Topic: Viennese bassoon fingering?

Howdy folks,
There are so many knowledgeable people on this forum and I was hoping somebody could help fill me in on some of the subtleties of Viennese bassoon technique.  I've read a few places that many Austrian players play with the whisper key lock on most of the time or play instruments equipped with either no whisper key at all (the late Karl Oelberger comes to mind) or a simplified version without a link to the low E key that seems to be intended 'just in case' they need to take the lock off and use the key normally.  Are the tenor notes played with the flick keys held down for the entire duration of the note or is the note quickly flicked and a more responsive reed used?  What about notes like tenor Eb that are a bit touchy without venting the whisper key?

Second, by listening to recordings of Werba, Turnovsky, etc. it seems as though they often use more covered fingerings for some notes (open F and first finger E for example).  Experimenting with fingerings I think they're using 000-0xxx with the thumb Bb for open F but I can't seem to get quite the same resonance.  It also sounds like they use the low C# key to vent tenor Bb and C.  The Vienna Philharmonic website also mentions that the bassoons use special fingerings.  Has anybody out there studied in Vienna and can shed some light on any special fingerings they might use?

Lastly, are Viennese bassoon reeds (or instruments) built differently to accommodate these changes in fingerings?

Thanks so much for any help you can give me!


Re: Viennese bassoon fingering?

I am in touch with an instrument maker/repairman in Vienna.   I sent your query to him, and I will post his response when i receive it.


Re: Viennese bassoon fingering?


As an instrument maker I try to explain this matter starting from the construction of the whisper-keywork of  bassoons  as they are
normally used by viennese bassoonists:

Yes, old Öhlberger played a bassoon without any whisper-key-mechanism, he had only a small key fixed at the bocal. To open
and close the whisper-whole, he had to rise his right hand up to the bocal.
Therefore his technique was to play mostly with closed whisper-key, he opened the key only for playing passages in the
highest register, and was not able to switch fast between closed and open whisper-key-position.
This techinique is fundamental for the viennese bassoonists.

The next step was to make instruments for the viennese bassoonists with a simple whisperkey-mechanism by Heckel:
This mechanism had no link from lower E and only two keys for the left thumb: one for locking and one for opening the
whisper-key. There is no key for the left thumb as we know it from modern bassoons , where you can close and open the
whisper-key immediatly.
This type of whisper-key mechanism is used even today by most of the viennese bassoonists.
I for myself adapted some of standard-made bassoons to this viennese type, or fixed this mechanism on old
Heckel-bassoons without any whisper-keywork.
Nowadays some viennese bassoonists trend to use the open whisperkey more often, or want to be free to switch easily
between closed and open whisper-key-position.
For this reason I invented a special mechanism which combines both: the modern whisper-key for the left thumb and an
integrated locking-mechanism.
I made this first for Turnovsky in 1997.
The bassoons presently played by the viennese philharmonics have:
Michael Werba: "viennese system" with two locking keys (but reversed function so that normaly the key is closed with a
strong spring, and held open by locking the "opening-key")
Harald Müller: "viennese system" same as Werba
Stepan Turnovsky: "rauch-system" with an additional link from lower E (but can be switched off !)
Benedikt Dinkhauser: "rauch-system" (with link from E to switch off)
Wolfgang Koblitz: "viennese-system", no E-link
Except the Koblitz-Instrument (original Heckel) , all whisper-mechanisms are made by myself.

You can get further informations here:
if you navigate to "fagott" in the menu you will find detailed photos, videos and an english description refering to the viennese whisper-key-mechanisms, which I just have uploaded.

Now to the fingerings:
There are the viennese F and the viennese D, and there is also an old fingering for F#
o x x  l  x x o (+Ab)

o x x l x o o Ab

x o o l o x x F (+lowEb)

The instruments are not specially built for these fingerings, but the more those fingerings get uncommon, the more
instrument-makers don't consider it, so the older bassoons fit more to those special fingerings.
And, of course, each bassoonist has its own fingerings with additional closed or opened keys, depending on the instrument or
according to the required sound.

The reeds: Certainly the viennese bassoonists shape their reeds in a way that will fit to their special fingerings. The traditional
viennese reeds, as used by Werba seems to be quite strong, with a thicker heart and more broad at the tip.

I hope this information is helpful

Christian Rauch
woodwind-instrument maker, Austria

Last edited by rauch (2010-05-21 08:57:00)

Re: Viennese bassoon fingering?

Thanks Christian - I never knew any of that before.
The only bassonist from Vienna I know was a devout Fox man with the 'normal' whisper key that the rest of the world knows.

Last edited by Ian White (2010-05-19 10:21:24)