher, Donald Ruzek, owned the Heckel that was borrowed by Fox to develop their own contra.

Speaking of Heckel, after reading their new book, I was surprised to see that only four Heckel contras have been delivered to the US in the past forty years, the last one coming in 1995.

Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

FWIW, Steve Braunstein -- or the San Francisco Symphony -- took delivery of a new Heckel some time within the last ten years.

I haven't read the Heckel book yet. Was it written before that instrument was delivered?

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Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

It was published after that contra was delivered. He received it just before the Oklahoma IDRS conference in 2010. I'm pretty sure I saw that instrument listed in the book correctly.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: What makes of contrabassoon are used by professionals?

My error. The book does show a contra delivered to the US in 2009.