Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Month of Extremes, Pt.3 -- Ligeti's Piano Concerto

Bassoonists reading this may want to print the above image. This is the opening of the second movement of Ligeti's Piano Concerto. A close look reveals writing for the bassoon in the extreme. Very soft attacks on high Eb and high E in a passage that constitutes a duet with the piccolo. The texture is very light and every note you play up to Letter F is a solo.

The rest of the piece is extremely difficult as well, but we'll just deal with the high register issues confronted by anyone playing the bassoon part.

Many bassoonists have a special bocal for high notes. Here is mine:

It's a Fox #2CVX bocal. The black band is a piece of aquarium tubing. In the second photo you can see a pinhole drilled into the bocal just below the band. The band can be slid over the hole or beside it depending upon whether or not you want the hole to be available. In the third photo you can see a black line I scribed on the bocal so you can look to see if the hole is covered while counting rests. Important when you have rests between passages that contain high notes and those that don't (see "A major drawback below).

The hole is drilled at 1" from the tip of the bocal to a diameter of .020". I've seen a few other dimensions for this hole, but this one works well for me. Do not attempt drilling yourself. Take the bocal to a repair technician!

When the hole is open, high E's, Eb's and even F's pop out much easier and at "pp". I don't even have to use a specialty reed!

A major drawback:

This hole drastically weakens the ability of the bassoon/reed to produce tones in the third harmonic (Eb3 up to Bb4)! Notes in that range may speak as a multi phonic or not at all! Therefore, having the slider on the bocal is important. Closing the hole restores security to notes in this range.

High F's!!

The Ligeti contains two high F's.

Note his instructions at the bottom of the page: "In this register, even if the note doesn't speak correctly!"

Here's the other:

I love the indication, "It's possible, don't transpose!"

1 comment:

  1. Brings back memories. In the late 90s we were doing a live to air broadcast of the Ligeti concerto. I arrived at the studio and discovered my reeds were AWOL. The second bassoonist had soft reeds which were useless. He also had an untouched commercial reed in one of those infamous plastic tubes. I had five minutes before air to try and get this virgin reed to play the high E and Fs...