Sunday, September 16

One year with Cecilia // Un an avec Cécile

Bittersweet year

I used to post maybe once a month on the blog. But now, it has been half a year ... a person would be justified to think that, either I don't care anymore (now that I have a new instrument) or that I'm disappointed in my choice and won't admit it. Well, neither of those are true, as I'm sure the videos here will show.

Année aigre-douce:

J'avais l'habitude de publier au blogue peut-être une fois par mois. Maintenant, ça doit faire la moitié d'une année ... une personne serait justifiée de croire que je ne m'en soucis plus (maintenant que j'ai un nouvel instrument) ou que je suis déçu de mon choix et ne veux pas l'admettre. Et bien, tout cela est faux, et je crois que ce qui suit le montrera.
This past year has been a mixture of events that give me cause for real happiness and optimism (health, work and home) but also sources of considerable frustration. The very negative atmosphere that has enveloped Facebook since Trump and his entourage have been enraging the world is something I did not take well. The situation has horribly polarized people: now instead of trying to build on common ground, any little disparity is used to cause conflicts. People who claim altruism and defence of the marginalized are demonizing very large, though silent, segments of the population that harm no one, in fact work very hard to help people of all descriptions thrive on their own strength. Double standards and misquoting appear to be the norm in EVERY camp and a drum-beat of catch-phrase dogmas (which are criticized of religion by the same people) are now militant ideologies that completely dismiss any science or reason that risks compromising their "right-think". Even people belonging to the "oppressed identities" are being branded as brainwashed traitors if they dare speak out for dialogue with the majority or understanding of traditional values. On a few occasions, I myself have been called an oppressor (by many words) by people who didn't bother to visit my Facebook timeline (filled with evidence to the contrary) just because of 1. the colour of my skin, 2. my sex, 3. my sexual inclinations (and I am not exaggerating).
L'année dernière fut un mélange de causes de vraie joie et d'optimisme (santé, travail et maison) mais aussi de sources considérables de frustration. Je prends assez mal l'atmosphère très négative qui enveloppe Facebook depuis que Trump et son entourage enrage le monde. La situation a affreusement polarisé les gens: au lieu d'essayer de trouver des points communs, toute petite différence d'opinion sert à enflammer des conflits. Des gens qui se prétendent d'altruistes défenseurs des marginaux, à la place calomnient de très larges segments de la population (qui restent silencieux et) qui ne font de mal à personne, s'efforçant au contraire, à aider autrui à retrouver ses propres moyens. Les deux-poids-deux-mesures puis déformer les paroles d'autrui semblent maintenant la norme dans TOUS les camps et un battement continu de slogans et de dogmes (ce que reprochent aux églises les mêmes personnes) sont devenus des idéologies militantes qui font fi de toute science ou raison qui risque compromettre le pris-pour-acquis. Même ceux/celles qui figurent parmi une "identité opprimée" se font harceler de traîtres corrompus s'ils osent suggérer une ouverture de dialogue avec la majorité ou une compréhension de valeurs traditionnelles. À quelques occasions, je me suis moi-même fait traité d'oppresseur (en bien plus de mots) par des gens qui n'ont même pas pris la peine de voir ma page Facebook (rempli de preuves du contraire) pour seules causes 1. la couleur de ma peau, 2. mon genre, 3. mes préférences sexuelles (et je n'exagère même pas).
Anyway, this killed a lot of my enthusiasm. I am currently in the process of re-aligning how I view and interact with the world.
Enfin, tout ça a plutôt meurtri mon enthousiasme. Je suis donc en train de ré-évaluer ma compréhension du monde et comment je compte interagir avec.

Amateur's progress

But why would any of this interest anyone? Well, this blog has always been to track my progress of "re-birth" on the oboe. It started 8 years ago, after 10 years of nearly no playing while I was in engineering school. Back then, almost any recording was a triumph, no matter how mediocre: one more step back to the levels of the budding professional I had been so long ago. Now, with an average of 30 minutes practice per day, I think the progress is very noteworthy. It does show that people who focus on what they want to acheive can certainly get there.

Progrès d'un Amateur

Mais pourquoi on s'y intéresserait? Et bien, ce blogue a toujours suivi le progrès de ma "renaissance" sur le hautbois il y a 8 ans, après 10 ans sans presque qu'aucun jeu (pour la durée de mes études en ingénierie). Alors au départ du blogue, presque n'importe-quel enregistrement, si médiocre soit-il, était un triomphe: un pas de plus vers les niveaux que j'avais atteint auparavant. Maintenant, avec en moyenne 30 minutes de hautbois par jour, je crois que mon progrès est appréciable. Ça montre ce qu'une personne peut accomplir avec persévérance.
I will have to blog some other time about how it is not necessary to have once been a pro in order to do what I do. One thing to note: at the time of these recordings I don't play in any ensembles, which affords me the luxury of practicing what I want, the way I want to. It allows me to take as much time as I need to pursue repertoire that would be unreachable, if I had a performance deadline.
Il faudra que j'écrive bientôt au fait qu'il n'est pas nécessaire d'avoir été professionnel pour faire comme moi. Une chose à noter: en date de ces enregistrements, je ne joue dans aucun ensemble, ce qui m'accorde le luxe de travailler le répertoire que je veux, de la manière que je veux. Ceci me permet aussi de prendre le temps nécessaire à maîtriser le répertoire qui serait inatteignable, si j'avais des dates de concert prédéfinis.

Year of the split reed

One thing that really did not help my blogging is that reeds kept splitting. New reeds, old reeds, soft reeds, hard reeds: it started a few weeks after buying Cecilia and lasted until the spring ... there really didn't seem to be any reason or rhyme about it. In my 35 years of playing oboe, I never saw anything like it. It really is enough to start believing in curses: but why would anyone be unhappy that I bought a new oboe?

Année de l'anche fendante

Une chose qui n'a vraiment pas encouragé le blogue est combien mes anches ne cessaient de fendre! Nouvelles anches, vieilles, dures, douces: ça a commencé quelques semaines puis ça a persisté jusqu'au printemps ... vraiment aucune raison identifiable. Après 35 ans de hautbois, je n'ai jamais vu pareil. C'est vraiment assez pour me faire croire aux malédictions: mais qui m'en voudrait pour avoir acheter un hautbois neuf?

2 oboes: distraction of always comparing

At IDRS 2015 in New York, I had decided not to buy an instrument after seeing/hearing Jacques Tys in recital: this was the first time I had witnessed an artist connect to the music itself with profound intimacy that the performance pervaded the soul. (See here) At that point I surmized that, with all its flaws, it would be better to seek that connection with an instrument I already knew so well, it was almost an actual part of my body. I deduced that to buy a new instrument would be a distraction from musical understanding: I was right!

2 hautbois: distraction de toujours comparer

À la conférence IDRS de 2015 à New-York, j'ai décidé de ne pas acheter de nouvel instrument en raison du récital de Jacques Tys: c'était la première fois que j'ai témoigné de la connexion d'un artiste avec la musique elle-même; une intimité si profonde que la performance envahi l'âme. (Voir ici) Rendu là, j'ai cru qu'il valait mieux chercher cette connexion pour moi-même avec un instrument qui, malgré ses défauts, m'est si familier qu'il fait presque partie intégrale de mon corps. J'ai déduit qu'acheter un nouvel instrument serait une distraction de ma quête: j'avais raison!
   

I am not in the habit of spending nearly two months' salary on anything and I had to struggle hard all my life to get to a point I can afford it. So for about 6 months after buying it (with the passing of the seasons) I keep switching back-and-forth between Cecilia and Ol' Faithful to keep confirming I had made the right choice (yes I did) when I could have added a d'amore instead.
Je n'ai pas l'habitude de payer près de deux mois de salaire pour une chose; j'ai dû travailler d'arrache-pied pour arriver au point je puis le faire. Alors les 6 premiers mois après l'achat (avec le passage des saisons) j'ai alterné entre Cécile et ma Vieille Branche, cherchant sans cesse à confirmer avoir fait le bon choix (bel-et-bien le cas) alors que j'aurais pu ajouter un hautbois d'amour à la place.

Bach: not a purist

I hesitated long before deciding to post these recordings on Sound Cloud. I had only practiced the Partita for approximately a year: DEFINITELY NOT enough to become really intimate with it. In fact, I was still changing my mind concerning ornamentations and phrasing on the week I recorded. I finally decided to go ahead with these imperfect tracks for 2 reasons:
  1. It has now been (over) a year since I bought Cecilia (my Bulgheroni Musa oboe) and I have nearly not recorded with it.
  2. If I had not purchased Cecilia, it would not have been possible at all to "tame" the partita: even with my best reeds, the quirks I experience with Lorées just make it a real hassle to harness this difficult work, especially ensuring decent tuning across the rapidly alternating registers. As soon as I tried it with Cecilia, it seemed almost easy: all that really remained was to tame my own concentration ... and concentration (or focus of mind) appears to be the root of all my musical hurdles.

Bach: pas puriste

J'ai longuement hésité avant de publier ces enregistrements sur Sound Cloud. Je n'ai travaillé la Partita que depuis environ un an: DÉFINITIVEMENT PAS assez pour vraiment trouver son intimité. En fait, je changeais encore les ornementations et le phrasé la semaine des enregistrements. J'ai enfin décidé de partager ces pistes imparfaites pour 2 raisons:
  1. Ça fait maintenant (plus d') un an que j'ai acheté Cécile (mon hautbois Bulgheroni Musa) et je n'ai à-peu-près rien enregistré avec.
  2. Si je n'avais pas acheté Cécile, il ne m'aurait pas du tout été possible "d'asseoir" la partita: même avec mes meilleures anches, les caprices que les Lorées m'imposent rendent la tâche simplement trop ardue, surtout assurer la justesse passable au passage des octaves. Aussitôt que j'ai essayé avec Cécile, ça me parut presque facile: tout ce qu'il me restait était la maîtrise de de la concentration ... mais la concentration semble la base de presque tous mes obstacles musicaux.
     
   
So, none of the extreme dynamics, rubati and extra notes in the low register (apart from ornamentations) are at all in keeping with baroque performance practice ... well if "purism" is the goal, then one should play the baroque oboe! To me, these tremendously inspiring works deserve to be kept alive by expressing the feelings they elicit when playing them, and THIS work, in the current circumstances, certainly elicits quite extreme emotions!
Et bien, ni les nuances extrêmes, ni les rubati, ni les notes supplémentaires dans le grave (à part les ornements) ne respectent le purisme baroque ... mais si l’authenticité était mon but, je jouerais un instrument d'époque! Pour moi, ces oeuvres immensément inspirant méritent qu'on exprime les sentiments qu'ils insufflent lorsqu'on les jouent. Et CETTE oeuvre, dans les circonstances actuelles inspirent des émotions tout-à-fait extrêmes!

Microphone is everything

To record this master work, I took a week long vacation. This allowed me to see to some house obligations, take especially good care of the dogs, perform some sound experimentations (gage how harsh the very hot weather would be on my stamina) and still be relaxed enough to record quite a few takes. For the experience, I rented 3 different microphones: one cardioid stage microphone (Sure m57), another cardioid large-capsule (Audio Technica at2020) and a more expensive, multi-pattern large-capsule (AKG c414). In all cases, my oboe sounded more true-to-life than what I get from the Zoom H4n: but this is easily shown to be because the Zoom is meant to be a field recorder and captures much more ambient reverberation whereas the others are all more focused on my instrument. In the end, there is good reason for the AKG to be so expensive: clearly most authentic sound.

Le micro vaut tout

Pour enregistrer ce chef-d'oeuvre, j'ai pris une semaine de vacance. Ça m'a permis de voir aux obligations domestiques, prendre bien soin des chiens, faire quelques expérimentations (voir combien la chaleur torride allait affecter mon dynamisme) puis rester assez détendu pour enregistrer beaucoup de prises. Pour l'expérience, j'ai loué 3 micros différents: un cardioïde de scène (Sure m57), un autre cardioïde à diaphragme large (Audio Technica at2020) et un plus dispendieux(AKG c414) à capsule large et géométrie variable. Dans tous les cas, mon hautbois sonnait plus réaliste qu'avec mon Zoom H4n: mais ceci se démontre facilement du fait que le Zoom est conçu pour enregistrer à l'improvis à l'extérieur tandis que les autres sont conçus pour capter un seul instrument. Tout compte fait, c'est pour bonne cause que le AKG est si dispendieux: clairement le son le plus authentique.


Monday, February 5

Oboe Day / Jour du Hautbois - U.O. 2018

A few weeks ago, there was an “Oboe Day” at University of Ottawa. Of course, I had to go!

Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) is an odd little place: there really is a lot of artistic activity going on, but if you don't know, you might think this place is as dull as a parking lot. Once again, Chip Hamann (principal oboe at the National Arts Centre Orchestra and oboe prof at University of Ottawa) gathered his friends to put together a day to celebrate our favourite instrument! This year, it was only one day, the Saturday, and did not receive as much contribution from the University itself (which helped produce a day for all woodwinds on the Sunday), so I salute Chip and his friends on the extra work, financing and dedication to this event which is a real boost to the oboe community, as a community in the area.

chip
Get his one-of-a-kind CD: click here
Obtenez son CD sensass: clickez ici


Il y a quelques semaines, l’Université d’Ottawa a connu un “Jour du hautbois”. Il fallait bien y aller!

Ottawa est un drôle de petit endroit: il y a vraiment beaucoup d'activité artistique, mais il faut le savoir, sans quoi on croirait dans l'ennui d'un discours sur la comptabilité! Encore une fois, Chip Hamann (hautbois solo de l'Orchestre du Centre National des Arts et prof de hautbois à l'Université d'Ottawa) a réuni ses amis pour monter un jour à célébrer notre instrument favori! Cette année, l'événement n'a duré qu'un jour, le samedi, et n'a pas obtenu autant de soutien de l'université comme tel (l'université a produit un jour des bois le dimanche), alors je salue Chip et ses amis pour le travail, le financement et le dévoument supplémentaire pour cet événement qui donne un vrai souffle à la communauté du hautbois, en tant que communauté dans la région.

It was good to meet again a few people I’ve kept in touch with over Facebook: in person is always more memorable!

This year's oboe day focused less on masterclasses and more on workshops and presentations, including one to use strategies from sports psychology to help overcome performance anxiety.

oboeDay

Ça a fait du bien de rencontrer à nouveau certaines personnes avec qui je reste en contact sur Facebook: en personne est toujours plus mémorable.

Cette année a mis moins l'accent sur les classes des maîtres mais plus sur les présentations, incluant une sur l'adoption des stratégies de la psychologie sportive pour surmonter le trac.

Also, a speciallist in oboe repair, Brian Seaton, was brought-in for fine tuning and minor repairs. Brian also gave an introduction to oboe mechanics and screw adjustment (get his how-to manual here) to an audience of students and amateurs, from as young as pre-teens to as old as sexagenarians. Brian's idea, was to impress on every oboist the need to feel confident to take a screw-driver to fix a leak at any time. I thought this was self-evident, but clearly I was wrong: the majority of the audience had no clue what the various levers and stoppers do.

oboeDayTrio

Il y avait aussi un spécialliste de la réparation du hautbois, Brian Seaton, qui faisait des réparations mineures et ajustements de pointe. Brian a aussé donné une présentation sur l'ajustement des vis (son manuel d'introduction est disponible ici) à un auditoire comptant étudiants et amateurs d'âges pré-adolescents à sextagénère. Brian avait pour but que chaque hautboïste se sente confiant de prendre un tournevis n'importe-quand et ajuster une clef au besoin. Ceci me semblait aller de soi, mais j'avais évidemment tord: la majorité nette des participants ne savait pas à quoi sert les divers leviers.

Katrina Lidell brought a good stash from her enterprise Blackwood Double Reed Supplies (click here) one of the rare Eastern-Canadian places to get pretty much anything you might want for reed making and oboe accessories, including tube cane from several renowned plantations. I couldn't help purchasing a half-pound of Rigotti tubes and a couple of silk swabs!

     

Katrina Liddell apporta un trésor d'articles de son entreprise, Blackwood Double Reed Supplies (clickez ici) l'une des rares places dans l'est du Canada qui offre à-peu-près tout ce qu'on peut vouloir pour la fabrication des anches et accessoires du hautbois, incluant roseau en tubes de récolteurs variés. Je ne pus m'empêcher d'acheter un quard de kilo de roseau en tubes Rigotti et quelques écouvillons de soie!

As usual, my favourite part was the exhibit of a couple dozen oboes and English horns thanks to Jim Mason from Kitchener Waterloo (click here). I confess I did not really want to go this year. One paranoid reason is that I didn't want to take the chance that one of the Howarths or some rare collector's instrument in Jim Mason's lineup woud play as well (and possibly less expensive) or even better than my new Bulgheroni Musa (Cecilia). But I went anyway: some of Jim's oboes for sale were truly remarkable, but I was glad to conclude without any question whatsoever, Cecilia tops them all (for me)!

leftSideStash

On s'y attend, ma partie favorite fut l'étalage d'instruments à vendre! Jim Mason de Kitchener Waterloo (clickez ici) a apporté son stock de hautbois et cor anglais. J'avoue être allé à reculons cette année. Une raison paranoyaque est que je ne voulais pas prendre la chance de trouver un Howarth ou instrument historique qui joue mieux que mon nouveau Bulgheroni Musa (Cécile). Mais j'y suis allé pareil: quelques-uns des hautbois jouaient vraiment splendide, mais j'étais fier de conclure que sans l'ombre d'un doute, pour moi, Cécile les bat tous!

Because I have been very tired these past few months, I did not spend every possible minute trying and comparing the instruments with every reed I could bring. Normally, I prefer to test instruments with a mediocre reed (or worse), but I just did not have the stamina for that, so I only used one reed that played well in Cecilia.

rightSideStash

Depuis quelques mois, je suis épuisé. Par conséquent, je n'ai pas passé chaque minute possible à comparer les instruments avec toutes les anches à ma portée. Normalement, j'aime évaluer les instruments avec une anche médiocre (ou pire) mais je n'avais simplement pas l'énergie pour ce faire, alors je n'ai utilisé qu'une anche qui joue bien dans Cécile.

One thing I was really surprized and happy to notice concerns Howarth and cocobolo versus grenadilla. At the IDRS conference in Appleton, last summer, I was rather disappointed that the Howarth line did not thrill me like it had in previous years. Well, the Ottawa oboe day explained why. Jim had some Cocobolo and black wood XLs. The Cocobolo instruments exhibited the same characteristics as I had disliked in Appleton: the sound seemed less solid, more shaky. BUT WAIT, the black wood XLs were absolutely right for well supported and dependable sound, projection and tuning.... well what do you know: in Appleton, I remember trying exclusively the exotic wood instruments (usually with CocoJazz top joints)!

The difference (for me - you might find differently) was unmistakable: exotic wood Howarth are not for me. This is odd because, at the IDRS conference in Appleton, the violetwood Fossati really pleased me better than the black wood and Rigoutat seemed essentially the same: the wood did not seem to matter.

Une remarque m'a agréablement surpris concerne Howarth et le bois de cocobolo versus la grenadille. À la conférence IDRS à Appleton, l'été dernier, j'étais déçu que la lignée Howarth ne m'ait pas plu autant que les années précédentes. Or, la collection de Jim comptaient un XL en cocobolo et un autre en bois noir (grenadille). Celui en cocobolo affichait les mêmes caractéristiques que je n'aimait pas à Appleton: un son généralement plus fébrile. MINUMTE MOUMOUTTE: le XL en grenadille soutenait le timbre très fiablement avec une projection et une justesse bien propres ... aha: je me souviens qu'à Appleton, j'essayais presqu'exclusivement les instruments en bois exotiques (habituellement avec corps supérieur en cocojazz)!

La différence (pour moi - vous concluerez peut-être autrement) est inéluctable: les Howarth en bois exotiques ne sont pas pour moi. Étrange parce qu'à IDRS, le Fossati en bois de violette me plaisait bien mieux que ceux en grenadille et les Rigoutats me semblaient à-peu-près interchangeables.

Of course, everyone wants to know about Lorée, especially in Canada, for good or vindictive reasons... As I said, I did not spend a lot of time testing the instruments, so I cannot give a thorough impression. The newest Lorées seemed to play rather well: the tuning seemed dependable and even enough. They all had the characteristic Lorée sound (harsh with the easy-playing short-scrape reeds I like) and it took the Royal 125 to provide real flexibility of dynamic expression. 

Évidemment, on veut tous en savoir plus sur les Lorées, surtout au Canada, que ce soit par admiration our par vengeance... Rappel que je n'ai pas passé beaucoup de temps à essayer tous les instruments, alors je ne peux pas donner une impression détaillée. Les nouveaux Lorées semblaient jouer plutôt bien: la justesse semblait assez bien équilibrée. Ils montraient tous le timbre caractéristique de Lorée (un peu dur avec les anches européennes faciles que j'aime) et ça a pris le Royal 125 pour me donner la flexibilité dans les nuances que je recherche.

But once again, to my taste the jewels of the collection were old instruments: a Covey from around 2005 and a Lorée C-series from around 1970. Their tone was just plain lush velvet with no restrictions on sound whatsoever and perfectly adjusted tuning. Their only problem: being old, the mechanics are rickety. It's tempting to say "the sound is what maters", but in truth, tight new mechanics really make playing more pleasant. Evidently, some level of upkeep can be made that don't cost an arm in a leg, but even at worst, I say these instruments are really worth spending 2000$ to 4000$ to make them like new. Problem is, a vendor would not pay that much because it's really hard to sell a 50 year old instrument for the same price as a brand new one! If I had the money, I would not hesitate. If you are new to the instrument, I recommend getting one of these gems: even without the repairs they will make your beginnings that much easier and develop excellent habits and very high expectations for when the time comes to buy a new instrument.

Mais encore une fois, à mon goût, les vrais bijoux de la collection furent deux vieux instruments: un Covey d'environ 2005 et un Lorée de série Cxxx d'environ 1970. Les deux sonnaient simplement le velour doux sans aucune restriction du tout dans le timbre. Leur seul inconvénient: étant si vieux, la mécanique est branlante. J'ai souvent envi de dire que la mécanique est bien secondaire, ce qui compte est le corps pour les caractéristiques sonores, mais je dois bien avouer qu'une mécanique solide rend le jeu bien plus plaisant. On peut faire entretenir l'instrument suffisament sans coûter un bras, mais au pire, une remise à neuf (vraiment comme neuf) coûterait peut-être de 2000$ à 4000$ et vaudrait bien la peine. Problême est qu'un revendeur ne peut pas investir dans de telles réparations parce qu'il est vraiment difficile de demander le même prix pour un instrument de 50 ans et un instrument flambant neuf! Si j'avais l'argent, je n'hésiterais pas. Si vous êtes débutants, je recommande un de ces bijoux: même sans les réparations, ils vous rendront la vie tellement plus facile et vous aideront à développer d'exellentes habitues et attentes pour le timbre, lorsque viendra le temps d'acheter un nouvel instrument.

What is a good reed?

The one thing I could not evaluate at this oboe weekend was the "reed friendliness" of the instruments. Partly because I was too fatigued to use more than one reed, but also because of the absence of any Marigaux, SML, Strasser or Kreul instrument, which have the reputation, far and wide and for generations, of being the most reed friendly oboes (whereas Lorée, despite its charms, has the reputation of being one of the most finicky with reeds). However, over the past few months, I have been able to make a few observations.

C'est quoi, une bonne anche?

La chose que je ne pouvais pas évaluer, à cet événement, est la "tolérance aux anches" des instruments. Ceci est en partie dû à ma fatigue, mais aussi par l'absence totale d'instruments de la tradition Marigaux, SML, Strasser ou Kreul, tous ayant la réputation bien méritée au fil des tesmps à se montrer plus tolérant aux anches que les autres (tandis qe Lorée, nonobstant ses charmes, a la réputation d'exigence extrême aux anches).

First, I have to agree with Mark Chudnow (link here) when he says that we fuss about reeds far too often to compensate for flaws in the instrument's state (leaky pads and other maladjustments). But there does remain an effect of "bad reed" which is much easier to define than "good reed".

Par contre, les quelques derniers mois m'ont permi quelques observations. D'abord, je dois signaler mon accord avec Mark Chudnow (lien ici) quand il dit qu'il faut être tout-à-fait aussi exigent avec l'état de l'instrument qu'avec les anches. Mais il reste quand-même l'effet de "mauvaise anche", plus facile à définir que "bonne anche".

I have come to find that a good reed crows nicely and plays nicely outside the oboe. It feels good to play it without the instrument and responds nicely to articulation and long tones for several minutes at a time. When playing the oboe gets difficult and frustrating, I take the reed out of the instrument and, unmistakably, it either wheezes or honks like a birthday party horn or won't sound without olympian effort. Many of them sound good for a few seconds and then either collapse or refuse to articulate, as if they were made of rubber. With Ol' faithful, it was very often difficult to know if the problem was the reed, me or the instrument: with Cecilia, when playing gets difficult, I can easily determine the reed is nasty.

Le temps a mis en évidence qu'une bonne anche crie et joue bien sans l'instrument. On se sent à l'aise à jouer l'anche sans l'instrument puis elle répond bien aux articulations et les sons filés pendant plusieurs minutes à la fois. Lorsque le jeu du hautbois devient difficile et frustrant, je sors l'anche et, sans faute, soit qu'elle siffle ou bien gazoue comme un apeau de chasse ou encore cesse de sonner sans un effort olympien. Plusieurs anches de ce genre joueront très bien pour quelques secondes puis ensuite s'effondrent ou cessent d'articuler comme si elles étaient faites de caoutchouc. Avece ma Vieille Branche, il était souvent difficile à savoir si le problême était l'instrument, l'anche ou moi: avec Cécile, quand le jeu devient difficile, je peux clairement distinguer que l'anche fout la ... [censuré]

For several years, I have been accumulating a stock of many different types of cane, mostly tube cane, some of it pre-gouged, and I still have a left-over stock of shaped-cane from around 2005. In a sense, this sounds like a good idea, but at the same time it has proven very frustrating: I want to use all the cane I have to make reeds, but it is becoming clear that only a few plantations of cane make good reeds! I like to think that the other plantations will make good reeds for other oboists of other levels and experience and other needs. But approximately 3 plantations consistently yield reeds that make playing fun, whereas 2 plantations produce reeds that are easy to make, but become hellishly hard to play, no matter what I do with the reeds over time.

Depuis plusieurs années, j'accumule un stock de roseaux de plusieurs récolteurs; surtout en tube, un peu déjà gougé, puis il me reste du roseau gougé-taillé acheté environ en 2005. Ceci peut sembler comme une bonne idée, mais en même temps ça s'est montré frustrant: je veux tout utiliser mon roseau, mais il est devenu clair que seuls quelques récolteurs produisent de bonnes anches! J'aime croire que les autres récolteurs produiront de bonnes anches pour d'autres hautboïstes, de niveau, d'expérience et de caractéristiques physiques différentes. Mais environ 3 récolteurs me donnent des anches fiables et plaisantes alors que 2 me donnent des anches faciles à fabriquer au départ, puis ensuite infernales à jouer, quoique ce soit que je leur fasse par la suite.

This winter, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia hit me hard enough that I am considering buying my reeds instead of making them. Pain medication only "take the edge off" but leave me feeling like a heavy wool blanket, when you try to pull it out of a pond. Making reeds with misleading cane (starts good and dies afterward) discourages even more, but then I make a good reed with good cane and I feel much better about it ... I just feel sorry to have to wasted so much money on cane that just doesn't work for me.

Cet hiver, la fatigue chronique et la fibromyalgie m'ont frappé fort au point de considérer acheter mes anches toutes faites au lieu des fabriquer moi-même. Les médicaments adoucissent le pire mais me laisse comme une couverture de feutre de laine détrempée qu'on retire d'un étang. Fabriquer mes anches avec du roseau tricheur (commence bien puis meurt par la suite) est davantage décourageant. Mais lorsque je fabrique une bonne anche avec du bon roseau, je me sens tellement mieux ... quel dommage d'avoir gaspillé tant d'argent sur du roseau qui ne fonctione simplement pas pour moi.

Conclusion:

If you buy reeds (and yes, that is a good thing) please do not feel discouraged if your tuning, legato and/or articulation is poor:
1. practice dilligently
2. take your instrument to an oboe speciallist repairman
3. try reeds from another maker (or ask your maker to try a different cane)
..... not necessarily in that order ....

Conclusion:

Si vous achetez vos anches toutes-faites (oui, c'est une bonne chose) ne vous découragez pas si la justesse, le légato et/ou l'articulation s'obstinent:
1. répétez consciencieusement
2. faites ajuster l'instrument par un spécialliste du hautbois
3. essayez les anches de quelqu'un d'autre (ou demandez un autre roseau)
.... pas nécessairement dans cet ordre ...

Thursday, January 4

HAPPY / BONNE 2018 !

New year, new beginnings... I hope!

Happy 2018 to everyone!
2017 was a year of adventure (new oboe and projects) and also fright all over the world. Though it is important to remember and learn from the past, let's start 2018 with some music and hope!

   happyNewYear2018

Nouvel an, nouveaux départs.... on espère!

Bonne et Heureuse 2018 à tout le monde!
2017 fut une année d'aventure (nouvel hautbois et projets) mais aussi d'effroi dans le monde. Bien qu'il soit important de se rappeler et apprendre du passé, commençons 2018 avec un peu de musique et d'espoir!

First Recording with Cecilia!

It's really rewarding when people say "Robin, I loved your playing before, but this new oboe takes it to even greater heights!", especially when some of them are also musicians with a well discerning ear. That's what I've been hearing since I started playing Cecilia in public!

ceciliaAndLittleJohn

Premier enregistrement avec Cécile!

C'est vraiment chouette d'entendre : "Robin, j'aimais déjà t'entendre jouer, mais avec ton nouvel hautbois, c'est un passage à un niveau bien supérieur!", surtout quand quelques-un qui le disent sont aussi musiciens avec une oreille bien au courant. C'est ce que j'entends depuis que je joues Cécile en public!

I don't know why, but the culture from the 1st Nations of South America really fills me with a sense of prophecy and a timelessness. So at the risk of appropriating a culture that is not mine, for my first recording with Cecilia (my new Musa oboe by Bulgheroni) I like the idea of playing this Peruvian lament for unaccompanied oboe. The Lamento Andino by Teofilo Alvarez Alvarez (Peru, 2015) is just plain haunting and a real joy to play. Nothing really difficult and very few expression markings: the performer is free to play it as you feel it.


Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais la culture des 1ères Nations de l'Amérique du Sud me remplissent d'un sens prophétique. Alors au risque de m'approprier d'une culture qui n'est pas la mienne, pour mon premier enregistrement avec Cécile (mon nouvel hautbois Musa par Bulgheroni) j'aime l'idée de jouer cette lamentation péruvienne pour hautbois seul. Le Lamento Andino par Téofilo Alvarez Alvarez (Pérou, 2015) est simplement mystifiant et un vrai régal à jouer. Rien de vraiment difficile et peu écrit outre les notes: on peut le jouer comme on le ressent.
This is definitely the video I spent the least time recording and post-processing ever. The first take was good, and then I just did the very minimal noise-reduction: there's the video! Of course, I want to show-off how easy Cecilia makes the altissimo register (the main reason I chose Bulgheroni) but the Lamento only goes up to 3rd ocatve E (jumping from a low A, in one case) so this is not a show off tune. But I really wanted to start the New Year with a recording, and I am just not ready to do the Claude Bolling tunes that go up to A and Bb.

lamentoExcerpt

Composition: Teofilo Alvarez Alvarez
(Ediciones Tofi Glenn -
 tofi.glenn@gmail.com )

Parmi toutes mes vidéos jusqu'à date, j'ai passé le moins de temps sur celle-ci. La première prise était bonne et je n'ai appliqué que le minimum de réduction de bruit. Bien sur, je voudrais vanter le sur-aigü (c'est dailleurs la raison principale pour laquelle j'ai choisi Bulgheroni) mais le Lamento ne monte qu'au mi du 3e octave (sautant d'un la grave, dans un cas) alors ce n'est pas la pièce la mieux choisie. Mais je veux vraiment commencer l'année avec un enregistrement et je ne suis simplement pas prêt à faire le Claude Bolling qui monte jusqu'au la et si bémol.
Here is also a recording of a tune I played with choir, handbells and 9-foot grand piano. It is an excerpt from a flute part, and it sounds more like it should have been scored for piccolo: it really sounds like a fife-and-drum tune that you would have expected in the 1800's. It only goes up to 3rd octave G, but it stays between D and G for possibly 1/3 or more of the notes, making the number (appox. 10 times the length of the excerpt) rather demanding. Even more difficult is going back down to a "normal" register - restoring a good sound when jumping ranges is not an easy thing on many makes of oboe: I find Bulgheroni takes care of the sound, so I don't have to work so hard.


Voici aussi un enregistrement d'une pièce que j'ai jouée avec choeur, cloches à main et un piano à queue de 3 mètres. C'est un extrait de la partie de flûte qui aurait mieux été donnée au piccolo: ça sonne vraiment comme une pièce pour fifre-et-tambour du XIXe siècle. Ça ne monte qu'au sol sur-aigü, mais possiblement le tiers des notes restent entre le ré et le sol du 3e octave, ce qui rend le morceau (environ 10 fois la longueur de l'extrait) assez exigeant. Encore plus difficile est le retour au registre "normal" - reprendre le timbre en sautant les registres n'est pas chose simple sur plusieurs marques de hautbois: je trouve que le Bulgheroni s'occuppe du timbre, m'épargnant un nombre de soucis.
The really nice thing about my new oboe is that I can use a reed that would normally be very metallic and buzzy (in my Ol' Faithful Lorée) and still sound relatively nice: the buzz is still there, but it becomes a nice "pastoral" quality which I feel comfortable to present to a discerning audience. This allows me to play with easier reeds, a real bonus owing to the fact I only practice 30 minutes a day: not enough to develop much strength of embouchure. I keep switching between instruments often and the verdict is clear: bad reeds are still bad, but with Ol' Faithful, even really good reeds would require considerable effort to play well. Conversely with Cecilia, when there is a problem with the reed, it is CLEARLY the reed which is at fault: decent reeds make playing easy and good reeds make playing a real pleasure.

cantataExcerpt

Une bien belle chose de mon nouvel hautbois est que je peux utiliser une anche qui sonnerait normalement nasillard (dans ma Vieille Branche de Lorée) mais toujours conserver un timbre relativement plaisant: le "buzz" reste présent, mais devient une qualité "pastorale" qui me laisse à l'aise de jouer devant un auditoire érudit. Ceci me permet de jouer des anches plus faciles; un atout, considérant que je ne répète qu'en moyenne 30 minutes par jour: pas assez pour développer l'endurance. J'alterne souvent entre les instruments et le verdict est clair: une mauvaise anche reste mauvaise, mais avec ma Vieille branche, même une bonne anche exige une effort considérable pour bien jouer. À l'inverse, avec Cécile, si l'anche est le problême, c'est clair et net où se trouve la faute: les anches raisonnables jouent facilement et les bonnes anches rendent le jeu un régal.

BYE-BYE year of the split reeds!

One last thing I did much less of, in 2017, is making reeds!

It's enough to make me start believing in curses! Since the summer, I feel like more of my reeds have split from tip to staple than in all my oboe life before! Old reeds, but more frustratingly new reeds too, would split. Often, these cracks are not visible, but definitely there. The tell-tale signs are they would sometimes sound buzzy but always play flat ... Test by inserting a plaque and gently lift: CRACK-SPLIT from tip down to the thread. One reed was playing really nicely and sounding sweet too, but I just could not get it up in tune, always 1/4 tone or more flat: it was so good I decided to trim the 47mm staple to 45mm. That helped, but not completely: then the predictable split happened!

splitReed

ADIEU année des anches fendantes!

Une dernière chose qui m'a vraiment manqué en 2017 est la fabrication des anches!

C'est assez pour me faire croire aux sortilèges et aux malédictions! Depuis l'été, il me semble qu'autant d'anches ont fendues que dans le reste de ma vie hautboïstique (comme on dit au Québec: c'est fendant)! Vieilles anches, mais encore plus frustrant, aussi les nouvelles qui s'annonçaient bien, une après l'autre. Le signe annociateur est que l'anche joue trop grave (parfois un timbre nasillard) et que rien ne semble pouvoir le monter. On vérifie en insérant une plaque puis lever doucement: CRAQUE du bout jusqu'au fil. Une anche ne voulait pas monter, mais elle jouait si bien que j'ai coupé le tube de 47mm à 45mm. Ça a aidé, mais pas complètement: ensuite, la fente prévue!

As a result, I had to play the Marcello Concerto in October and my Christmas performances on reeds I had scraped in the spring and used at IDRS to evaluate the oboes and choose which one to buy.

chopStapleButt

Par conséquent, j'ai joué le concerto de Marcello en octobre et mes présentations de Noël avec une anche grattée au printemps; une qui m'a servie à la conférence IDRS pour évaluer les instruments et faire mon choix d'achat.
But one big problem I had with reeds was my own fault: I had been tying lots of reeds over the past couple of years with whatever gouged and pre-shaped cane I had left: I did not test for cane quality at all, not even flatness/straightness (my pet peeve). I think the last time I gouged cane was in 2015. So clearly, most of my reeds were predictably hard to blow because the cane was just too soft and/or curved the wrong way. Mais une grande part du problême est de ma propre faute: au cours des dernières années, j'ai utilisé beaucoup de roseau "restant": acheté gougé-taillé ou bien que j'avais gougé mais délaissé auparavant. Je ne me suis pas soucié de la qualité du roseau, même pas qu'il soit plat/droit (mon point sensible). Je crois que la dernière fois que j'ai gougé le roseau était en 2015. Alors clairement, la majorité de mes anches était prévisiblement dures à souffler simplement parce que le roseau était trop veineux et/ou courbaturé.
It's little wonder I spent 3 days over the holidays shaping and tying 26 pieces of cane (I hope the grain is better). I hope to be able to take more time this year to gouge cane and select it better ... I like to experiment, but I find time is becoming hard to muster.

reedLineupHolidays

Donc pas surprenant que j'ai passé 3 jours, pendant les fêtes, à tailler et monter 26 morceaux de roseau (espérons que le grain soit meilleur). Souhaitons-moi une fin-de-semaine à gouger le roseau puis mieux le sélectionner ... je me plais à expérimenter, mais le temps devient rare.

2017 Strange Year

I really can't explain why, but this year has been strange. Apart from one extra programming contract I took (work at home in evenings and weekends) I was not overly busy. But yet I have accomplished much less than in the previous 3-4 years.

2017, année étrange

Je ne saurais expliquer pourquoi, mais cette année était étrange. À part un contrat de programmation (le soir et les fins-de-semaine) je n'était pas particulièrement débordé. Mais il me semble que j'ai accompli moins que dans les 3-4 années précédentes.

I don't like blogging about my pains, but one of the original purposes of this blog was to encourage other musicians who persevere in the face of real physical obstacles. In fact, during the year, I have learned that some people I've known for awhile already suffer more than I do with much more serious afflictions than mine: severe arthritis, multiple sclerosis and more. In fact, typically women suffer fibromyalgia with much more pain than I can complain about for myself. But I was told that describing my adventure helps lift the spirits of others. Je n'aime pas décrire mes maux, mais un des buts initiaux de mon blogue est d'encourager d'autres musiciens à persévérer devant leurs obstacles physiques. Au fait, pendant l'année, j'ai appris que certaines connaissances souffrent bien plus que moi: arthrite sévère, sclérose en plaques et d'autres afflictions. Même que les femmes souffrent habituellement plus de la fibromyalgie que ce que je puisse m'en plaindre. Mais on m'a dit que décrire mon aventure aide à garder le vent dans les voiles.

Dedication:

Fibromyalgia hit me hard in 2017. It is often called an auto-immune syndrome because inflammation is essentially the over-production of white blood cells. But one American Facebook friend has a an auto-immune so bad, her body actually rejects food. So I would like to dedicate this post the this friend: may the determination of the Peruvian tune recording and the good vibes carried by the community carry you to good health!

I have resumed physiotherapy because the "big pains" came back with real consequences: since the summer, headaches (occipital neuropathy) caused by muscle strain in back of the head have been relentless. Also, one shoulder is popping and crunching almost all the time. The physiotherapy emphasizes the need for strength training in the shoulder blade area, but there is a problem: when I train for strength, fibromyalgia flares up...

Although Tai-Chi still remains the best relief, I have been taking more pain relievers than previous years: and the pills drain me of stamina. I mostly feel exhausted and frustrated because I can't "just live a normal life".

autoimmune-disease-1000x1000


snakeCreepsDown

Dédicace:

La fibromyalgie m'a frappé fort, en 2017. C’est souvent inclus en tant que syndrôme auto-immunitaire parce que l’inflammation est essentiellement la sur-production de globule blanches. Mais une amie Facebook américaine en est affligée au point que son corps rejette la nourriture. J’aimerais alors lui dédier cet article: que la détermination dans l’enregistrement de la pièce Péruvienne et la bonne volonté qui suit cette communauté te mène à la bonne santé!

J'ai repris la physiotherapie parce que le pire des maux est revenu avec de vraies conséquences: depuis l'été, j'ai souffert de maux de tête (neuropathie occipitale) sans relâche causés par des tensions musculaires derrière la tête. Aussi, une de mes épaules donne l'impression de gravier à tout mouvement. La phisiothérapie met en évidence un besoin de me renfrorcer les omoplates mais l'entraînement entraîne aussi les attaques de fibromialgie...        

Bien que le Tai-Chi offre le meilleur soulagment, je prends bien plus de médicaments contre la douleur que les années passées: ceux-ci me siphonent l'énergie. Je suis surtout épuisé et frustré de ne pas pouvoir simplement "vivre une vie normale".

All the more reason to focus on music and the oboe. All these complaints make it difficult to seek out people to play with, but then playing with groups also takes time away from personal goals. For sure, this coming year, I need to practice technique for sound much more than I have in the past several years - back to basics in order to solidify the foundation for the repertoire I am aiming for.

So I guess my hopes for 2018 would be:

1. focus more on Taijiquan for fitness
2. resume REAL oboe practice
3. making reeds based on quality cane more often.


daoistMeditation_narrow

Raisons de plus à travailler la musique et le hautbois. Toutes ces plaintes ralentissent la quête à trouver d'autres avec qui jouer, mais jouer avec des groupes m'enlèverait le temps de viser mes propres buts. Je dois travailler la technique sonore beaucoup plus que je ne l'ai fait, ces dernières années; un retour aux bases pour solidifier les fondations en vue du répertoire que je vise.

Alors je suppose que mes souhaits pour 2018 seraient:

1. me centrer sur le Taijiquan pour la forme physiques
2. reprendre la VRAIE pratique du hautbois
3. faire des anches fondées sur le roseau de bonne qualité plus souvent.

May 2018 bring you all fulfillment in your artistic, social and physical lives! Que 2018 vous apporte tous l'épanouissement artistique, sociale et physique!

Sunday, December 10

IDRS 2017: changing impressions–how to choose?

Chers lecteurs francophones: je vise toujours le bilinguisme mais le temps et l'envergure de cet article sont tout simplement trop des facteurs limitatifs, étant donné que la très grande majorité de mes lecteurs sont anglophones. J'en suis désolé et je vous remercie de votre compréhension. Entretemps, copier-coller l’adresse dans le traducteur Google donnera une traduction … enfin, je ne sais pas à quel point ça marche, mais ce sera traduit!

Wow, I've had my Bulgheroni Musa (Cecilia) now for over 5 months ... but I have hardly blogged about her yet, no You-Tubes either. It would be perfectly reasonable for someone to believe that this proves disappointment or buyers remorse .... sorry to disappoint you, but no, this is not the case: I am really happy with Cecilia! I’ll explain when I post my first recording with Cecilia how this year has just been very odd – fatigue and timelines just played against me. First week of December, I played the Marcello concerto with reeds I made last spring … not even time to take a good picture with Cecilia yet!

I am now taking her for granted ("Of course this is how I sound!") and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to play Ol' Faithful (1985 Lorée) much anymore. Oddly, this Bulgheroni has the same effect as Smiley (an old Marigaux SML I had borrowed for 4 months): playing it makes me sound much better on Ol' Faithful, despite the mismatch. But returning to Cecilia immediately reminds me why I bought her. My Lorée does have its charms and SOME reeds actually sound better on Ol' Faithful, but I always find it easier to play my Bulgheroni.

Choosing a new instrument?????

With Christmas time upon us, parents of oboe students will be looking for a potential instrument they could buy for their budding musical artist. This brings the nervous question "What is the best oboe?", because the price of this instrument can be prohibitive, so parents with tighter means (or students preparing for college) will want to be sure they don't make a mistake and need to buy something else in a year or 6 months!

Please note that everything in this post are my own opinions. I encourage people to test-compare instruments for themselves and form their own opinions: if we disagree, all the better! By discussing our differing views, we promote more variety and open doors.

The first thing I can say is that, today's serious market (avoid the cheap copy makers) rarely has outright bad instruments (with real design or construction flaws) and even the used instrument market (if you stick to well-established makers) will yield instruments that will play really well - assuming you purchase from a reputable reseller or have it repaired by a well appreciated oboe specialist.

It doesn't matter if you the parent of a high-schooler, an adult enthusiast or even a professional, there are 3 factors involved in choosing an instrument:

  1. Which instruments are available?
  2. What can you afford?
  3. How does the instrument fulfil your physical needs and artistic goals?

For me, available instruments boil-down to whatever is at IDRS conferences, but for most people, it will be the closest big-city music shop, and in the USA or Europe, that is usually quite good. You really want instruments that you can try yourself, or at least have tried by a respected teacher or performer. Even if one maker's characteristics can be predicted at 85%, the remaining 15% is enough to cause serious annoyance OR to find an absolute treasure! No two instruments from the same maker play the same and selecting used or even new by internet descriptions is risky because there is just no way to know in what state of repair and adjustment the instrument will be.

Concerning affordability, even with professional or passionate amateurs, it would be incredibly naïve to think that instrument characteristics alone will motivate the final purchase. Unless a buyer is wealthy, price will always factor-in to the decision. Don't be fooled by people being doctors or lawyers or engineers or any well paid profession: there is the phenomena of "double-income bankruptcy" that any responsible adult will seek to avoid! Luckily, regardless of the characteristics you favour (sound, phrasing, mechanics) there are always different makers with enough overlap in them to give you some choice, and different vendors will list competitive prices.

And finally, instrument characteristics, this is where experience is everything. For most students, you really should not worry too much about blogs like mine and other reviews that describe what instruments do: there really is very much to develop in terms of controlling tuning and sound and technique that most reputable instruments will serve the purpose quite well. It takes years to build physical technique and find your artistic goals, both of which will end-up determining the instrument you will ultimately want.

Do not fall into the trap of listening to your favourite oboist and thinking "if I get her/his oboe, I can sound like that too" - this is not true! For example, at IDRS 2017, the featured Mönnig player had essentially the opposite sound from Albrecht Mayer, though they both played the same model instrument! It is not necessary to have all the bells and whistles when starting, so give it time and enjoy the journey to get there!

Oboes at IDRS 2017

With that in mind, I want to say more about how my preferences had changed at IDRS last summer. My thoughts on general comparison between instruments remain reasonably the same, but which instruments I prefer have shifted: this surprized me and I think it is significant: it emphasizes that  the instrument that is right for a person right now (even as a very skilled and experienced musician) might very well not be the preferred one in a few years, as the body changes with age and as habits (and goals) change with focus repertoire and aesthetic preference.

I really don't think the instruments (of the same model) have changed very much, so this leads me to believe that a musician may favour different qualities in the instrument as personal abilities and conditions evolve over time. For this reason, I will not mention makers where my impressions remain the same (e.g. Laubin, Püchner, Rigoutat, Dupin, Ludwig Frank, Covey, Yamaha, Lorée, Patricola); you can see my previous posts for that (click here). Instead, I want to focus on brands where my tastes have changed.

First example: Fossati.

This one struck me. At IDRS 2013 and 2014, I clearly preferred the A model, even though it is their least expensive from the professional Fossati line. At the time, their representative explained to me that the A model is their "entry-level" professional instrument: the S and MB models are better suited to professionals who naturally "work the sound harder". At the IDRS this year, I clearly preferred the S model: I really preferred the way it handled breathing and the flexibility of its tone.

They had a violetwood S model that completely stole my heart. The one and ONLY reason it did not make the list of my 3 favourites is because the altissimo (above 3rd octave G) was more difficult than the other 3 makers. Otherwise, I completely fell in love with it and nearly bought it on the 1st day! Compared to the black granadilla S, the violetwood allowed me to relax my entire embouchure (the actual jaw) that much more to get the sound that I was aiming for. It is very difficult to explain: it is entirely a matter of how it interacts with the body for sound production.

Fossati has innovated an oboe with interchangeable crowns and bell bottoms ("swells"?). Obvious question: does changing the parts really change the sound? Short answer: yes it does. Long answer: the white plastic crown and bell swell does give a more mellow sound, very appropriate for baroque repertoire. The black crown and swell provide a proper modern orchestral tone. I did not notice a difference between the black and black + metal ring, but it was not possible for me to do so: the purpose is to increase projection in concert halls.

fx3     tetesBagues

Second example: Buffet Crampon.

I have always loved the sound of the Orfeo, but Buffet in general used to leave me uncomfortable in the airways while blowing, especially the "standard" Prestige model. This time, every single Buffet they had on the table pleased me completely. I would have been fully happy to bring home any one of the Buffets on display.

The Orfeo is still my favourite because of its rich, deep and enveloping tone, but the Prestige was also pleasant to play. At the Gala concert, one artist played the Orfeo with the usual American reed and delivered a performance with as much verve, spirit and lively contrast as I would expect from European oboists!

bcVirtuoseFull

Buffet Crampon's new Virtuose is really the talk of the town, featuring a bell cut below the last holes, so they can be easily changed to different woods. Yes, changing the bell does change the sound. With a variety of woods and composite materials, you really have a rainbow of sounds at your fingertips: without changing reeds! They were showcasing a neon-green bell that was actually 3D printed: this one essentially made it sound like a Lorée AK (when I tried it). The mechanics are really different: same fingerings, but MUCH more work on ergonomics and click prevention. This is something you really can only appreciate over time: more than a few days at a conference. It just feels a little bit too much like a Lorée to my taste: many people will like this, but this is something I am trying to move away from.

virtuoseBells

The lower joint is cut just below the D key instead of between the hands. Normally, this intends to improve the tuning of Ab down to F. I did not notice any difference in tuning between the Virtuose and the Orfeo, but these are things you normally notice at home or in the concert hall: in other words, it is intended as insurance against Murphy's Law!

betweenHands     rightHandCut     rightHandPalmCut

Alain Vlamynk did a couple of excellent posts on the Virtuose on his blog. Click here. It’s in French only, but you can always copy-paste the URL to his website in Google Translate!

Fox Sayen & Fox-Laubin

To my personal taste, Fox still shows resistance to my air flow, but that's a personal thing because WOW, what a nice instrument! Talk about perfect tuning and stability combined with a glorious sound: that's the Sayen! Almost all the Foxes with 3rd octave key allowed me to play up to the Bb with just as much ease as the Bulgheroni I finally bought! So for most American players of any skill level that prefer a more reserved air stream, the Fox Sayen is a really interesting candidate!

sayen2017        Fox-Laubin-zoomed

The new Fox-Laubin is essentially the same (to my taste) as the Sayen, but with more free-blowing allure, as we'd expect from a Laubin. It is not a Laubin and it is not a Sayen: this is a case where you really have to try it and decide for yourself.

Differing views on Howarth:

They did not have any XM models with them: too bad because I really did love those the best in New-York. I used to say every XL played the same, but this time I felt the sound (for the XL an LXV) was more vibrant (shaky) than before, thus requiring a more focused and restrained reed. This is excellent for American-scrape reed players or "better behaved" European scrape reeds. I really like my reeds to be wild in order to get the dynamics and articulation contrast I seek. When I tried to play above altissimo G - no luck at all - I was recommended to try their 21st Century model (they had none there on site) which is apparently designed for a better 3rd octave range.

Old heart-throbs: Mönnig & Marigaux

I was really, truly hoping to love the Mönnig Albrecht Mayer model. I was really hoping to find a used one and buy it. Problem is, I confirmed my very first impressions from the very first time I tried it in New York it is a remarkable instrument, but requires a more solid professional player than me. I found the 2nd octave key range sounded crystalline and thin; but I have been told by professionals who play it that this becomes full and rich as one develops the strength to play it properly. Similarly with the altissimo, I could not break the G barrier: this was the deciding factor telling me I could just not buy this instrument. Too bad, because the sound from 1st octave key notes all the way to the bottom is downright mythical!

In particular, one individual Mönnig, straight off the airplane from Berlin, had very special pads. Cork pads were covered with silicone: I found it vibrated and tickled the fingers when playing. Some people do not like this but I loved it! The vibrations/tickling in the fingers makes it feel like I'm that much more a part of the music I'm playing.

Similarly I was really, truly hoping to fall in love with the Marigaux M2. But I can't shake it, the body and bore of the 901/2000 models are just much better suited to my habits and my goals at this time. It is believed (remains to be proven) that many Lorée players (like me) or similar instruments eagerly adopt the 901 whereas the M2 is preferred by people who already play Marigaux, or another instrument with the qualities to the 901. .... This raises an interesting question: if changing preferences is a trend that will continue over the next 5-10 years, now that my Cecilia is very different from Ol' Faithful, could it be possible that I too will migrate to the M2 in the future?

My opinion has not changed: Marigaux has proven it's worth in Ottawa and Montreal in every kind of weather I can think of, even over 4 months comparing. So for me, to buy a Marigaux 901 or 2001 would have been the safest choice.

Playing safe or adventurous risk?

csMusaBut safety was not my main objective: a specific direction on sound quality and the ease of the altissimo register are my focus. For many months before the IDRS conference, I had been annoying MANY professional oboists on Facebook with questions about the altissimo, especially above G and at least up to Bb!

In comparison, for me, choosing a Bulgheroni was taking a risk because I could only try Bulgheroni at IDRS conferences. Even though Bulgheroni was not time-tested at home, its rich warm and large sound qualities answer what I have been aiming for as long as I can remember. Furthermore, every single Bulgheroni I tried, Musa, Opera, even their student models played up to the altissimo Bb without any effort at all, using my favourite reeds!

Bulgheroni has a decent market for student models in the USA, but mostly in Europe. Their professional models (Opera and Musa) are not new, but they are not marketed with as much intensity as Lorée or Marigux or Bufet or Yamaha, and they don’t have any big-name promoter-artists, so they are nowhere near as well known. But since this summer, Christian Schmitt (very well known in Europe and also known as a Rigoutat artist) has taken on the mantle. At IDRS 2017, after I bought Cecilia, I quickly met him and he told me he had tried her and liked it quite a lot. It was a few months later that I learned he too now plays the Bulgheroni Musa (like Cecilia).

I don’t know of any videos of Christian Schmitt playing Bulgheroni yet, but here is a video of him on Righoutat: this will show the requirements he puts on performance, and should help glean some idea of what should be expected when he finally records with Bulgheroni (I hope).

Compared to my Ol’ Faithful Lorée or even Marigaux, Bulgheroni is a very different instrument.I’ll discuss that when I record my first You-Tube with Cecilia, but here I want mention that Bulgheroni's student model is also striking. Since the first time I tried Bulgheroni at IDRS 2013 in Redlands, I kept telling the Bulgheroni family their student models "develop good habits". This could sound facetious, but it's honest: I find they develop proper expectations four sound (rich, broad and versatile) as well as a proper feeling of freedom when blowing.

A funny thing happened on the way to the conference.

Josef oboes are always a popular curiosity because of their innovation in wood and sculpture. My opinions on them have remained the same, but the following anecdote is funny enough to mention here.

anniversaryHeadsNaturally, I tried them all (especially their d’amore …. if only I had the cash …). The altissimo (above 3rd octave G) was a difficult, so they adjusted the screw on the 3rd octave key. This helped a lot, but still not quite as good as others. Then, without warning “KA- BOOM”: thunder struck and the rain started pouring as if we were under Niagara Falls. Guess what? Same reed, same room, just a few seconds later, the altissimo (all the way up to Bb) became as easy to play as anything I had ever played before. ….. so when I say weather plays tricks ….

A special note on "Chinese oboes"

It is very unfortunate that such a great country (in size, population, production and history) as China should be equated in the average western mind with cheap (less than 1/10 the normal price), throw-away products that defy repair and sometimes are even missing a few parts. This is VERY unfortunate for at least one Chinese producer of really good instruments: K-Ge. I have tried his instruments at 3 IDRS conferences: seriously, it's hard to see them as anything less than professional calibre instruments. There are new producers of oboes from China that appear to steal the designs and looks from the great makers (like Marigaux, Ludwig Frank, Josef and Dupin), but I have not tried them and I don't know anyone who has. I have read some comments on Facebook of people happy with their internet purchase of "Chinese oboes" and others were really very angry. So my conclusion is: buyer beware. However if you are considering K-Ge: go for it, I really think you'll be happy.

Monday, July 10

Oboes/Hautbois IDRS 2017 : Journey’s end / La quête achevée

musaCecilia
This blog has been tracking my return to musical life, in defiance of fibromyalgia (chronic pain and fatigue) and in parallel with the time constraints earning a living as a computer software developer. An important part of this has been my quest to prove that the wrong instrument (for "you") can inhibit one's musical expression, thereby launching a quest to find "the ideal" instrument for me. This year, the IDRS conference has been particularly revealing and during the 2 weeks after my return, I have suffered flare-ups of pain (I needed to take medication every day - not normal), but this served to prove the choice I made at the IDRS conference: after 4 years of searching, I finally chose an oboe! Ce blogue chronique mon retour à la vie musicale, défiant la fibromyalgie (douleur et fatigue chroniques) et dans les contraintes de temps en gagnant ma vie en tant que développeur informatique. Une part importante de cette chronique, qui a cherché à démontrer qu'un instrument mal choisi peut nuire à son expression musical, a lancé la quête à trouver l'instrument idéal (pour moi). Cette année, la conférence de l'IDRS s'est montrée particulièrement révélatrice et les 2 semaines après mon retour m'ont affligé de douleurs (à en prendre des médicaments à tous les jours - pas normal). Mais ceci a servi à prouver mon choix à la conférence: après 4 ans à chercher, j'ai enfin choisi un hautbois!

Quest for the ultimate oboe

Choosing "the best oboe" (for "you") is a process based on criteria that the instrument must answer. My criteria will be different than your criteria because we have different experience, different physical qualities (including strength and health) and different musical goals. I hope following will inspire people, not to copy the journey I took, but rather to find their own ways in identifying the instrument that will help them most reach for their musical ideals.

En quête du hautbois ultime

Choisir "le meilleur hautbois" (pour soi) est un processus basé sur des critères auxquels l'instrument doit répondre. Mes critères seront différents des vôtres parce que notre expérience, nos qualités physiques (y compris la force et la santé) et nos objectifs sont différents. J'espère que ce qui suit inspirera les gens, non pas à copier mon cheminement, mais plutôt à identifier vos propres buts à viser.
Last time I tried all the instruments was 3 years ago at IDRS 2014 in New-York. At that time, I decided not to buy anything because of an epiphany brought on by the recitals of Jacques Tys. This inspired me to ignore characteristics of the instrument and concentrate instead on finding the soul-expression of music in my own playing. Mon dernier essai de tous les instruments date d'il y a 3 ans à IDRS 2014 à New-York. À l'occasion, j'ai décidé de ne rien acheter en raison d'une épiphanie reçue aux récitals de Jacques Tys qui m'a inspirée à ignorer les charactéristiques de l'instrument pour chercher à la place l'âme expressive musicale dans mon jeu.
This is nearly impossible to explain in written text: listening to Jacques Tys in person, I seemed to hear and feel the very life of music. In my opinion, when a person witnesses something so wonderful, it should become a life-quest to seek that wonder in her/his own playing ... it might not be possible to achieve it, but at least one should aim for the same ideals, as much as one is capable of hearing/feeling them in someone else's performance ... otherwise, what is the point of practicing and playing? Presqu'impossible à expliquer textuellement, entendre Jacques Tys en personne, il me semblait entendre et ressentir l'âme-même de la musique. À mon avis, lorsqu'une personne témoigne de quoi de si merveilleux, ça devrait devenir une quête personnelle à trouver cette merveille dans son propre jeu ... je n'y arriverai peut-être jamais, mais il faut au moins toujours viser ces idéaux, autant qu'on est capable de l'entendre/ressentir dans le jeu d'autrui ... autrement, pourquoi travailler et jouer?

Changing preferences

Today, 3 years later, I am certainly neither Jacques Tys nor Nora Cismondi nor Antonio Jose Masmano, but I think I have traveled very far on the quest for that soulful playing. I have now come to a point where the choice of the instrument I play will either help or harm the expression of that soulfulness. Ironically, this year at IDRS 2017 in Appleton, my preferences concerning the instruments have changed: either the instrument makers have changed their instruments, or else my physical/aural relation to them has changed ... somehow, I think the second option is the more likely.

I really think the 3 years of seeking that integration of musical soul into my playing has increased my musical abilities, and therefore I physically require different things than I used to. This implies that perhaps a musician might need to change instruments at various points in her/his life, requiring different characteristics as the musical and physical personas change.



puchner_733_big

Les préférences sont donc changés

Aujourd'hui, 3 ans plus tard, je ne suis certes aucunement Jacques Tys ni Nora Cismondi ni Antonio Jose Masmano, mais je crois avoir parcouru assez loin la quête de cette âme dans le jeu. J'arrive maintenant au point où le choix de l'instrument soit m'aidera ou soit me nuira dans l'expression de cette âme. Ironiquement, cette année à IDRS 2017 à Appleton, mes préférences concernant les instruments ont changés: soit les fabricants ont changé les instruments ou soit mes attributs physiques et buts sonores ont changé ... la seconde option semble plus probable.

Je pense vraiment que 3 ans à chercher l'intégration de l'âme musicale dans mon jeu a fait croître mes habiletés musicales, ce qui change mes besoins physiques comparativement à auparavant. Ceci implique qu'un musicien puisse avoir besoin de changer d'instrument au fil de sa carrière, ayant besoin de caractéristiques physiques et sonores variantes avec le changement de sa personne.

My favourite 3

My favourites have changed over the years because my criteria have changed along with my abilities. A few years ago, someone in a forum thread said something like "this instrument has too much freedom for me" and I was quick to ask "how is it possible to have too much freedom?" Well, now I do know ...
puchnerBell

Mes 3 favoris

Mes favoris ont aussi changé au fil des années parce que mes critères ont aussi changé pour répondre à l'évolution de mes habiletés. Il y a quelques années, quelqu'un sur un groupe de discussion a dit : "cet instrument joue trop librement pour moi" auquel j'ai rétorqué "comment peut-on avoir trop de liberté?". Et bien, je comprends maintenant ...
It has become clear that I just don't have time in a week to make several reeds and be really picky about them. It is now clear that I will rarely have time to practice enough to develop the strength (mouth and gut) for reeds that produce warm/velvety tones --- besides, for me, super-soft pianissimos and extra loud fortissimos are important, and a couple of world-class players told me this means softer reeds are what I need --- so I need an instrument that will essentially "dictate" the sound (and I need to love it!!!). I also need an instrument with flawlessly dependable tuning, but mostly, the repertoire I wish to pursue requires an instrument that will make the altissimo register (up to at least Bb above G in the 3rd octave key range) dependable and easy. marigaux901

Il devient clair qu'une semaine ne me laisse simplement pas le temps de fabriquer plusieurs anches et me montrer capricieux vis-à-vis elles. Je n'aurai rarement le temps de travailler l'endurance (bouche et souffle) pour des anches qui produisent un timbre velouté --- de plus, les pianissimi ultra-doux et les fortissimi extra forts me sont importants et quleques solistes de calibre mondial m'ont dit que cela implique des anches faciles --- par conséquent, j'ai besoin d'un instrument "dictateur du timbre" (au timbre qui me plait!!!). J'ai aussi besoin d'un instrument à justesse fiable, mais avant tout, le répertoire que je poursuis exige un sur-aigü (au moins le si-bémol au dessus du sol à 3e clef d'octave) facile et fiable.
For this reasons, 3 instruments really stand out:
  • Marigaux 901/2001
  • Püchner
  • Bulgheroni
altissimo Pour ces raisons, les 3 instruments qui se distinguent sont:
  • Marigaux 901/2001
  • Püchner
  • Bulgheroni

What? Robin des Hautbois finally decided to buy?

Please allow me to introduce ... (ta-rra-tata, ta-rra-tata) ... CECILIA, my new Bulgheroni Musa!
musaCecilia

Comment? Robin des Hautbois s'est enfin décidé?

Permettez-moi de vous présenter ... (ta-rra-tata, ta-rra-tata) ... CÉCILE, mon nouveau Bulgheroni Musa. (Muse est féminin, d'où le nom d'une femme.)
Now that the suspense is over, I can explain that the choice was NOT easy. On day 2, I was torn:
  • Marigaux has been a favourite of mine for quite some time, strongly cemented through repeated experience on instruments of different ages in Ottawa and Montréal and in various weather conditions. It is really Marigaux oboes that gave me the confidence to solve my problems via a change of instrument instead of endlessly complaining about reeds or doubting my competence.
  • On the first day at the conference, I tried the new Püchner oboes and I was frankly blown away at how great they sound, their dynamic range and how easy the altissimo register speaks. That night, Jose Antonio Masmano played a Püchner for the Legacy concerto by Oscar Navarro with indescribable power AND delicacy ... just plain out of this world! Of course, that does not mean I can play like him on the same instrument (!!!) but I had totally loved the instrument before hearing him.




bellsBulgheroni


Maintenant que le suspense est résolu, je peux expliquer que le choix n'était PAS facile. Le 2e jour, je m'arrachais le coeur:
  • Marigaux est mon favori depuis longtemps, fortement cimenté par expériences répétées avec instruments d'âges divers à Ottawa et Montréal et dans des conditions météorologiques variées. Ce sont vraiment les hautbois Marigaux qui m'ont donné la confiance à résoudre mes problêmes en changeant d'instrument plutôt que de me plaindre sans cesse des anches ou de me croire incompétent.
  • Le premier jour de la conférence, j'ai essayé les nouveaux hautbois Püchner et j'étais franchement émerveillé de leur timbre, leur vastes nuances et à quel point le sur-aigü s'exprime aisément. Ce soir-là, Jose Antoni Masmano a joué un Püchner pour interpréter le concerto Legacy d'Oscar Navarro avec puissance ET délicatesse indescriptibles ... tout simplement époustoufflant! Bien sûr, cela ne veut pas dire que le même instrument fera de moi le même artiste (!!!), maisje me suis amouraché de l'instrument même avant de l'entendre.
Marigaux tables had several 901 and 2001 models. Two of the 901s (out of maybe 8) and one 2001 (out of maybe 3) facilitated the altissimo. Marigaux offers a certain comfort and is uniquely friendly to reeds: a bad sounding reed still sounds relatively bad, but the tone is shaped to become very acceptable. I do prefer the left-hand pinky finger keywork of the M2, but the 901/2001 models "grow the sound" more comfortably for me.

All Püchners at the table just opened the altissimo with remarkable ease. It's power is unmatched and yet it still plays as gently as you like without effort. The sound is just plain wonderful, but a bad reed sounds bad. The keywork was next to perfect for my fingers, only Mönnig surpasses it.
Marigaux avait plusieurs 901 et 2001sur un nombre de tables. Deux des 901s (parmi peut-être 8) et un des 2001 (parmi peut-être 3) facilitaient le sur-aigü. Marigaux offre un certain confort et se montre uniquement tolérant des anches: une anche gazoue reste gazoue, mais le timbre se voit enveloppé et présentable. Je préfère franchement la palme des clefs de gauche du M2, mais le corps du 901/2001 fait "croître le son" d'une manière plus confortable pour moi.

Tous les Püchners à leur table m'ouvraient le sur-aigü avec un aisance remarquable. Sa puissance est sans pareil et pourtant joue aussi doucement qu'on puisse vouloir sans effort. Le timbre est merveilleux, mais une mauvainse anche sonne mal. Le clétage est presque parfait pour mes doigts, seul Mönnig le surpasse.

Dilemma on day 4

So, between Marigaux 901 and Püchner on day 2, to choose was gruelling because both are just plain amazing.

Dilemme du 4e jour

Alors le 2e jour m'a arraché entre Marigaux 901 et Püchner, parce que les deux sont simplement formidables.
It's on day 4, when I had a chance to try all the makers at least twice that it really struck me: Bulgheroni is the absolute easiest for the altissimo register (it actually rivals Dupin!) AND where others sound thin and crystalline from the 2nd octave key upwards, the Bulgheroni Musa still sounds full-bodied and rich, offering a singing character .... BOING! C'est le jour 4, lorsque j'ai eu le temps d'essayer toutes les marques au moins deux fois que ça m'a vraiment frappé: Bulgheroni est sans équivoque pour moi le plus facile dans le sur-aïgu (il rivalise même Dupin!) ET, où d'autres rendent un timbre cristallin et mince à partir de la 2e clef d'octave en montant, le Musa de Bulgheroni maintient le timbre riche et velouté avec un caractère qui chante .... BOING!
At this point, I favoured the Marigaux over Püchner for one reason only: Püchner seems to "put the sound out there" (its projection in the concert hall is legendary) whereas Marigaux gave me the feeling that my entire person was resonating the music. The Bulgheroni provides this impression half-way between Marigaux and Püchner, it dictates the sound even more than Marigaux and it's mechanics are slightly preferable (to my fingers - not necessarily yours) than the Püchner. Marigaux and (especially) Püchner encourage all dynamics, whereas the Bulgheroni encourages the softer dynamics, it does allow me to play as loudly as the reed will let me. À ce point, je favorisais le Marigaux (par rapport au Püchner) pour une raison seulement: Püchner semble "envoyer la musique au devant" (sa projection dans la salle est légendaire) alors que Marigaux me fait sentir que mon corps entier résonne la musique. Le Bulgheroni est à mi-chemin entre les 2 autres et il est encore plus "dictateur" du timbre que Marigaux, puis sa mécanique est légèrement préférable (pour mes doigts, pas nécessairement les vôtres) au Püchner.Marigaux et Püchner (surtout) encouragent toutes les nuances alors que Bulgheroni encourage la douceur, tout en me permettant toute la puissance offerte par l'anche.
So now, my dilemma was between 3 instruments. The choice was finally made on the basis of the altissimo and the quality of controlling the tone colour (timbre): I went with the Bulgheroni. On top of it all, I got a synthetic top joint (remember Canada's notorious weather for cracks) and a German-styled bell and keywork designed by Christoph Hartmann for the same price as the all wood / regular instruments. Alors le dilemme se trouve entre 3 instruments. Le choix final s'est fait en fonction du sur-aïgu et le contrôle du timbre: j'ai pris Bulgheroni. Pour cimenter le choix, j'ai eu un corps supérieur synthétique (rappelons-nous du climat canadien, affreux pour les fentes) avec un pavillon de style allemand et un clétage conçus par Christoph Hartmann pour le même prix qu'un instrument tout-bois/régulier.

Confirming Cecilia was the right choice

After the purchase, I had 2 days in Appleton's cool weather (sometimes sunny, often raining) to build my impression of it: I just fell in love! Back in Ottawa (mostly raining, sometimes hot), over 2 weeks of painful neck & shoulder stiffness, thumping arm muscles and severe cramps in the legs and feet meant, Cecilia (the new oboe) needs to prove friendly ... well it did! The weather has been causing my reeds to go simultaneously limp and hard just before they decide to split and yet Cecilia keeps the tuning and sound are just lovely --- not to mention dependable altissimo! Compared to Old Faithful, my wife says Cecilia sounds much more "alive" than any other instrument I ever brought home --- I say the sound "takes more space" whithout necessarily being louder.
stCecilia

Confirmer que Cécile fut le bon choix

Après l'achat, j'ai eu 2 jours à Appleton, au climat frais (parfois ensoleillé, souvent pluvieux) pour m'y faire une impression: j'en devint tout-à-fait amoureux! De retour à Ottawa (surtout pluvieux, parfois chaud), plus de 2 semaines de douleurs au cou, raideur aux épaules, muscles du bras fébriles et crampes sévères aux jambes et aux pieds ont fait que Cécile (le nouvel hautbois) doit vraiment se montrer facile à jouer ... voilà, c'est fait! La météo a rendu mes anches simultanément molles et résistantes au souffle juste avant de fendre; pourtant Cécile maintient la justesse et sonne d'une beauté --- sans parler du sur-aigü sans faille! À comparer à ma Vieille Branche, mon épouse dit que Cécile sonne plus "vivante" --- moi, je dis que le son"prend plus d'espace" sans être plus fort.

Why "Cecilia?"

Bulgheroni named this model the "Musa": Greek muses were spirits that inspired beautiful artistic creativity, so I wanted the name of a muse ... well, Saint-Cecilia is the patronness-saint of music, instrument makers and poetry! Then, considering the extraordinary voice of Cecilia Bartoly and one family secret, there was no better name for this new oboe who should really help my music soar!

I'm preparing for a very special You-Tube recording that will show this.

Pourquoi Cécile?

Bulgheroni a nommé ce modèle la "Musa": les muses grecques étaient des esprits qui inspirent la beauté dans la créativité artistique, alors je voulais le nom d'une muse ... or Sainte-Cécile est la patronne de la musique, des fabricants d'instruments et de la poésie! Tenant compte en plus de la voie phénoménale de Cécilia Bartoly et puis un secret de famille, il n'y avait donc vraiment pas de meilleur nom pour ce nouvel hautbois qui devrait vraiment aider l'envol de ma musique!

Je prépare une vidéo You-Tube bien spéciale qui devrait illustrer.
… the search is now over, let the adventure begin!|
… la quête est achevée, que l’aventure commence!