Tuesday, November 27

Jazzy Haut-Boys With Swing!

I’ve started Tai-Chi / Qi-Gong as a complement to the roller foams and IMS treatments. But the weather remains a formidable enemy causing pain with every drastic change…. ouch this was a rough autumn!

J’ai commencé le Tai-Chi et Qi-Gong pour complémenter le rouleau et mes traitements SIM. Les changements brusques de météo continue à me causer des ennuis …. ouf quel automne!

Physio and oboe – encouraging observation:
My fingers HAVE ALWAYS BEEN stiff and pressing hard on the instrument. IMS treatments have released much of the tension, and my fingers became much easier on the pads: my rhythm improved like crazy! I can now see that tight muscles have always been at the root, not only of pain, but also problems with rhythm and regularity. I have been negligent of my exercises and I can see problems return..... if you have difficulty with your études, go see a physiotherapist!

Physio et hautbois – observation encourageante :
Mes doigts ONT TOUJOURS ÉTÉ raides, appuyant trop fort sur es clefs. Les traitements de SIM les ont détendus et mon rythme s’est grandement amélioré. Je peux maintenant constater que les tensions musculaires ont toujours été la source, non seulement de ma douleur, mais aussi de certains problèmes rythmiques. La négligence de mes exercices font revenir ces difficultés … si vous avez de la misère avec vos études, allez voir un physiothérapeute!

No more holds barred:
the oboe sizzles!

Rien de trop beau pour le hautbois :
fini le tataouinage!

I was just listening to Gabriela Montero (in my opinion, the greatest pianist of all time) and I figured: why can't the oboe play like that? In fact, I listen to almost any violin virtuoso or opera signer and figure the oboe has no real reason for ever doing less in terms or dynamics, articulation and expressiveness.

But there is more than that, her repertoire and ability to transition between classical and Brazilian styles is just astonishing.

Artistry of Gabriella Montero!

J’écoutais Gabriela Montero (à mon avis, la plus grande pianiste de tous les temps) et je me demandais: pourquoi le hautbois ne peut pas jouer de même? En fait, j’écoute les virtuoses au violon ou chanteur/es d'opéra et je me dis qu’il n’y a aucune raison qui empêche le hautbois d’autant d’articulation nuancée.

Mais plus que ça, son répertoire et la manière qu’elle glisse entre le classique et le Brésilien est fou!

Well, yes the oboe can, and here’s the proof! The oboe family is no less flexible, for anyone who dares to venture there!

All over the world, Oboe-family instruments are being played in much more than Bach, Mozart and Debussy!

Oboe d’Amore Tango!

Et bien, oui, le hautbois en est tou-à-fait capable et en voici la preuve! Les hautbois est tout-à-fait à la hauteur expressive pour quiconque veut s'y aventurer!

Par le monde entier, la famille du hautbois fournit les instruments de choix pour bien plus que Bach, Mozart et Debussy!

Because they play the oboe with such lively character, I could easily say that all these musicians deserve an international career… but I prefer to say that audiences from all over the world deserve the pleasure of hearing them!

Yoram Lachish (Pointing up) is  a striking example: with ensembles that use the fantastic sound of the Cor Anglais to exude traditional and popular, always exotic, vibes!

World-wise sound!

Puisque ces gens jouent du hautbois avec tant de dynamisme, je pourrais facilement dire qu’ils méritent une carrière internationale… mais je préfère dire que les publics de tout pays mérientent le plaisir de les entendre!

Yoram Lachish (Pointing up) est un exemple frappant : avec des ensembles qui utilisent le Cor Anglais et autres pour des ondes traditionnels et populaires, mais toujours exotiques!

Closer to home, Colin Maier is a performer that knows no fears. Best known for his work with Quartetto Gelato(Pointing up), he has recently released a crazy CD (Pointing up) that ventures were few others dare to tread: but what a thrilling ride! This guy is definitely my Canadian Oboe hero!
Oboe Adventure!

Plus près de chez-nous, Colin Maier est un interprète qui ne connaît pas la peur! Mieux connu pour son oeuvre avec Quartetto Gelato (Pointing up), il a récemment lancé un CD fou (Pointing up) qui s’aventure dans un répertoire à toute allure! Sans réserve, Colin est mon héros Canadien du hautbois!

But Europe is taking the lead: in France, Jean-Luc Fillon (Pointing up) is turning the Oboe and Cor Anglais into a hip-rockin’ instrument in jazz, fusion and contemporary styles that just dazzle the senses and blows the mind!
Sizzlin’ Hautbois Jazz du tonerre!

Mais l’Europe mène la scène : en France, Jean-Luc Fillon (Pointing up) fait du hautbois et du Cor Anglais un canal de jazz, fusion et styles contemporains qui font exploser les sens et l’esprit!

Trio d’Anches Trielen (Pointing up) – really cool!
The oboe and the clarinet have no need for competition and this proves it! Completely different instruments yet capable of playing the same repertoire, showcasing their different and sublime sounds from Classical to Klezmer!
Classics to Klezmer!

Trio d’Anches Trielen (Pointing up) – au boutte!
La rivalité entre hautbois et clarinette est complètement dingue et en voici la preuve! Des instruments complètement différents capable de jouer le même répertoire, mettant en valeur leur sonorités distinctes et sublimes du classique au klesmer!

Thursday, November 1

Canadian Oboist in New-York, part 2. (Marigaux, Mönnig and Howarth)

Mes excuses de ne pas inclure une version française, l’article est trop long et le sujet mérite se faire exposer en entier. Je crois que je préfère traduire et en faire des articles complèts séparés (celui de Laubin aussi) que j’annoncerai, le temps venu.

hurricaneSandyHurricane Sandy

During my visit to New-York, while my wife was on her 2nd day at the pro. photography event, I saw on TV that a super-storm was expected in the next few days... This was Hurricane Sandy and I listened carefully to see if we'd be able to drive home. We were lucky: we left on Saturday at noon and NYC closed its subways by the time we got home. Luckily, Laubin and Innoledy were not adversely affected, but the State of New Jersey (a big part of our drive home) was devastated. Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims of this storm.

Why do I own a Lorée?

Thinking back on it, my own Lorée is the only instrument I could possibly have purchased back in 1985, as I was auditioning for the Conservatoire de Montréal. It was on the only recommendation I could get and the only professional brand really available in Eastern-Canada at the time (if we rule-down Selmer) because stores in Montréal simply didn’t know of Laubin and going to N.Y. was not really an option. So I had the choice of 2 Lorées in Montréal and I took the one that eliminated the risk of cracking!

But my Conservatoire teacher played Marigaux and some students who went to Paris for the summer would come back with Marigaux or Rigoutat. Still, Lorée was considered top of the line, so the thought of trying other brands to help sound and tuning never occurred to anyone! Now, more than 25 years later, I was able to try brand new and very old Lorées (before 1970), an old Strasser and new Howarths from the collection at Gary Armstrong Woodwinds (see post here Pointing up ) and this really opened my eyes to the effects of an instrument well suited to the individual player.

innoledyBannerInnoledy: a portal to oboe-istic discovery!

When Innoledy opened shop, and began to stock Marigaux, Mönnig and Howarth, the temptation to go visit became simply irresistible! Tong Cui built-up Innoledy (“Innovation in Melody”) to import the world’s finest and also to provide a platform by which the manufacturers can meet and discuss with the musicians: innoledyLocationthus manufacturers can better understand the needs of the players while players can get to know instruments that would otherwise be almost fully out of reach. To help in this objective, he often hosts events where famous soloists (along with those who make their instruments) play, teach and share with anyone who wishes to attend.

For me, contact with the manufacturers started long before through the internet. But the ability to try the instruments remained elusive, until Innoledy began to import them.

Innoledy is set-up in a posh part of Manhattan, accessible to everyone and providing both a very safe location and an inspiring setting. The instruments in the show-room are classy and sophisticated; which is accentuated by the atmosphere provided by the location. The same way that one might not trust buying a Ferrari in a flea-market, the show-room, repair shop and highly expert staff make Innoledy a choice place to try these choice instruments, which are hard to find elsewhere on the East Coast.

Criteria for oboe testing:

Everywhere I tried instruments, be it at the U. of O. Oboe Event (here Pointing up), Montréal stores (here Pointing up) or at Laubin (here Pointing up), I used the same criteria:

  1. Tuning: I do not mean A=438, 440 or 442, but rather how octaves, fifths and generally how notes tune in relation with each other across the whole range of the instrument.
  2. Stability of all notes during crescendi/diminuendi (both fast and slow) as well as with different articulations. Recall: I find most Lorées to “wobble” some notes when you least expect (or want) it – my own Lorée was greatly improved in this respect when Laubin re-voiced it.
  3. Sound characteristics : general description, stuffiness of specific notes and congestion (inability to crescendo) in general and for specific notes.
  4. Altissimo register (3rd 8va key range): especially above G.

Note: I did not ask about the price, I only want to know the instruments.

The Adventure

  • First, I had a phone call with Tong to confirm the appointment:
    • Tong Cui is a very straight-talking kind of guy who says what he thinks without wasting time on “decorating the truth”: something I appreciate a lot!
    • He is also something of a philosopher and the questions he asked lead the conversation and really opened-up my understanding of how to deal with and absorb unexpected feelings that came up when playing on these fantastic instruments.
  • Accomodation: Tong was actually in the middle of organising one of his events and his sales associate (Kristin Leitterman) had a full schedule of rehearsals and courses for her Doctorate program in performance. Nonetheless, they went out of their way to help me spend some time with the instruments and make my experience very pleasant indeed!
  • Instruments: I think they have many more than what I tried (e.g. Other Mönnig, other Howarth and Adler) but I did not even ask because my curiosity centered around the list below and time was limited. More testing visits are in order!
  • Reeds: no time to play with worst of them, but I did use good reeds and mediocre reeds.

fromKsIPhoneOboes tested:

  1. Howarth XL
  2. Two Marigaux 901
  3. Marigaux M2
  4. Gebrüger Mönnig Platinum (American model)
  5. Covey, almost new
  6. K-Ge, plastic, full Conservatoire
  7. Gebrüger Mönnig Platinum Oboe D'amore.... Chosen by Albrecht Mayer!
  8. My own Lorée: used as a benchmark.

My impressions:

  • Altissimo: above G was very difficult and on some reeds, even D and above was difficult.
    • I blame this on the approaching hurricane Sandy, because the altissimo was also difficult on my Lorée even if, in Ottawa, I go up to A and Bb without undue grief.
    • I am very confident that if I can go to IDRS 2013 in California, the altissimo on all of them will be fine.
  • Ergonomics:
    • None of the instruments showcased at Innoledy cramped my fingers at all, but I suppose I would really have to play on each for hours to know for certain.
    • Marigaux’s new design of the little finger palms in the M2, works out really well. At first, I thought it might inhibit some strange fingerings I like, but they work quite nicely.
    • Mönnig does things differently (angles of keys and palms) from what I am used to. But after a few minutes of playing, it worked out fine.
  • On all showroom instruments, tuning was impeccable with all reeds. My Lorée plays better than the brand-new AK models I have tried (thanks to the re-voicing done by Laubin), but it still suffers from some instability and some notes with iffy tuning. All instruments at Innoledy were great, in this respect.
  • It needs more experimentation, but stability seemed fine with all reeds. I spent much less time testing stability on the Covey and K-Ge. Marigaux (all) and Mönig had strikingly dependable tuning and stabiltiy.
  • XLsmAll new showroom instruments were simply easy to play, which is not true of all professional level oboes.
  • All Howarth XL’s I have played up to now (3 of them) played the same way, so it appears to be a dependable model. It sounds closely enough to, but Lorée without the “framing” (and also without the unstable notes).
  • ObMarigM2Case_cropMarigaux:
    • 901 is not “just a standard model”, it is a fully expressive instrument. Reputation confirmed, any reed plays well in a Marigaux! The two different 901s played slightly differently
      • One was noticeably more free-blowing than the other, although both were amazingly stable and versatile for dynamics and articulation.
      • The freer one, without changing anything in my reeds, embouchure or breath techniques, immediately improves my sound and musical expression.
    • The M2 is just a heavenly instrument, so charming to play, but it shows the difference between good and mediocre reeds. It plays very well with all reeds, the character changes more than the 901 when changing reeds.
  • oboeDamore_w170AM_cropThe Mönnig Platinum Oboe is also a magical instrument, a real pleasure to play. It also shows the difference between good and mediocre reeds, but has a much more cottony sound than the M2.
    • This is the first time I play a German instrument, so I need more time to confirm my impressions. It appears to also play well with any reed and with all my bizarre fingerings.
    • Kristin said that my sound was much more focussed on the XL, but I don’t know if this is really a flawed sound or a matter of taste and personal preference.
    • Because I didn’t have time to take recordings, I don’t know yet if this cottony sound is the “baroque-esque” quality that I like so much from Albrecht Mayer. This is a difficult question, because on the Mönnig d’amore (both bells), I sounded like an English Horn, whereas Mayer sounds like a baroque oboe.
  • Mönnig Platinum d’amore
    • Selected by Albrecht Mayer himself! Again, a magical instrument!
    • The reason for 2 bells becomes obvious when you try them: the round bell is perfect for chamber music and the conical bell for solo.
    • I sounded like an English Horn when playing... but that is me and my reeds because obviously Albrecht Mayer has a very distinct d’amore sound on the same instrument.
  • Both the Mönnig Platinum and the M2 would require me to work on my embouchure and breathing (the Platinum more so): they are truly high-character instruments that offer the widest range of expressive possibilities. Because I did formerly get Conservatoire and University training to the point of being able to start (though not continue) a professional career, I know what to do and it will not be hard: in fact it would be a very happy and welcome change to feeling boxed-in by the instruments I have known to this day.
  • Covey:
    • Less friendly to strong air pressure or hard reeds, although full range of dynamics and articulation.
    • Very relaxed feeling when playing.
    • It should be choice instrument for recording or stage performance where microphones and electronic mixing are key to the final result.
  • K-Ge :
    • Plays very well but no personality.
    • Keywork fully functional, nothing that is not fully necessary (no split D).
    • If the price is right, this is the ideal high-school instrument, or in preparation for auditions to the Conservatoire or College.
    • It might also prove very useful as an outdoor stage instrument.

Conclusion & my pick

Choosing a favourite is really difficult. The XL is really excellent, but it is just not in the line of sounds I am looking for. Although the “better” 901 (the other one is amazing too) would just make my playing soar right now, I just really like the higher-end models more.

If I were an orchestral pro., I would probably go for the 901 because of its versatility. But as an amateur, I can follow my whims! So I choose either the M2 or the Platinum. Both the Marigaux M2 and the Gebrüder Mönnig Platinum are astounding instruments: choosing between them will require more experimentation. Hopefully, I will go to the IDRS 2013 conference this year and try them more fully!

Really Happy Conclusion

I still want to try Dupin, Rigoutat, Fossatti, Püchner, Bulgheroni and Viennese (Wolfe), but if for any reason I never get the opportunity to do so, I have definitely found 2 instruments that completely fulfil my expectations while opening the door to my aspirations for playing. These are just magnificent oboes!

Concerning my question (from this post): “Would a better oboe really speed-up the improvement of my playing?”, I think the answer should ring a resounding “YES”! The Marigaux M2 and the Mönnig Platinum really appear to want to make my life easier. At the very, very least, I do not have to fight with them to play in tune: the instrument helps me!

Oboe or d’amore?

This is the only thing that annoys me about my visit to NYC: for some time, I’ve been saying I want to buy a d’amore unless I find an oboe that really blows me away... Well, I have indeed found at least 3 oboes that blow me away, but both the Laubin and Mönnig d’amores also touched me strongly... more experimentation required to hopefully help me make a choice!

Sunday, October 28

Canadian oboist in New-York, part 1. (Laubin)

(Mes excuses de ne pas avoir inclus une version française, mais l’article est trop long et je suis trop fatigué pour le traduire. Le sujet principal de l’article, le hautbois Paul Laubin, mérite d’être exposé le plus tôt possible après mon voyage à New-York et le plus complètement possible.)

Pictures of the Laubin Establishment and personnel are by Laurence Bartone were taken from his website
Great American Artisans (please visit by clicking here  Pointing up).

As you can see in these posts (click title to visit):

for the past couple of years, even before this blog began, I have been seeking opportunities to try oboes of different manufacturers, especially those that are more difficult to get in Canada.

For all kinds of reasons, I was unable to go to the IDRS conferences or visit New York when Ludwig Frank or Marigaux paid a visit. So when my wife was invited to an exclusive photography event in New York City, it made perfect sense to go with her and try to visit the providers of the world's best instruments and when we found a hotel that allows us to bring our dogs, it became a no-brainer to drive over! In fact, driving ended-up costing much less than tickets for air travel or train; that’s apart from the cost of boarding the dogs at a kennel and the sadness of being separated from them.

robinDesHautboisGrandCentralStationRoad from Ottawa to Manhattan:

Typically, driving from Ottawa to Manhattan is approximately 8 hours, but having brought the dogs with us, it was necessary to stop every couple of hours for them to relieve themselves and also move their legs: otherwise, their discomfort can be extreme to the point of cruelty. Besides, with my problems of chronic pain, sitting for long time spans hurts my back considerably, and that’s apart from the natural strains from speed and road manoeuvres.

Entering New-York after dark and after nearly 10 hours of driving was frightening. We missed the exit for the Lincoln tunnel and ended up in a couple of shady gas stations near an enormous sports stadium (the Yankee stadium?). Luckily, the station attendants were very kind and helpful and provided trustworthy alternate routes to get to our hotel.

Thus began our 1st adventure in New-York: my wife as a pro. photographer and myself, obsessed with the oboe. I was most fortunate to be able to visit Laubin inc. and Innoledy (visit here ), who imports some outstanding instruments. For this post, I only have the energy left over to describe my visit to Laubin. I will give account of my visit to Innoledy next time.

oboeEHThe Laubin oboe

About years ago, I got my Lorée rejuvenated by David Teitelbaum, finisher at A. Laubin inc. (Pointing up). His work was simply miraculous, significantly improving the sound, responsiveness and stability of my instrument. Ever since, I have been ravenous to get information, or better yet, the chance to play on a real Laubin instrument.

Rolland Dupin is well established as one of the world 's most exclusive oboe makers, but even Dupin's waiting list is only 2 years at worst.... Paul Laubin has people waiting for up to 10 years for his (15 years for English Horns) - even though new Laubin oboes are possibly the most expensive in the world! (Yes, my name is on the list!) Some of North-America’s greatest musicians, and also in other parts of the world, including Liang Wang and Thomas Stacey (both currently at the NY Philharmonic Orchestra) choose Laubin.

Glorious moments with Laubin:

You might remember the 1980’s, when Charles Dutoit took over the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (Montreal Symphony Orchestra) and gave it international stardom: their recordings of Ravel’s Bolero and other impressionist repertoire gave the OSM a popularity that dared to rival Berlin under Karajan! No kidding, records were being sold worldwide and invitations by the most prestigious concert halls had the OSM touring the whole world with rave reviews from the sternest critics.

Ted Baskin (Laubin Oboe) with OSM

Theodore (Ted) Baskin was the principal oboe at the time and he played a Laubin oboe. His performance of Tombeau de Couperin by Ravel revolutionized the sound concept for oboes in Montréal, the whole province of Québec and possibly much of eastern North-America. In fact, shortly after and for a few years to come, the World Youth Orchestra would typically have 2 or 3 out of 4 oboes coming from Québec! Such was the impact of a Laubin oboe played by a musician who could do it justice in an orchestra from “back home”!

Trying the Laubin oboe

Such a coveted manufacturer would be well justified to close his doors to all except prestigious professionals: a simple amateur and washed-out musician like myself doesn’t have much to offer. But instead, they welcomed my visit and even went out of their way to make things as easy as possible for me. In fact, they even lent me one of their reeds (the only American scrape I ever had that actually crowed correctly!) so I could better understand the dynamic design for their instrument.

Because my wife and I did not know New York at all, I walked with her to her workshop in the morning... then I realized I did not know how to get to Laubin’s place, even though they had sent instructions for the train! After asking people – New Yorkers are very kind and helpful – I found my way to Penn station and the subway lines: very big, very complex, very crowded and somewhat intimidating.... the Montréal Metro (subway) is a country park in comparison!

After a few easy subway cars and a 90 minute train ride, I found my way to Peekskill, N.Y., where Laubin has his shop. Then, only a short walk uphill to his place: but after all that travelling and mental stress in 2 days, by the time I sat down to soak my reeds, I was exhausted! New-York was unusually warm and humid, due to an approaching tropical storm: that made my reeds terribly open, with a poor crow. Squeezing the blades only helped a little bit. A lot of warming-up would have helped, but time was short and travel fatigue really inhibited control of my embouchure.

wholeShopWhen I got there, I found them all completely devoted to their meticulous work, leaving me to test the instruments in a part of the workshop with a bench and chair laid out for visitors. Laubin’s workshop is a simple place that shows love for the art and craft of making quality instruments above all else. When I was done, we had a very pleasant chat about the state of oboes now, their evolution over the past generation and the musicians we knew in common.

I was allowed to try an oboe that was literally 1 day old Hot smile and given more time with another from around 1990, overhauled to be sold on consignment. I was even allowed to play on one of the rarest in the modern oboe family: a Laubin oboe d’amore!

  • The overhauled instrument was fully as good as the new: a testament to Laubin’s standards and workmanship, no difference was to be found with the new!
  • This instrument is ALIVE:
    • The “living” quality of the instrument is hard to explain if you have not experienced it, but this one really left an impact on me.
    • Absolutely perfect tuning with NO lip-work involved: I am so used to compensating for flaws with embouchure and special fingerings, that this preference for relaxation caught me off guard!
  • Made for the American reed & playing style, nonetheless full dynamic range: even with my reeds, I could play as softly or as loudly as I wanted.
  • Happy curiosity: they explained to me that the bore is smaller than in my Lorée. I would have expected it, as a result, to resist to my air pressure more. Instead, I found it to fully accept my blowing and there was no sign congestion in any notes, anywhere!
  • The bell looks different than most others: it almost looks like it has a little bulge in the middle. In any case, it lets the lowest notes speak as smoothly as whipped buttermilk!
  • It has no 3rd octave key, and it does not need one! The altissimo register is on par with, or better than, all other instruments I have tried to this date.
  • One word: comfort!
    • The keywork is designed by and for small hands, but it is fully suited to my large, square Polish hands.
    • The keywork is surely the most responsive and ergonomically well organized of any brand I have ever tried.
    • I was specially struck by the auxiliary C (banana) key which is easy to find with short fingers and still out of the way.
    • The left-hand little-finger keys require little movement and work wonderfully.
  • Oboe d'amore: WOW!
    • Don't even enquire about ordering one: there are only 3 in existence! One of which is owned by Thomas Stacey of the New-York Philharmonic.
    • My own experience consists of only a few Lorée, a Buffet and a Fox English Horn as well as one Lorée d'amore. The Laubin d'amore (built by Paul himself) yields a more open, radiant and rich tone than any instrument I have ever played before except one antique Italian EH with a Triébert key system. The antique EH and Laubin’s d’amore were on par in terms of large and living tone qualities: apparently rare in the instrument market over here.

Who should buy a Laubin oboe?

This is a rough question. Alfred Laubin started making oboes in the 1930’s because quality oboes were practically unavailable in North-America at the time. This started a wave of demand by professionals who demand exquisite care to detail and striving for perfection in terms of an oboe for the American tradition, which touches and inspires musicians on all continents. This demand continues to this day: Paul Laubin takes his father’s concerns to heart, as does his assistant, David Teitelbaum.

Because there are so few of these instruments, and because they truly deserve to be heard in public, they might be best left to professionals who have the experience, skill and taste to appreciate them to the full extent of their worth. On top of allowing the oboist to "blend" in the orchestra, they also afford full power and expressive dynamics with mechanics that aid virtuosic technique rather than require it. But because they are so easy to play, I would like to see more of them in the hands of promising students: perhaps this would increase pressure on other prolific companies to improve on some the well known flaws for which fingering tricks are devised and reeds are blamed. If you are an amateur or student, try finding a used Laubin and having it rejuvenated by David Teitelbaum at www.ALaubin.com (visit here Pointing up): easily worth the expense, I am confident beyond any doubt you will be fully happy you did!

David Teitelbaum
Paul Laubin
Alex Laubin

Pictures of the Laubin Establishment and personnel are by Laurence Bartone were taken from his website
Great American Artisans (please visit by clicking here Pointing up ).

Thursday, October 11

Hautbois Montréal Oboes !

Real life creeping-in...

It has been a very long time since my last post: my “day-job” has been taking much more time than normal... this is fine, just part of being a professional. But that means that, after taking care of the house and dogs, I only have enough time for a few notes, certainly no reed making and no recording takes.

La vraie-vie, quoi!
Ça fait très longtemps depuis mon dernier article blog: mon vrai boulot prend beaucoup plus de temps que la normale… bien beau, simplement la vie de professionnel. Mais ça veut dire qu’après m’avoir occupé de la maison et des chiens, il ne me reste qu’assez de temps pour quelques notes, certainement pas de fabrication d’anches ni d’enregistrement.

Break for the mind and soul...
So for Canadian Thanksgiving, I decided to go visit my Parents and Sister, stopping by Montréal along the way to go try every professional grade oboe I could find in store!

For the sake of comparison, you can find my previous oboe tests here(Pointing up) and here(Pointing up).

Pause santé-mentale!
Alors, pour l’Action de Grâces, je suis allé visiter mes parents et ma sœur, passant par Montréal pour y essayer tous les hautbois professionnels en magasin!

Afin de comparer, vous pouvez trouver mes tests précédents ici(Pointing up) et ici(Pointing up).

Hautbois Montréal Véraquin (Oct. 2012)

I was able to try some instruments at two fine stores: Pascal Véraquin Instruments and Twigg Musique, both fine institutions offering excellent service to their specific clienteles.

My reeds...
Having made almost no reeds in a year, you can imagine the 7 oboe reeds I brought were rather wimpy. When I tried them 1 and 2 days before in Ottawa, they were all bad, but when I got to Montréal, they all played well!..... I did soak them well and kept them wet during the whole drive (3 hours due to construction). Also, as soon as I arrived on the island, I was struck with chills to the bone from the humidity... so climate surely played a part there.

J’ai pu essayer des instruments à deux établissements : Pascal Véraquin Instruments et Twigg Musique, deux fines institutions qui offrent un service excellent à leurs clientèles spécifiques.

Mes anches :
N’ayant pas fait d’anches depuis un an, vous pouvez imaginer que les 7 anches de hautbois que j’ai apportées étaient assez faibles. Quand je les ai essayés 1 et 2 jours avant, toutes étaient mauvaises, mais rendu à Montréal, toutes jouaient bien! Je les ai trempées beaucoup avant de partir et les ai gardé mouillées pendant tout le voyage (3 heures en raison de la construction). Aussitôt arrivé dans l’île, je fus pris de frissons par l’humidité… alors le climat y est pour de quoi!

Hautbois Montréal Twigg (oct 2012)

The Instruments...

  • Lorée Royal
    • Characteristic but splendid sound.
    • Massive body, yet comfortable to hold.
    • Fully free-blowing, no stuffy notes, but still typical unstable notes.
  • Lorée AK
    • Improved sound and free-blowing, compared to base model.
    • Still some stiff notes.
    • Typical unstable notes.
  • Lorée, base model synthetic top joint.
    • Very well seated sound.
    • Generally good tuning.
    • Typical congested and unstable notes.

Les instruments :

  • Lorée Royal
    • Sonorité caractéristique mais splendide.
    • Corps massif et pesant, mais confortable.
    • Aucune note congestionnée, mais notes instables typiques.
  • Lorée AK
    • Souffle et sonorités améliorés comparativement au modèle de base.
    • Toujours quelques notes congestionnées.
    • Toujours les mêmes notes instables.
  • Lorée de base, haut synthétique
    • Sonorité bien assise.
    • Justesse généralement bonne.
    • Notes instables et notes congestionnées typiques.
  • Old looking used Marigaux 901
    • Crack at the 3rd octave key with 2 or 3 pins.
    • Pads seal perfectly, but very old and worn.
    • Tenon corks dry and loose.
    • Mechanics are old and bent, but but fully functional and well adjusted, despite looseness.
    • Excellent ergonomics of the pinky keys.
    • Different sound, hard to explain : at first, brighter, it shows more liveliness and versatility.
    • All reeds produce different sounds.
      Impeccable tuning and stability: correctly inserted or not , all reeds play well.
    • It was the best for my very wide reed (oboe d’amore shape).
    • Resonance and dynamic range without restriction : all reeds speak well and sing.
    • No congestion anywhere.
  • Marigaux 901 usagé d'apparence vieille
    • Fendu 3e clef d'octave réparé avec 2-3 vis.
    • Tampons bouchent parfaitement, mais très vieux et usés.
    • Lièges de tenons secs et mal serrés.
    • Mécanique (clétage) fonctionnel et bien ajustée, mais plié et montrant beaucoup de jeu (loose).
    • Excellente ergonomie des palmes (petits doigts).
    • Sonorité nasillarde (âge et ajustement ?), mais polyvalente : les différentes anches produisent des sons différents.
    • Justesse et stabilité impeccables : toute anche, bien ou mal insérée y joue bien.
    • C’était le meilleur pour jouer mon anche très large (taille de hautbois d’amour) : aucun problème avec l’intonation.
    • Résonance et nuance sans restreinte : encore, toute anche chante bien dedans.
    • Aucune congestion des notes.
  • Buffet Crampon
    • Different way to blow: short-tube notes (A-B-C etc.) need the throat to be just as open as any low note.
    • Whatever the reed, it wants to sound the same (after a few minutes of playing).
    • Excellent altissimo, except for the D.
      Out of the factory, the keywork is very loose: can really benefit from serious adjustment.
    • Generally very good tuning and stability, but it does not like complex fingerings (more than trills) which would facilitate certain passages, especially in impressionist tunes.
  • Buffet Crampon English Horn
    • Tends to sound congested, but my reeds were perhaps at fault: they are all widest shape.
    • EH reeds sound buzzy but an oboe d'amore reed gave it a huge sound.
  • Buffet Crampon
    • Souffle différent : les notes à tube court (la-si-do etc.) demandent une gorge aussi ouverte que les notes longues (fa-mi-ré etc).
    • Quelque-soit l’anche, semble vouloir sonner pareil (après quelques minutes de jeu).
    • Excellent sur-aigü, sauf pour le ré.
      Mécanique avec moins de souci d’ajustement.
    • Justesse et stabilité généralement très bonne, mais n’aime pas les doigtés étranges (plus complexes que les trilles) qui facilitent certains passages, surtout dans l’impressionnisme.
  • Cor Anglais Buffet Crampon
    • Tendances à la congestion, mais mes anches souffraient peut-être : elles utilisent les tailles les plus larges.
    • Les anches de CA donnaient une sonorité nasillarde et faible, mais une anche de hautbois d'amour a vraiment enrichi le timbre.
  • 3 Yamaha Duet+: 1 ebony and 2 rosewood:
    • Strangeley, the 2 rosewood did not play the same: one would blow and sound much more freely than the other.
    • The ebony one played like the stiffer one, but both rosewoods had a definite richer sound.
    • Tuning and stability fully dependable.
    • Not so good with very complex fingerings.
    • Little-finger ergonomics reminiscent of the Marigaux and Strasser.
  • 3 Yamahas Duet+ dont un en ébène et 2 en bois de rose :
    • Étrangement les 2 en bois de rose ne jouent pas pareil : l'un souffle plus librement que l'autre.
    • Celui en bois d'ébène joue comme l’autre moins libre, mais les deux bois de rose offre une sonorité nettement plus riche.
    • Justesse et stabilité très fiables.
    • Pas si bon pour les doigtés très complexes.
    • Ergonomie des clefs semblables au Marigaux et Strasser.


  • To keep reeds alive, play them every day.
  • My own Lorée (reconditioned by D. Teitelbaum from Laubin) is much better than I give it credit: a special instrument.
  • Lorée is a top professional grade instrument... that needs professionals to play it right.
  • Don't rely on brand and model, you have to try the instrument: it's striking how different instruments of the same model can play differently.

Conclusion :

  • Pour garder ses anches vivantes, il faut les jouer plusieurs jours de fil.
  • Mon propre Lorée (reconditionné par D. Teitelbaum de la maison Laubin) est beaucoup mieux que je le croyais : c’est un instrument très spécial.
  • Lorée est un instrument professionnel de haut calibre... mais il faut être un professionnel pour le jouer correctement.
  • Ne vous fiez pas à la marque ni au modèle, il faut essayer : c'est frappant à quel point les instruments individuels d'un même modèle peuvent varier.

My Picks:

  • The old Marigaux 901 is really worth an overhaul: it would faithfully serve a pro. who seeks freedom and versatility in sound and expression. The reputation enjoyed by Marigaux (that any reed plays well in it) is justified up to now. Seeing as I want to play on wide reeds, this instrument is very interesting.
  • For a student, an amateur or a pro. who seeks consistency, the Yamaha is a really good choice. The rosewood really gives it charm. Flimsy keywork, but with great tuning, stability and sound, who cares?

Mes favoris :

  • Le vieux Marigaux 901 vaut vraiment la peine d'être remis à neuf : il servirait très fidèlement à un professionnel qui cherche la liberté et la polyvalence dans le son et l'expressivité. La réputation de Marigaux qui dit que n'importe-quelle anche joue bien semble bien méritée jusqu'à date. Puisque je cherche à jouer sur des anches très larges, cet instrument est fort intéressant.
  • Pour un étudiant, un amateur ou un professionnel qui cherche surtout la constance,  le Yamaha est bien choisi. Le bois de rose y donne vraiment un charme. Mécanique feluette, mais pas grave quand la justesse et stabilité y sont si bonnes…

Almost, but not quite...

  • I really liked the Royal, but I don't have time and energy to compensate for the instability anymore.
  • The Buffet Crampon is excellent and dependable, but blowing it is just too different from what I am used to.

Presque, mais pas tout-à-fait...

  • J'aime beaucoup le Royal, mais je n'ai plus le temps à consacrer à compenser pour son instabilité.
  • Le Buffet Crampon est excellent et fiable, mais la manière de le souffler est trop différent de mes habitudes.

Sunday, July 29

Endurance at 30 minutes à l’endurance.

45 thousand blog visits
from 90 countries!

I consider this to be an Olympian feat in itself! I can only thank everyone for your interest!

I’m not usually a sports fan, but I like the idea of the Olympic games. Moreover, they focus on many sports we do not usually see as part of prime-time TV athletics!
The goals of the Olympian athlete is summarised in the words “faster, farter, stronger”. That makes this post very well suited to the beginning of the games.

Most of last year, I complained that endurance was low. I wasn’t sure if practicing 30 minutes a day would be enough to build enough endurance to play in concert, let alone a full solo recital. Well, I’m ecstatic to say that, with time, it is!
Really demanding repertoire on endurance!
45 mille visites au blogue
venant de 90 pays!

Je considère ceci un exploit olympien en soi! Je ne peux qu’exprimer ma joie à vous tous pour votre intérêt!


Je ne suis pas un amateur de sports, mais quand il s’agit des Olympiades, mon fusil change d’épaule! Surtout qu’on y voit des sports habituellement absents de la télé.
Les mots qui décrivent l’horizon olimpique sont “plus vite, plus loin, plus fort”. Cet article coïncide donc très bien avec le début des jeux de 2012!
Durant l’année passée, je me suis plaint d’une faible endurance. Je doutais que 30 minutes par jour soit assez pour bâtir l’endurance nécessaire à un concert, sans espérer un récital solo. Mais en voici la preuve!

This video presents 4 impressionist tunes (OK, perhaps not by definition, but the style is right). One year ago, I could not have hoped to attempt recording Vocalise, let alone all 4 of these. And that’s not all, to put the video together, I had to record about a dozen takes of the entire suite (video and audio)! I did this in one day with no trouble at all!

I’ll reserve a critique of this video for the next post. Now that the video is complete, I believe this is the most difficult repertoire I have ever played – ever! The rhythms are easy, the notes are mostly very comfortable, but the gentle articulation, sustained over entire pieces, was really the most difficult thing I have ever had to practice.
Cette vidéo présente 4 pièces impressionnistes (enfin, pas par définition, mais le style y va). Il y a un an, je n’aurais pas pu considérer enregistrer vocalise, encore moins tous les 4. Mais encore mieux, pour assembler la vidéo, j’ai dû faire plus d’une douzaine de prises entières, une après l'autre (vidéo et audio)! J’ai fait tout ceci dans un seul jour sans aucun ennui!
J’en ferai la critique au prochain article. Maintenant que la vidéo est faite, je crois que c’est le répertoire le plus difficile que je n’ai jamais joué! Les rythmes sont faciles, les notes très confortables, mais l’articulation si douce, soutenue le long des pièces entières fut vraiment le travail le plus rigoureux de mon expérience!
Bad weather, bad oboe, bad me?
I would like to blame the flaws in sound on the weather or an instrument with unstable tuning in this recording, but the truth is, I just don’t know. For sure, my reeds last week didn’t really crow, they quacked! They would crow after a few minutes of playing…. but still not the ideal raven (not even a blue-jay!): this is definitely weather!
But I cannot know if another instrument with legendary reputation or new amazing technology would really make my tuning and sound more stable. The only way to determine this would be to try other instruments in bad weather conditions with quacking reeds!
Either way, a competent musician is supposed to compensate and play well regardless. The question is then, with my 30 minutes a day and with this instrument, am I progressing adequately?
Ennuis de météo, d’instrument ou de moi?
J’aimerais bien accuser l’instrument ou la météo pour les défaillances de justesse dans cette vidéo, mais en toute honnêteté, je ne sais pas c’en est le cas. Sans aucun doute, la semaine dernière, le cri de mes anches faisaient plus un canard qu’un corbeau… au moins si c’était un geai-bleu! Ceci est absolument et sans conteste la météo!
Mais je ne peut pas savoir si un autre instrument avec réputation légendaire ou technologie de pointe pourrait faciliter la stabilité et le timbre. La seule façon de le déterminer serait d’essayer de tels instruments quand la météo fait de mes anches des appeaux de canard!
De toute manière, un musicien compétent doit compenser et bien jouer. La question demeure, à 30 minutes par jour sur cet instrument, mon progrès est-il adéquat?
Lessons Learned:
This production consisted of capturing video through a web-cam connected to my lap-top and sound separately on my recording device. This caused as many problems as possibilities. I was very lucky to meet a real expert in home-recording (Pointing up) who will help me in the weeks to comes with the next recording. Solutions will require more experimentation, other blog posts, but in the meantime, a list for thought:

  • My microphone & room layout is all wrong!
  • This required more noise reduction after the recording.
  • Put together, the sound is not natural.
  • Synchronizing audio and video is really difficult and long!
  • Extra “takes” make it even harder, because note lengths are never the same!
  • Leçons apprises:
    Cette production consiste de vidéo capté par web-cam et la prise de son sur une enregistreuse externe, rassemblé et corrigé par la suite par logiciel. Je suis chanceux d’avoir rencontré un expert en enregistrement à domicile (Pointing up) qui m’aidera avec mon prochain enregistrement. Les solutions demandront plus d’expérimentation, mais entretemps, à considérer:

  • L’emplacement du micro vis-à-vis la salle était complètement dingue!
  • Ceci a exigé plus de réduction de bruit par logiciel.
  • Tout considéré, le son n’est pas naturel.
  • Synchroniser vidéo et audio s’est montré plus difficile et long qu’à l’habitude!
  • Les prises répétées ont rendu la tâche plus ardue parce que la fin des notes n’ont jamais la même longueur!
  • Saturday, June 30

    Oboe Innovations – Appearance and Sound

    You know the old joke?

    A conductor is in love with two women; one is ravishingly beautiful but hates music, the other is a wonderful coloratura that looks like a blowfish. Being a deeply artistic musician, he decides to marry the soprano. But on the morning after the wedding, he wakes up to see his new bride “in the light of day”. In a fit of panic, he shakes her violently saying : “For God’s sake, SING!


    It is very easy to say that what matters in an instrument is the sound, not the way it looks. In fact, for generations, nearly all oboes essentially looked like high-school band instruments! In a picture, an oboe by any maker could be passed off as any other maker.

    NOTE: this post does not intend to compare the quality or merit of instrument brands. My purpose here is to show some of the more noteworthy innovations in the art and science of making oboes and how the manufacturers are aiming to recapture sound and qualities that might have been lost with standardization and industrialization.

    pavillonVertical violinBoardGague pavillonMystereSeul
    [1] Dupin Imperial [2] violin [3] past Fossati
    orlowskiBellsCropped oboeDamoreBells
    [4] Th. Orlowski (oboe) [5] Gebr. Mönning (d’Amore)

    I can understand that the very complex keywork requires an even body to facilitate the mechanism, but how very bland compared to instruments from the classical or baroque eras. Even the Viennese oboe has retained a sense of woodwork. But this blog post intends to explore the opposite possibility: manufacturers who are passionate about giving their instrument a true personality might very much want to reflect that in the appearance as well as the sound.

    Besides, it is very likely that the measurements of the wood in different parts of the instrument might well influence the sound: that is why great violins are not made of plywood! So “decorating” the instrument with different looking crowns or bells must certainly affect the sound.

    Heinz Holliger, naturally, was my first oboe hero and he remains my standard for ornamenting Handel and dynamic expression. But when I heard Louise Pèllerin (Marigaux) my jaw dropped and my sense of sound aesthetic changed forever. Although Pèllerin remains a benchmark for me, Albrecht Mayer keeps turning my head when I hear him. At first, it was on the radio and I thought he played baroque oboe with a mediocre sound…. when I learned he played modern instruments, this was a revolution!

    oboeAlbrechtMayer_largerludwigFrankRedaltuglassVerticalFOSSATI Oboe Soliste 20th Annivrosewood20anVerticalimperialInCaseVertical
    Top: Marigaux M2
    Left to right: Gebr. Mönning Platinum (Albr. Mayer),
    Ludwig Frank, Marigaux 2001 Altuglass,
    Fossati 20th An. Soliste, Josef 2th An., Dupin Impérial.

    A.Mayer: Mön. Plat.
    Google-searching Mayer is how I discovered the work of Ludwig Frank (here Pointing up) and how his instruments look different, inside and outside. At the insistence of Albrecht Mayer, Ludwig Frank developed a conical bell for his Oboe d’Amore and English Horn (branded as Mönning Platinum).

    Gregor Witt: L. Frank
    Although actual Ludwig Frank oboes already had a unique looking “traditional German” bell, similar to those made by Thomas Orlowski (tan and brown bells above Pointing up) Mayer also influenced the Mönning Platinum oboe that is more French in design, but still looks and sounds most distinctly. Although Mayer made the Gebrüder Mönning (here Pointing up) Platinum better known around the world, I have heard excellent oboists playing the real Ludwig Frank with a really special sound: “full-body velvet”! That is, as warm and smooth as one can imagine, yet capable of every dynamic and articulation: a real work of art!

    François Leleux: M2
    Marigaux is probably the instrument played most by international soloists and orchestras of all levels in Europe. has gained much attention with their “Altuglass” oboe (here Pointing up), and more recently with their M2 (here Pointing up) instrument has a particular design: the top joint has only the octave keys and the middle joint has all the finger keys! You typically buy a wooden head joint and a synthetic one to prevent cracks due to weather. The head joints also come in 3 lengths to help tuning for different orchestras.

    J-L Fillon: 2001 Altuglass
    The Altuglass need not fear cracking as it is fully synthetic: but the sound remains easily as beautiful as any wood instrument, ebony, rosewood or cocobolo. The M2 is becoming a favourite of soloists in Europe: the sound leaves no question as to why!

    Tomoharu Yoshida: Fossati
    Fossati (here Pointing up) decided to give a fully contemporary look to their instruments by removing almost all decoration. They produced a German-looking bell for a short while on special request. This bell gave a darker richer tone. It also served as the basis for their newest Soliste 20th Anniversary line: although the bell looks very plain, it is supposed to exaggerate the warmth and fullness of the tone. Perhaps Fossati’s most noteworthy innovations are a the trill keys that use only one hole and the metal alloys they use on the keys. The single hole trills help prevent cracks whereas the metal alloy apparently resists wear and tear from sweat and rubbing much better than silver, chrome or gold.

    Simon Emes: Josef
    Japan is one surprize after another: you can find there a whole society devoted to the Viennese oboe, a soloist (Oboe, Ob. d’Amore and English Horn) who is a fervent expert on Dupin oboes (below) and a maker of innovative modern instrument with the vision of creating the perfect oboe with a Japanese personality. Josef (here Pointing up) is this instrument maker and one of the means to get a Japanese personality is to change the decoration of the crown and the bell. The one pictured here is only one of several very different looking models.

    Christoph Hartman and Renato Bizotto, Dupin Imperial.
    Did I save the best for last? A true innovator while at the same time conserving the age-honoured craft of making oboes completely by hand, Rolland Dupin (here Pointing up) and his son Christophe have a solid reputation for making the most dependable modern oboes. They also make baroque oboes, which might explain how they imagined the Imperial oboe which has not only a very stylised bell, but also a decorated head-joint: not quite Viennese, but similar to baroque.The Imperial (made famous by Christoph Hartman) is capable of a variety of tone colours from the clear and virtuosic to warm and expressive. Dupin oboes are highly prized in Northern-Europe and many other places around the world. My absolute favourite style of orchestral playing is Scandinavian: when any instrument plays a solo, you don’t need to guess – you hear the flute solo, clarinets freely sound their beauty and oboes don’t sound as if they were ashamed of their tone. The oboes have remarkable qualities, rustic yet sophisticated, bold yet sensitive: truly my favourite style of playing. Perhaps the preference for Dupin instruments there might have something to do with it.