Thomas Sherwood

Bassoonist  -  De Klerk (shown) & Simiot Bassoons - Retired Physician.

E-Mail received 21.1.07

              Dear Eddie, you asked to hear how I got on with the de Klerk bassoon, so here is a first weekend note.

I went cautiously to begin with, just trying out single tuning notes, octave leaps, scales etc.. I had hoped there might be (a) manual improvement:  tight keywork without wobbles or uneven pressures; (b) greater ease in hitting difficult notes reliably, especially in the low bass and high tenor ranges. These expectations are absolutely fulfilled: there is a well-set-up feel to each key, with no sloppiness whatever. And much increased confidence in placing every note; for instance getting piano starts in the bass.

The most rewarding outcome in the musical sense is more subtle, and only evident after a time, when moving into top-grade stuff like playing the sublime wind parts accompanying Mozart piano concertos. There is great improvement re intonation and four-square attack. Previously the instrument had quite a number of problem notes where one knew one had to humour what's coming with extra lipwork. That has all gone.

As I mentioned, I had made myself an apprentice in a professional workshop and built a baroque bassoon copy. I had always liked playing this not very distinguished apprentice piece for its technical appeal; just 3 open keys, no closed keys, i.e. theoretically leak-proof, and straightforward in its limited way; when the player got it right, the old bassoons readily followed. And had accepted that there was a price to pay when moving to the hugely more intricate modern instrument: you  couldn't expect the same all-round surefire response with so much going on mechanically. I thought.

But I am being won over that the Ashton treatment can make the modern bassoon a similar pleasure, with the bad humours out of the way. You've tamed complexity, and you've changed what seemed a second-class instrument into something that's really of the first water. The player ( as on the old Simiot I brought along ) can just do it all, with no need to blame the instrument for inbuilt shortcomings. I know amateurs easily go over the top in praising their instruments, but even with due reserve this feels like success.

 So I am very grateful indeed - kind regards from........................Tom ( Sherwood ).




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