Topic: Several problematic slurs in Nielsen quintet 3rd movement solo

I'm working on the Nielsen quintet for an upcoming performance. In the famous Variation VII solo I'm having difficulty with a few slurs. The ones I'll mention right now are:

- the upward slur from B below middle C to the G above it;

- the upward slur from A below middle C to the G above it;

- the downward slur from A above middle C down to the Db above middle C.

The first two hesitate to speak. I can make them come out, but they're sluggish. They slow me down. In comparison, the next slur, from the G below middle C up the octave, pops almost instantaneously.

The last one, the A down to the Db, often refuses to slur downward. I've tried using both the short and long Db fingerings. I can't get the slur to be reliable enough.

Any recommendations, whether involving fingerings or something else?

Thanks!

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Re: Several problematic slurs in Nielsen quintet 3rd movement solo

Generally, I find that any upward slurs to tenor G are aided by the use of a double half-hole; that is, you half-hole both the first and second fingers in your left hand.  This also works well in the cadenzas in Scheherazade.

When I have to slur downwards from high A to a tenor E or Eb, or to any other squacky interval, I try the following fingering:  The left hand remains the same, and the right hand consists of only the pinky F# key.  The pitch is usually more unstable, but I find that this fingering downslurs much more easily.  This also works on high Ab (with only the pinky F# in the right hand), and somewhat for high Bb (add the F# key in addition to the first two fingers of your right hand).  Unfortunately, this fingering can be awkward to get to, but works well for me in this solo.

Associate Principal Bassoon/Contrabassoon, Kansas City Symphony

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Re: Several problematic slurs in Nielsen quintet 3rd movement solo

Also, what version of the long Db fingering do you use?  I use both what I call the long fingering (everything down in your right hand), and the medium fingering (second and third fingers and low F key in the right hand).  Each is better at specific slurs.  Usually the short fingering will slur to most everything, but the tone is deader.

Associate Principal Bassoon/Contrabassoon, Kansas City Symphony

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Re: Several problematic slurs in Nielsen quintet 3rd movement solo

Responding to these slurs in the Nielsen Wind Quintet:

- the upward slur from B below middle C to the G above it;

- the upward slur from A below middle C to the G above it;

Fingerings: for both slurs be sure to close the whisper key AND use 1LH half-hole for the G's

Phrasing: imagine and practice phrasing (by slurring) from the third note of each triplet (the high g). Also practice this measure slowly using other slurrings to discover which ones work best.

Articulation: bassoon down slurs can be famously reluctant. Practice the reluctant ones using a VERY light tongue stroke while slurring to start the lower note. A listener should not be able to hear that you tongued the note.

- the downward slur from A above middle C down to the Db above middle C.

Fingering: similar suggestion to TK DeWitt's (which works nicely – and for which you could also use the thumb f-sharp) but use RH thumb B-flat and F key for A. Changing the high A fingering may allow the d-flat to start more easily. Whatever fingering you use, aim to have the left thumb 'flatten onto’ the c-sharp and low D keys at the same time. Aim the air downward as you play the d-flat - 'blow down to the note'. Don't allow the lower notes of down slurs to be sharp.

To get the feel of a good down slur you could also use the 'baroque' d-flat fingering (x x o | x o o) after the high A.

Phrasing: imagine and practice each triplet in the second to last measure slurred from the second note of each triplet up to the A. Good wishes and let us know if any of the suggestions work out. crw

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

Re: Several problematic slurs in Nielsen quintet 3rd movement solo

Thank you for the input, folks. I will try your suggestions, and I hope to put them to good use.

Re Db: my standard Db fingering is the long one: x x x (C#) / o x x F

Sometimes I use the short fingering, especially in technical passages.

Occasionally I use the "claw" long fingering: x x x (C#) / (Bb) x x x F

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