Topic: Saint-Saens sonata

I was wondering if anyone has an alternate fingering for m.15 in the second movement of the Saint-Saens bassoon sonata. This is the high G A B G E thing... Its just awkward for my smaller hands, often the second G gets lost if the B is in tune. Slowly its fine, but I'm having a hard time getting it up to tempo. Or do I just have to practice it even more? smile

(I have to say I thought when I started playing it that I would end up asking about the super high E, but its coming along nicely, just have to slur it still.... I'm sure someone out there was wondering...)

Thanks very much for any help you can give.

Alexis Janners.

Share

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

Hi Alexis:

I am sorry I don't have any "fake" fingerings to offer you but I do have an inspirational story.  Back when David McGill and I were high school students we were talking about this same passage.  I said "that part is hard."  He nonchalantly said, "No, it's not."  It got me thinking that if he found it easy, there must be a way and so I practiced it harder to get it and really thought about what my hands/fingers were doing.  It was a valuable lesson for me even if he didn't intend that.  Good luck with it.  Kent

Dr. Kent Moore
Principal Lecturer In Bassoon and Theory
Northern Arizona University

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

I think this is just one of those spots that you just have to work out.  It's a very hard lick (I guess I'll have to disagree with Mr. McGill on that one!), and we all struggle with it.  I use my normal fingerings for that passage.  The only thing that I do that might be different than normal or others is that I play high B without the low Eb key, but I do use the Eb key on the E (my teacher is the opposite for those two notes for his horn).

My only suggestion for you would be to work that part of the bassoon in scales and arpeggios as well as breaking it down into two and three note groups.  I'm sure you're already aware of those technique building techniques (sounds redundant, doesn't that?) but I know I need to be reminded of those sometimes.  smile

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: Saint-Saens sonata

Hi Alexis,

I find that the left hand High A fingering works wonders for simplifying this and other similar passages. The great difficulty with that particular fingering combination is that the little and ring finger of the right hand work in opposition. The left hand A fingering simplifies the situation.

So in summary: normal G4

A4:
     Eb
x x x |
  a c#

Nothing in the right hand

Normal B4

You can find other fingering suggestions given the in Bassoon Family Fingering Companion. Check out the Saint-Saens page at:

http://idrs.colorado.edu/bsnfing/comp/sainsona.htm

Terry Ewell
Professor Bassoon, Towson University
Former President, IDRS
Former Principal Bassoon Hong Kong Philharmonic, Wheeling Symphony

Share

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

Alexis,

This might be too late to help you, but a possible solution occurred to me.  Will your horn allow you to play the high A with the standard fingering in the left hand and, instead of the ring finger G key, adding the pinky F key?  My horn, a 201, will play the high A with this fingering, although it might really be a trill fingering.  This would allow you to "plant" the pinky on the F key for the G, A, B, and G and then lift it for the E.  The other option that comes to mind, and this may not be, and probably isn't, any simpler is to play the longer high A fingering, that I found, I think, on Chip Owen's pages at the Fox website, meaning standard left hand plus middle and ring fingers and the Bb key.  The tough part is to time all finger movements to make the G to A change smoothly (as if that's not ever an issue!), but then you already have the middle finger RH and the Bb key down, which will allow for some stability in the RH during that tough passage.  Hope this helps if you haven't thought of it yet.

KC

Share

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

I don't find this passage difficult but I have frequently heard Students complain about it. My thoughts are that the player doesn't support well as he or she slurs down off the high B. Concentrate on using less air but keeping the support constant on the whole passage....it should really be piano!!! Keep your fingers RELAXED and close to the instrument and see if that helps as well. If the passage isn't clear for me its because I have worked too hard to play it.

Vincent Ellin
Bassoon Soloist, Chamber Musician and former WSO Principal

Share

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

Vincent, just curious, which fingerings do you use?

By the way, as an update for anyone who's interested, I feel much better about this. Mostly just working it very slowly, and in smaller groups, plus extra air through that passage. The David McGill story really helped, thank you, and the IDRS fingering page about this. I have tried several different ones, but almost ended up back with the regular fingerings. It was my pinky that was a lot of the problem.

Basically now I am not going to change my fingerings anymore though, as my senior recital is on Monday!

Thanks for all your help!

Alexis.

Share

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

i know it's way past since your recital but since others might see this, felt i should post mine

normal g

a:
x x x  | x o o F
   a c#  Bb

normal b

then normal g, e and so forth

basically, finger g but also add the a and c# in left hand wing joint, and Bb on the right hand. this gets your left thumb closer to the c key for the high b (which i finger as normal) and there's no confusion in your right index and pinky.. they don't move. it sets up nice anchors and helps cover wide distances with the left thumb.

Last edited by Micus (2010-04-01 12:29:11)

Share

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

If there is a chance that imprecise changes are occurring between notes it is a really good practice-strategy to apply what I call the "hot keys" approach.  While it may seem at first unnecessarily fussy, it is a sure-fire way to know your fingerings. (It also fits in with my philosophy of fingering coding). 

The strategy is to play the passage slowly, (then progressively faster), , complete fingering by complete fingering.

Finger  open F (silently), before and after each fingering in the passage. This ensures that you can "print" complete, discreet fingerings, for every note. This avoids the potentially untidy effect of modifying fingerings, (i.e adding and subtracting and keeping-on fingers. At its simplest, playing C-D involves lifting one finger; C-E lift two fingers; E-C drop two fingers; Bb-G take off thumb and add two fingers).

However this gets more and more risky as fingerings become more and more complex.  The "printing" of discreet fingerings is encouraged by the "hot-key" approach and eventually you find you can move directly, (without the open F), but cleanly, as you are "over-printing" full fingerings. The technique ensures the instant placing of all fingers at the same moment. Instant tidiness.

It works well for all woodwind instruments alike.

Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

Neville that is a very cool idea!  I will definitely try that technique out.

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: Saint-Saens sonata

alexisj, Here's another possibility for that pesky passage. IMHO, the fingering problem centers around using the regular high g and high a fingerings. Here's a slight change to 'Micus's' solution.

a:
x x x  | o o o F
   a c# 

This fingering (and Micus's) avoids putting down RH3 for high A. If the high A is slightly flat on this fingering, do not despair, there are only 5 people on the planet that will hear that and they will not be at your concert.

Another problem with the passage is often 'rushing' - especially hurrying the first 2 or 3 notes. Here's a practicing strategy by e-mail.

Count the four 16ths and the following 8th note as note numbers 1 through 5. I use a dash between faster notes and a comma between slower ones, SLUR VERY SLOWLY them in a continuous loop using whatever fingerings you decide on:

1-2, 3, 4, 5, (that is fast-fast, slow, slow, slow or 2 eighths, quarter, quarter, quarter). Taking a breath between each group, also do:
1, 2-3, 4, 5;
1, 2, 3-4, 5;
1, 2, 3, 4-5;
yes and even this one
5-1, 2, 3, 4;

You can also make versions with 3 fast notes, starting the first fast note on every note of the famous five.

Eventually, increase the tempo but play the whole series in the same tempo - don't allow yourself to gradually accelerate. Use your friendly metronome as you play them. Best wishes, crw

Christopher Weait,
Principal bassoon, Toronto Symphony (1968 - 1985)
IDRS Honorary Member; Emeritus professor Ohio State University
www.weaitmusic.com

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

Alexisj, You inspired me to practice that spot and I forget to mention the occasional difficulty of the downslur from g to e (notes 4 to 5). If it doesn't come out cleanly use this fingering for e: x o x | o x x . In other words keep 1RH up on the e. Let the forum know if any of the solutions proposed worked for you. Best wishes, crw

Christopher Weait,
Principal bassoon, Toronto Symphony (1968 - 1985)
IDRS Honorary Member; Emeritus professor Ohio State University
www.weaitmusic.com

Re: Saint-Saens sonata

The helpful advice from Professor Weait also works at another level - that of discreetly thinking of each note - I call it "auditing" - i.e. if I assign a number to each note then I am more likely to play each individual note - not get blurred in the overall passage. This can work especially well for very fast passages, even scale passages which can become runaway by their very nature. Angular and irregular sequences can also benefit.

Combined with the "hot key" approach, tidiness at speed can be achieved.

Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor