Topic: West Side Story

I actually have a high F key, and I borrowed a special high-note bocal from my teacher, but while the E pops right out (using LH: high E + low E-flat/resonance; RH: 3 C# Bb Ab), adding the F key only works a fraction of the time.  Is the preferred fingering different?  Or does it require some magic combination of the perfect reed, embouchure, breath, many hours of practice, and alignment of the planets?

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Re: West Side Story

I did a week of the touring company of West Side Story a few years ago.  Had prepared for the infamous high F with a high note Polisi bocal, reeds that would pop out high Es and Fs all day, planned on using the long fingering (1/2, 2,3 C3/1,2,3 with various resonance keys) and was raring to go, only to discover that this particular set of parts had placed that famous high F in one of the Sax parts.  When I asked the conductor about it, he replied that they took it out of the Bassoon part because it was so often missed.  You may not have to play the high F at all, depending on which set of parts you wind up using.

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Re: West Side Story

The best high F fingering for me is the Hugh Cooper fingering. Here is the link, http://www.idrs.org/resources/BSNFING/note/heckf5.htm 
The first of the second set listed, but you may find a better one for you on this list. I have no idea why, but very few makers get the high F key correct, I think I have only found it to work on a few Moosmann horns that I have tried ( meaning Moosmann is doing it correctly). Try the F key alone. You could also try a different combination like, normal high D fingering in the left with the F key ( with or without the E and Eb), hand and change around the right hand fingerings, like, just F# RH thumb and (or without), C# trill key. Or just pinky Ab and ( or without) the C# trill. This change in the RH works great for certain slurs (and raises the pitch for the normally flat high E fingering), to high E with the E key, it could also work for the high F.
I also break the slur for the second high F, I find it is easier to tongue the F than slur it, but each to their own, it might be better slurred for you.
I always switch to my Allgood bocal and a firmer reed before and back after, it's a difficult switch back, but it's possible.
We are performing it again this year, I think. Here is our last performance in the outdoor plaza Maria Pita, from last summer. The Allgood is quite a powerful bocal and I am playing quite loud but you can barely hear it at minute 2:36(?).
http://youtu.be/PRNDkWswoQQ
It's not an easy thing to play under stress, part of it is memorization of the fingerings under pressure, but it does get easier.
Best of luck and have fun!!!!
Steve

Last edited by marydoob (2015-08-02 22:48:08)

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

Re: West Side Story

The "voicing" for high F using the high F key is difficult, and requires some substantial practice before you can really get it consistently. By "voicing" I mean what you are doing with embouchure and air stream in order to get the note to speak. It's not just the same voicing as high E. The harmonic fingering posted by marydoob is the most reliable on most instruments. I can pop one out on a Fox Renard model 41 student bassoon with a Fox C bocal using that fingering. Maybe not in context of the WSS excerpt, but that's a different matter of course.

For the record, I have a high F on my Moosmann bassoon, and it's what I'll usually use because it's technically easier when you're already up there, but the harmonic fingering is more reliable once you work that one out.

Oh, one more thing. You're doubling principal trumpet on that high F in WSS if I remember right, so there's little stress for you to actually nail it.

Last edited by Trent (2015-08-03 10:40:46)

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: West Side Story

Alto Sax plays it as well.  I usually play Alto on the piece, but when I do play Principal bassoon I will switch to a high note bocal for that section.

Mark

Mark Ortwein
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
OrtweinWoodwinds.com

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Re: West Side Story

There is actually a new rental edition of WSS out that takes that section for Reed 5 down an octave. Maybe this is taking the 'coward's way' out, but it sure makes life easier.

Christopher Brodersen
Maker of Historical Keyboard Instruments
Reviewer/contributor - Fanfare Magazine
Amateur bassoonist, baroque oboist, baroque bassoonist

Re: West Side Story

just finished working on the Harbison wind quintet, which opens with the whole first page in the high stratospheric bassoon, although nothing higher than E(?!).  I have real reservations about why a composer writes in that range.  I am inclined to suspect sadism, or ignorance of the actual working range of the instrument.  The Harbison is clearly not for amateurs!

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Re: West Side Story

I asked Harbison why he wrote the high notes in the quintet as he did. He told me that he was inspired by the Ravel Piano Concerto in G.

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Re: West Side Story

Bassoon has a unique tone color in that range, contra bassoon even more so. I think, when its pulled of has a surreal quality.

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

Re: West Side Story

I love playing in the fourth octave on my contrabassoon.

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Re: West Side Story

Yes, I love that range! Contra has an almost English horn quality up high, it adds an interesting color to bassoon quartets.

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