Monday, August 29, 2011

Mooman 150E

I have had a lot of fun trying a new model of bassoon these past couple of weeks.

It's a Moosman 150E.

Justin Miller has graciously allowed me time to live with the instrument for a while, try it in rehearsal, have students and colleagues play on the 150E.

This model is different from the 150.  It is brand new -- just rolled out this summer.  It is a moderately priced bassoon (around $16,000) with minimal keywork.  Silver plated keys. Has high D, E, rollers on F/Ab, Eb/C# and low D/C, right hand lock, balance hanger bushing on top of boot joint, set screw for adjusting whisper mechanism, 2 bocals.  The alternate Bb on the boot joint is absent and the G key is moved up towards the 2nd tone hole on the boot. Hard rubber finger tubes.

I tried different reeds and bocals with it, settling on my favorite pre-war #2CC as the best for making the instrument's tone come alive.

My CIM students and I gave the instrument a thorough trial on the stage of Severance Hall this morning.  First the students sat out in the seats and heard me play some excerpts on my bassoon (a 7000 series Heckel) and then the same music on the Moosman.

Then they all came on stage and I went out to listen while they played on it and their bassoons.

The students were impressed with the ease with which I could play this bassoon.  I find it to be very similar to a really good old Heckel.  Easy response, singing tenor range, very colorful tone quality.  In addition, it has a very even scale (no "bad" notes) and a homogenous tone quality.  It is easy to change colors on this instrument.  It doesn't feel rigid, heavy or stuffy in any way.

It was enlightening to hear my students play on the instrument and compare with their bassoons (a 6000, a 7000 and a 9000 Heckel).  I heard some of the same qualities mentioned above.  One of the three didn't care for the instrument, but the other two were quite taken with it. "If only I'd had this instrument in high school!"

The instrument reacted differently to the four of us. One student and I sounded more covered on the Moosman than on our Heckels, the other two sounded more brilliant on the Moosman.  The tone is certainly flexible, but not unstable.  A sensitive instrument.

Some small negatives:
  • The tone is not as complex (full?) as our Heckels.  There wasn't as much "rattle" or "purr" in the sound (squillo?). The wood is brand new, so maybe this will change over time as the bassoon opens up.
  • The bassoon may have more punch with sterling silver finger tubes.  Justin tells me he will receive one with the silver tubes sometime soon.
  • Why can't anyone make a good bocal besides Heckel?!  The bocals with the bassoon (2 "Interpret" series and 2 "Excellent" were just OK.  I prefered the "Excellent" series.)
  • The feel and position of the keywork is a bit different from what I'm used to, but this shouldn't really put anyone off.  I would like the pinky keys to be angled up just a bit more.  It feels like they are lower to the wood than necessary when depressed.
Two of my TCO section mates, John Clouser and Phil Austin, liked the instrument very much.

While I remain a fan of a good vintage Heckel (6000 to 9000 series), I'm ready to recommend this bassoon over all other brands for the following reasons:
  • It plays more like a great vintage Heckel than any other brand I've tried.
  • It responds easily. Not a chore to play.
  • The tone is focused and beautiful.
  • It has a good scale.
  • The sound doesn't spread or get ugly when you open up to "ff".
  • It's not loaded with keywork you will only use on leap years.
  • It's got a great price.
If I were in the market for a second instrument, this would be it! However, with one daughter in college and another about to enter, I'll have to put this off for now!

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