Sunday, July 21

OBOES AT IDRS 2013 - art. 4

I'll make another blog post on oboe d'amore, English horn, baroque and Viennese oboe. There is just so much to say about oboes themselves.

Please refer to the disclaimer and vocabulary from this post (Pointer vers le haut). As an applied scientist (computer engineer), I should never post articles on subjects that cannot be supported by concrete measurements: assessing musical instruments is ever more showing to be a matter of personal taste and experience which is about as anti-scientific as it can get. However, I remember eagerly asking people to write down their own impressions of instruments, being hungry myself to learn about other instruments I cannot easily play in Eastern-Canada, and by Blogger statistics, it seems many other people find this interesting too.
Je m'efforce autant que possible à publier en français aussi, mais vous verrez que cet article est plutôt long! Puis étant donné que le 4/7 de mes lecteurs est anglophone, l’autre 3/7 comptant aussi Italiens, Espagnols, Allemands, Scandinaves, Asiatiques de toutes sortes…
Je le traduirai lorsque le temps le permettra. Si vous croyez être intéressé par le contenu mais trouvez l'anglais (canadien) difficile, veuillez me le laisser savoir en commentaire, ici ou sur Facebook ou par courrier électronique et je me hâterai de traduire.
Cet article traitera des hautbois seulement. Le suivant traitera du hautbois d'amour, cor anglais, viennois et baroque. Il sera vraisemblablement plus court que celui-ci alors il y a de bonnes chances qu'il sera bilingue.
When I translated/digested Josh Jönnssohn's blog post (Pointer vers le haut) about all oboes he had played, I was somewhat put off at what seemed to be a noticeable lack of criticism. Seriously, the makers cannot ALL be producing wonderful instruments, can they? Well, my experiences at IDRS 2013 left me convinced that the great names in oboe makers really do make extraordinary instruments... in fact, they left me unable to choose a favourite.

The following are my opinions based on my own tastes and experience. I strongly encourage every reader to try as many instruments as possible and form their own opinions. Opinions can contradict and still remain valid: I would be very interested in reading other people’s conflicting views.

Assessing an oboe:

My criteria for evaluating an instrument have always been clear:
  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 and dependability of the tuning regardless of how a note is approached.
  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.
I also like to test points 1-3 with what I call “strange fingerings”. This is a matter of keeping fingers down in certain passages in key signatures with lots of sharps or flats: the extra keys (e.g. D#+G#+forked left-hand while doing B-natural) theoretically should not affect the notes, but can make some passages much easier and cleaner. Some instruments handle them better than others.

The instruments I tried at IDRS 2013

  1. G. Wolf : Viennese, French system, classical-boxwood, Lupophone
  2. Dupin : Imperial
  3. Laübin : 2 different grenadilla wood
  4. Hiniker : 2 types of Ice Princess and oboe d'amore
  5. Adler : orchestra model
  6. Mönnig : 150, Platinum, English horn (Wagner), bass oboe
  7. Ludwig Frank : “brillant” in grenadilla and maple-wood
  8. Marigaux : M2, 901 (grenadilla, top-synthetic, all synthetic), 2000 grenadilla, Altuglass, English Horn
  9. Rigoutat : J, Expression, RIÉC
  10. Josef : Clement, 20th anniversary (grenadilla, rosewood, synthetic-orange), oboe d'amores
  11. Püchner : 733 and 733 with special bell (grenadilla), oboe d'amore, english horn
  12. Bulgheroni : Opera, Musa (grenadilla, cocobolo), oboe d'amore
  13. Patricola
  14. Fossati : S, A, MB, Tiéry, oboe d'amore and English horn
  15. Covey : grenadilla, rosewood, cocobolo
  16. Buffet-Crampon : Orféo, Prestige, English Horn
  17. Howarth : XL, oboe d'amore, english horn
  18. Lorée : Royal, AK, standard, oboe d'amore
  19. Yamaha : Duet+ with American and European bores
  20. Fox / Renard : 800 (grenadilla) and Renard 333 (synthetic)
  21. K-Ge

The following instrument makers are not presented in order of my favourite, but just in an order that seems to make sense to me for the discussion flow.

Guntram Wolf:

Because their oboes are primarily Viennese and classical, baroque, etc., I will give my impressions on these in the next post.

Dupin Imperial:

The Dupin Imperial was the very first instrument I tried at IDRS 2013 thanks to the very friendly nature of Christoph Hartmann. It is frequently called the Rolls-Royce of oboes and has also been compared to a Lamborghini.... I found it to be something of both: perhaps the Lotus or Bentley of the double-reed world? This instrument is definitely in a class of it's own and I say that a better instrument cannot be found.
Naturally, the strange looking bell and the stylishly sculpted head-joint give mystique to the instrument, but it seems they do much more than that. The more open bell allows the lowest notes to be played extra softly while affording a resonant sound and stability throughout the range. It seems that the extra wood on the head joint apparently increases projection and the fortissimo.
Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to try it again: Playing it after all the others would confirm my impressions. Immediately, I was struck by how easy it is to play: the tuning/stability is rock-solid with all my reeds (including my d'amore reeds) Absolutely free blowing and free sounding, it encourages a warm, living sound while not dictating what the player should sound like. The ergonomics of the keywork are splendid, greatly helping the player perform. Furthermore, it performed beautifully with my extra-wide oboe reeds, my d'amore reeds and even my English horn reed, handling strange fingerings without a care!
I really regret missing a golden opportunity: about 3 years ago, Dupin was selling a "Mozart" model over the Internet: this is an Imperial made of a rare stock of boxwood and at much lower price than the Imperial. This was before I started my blog, before I even joined Facebook, oboe groups and even before I got in e-mail contact with Marigaux, Mining or anyone.... I had ONLY played Lorée (not even the Royal) and Yamaha at the time. I had read that changing instruments facilitates playing for some people, but I had NO idea how much this is true and I had never heard of Dupin. I had some e-mail correspondence with Dupin, but I did not dare spend on a maker I did not know and an instrument I could not try. Now, after considerable discussion with Dupin players and having tried the Imperial, I would not hesitate to purchase one. Opportunity gone: back then, I could afford it, now I can't and the Mozart is no longer in production.
They are played mostly in Holland, Scandinavian countries and Japan,but I know some Dupin players in Southern France, England, Israël and Mexico.

Laübin :

A most excellent oboe for the professional who can appreciate it. Because of its history, it is usually compared with Lorée and Marigaux, but I think they are all too different for comparison. Alfred Laübin created the American oboe par excellence: an instrument that is made to suit proper American reeds such that the warmth and blending quality is maximised while solidly supporting projection for solos. This a prestigious professional instrument that can be played at any level, having the absolute most comfortable keywork ergonomics I have ever felt (along with Covey). I tried 2 used Laübin's at the stand of Hannah Selznik (the oboe fairy Pointer vers le haut): they both had different characters (personalities), but both were splendid and a pleasure to play. Absolutely dependable tuning and free-blowing with no sign of congestion in any of the notes. Perhaps not suited for my very loose German reeds, they did present some instability, but this is not the case with well crafted American reeds.

Hiniker :

This is another instrument in a class on its own. It is an American oboe because it is made by an American for Americans who play American reeds in American styled ensembles... but honestly, it also presents absolutely all the qualities I love of European instruments and performers! I tried 2 synthetic oboes made of clear acrylic compound (called “Ice princesses”): they both played very differently because they were designed for different purposes. One of them (I will call it the “Princess-Anne”, after Anne Krabill, who very kindly brought it to IDRS for me to try)  is usually called a “reed trumpet” because of its very hard and powerful sound... hard, maybe, but also very warm and rich: I would be very happy to hear this instrument in any symphony orchestra (and it would certainly serve military bands quite well!). It is a special "Ferillo B" model, designed for more power without losing artistic expressiveness. The other, standard model, had all the power, but with a more framed and controlled sound; to my taste, it just feels better to play it.
Tom Hiniker is an accomplished orchestral oboist himself, having been principal oboist in S. Dakota and still playing principal, English horn and Heckelphone from there to Rochester MN to Detroit. He makes all his instruments by hand from beginning to end, and does so with lots of variety in wood and custom features. All of them, however, are reported to have flawless tuning and stability, full dynamic range and articulation ability and absolutely consistent sound colour over the entire range with never a stuffy note, as I confirmed with very wide oboe reeds and d'amore reeds.
One very interesting feature that I would like more oboe makers to adopt is the left-hand pinky keys: it has 2 “vertical rods”: the left-hand F and also a left-hand Db. It takes some getting used to, but like the Prestini thumb B-natural, those who use it claim it really helps with awkward passages in certain keys.

Adler / Mönnig / Ludwig Frank:

While working on my graduate studies and research projects in computer engineering, I started listening to Internet radio, where the name "Albrecht Mayer" was repeated often. At the time my opinion was "lively style, but mediocre sound for a baroque oboe"... Recall, I praise the tone color of the baroque oboe over the modern version. So when I learned he plays on modern instruments, I was completely amazed and inspired to seek out the far reaches of what I might be able to attain.
Well, playing on the same instrument does not make me sound like Albrecht Mayer! He is not the only spectacular oboist out there, but his You-Tube videos of baroque concerti and impressionist pieces (my two favourite genres) and the living energy with which he plays really inspired and motivated me to pursue my own oboe rebirth.
Albrecht Mayer plays and helped design the Gebrüder Mönnig 155. This is a solid-professional instrument with some unique wood turning that puts it in the prestige class. It's tone does require solid breath control: I have a big air capacity, but I do not sound at all like Mayer; I would need to do some retraining of my breathing to do it justice. However, one cannot find an instrument with a fuller-bodied, lively sound. One version comes with rollers on the keys of the right picky fingers. The roller between the C-Eb keys are useful for the altissimo range (moving from D-F-Eb), but for my limited technical skill, they get in the way more than anything: my technique is not advanced enough to appreciate them. I had been warned, but was left surprised: like Laübin oboes, the Mönnig 150 is the one of the very few instruments that require no compensation at all in the embouchure to play 2nd 8va key notes: this can make them feel sharp, but it really is a matter of just keeping the same embouchure over the whole range.
Adler is essentially their affordable line: with everything from children's model to professional. Their children's model has more keys than others; I did not get a chance to try it. Their professional model is quite good: fully free-blowing, excellent tone support and impeccable tuning. These instruments honour public performances well.
Although it seems they are all conglomerated into a single company, Adler, Mönnig and Frank instruments are all very different. The Ludwig Frank instruments, as they put it, are more designed to maintain the German sound and feeling. The “brillant” model actually has a much more velvety and darker sound than the Gebr. Mönnig 150. They have a maple-wood model with special treated wood to prevent cracks and it is lighter-blowing than any other German instrument. Both the Mönnig 150 and the L.F. played fine with my wide reeds and d'amore reeds.

Marigaux :

The number of great orchestral and solo oboists that play Marigaux is just astounding and speaks volumes about the instrument. To me, this is not surprizing, not surprizing at all: I have not found an instrument that makes life easier for the oboist. If I could afford to buy an instrument right now, Marigaux would be a very easy choice.
I owe a huge thanks to Marigaux for many reasons. Having remembered that my teacher played the same Marigaux for 25 years, I contacted Marigaux with complaints about how my experience with dozens of Lorées and a few old Yamahas show reed intolerance and frustration with tuning, stability and sound restrictions in all oboes I had played up to 3 years ago. He was immediately reassuring, supportive and showed genuine interest in my oboe rebirth as an adult amateur of similar age with little hope of stardom!
Marigaux's intense Internet presence is also very welcome. They are very active in supporting music events and competitions worldwide: other makers are also generous, but few are so visible on the Internet and I know first-hand that they invest personal concern in their musicians' successes, including promising students. A number of their star players are very accessible and I've benefited from their correspondence. People might say that this is a marketing ploy, but I can assure you I put them to the test: naturally, they emphasise their own benefits and popularity, but their intentions have proven sincere. Discussions with a number of their current players concludes that their after-sales service is exemplary.
Now, over these past two years, I had the chance to play more Marigaux (old and new) than any other maker. I can say that all of them were really impressive and any one of them would improve my sound quality, tuning and expressiveness by a mile. In fact, it's because the Marigaux trials that I started to require more fortissimo and more pianissimo with quicker and more fluid phrasing and articulation from my own Lorée when I play.
Although their M2 model is more prestigious, many great names remain faithful to the 901, showing that Marigaux is not satisfied to produce a "standard" model. The Marigaux 901 is a first class professional instrument that can easily be used for solid professional use as well as advanced student use. The 2000 series is the exact same bore and body, but with more ergonomic key design (also found in Mönnig Platinum and Joseph oboes).
The M2 has innovative left-hand tone holes to account for the changed head-joint segmentation: it separates below the octave holes, with the middle joint spanning both hands. It is also designed for interchangeable head joints of different lengths and materials (grenadilla, Altunoir and violetwood). Changing between short and medium head-joints is intended mostly to accommodate European and American tuning, but it also changes the instrument's character (difficult to explain in words). The Altunoir (synthetic) head joint makes it ideal for Eastern Canada, New-England or any area with volatile and quickly changing climate.
I have found Marigaux very consistent from unit to unit. Only one 901 "blew" slightly less freely than the others, but even this one was a joy to play. I did prefer the M2 in New-York more than the one I tried in California, but the climates are so different that I have to believe that weather has a lot to do with my impressions. This is something I really want to validate at IDRS 2014 in New-York.
What I like most about Marigaux oboes is that they essentially take care of sound quality and tuning for you, thus leaving the player free to concentrate on musical phrasing. Other makers also yield great sound and many are highly tolerant to reed styles, but at this point I still think Marigaux is the most reed-friendly of all, showing full appreciation of my d'amore reeds and even English Horn reed. It’s sound is as barockesque as one could wish: in my car, I have a stack of CD’s including Alfredo Bernardini playing Vivaldi on his baroque oboe followed by Louise Pèllerin playing Händel on her Marigaux 901: they sound almost exactly the same!
Of the large European makers, to my taste, Marigaux has the most comfortably designed keywork ergonomics, especially the 2000 line and M2: the intricate left little finger keys really help with C-minor arpeggios and similar passages. The left-hand F can be adjusted for length, which is fantastic for hands of different sizes. In my opinion, a there is no better than the 2000, with the M2 being their prestige and solid professional model.

Rigoutat :

Rigoutat was a very pleasant surprise. Philippe Rigoutat appears reserved and shy, but his instruments certainly are not! Rigoutat oboes are the very definition of freedom: ultimate free-blowing and ultimate free sounding. Absolutely dependable tuning, stability and articulation ability: this must be the most athletic and versatile oboe, also playing fine with my very wide reeds and d'amore reeds.
Rigoutat is best known as the oboe of Heinz Holliger and Maurice Bourgue. Unfortunately, their recordings did not benefit from today’s equipment and techniques, often leaving the sound very buzzy and bright: the magic of these extraordinary performers came from the depth of their musical spirit. Now, look at old Walt-Disney movies (1950-1970’s) and note the buzzy-bright sound... these were most certainly American reeds played on Lorée... this just shows that the different tone qualities might not be due to the brand or national style, but rather an evolution over time and changing preferences. Luckily, current greats like Thomas Indermühle (renowned soloist), Sébastien Giot (soloist and Strasbourg Philharmonic) and Hélène Devilleneuve (Orch. Phil. Radio France) show off an enviable sound with Rigoutat.
The model J is a solid-professional instrument and the Expression is a professional model is a great instrument for any level of playing. They also make a school model, the RIÉC (RIgoutat d'ÉCole) which plays as well as any professional instrument: perfect instrument to teach young musicians good habits and raise the bar on expected quality. They also make a children's oboe, Initiation, with almost no keys: the fingerings being closer to the recorder in order to help bridge the gap between instruments.

Josef :

Joseph is an outstanding instrument, quite unique in sound and feeling under the fingers. All their instruments, in my opinion, are prestige models. Though the prettiest to look at is the 20th anniversary model, I preferred the plainer Clement for sound and feeling. They have been criticised for inconsistency; I wasn't able to validate that, but I did try two d'amores and just liked one clearly more than the other.
Mr. Nakamura (founder) is obviously committed to the highest goals: I played an excerpt jumping to the altissimo A, which only came out right half the time (not surprising...). At seeing this, he took the instrument, studied my fingering and attempt to reproduce the excerpt, with his own fingering as well as mine: it was difficult for him too, so he spent time studying how he could adjust the instrument to make it work better. I believe their oboes are fantastic "but"... and that "but" will likely change from person to person. For me, the sound is both ultra-rich, but with a tendency to rattle, if the embouchure is not in good shape. Also, it seems that one fine reed of mine had it play well, but another also fine reed had some notes sagging, especially with my wide oboe reeds, but seemed OK with my d'amore reeds.

Püchner :

“P” is for “Püchner” and also for “Power”! In my opinion, you can't get better than Püchner! Completely free-blowing and free-sounding, there is something about that oboe that just projects like crazy, and they also make a special curvy bell that increases projection like the amplifier of a superstar rock concert! Playing softly in the low register is nonetheless excellent, the tuning is absolutely dependable and stable and provides a well-focused sound, without actually being boxed-in. It plays lovely with all my reeds. I would really recommend Püchner to any North-American oboist who fears blending is becoming hiding.
Püchner is renowned as a bassoon maker. As an oboe maker, their fame has been increasing lately, and for good reason: high quality wood sound and mechanics. Their reputation, among the people I know who play them, is of great attention to their buyers to build the right instrument for them as well as dependability over the years.
Püchner also has one curious feature to which I am very sensitive and that I would encourage every other maker to emulate: their thumb-rest! I am working with my physiotherapist on an article I hope to publish in a journal on the importance of the thumb's angle and how thumb-rest design is actually steering people wrong, actually towards tendonitis! Püchner's thumb-rest design, on the adjustable height post, puts a swiveling plate that encourages the thumb to correct angles: the importance of that will be explained in the article.

Bulgheroni :

Bulgheroni feels very similar to Püchner when playing, perhaps requiring a little less blowing power, but it controls the sound quality with a creamy full-body sound. These are top of the line professional instruments and I consider you can't go wrong with them. This is a rare case where I find their Prestige model (the cocobolo Musa) better suited to my own needs than their more “regular” Opera model: both excellent instruments, but I found that the Musa helped me express my musical phrasing and just felt better in the throat... with other makers, I find its the more expensive models to require more solid-professionalism.
It would seems Christoph Hartmann holds them in esteem because at the IDRS 2013 conference he played both the Dupin and a Bulgheroni, but with a special bell. Hartmann requested Bulgheroni to make a Dupin-like bell for him and he was kind enough to let me try it. Contrary to the Dupin, this did not really free the sound, but rather framed and focused it... ironic, come to think of it... maybe I'm just crazy!
This is a family company immersed in tradition, yet responsive to the evolution in demands from professional performers. I met father and son at IDRS 2013 and found them very pleasant and accommodating. Their passion for the instrument and performers are clearly visible and that sentiment shows in the sound and feeling of their instruments. One cannot find better than Bulgheroni!

Patricola :

This is a well-known Italian brand makes the whole family from piccolo oboe to bass oboe and from student lines to solid-professional lines. It is well appreciated by those who like it as they put a lot of effort into wood variety and keywork. I have only tried two at the IDRS: they left me with the same impression as Lorée.

Fossati :

In my opinion you really can't go wrong with a Fossati! I find Bulgheroni and Püchner feel very similar when playing them, but I find that Bulgheroni and Fossati sound and play more alike. Similar to Rigoutat, their different level models have really different feelings to them. The sound is very dark and rich, but also very free-blowing and lively. I consider it to be, similar to Bulgheroni, the combination of the qualities of Rigoutat and Marigaux.
Fossati prides itself at producing high quality but at affordable cost... in fact, they stress the affordability a lot. In my opinion, they can emphassize quality and sound more. Their MB (or Anniversary) model is a solid-professional model and absolutely astounding to play. They call the A model their “entry model” although there is nothing juvenile about it! For myself, I prefer the feeling of the S (or Soloist) is suited just right for me, affording warmth and depth of sound while not requiring me to do an hour of long-tones every day!
Like Püchner, they saw fit to improve on the thumb-rest. They don't have a swiveling plate, but the whole height stack can swing to the side to help find the right angle.
I fully agree with Josh Jönnssohn that Fossati deserves more visibility in North-America: you can't go wrong with this instrument. I have found Internet communication with them difficult, but Fossati players from different countries told me that their customer service is first-rate, before and after the sale. The quality of their instrument is said to be top notch and their response time to repairs is very fast.

Covey :

Little perl of an instrument, made in the state of Georgia, USA. Paul Covey was very well appreciated by his clients, but passed away a few years ago. He is sorely missed by his clients and by his devoted widow, Ginger, who took up the manufacturing of instruments, having re-discovered with practice some of Paul's specialities.
The Covey oboe is the lightest-blowing oboe I have ever played. Fully suitable to professional use, it is capable of a full dynamic range and articulation spectrum. It's tuning is quite solid and fully stable. The cocobolo model adds a softness to the already warm tone of the grenadilla model. They use tone-hole inserts to help stabilise pad closing and avoid damage from potential cracks or warping. It is a very light-weight instrument, though with perfectly solid keywork. Along with Laübin, it has the most comfortable keywork I have tried.
I still consider it the ideal instrument for recording studios or stage performances where microphones are used. It is also an ideal choice for anyone who does not have a strong thoracic capacity (not much blowing strength) even though it takes my own pressure quite well. I would go so far as to recommend to bigger oboe manufacturers to strike a deal with Ginger to integrate the Covey into their larger distribution networks as a “light” model of their own.

Buffet-Crampon :

Renowned for their saxophones (with classical players) and clarinettes, Buffet-Crampon is becoming a high contender with professional oboists. This also means that the instruments are fairly easy to find and resell. The “Greenline” material is a blend of grenadilla sawdust and resin compound which promisses to prevent cracks. They do, however, have a reputation of breaking the tennon joint clean off. This is very frightening, but actually fairly easy to repair: after an expert repair, there is almost no danger of new breakage or cracks.
The fact that Fabien Thouand plays it (with his very barockescant sound) is enough to convince me of its value. However, I just don't like the way it feels in the chest when I play it. I do get stuffy notes with it and some instability: however the Orféo is much better in all these respects than their usual “Prestige” model. The Orféo handles my wide reeds (not so much the d'amore reeds) and strange fingerings better than the Prestige. I know a few oboists who would play absolutely nothing else, so it boils down to a matter of fitting the instrument to the player and personal preference.

Howarth :

Howarth has been called “a better Lorée”.... I'm not quite sure why because their characters are very different and so is the feeling of the keywork. I might be half-way between Lorée and Marigaux, in terms of sound capabilities and feeling, but with a keywork of its own.
Howarth has a very solid and tight keywork, althought the keys are somewhat higher or thicker than most oboes. It takes some getting used to, but their entire line of instruments, from the high-school to the solid-professional XL, are remarkably dependable instruments with properly tuned notes across the whole range, fully free-blowing and hardly ever unstable (I did get wobbly notes, I really had to try hard with mediocre reeds). I must have tried half a dozen Xls and they all played the same; yes, the same: with Howarth, you know what you're getting! I don't know about price, but I find their student models to be the right choice for amateurs and students.
They also have a reputation for excellent customer service before and after purchase. Howarth is the one to open the doors in North-American professional oboe market to instruments other than Lorée/Laubin, I suppose the feeling when blowing is close enough to Lorée to prevent estrangement. It is also bright and crisp of sound, which allows more focus than many others.
Thanks to this, I think performers and audiences will allow themselves to better appreciate the variety and depth of the different oboe makers. The one and only reason I am not considering an XL for myself is that I am aiming for different sound characteristics, although I have heard very warm and boxed sounds coming from it, especially with a cocobolo bell.

Lorée :

Definitely a professional line of instruments, they have sound qualities that make them greatly appreciated in North-America, most especially how it provides focus by framing the sound. It is much less played in Europe, although Bart Schneeman and Hansjörg Schellenberger are big names that do prefer Lorée. The Royal model is far superior to the standard bore in terms of free-blowing, stability and rich tone qualities; apart from its weight, the Royal is actually very playable by serious students. I would actually recommend starting on a Cabard and progressing immediately to the Royal, using the AK only if the Royal is just out of financial reach.
Overall, however, my own experience with Lorée is that they all have flawed stability, tuning and stuffy notes, the Royal only being less so. It handles strange fingerings very well... or more precisely, sometimes it needs strange fingerings to clear-up stuffy notes or fix tuning flaws: mine improved dramatically (it's better than any AK I have tried) since D. Teitelbaum from Laübin re-bored the bell. It is often said that one must try dozens of Lorées; when the right one is found, it is a real dream come true. In my experience, "the right one" for me would be a really old A or C series made before 1970.
This being said, quite a lot of musicians (including my contemporaries) have been playing Lorée quite well. This is really a case where the instrument is not for me, personally. It could be for you: I only encourage every person to not get discouraged if things prove difficult. If it does work for you, Lorée will prove a faithful musical ally.

Yamaha :

These are played by a good number of professionals, including a number of soloists. These are fine professional level instruments that produce a fine tone and support for all technical needs. I was shown two Duet+ models, one with an "American" bore and one with a "European" bore. I found the American one played too much like Lorée for my taste: the European one feeling much more solid and dependable for sound and tuning. Both have good tuning and the European model has decent stability, but they do react too much to strange fingerings.
I still find their mechanics flimsy and their sound lacks solidity, to my own taste. However, the plastic sleeve makes it a wise investment for students and amateurs and obviously a good number of carreer oboists find them very satisfactory. Their key advantage is how easy they are to find: pretty much any Yamaha instrument distributor can get some, which facilitates trying many of them over time.

Fox / Renard :

Fox has become the de-facto serious student / amateur instrument in the USA, where one usually “graduates to Lorée” when entering a music program at a university. I have tried the “bread-and-butter” model (Renard 333) used by most students as well as their professional level instrument. The Renard is quite good for students using American reeds: the tuning is fine and it helps develop habits of not overblowing the reed. The Professional model comes in either grenadilla wood or synthetic-compound and is an excellent instrument for outdoor playing or multi-instrumentalists.
Their sound is fairly fluid and resonant, but I find all of them a little stuffy, and they do not cater fully to very wide reeds or strange fingerings. But with normal sized reeds, even short-European scrape, they can serve as excellent back-up instrument to anyone or as fully appreciable main instrument to passionate amateurs.

K-Ge :

“Chinese oboes” have spawned much discussion, mostly bad, these past few years. K-Ge is Chinese, but his instrument merits very positive attention. Fully plastic body with full conservatoire keywork, this instrument actually plays quite decently. It has no real character, but the tuning and stability are fine and it accepts all my air capacity. It is a very affordable instrument making it excellent for outdoor performances or for military bands.

Conclusion :

So this blog often seems to be looking for the ultimate oboe… one maker asked me if that is even possible? Well, having tried all these makers, I have to say “YES, and I know quite a few companies that make it!” I have a list of more than half a dozen makers that just blow me away: each has different personalities, they equally well answer all my requirements and help my performance soar! From that list, I cannot choose one that I like above the others: it becomes a matter of personal preference and perhaps my skills are just not developed enough, I might lack the professional skill to choose a favourite.
But that doesn't matter because I can't buy anything anyway... I started my engineering profession rather late in life; before that I had amassed quite a lot of debt to obtain 3 Bachelor's and one Master's degrees. University education in Canada is much more affordable than in the U.S.A, but it is not free, and a mortgage plus some necessary professional investments plus treatment for fibromyalgia don’t speed up the repayment of loans etc. … a lot to pay off before I can consider purchasing another instrument without even thinking of retirement! So right now, I cannot afford any instrument at all, none worth replacing my Lorée.
This is a somewhat frustrating because, my Lorée and I have been together for 28 years and we have lived many adventures together: it has enormous sentimental value to me. And yet, having tried such exquisite instruments really makes me yearn for: Dupin, Marigaux, Mönnig/Frank, Püchner, Fossati, Bulgheroni and Rigoutat.
I definitely need to try again, and in climate conditions closer to home: IDRS 2014 is in New-York, at reasonable driving distance from home! Perhaps, if I continue to to practice diligently and produce You-Tube recordings, I will attain a level whereby I can more easily discern among the fantastic instruments… and, God willing, perhaps in a few years I’ll be in a position to buy!

Tuesday, July 16

Sound Vocabulary + Synthetic / IDRS 2013 art. 3 / Vocabulaire sonore + synthétique


OK, so I've been working on vocabulary to describe the impressions on all the instruments (mostly amazing!) I tried at IDRS 2013. What follows is a preparation for those remarks because I really left IDRS with a completely changed understanding of how instruments are to be rated. Flaws remain flaws but what works for one person (or even many people) is not a guarantee that it is right for you: and if you have trouble with the instrument everyone else raves about, no you are not crazy! ALORS, depuis deux semaines, je cherche le vocabulaire
pour décrire les impressions de tous les instruments (surtout sensationnels) à la conférence de l'IDRS 2013. Ce qui suit est une préparation pour les remarques parce que l'IDRS m'a laissé avec une compréhension complètement redessiné à propos de l'évaluation des instruments. Les défauts restent des défauts mais ce qui marche pour une personne (ou même plusieurs) n'est aucunement garant de ce qui marche pour une autre : si vous avez des difficultés avec un instrument que tout le monde applaudit, non vous n'êtes pas fou!
I am an amateur oboist and blogger. Notwithstanding any (long) past experience, I am not a professional and no one is paying me to do this. I receive no money or products or favours or offers or exchanges of any kind for what I write here. I keep this blog because, as a professional computer developer, it helps me feel like a real musician again and helps motivate my progress in re-building my abilities and experience as an oboist.
This blog appears to be striking a sympathetic chord in people asking the same questions and experiencing the same concerns. However if I offend anyone, then that is their own prerogative. This blog is only about my adventures in being born again into musical life after years of absense - using the new tricks and tools developed and learned along the way. Conversely, these articles are only my very subjective opinions and I claim no authority other than my own experience: conflicting opinions based on your own experience are encouraged.
    Je suis hautboiste et blogueur amateur. Nonobstant toute expérience (longtemps) passée, je ne suis pas professionnel et personne ne me paye pour ceci. Je ne reçois aucune remise pour ce que j'écris ici, ni argent, ni produits, ni faveurs ni échanges de quelque sorte. Je maintiens ce blogue parce que, en tant que développeur informatique de profession, ça m'aide à me sentir comme un vrai musicien et ça motive mon progrès à reconstruire mes habiletés de hautboïste.
    Ce blogue semble faire résonner une corde sensible chez des gens qui posent les mêmes questions ou qui vivent des soucis comparables. Par contre, si le contenu offusque quiconque, c'est de son propre chef. Ce blogue concerne mes aventures à faire renaître une vie musicale après des années d'absence - utilisant de nouveaux outils et astuces appris et amassés en cours de route. À l'inverse, ces articles ne sont que mes opinions très subjectives et je ne prétend aucune expertise hormis ma propre expérience: les opinions contradictoires basées sur votre propre expérience sont encouragées.
Or climate, more precisely...

The very first morning at IDRS I took out my Lorée to acclimate my reeds, evaluate their character and fine tune as needed... immediately the altissimo register became so easy! I also noticed that the tuning and stability were generally better than in Ottawa/Montréal... or was I just better rested (and later warmed-up)? Was the excitement of the event just keeping my breathing tight?

Now, back in Ottawa, where 28°C feels even heavier than 42°C in California, on days with risk of thunder showers, reeds have become stuffy again..... though my tone colour is better than it used to (intense playing over a few days will do that).... but ending a long-ish note will see it sag and die again. This means all my impressions about the instruments COULD be partly due to the climate.... well IDRS 2014 is in New York City, where it is hotter than here and possibly more humid, so I need to confirm or correct my impressions by going there!
Since the beginning of my blog, a common theme has been the search for the "ideal" oboe. We can sometimes believe that one brand might surpass all others and that some brands might be inferior in comparison.
Ottawa: my home.

New-York: close to home.

Los Angeles: always great!
Je dirais même plus, le climat...

Le premier matin à la conférence de l'IDRS, j'ai sorti mon Lorée pour acclimater mes anches, évaluer leur caractère et ajuster au besoin... immédiatement, le sur-aigü est devenu facile comme tout! J'ai aussi remarqué que la justesse et la stabilité sont généralement mieux qu'à Ottawa/Montréal... ou étais-je mieux reposé (et plus tard réchauffé)? Peut-être l'exitation de l'événement soutenait mieux mon souffle?

Maintenant, de retour à Ottawa, où 28°C semble plus écrasant que 42°C en Californie, par jours à risque d'orages, les anches reprennent une sensation de contrainte... mais mon timbre est meilleur qu'avant le départ (le fruit de quelques jours de jeu intense)... mais terminer un son plus-ou-moins filé voit la note sombrer à nouveau. Ceci veut dire que toutes mes impressions à propos des instruments POURRAIENT être en partie dûes au climat... La conférence d'IDRS 2014 à New-York, où il fait plus chaud qu'Ottawa et je crois encore plus humide, alors il faudra y aller pour confirmer ou rectifier mes impressions!
Depuis le début de mon blogue, un sujet revient: la recherche du hautbois 'ideal'. On peut avoir l'impression qu'une marque peut être carrément meilleure et d'autres marques carrément inférieures par comparaison.
To marry an oboe and have reeds…

Now, I think oboes behave like reeds do: different people needs different types of reeds - this is not just finicky, it's a real effect of vastly changing physiognomy from person to person. Because it is nearly impossible to make a mathematical model to explain tuning and stuffiness in notes on an oboe (I don't even want to begin to list the variables!) it becomes clear that the instrument itself needs to be "in harmony" with the player. I no longer believe in making the right reed for the instrument: reeds are made to suit the person and then the instrument is found to best suit the player and the favourite reeds.

Naturally, it's more complicated than that, but as the great philosopher Tong Cui of Innoledy would say, it's like a marriage: at some point, you have to choose a partner. Some matches are just plain wrong, but there remain many good possibilities: a successful relationship comes from making a commitment, being faithful and working over the misunderstandings together. Even if you're rich enough for a bunch of mistresses on the side, that's only asking for trouble... oboe or marriage, same thing!
Épouser le hautbois et avoir des anches…

Maintenant, je crois que les hautbois agissent comme les anches : différentes personnes ont besoin d'anches différentes - ce n'est pas un caprice, c'est une véritable conséquence des physionomies vastement différentes de personne en personne. Parce qu'il est presqu'impossible de formuler un modèle mathématique pour expliquer la justesse et la congestion des notes (je ne veux même pas commencer à énumérer les variables!) il devient clair que l'instrument lui-même doit "s'harmoniser" avec avec le musicien. Je ne crois plus dans le principe de faire des anches en fonction de l'instrument: les anches sont faites pour favoriser la personne et on trouve ensuite l'instrument qui convient le mieux à l'artiste et ses anches favorites.

Bien sûr, c'est plus compliqué que ça en a l'air, mais comme le dit le grand philosophe Tong Cui d'Innoledy, c'est comme un mariage : il vient un point où il faut faire un choix. Quelques couples cherchent la chicane, mais il reste un nombre de bonnes possibilités : une relation solide exige un engagement, la fidélité et travailler ensemble pour surmonter les mésententes. Même si on est assez riche pour se payer des maîtresses, ce n'est qu'inviter les ennuis... hautbois ou mariage, même chose!
So in order to compare the instruments, I put together some terminology that expresses categories and characteristics.

When I play the Mönnig Platinum, I do not sound like Albrecht Mayer! Also, I have also been frequently wrong when guessing what oboe a person plays. Different people (reeds, embouchure, breath) can make the same instrument sound very differently than another person.

Sound Vocabulary:

This is the most difficult thing in terms of vocabulary. I can only define words using other words and hope that common experience will yield enough common ground to form a basis of understanding.
Alors, pour comparer les instruments, j’ai rassemblé un lexique qui décrit les catégories et les caractéristiques du  hautbois.

Quand je joue le Mönnig Platinum, je ne sonne pas comme Albrecht Mayer! Je me suis aussi souvent trompé en devinant ce que quelqu’un joue. Différentes personnes (anches, embouchure, souffle) feront sonner le même instrument très différemment d’une autre personne.

Vocabulaire Sonore :
Le timbre est ce qui a de plus difficile à mettre en mots. Je ne peux qu’utiliser d’autres mots pour expliquer dans l’espoir que l’expérience commune permettra assez de similitudes pour former une base de compréhension.
boxed / framed : this is often called "focused", and it is hard to explain. This is probably the single most characteristic aspect of Lorée, and I must say it has its appeal, when the rest of the sound aspects are also pleasant. The opposite would be out of control (or wild).
velvety, creamy : with no hint of harshness or buzz in the sound, sometimes less distinct articulation and dynamic expression.
warm / dark : essentially the opposite of clear, capable of all dynamic range, but rich in lower harmonics to give a mournful feeling
rich / full-bodied : an impression that, without being loud, there is just “more” sound, wider sound spectrum and full freedom
clear : very distinct in character and articulation, borders on "edgy" sound.
shrill / metallic / crystalline : ultra-bright and edgy
buzzy / reedy : self-explanatory… like a swarm of flies
lively / wild : this is more for the player, where the reed is left to do almost anything in terms of bending notes up/down and dynamics… not to be confused with unstable
pastoral : combination of velvety, boxed and clear... more of a warm sound with a crackling crispness to it… possibly a built-in echo without room reverberation
barock-escant : reminiscent of the baroque oboe, combining the warmth and pastoral qualities in a very free-sounding tone - very full and broad sound.
trumpet-like : can be baroque-escant, but mostly emphasizes a hard and very resonant sound.
unstable : not only that tuning is undependable, but also that notes will wobble or bump up/down (usually with stuffyness) in the middle of a long tone… trembling notes can also be instability
encadré : aussi appelé par chez-nous “centré” (“focussé”), difficile à expliquer. C’est la caractéristique principale de Lorée et j’avoue que ça a son charme, en autant que les autres aspects sonores soient aussi plaisants. Le contraire serait hors-contrôle.
velouté, crémeux : sans aucun soupçon de dureté ou de “buzz” dans son. Parfois articulations et nuances moins nettes.
chaud / sombre : essentiellement le contraire de clair. Capable de toutes nuances, mais fort en harmoniques graves donnant un timbre sollenel
riche / rond : laissant l’impression que, sans être fort, il y simplement “plus” de son, spectre sonore plus large et plus libre
clair : très net et distinct de caractère, tendance vers le crystallin.
métallique / crystallin : ultra-clair et sans profondeur
nasillard : bien connu… vol de mouches
vivace : plus une question d’une sensation que l’anche peut faire n’importe-quoi avec la note et les articulations… à ne pas confondre avec instabilité
pastoral : combinaison de velouté, encadré et clair… timbre plutôt riche mais légèrement “croustillant”… avec une sorte d’écho qui vient de l’instrument, pas de la pièce.
baroquescant : qui rapèlle le hautbois baroque, combinant chaleur et qualité pastorale dans un timbre libre – très rond et large
trompette : peut être baroquescant, mais accentuant la résonnance et la dûreté
instable: pas tellement que la justesse faille, mais que la note se heurte vers le haut ou le bas au millieu d’un son filé (souvent avec congestion)… notes tremblantes peuvent aussi être instables.
Appraisal Vocabulary

"No better than":
This means that the instrument answers all the criteria and is a joy to play. It does not mean that all others are inferior: on the contrary others can provide the same benefits, albeit with different attributes.

"Can't go wrong with": Other instruments can be "better", but this one will still prove fully satisfying and can perfectly serve any role from advanced student to chamber musician to orchestra oboist to soloist.

"Freedom": There is "free-blowing", which essentially means no limit to how you can blow in the instrument: the opposite would be stuffy or congested. There is also "free-sounding" which means that the instrument provides no restriction on dynamics or articulation. The two "freedoms" do not always go together. Also, congested notes can still occur on a free-sounding/blowing instrument, but I would expect this to be a matter of proper key adjustment. With free sounding instruments comes a caveat: they leave you free to sound fantastic, but also free to sound horrible!

"Light blowing": This is not the opposite of free-blowing (opposite being "air-resistant" or "congested"). Light-blowing is more about an instrument that does not want to be blown strongly: it can take very loud dynamics and pressure, but it is really content with light air support. The contrary would be "Solid-professional", which at best is playable even by students, but which provides best response to professionals with strong air support and that play serveral hours every day.

Instrument Classes:
”Class of it's Own” :

A class with instruments so special, they cannot be compared to any other. I use it only as a compliment (by definition, the expression  could be pejorative, but I use it here only in admiration) and I mean, don't try to compare them, their features are too unique for verbal description.

Prestige :
These instruments are mostly appealing for their unique qualities that make them stand-up and be noticed above the others. Whether they are actually sound or play better than other professional lines can be a matter of personal opinion, but these instruments are usually more difficult to acquire.
Solid Professional :
These instruments are designed for professionals who require a more demanding instrument for sound support. Playing many hours every day for years can make an "easier” instrument lessen the experience. They don't necessarily sound any better than "normal" professional lines, but they are more suited to take breath control made extra hefty with extra-strength practice.

Professional :
Instruments with all the keywork and sound qualities expected by seasoned professionals. They are characterised by dependability, solid construction and versatility of sound to allow expressive qualities required of professionals.

Student/Amateur :
Sometimes these have all the keywork of a professional line, but usually they have simpler mechanisms to cut the price and simplify adjustment. The bore/body is not always given as much importance as the professional lines, so tuning and sound quality can suffer.

Beginner :
Usually wood selection or plastic compound cheaper and greatly simplified mechanics. Designed to be inexpensive, not designed for sound, character or dynamic ability.
Children :
Very few keys intended to help young children learn the instrument without the weight of more metal and thick wood. The big names make an effort to keep the body of high quality so good sound is encouraged.
Vocabulaire d’évaluation

”Ne peut pas mieux trouver” :
Ceci veut dire que l’instrument répond parfaitement à tous les critères: une vraie perle à jouer. Ça ne veut pas dire que les autres sont inférieurs : au contraire, d’autres peuvent démontrer les mêmes avantages tout en présentant des attributs différents.

”Ne peut pas se tromper” : d’autres instruments peuvent être “meilleurs”, mais celui-ci se montrera tout-à-fait satisfaisant et remplira très bien son rôle, que ce soit pour un étudiant avancé, musique de chambre, soliste ou hautboïste d’orchestre

“Liberté” : on parle de “souffle libre” et de “timbre libre”. Le souffle libre veut dire qu’il n’y a aucune limite à la pression d’air: l’inverse serait ‘congestionné’.  Timbre libre signifie aucune restreinte aux articulations et aux nuances. Les deux libertés ne vont pas toujours ensemble et des notes congestionnées peuvent quand-même arriver,quoique je soupçonnerais un malajustement. Caveat pour les instruments à timbre libre: ils vous laissent aussi libre de mal sonner!

”À souffle léger” : Ce n’est pas l’inverse de “à souffle libre” (l’inverse serait congestionné ou résistant). Ces instruments semblent ne pas vouloir une grande capacité d’air: ils peuvent le prendre et permettront de très fortes nuances, mais ils sont contents de soutient léger de l’air. Le contraire serait “Professionnel solide” qui est accessible aux étudiants avancés, mais convient mieux aux professionnels qui répètent plusieurs heures par jour.

Classes d’instruments:
”Une classe à part” :
Une classe d’instruments si spéciaux qu’ils ne peuvent pas être comparés aux autres. L’expression peut être péjorative, mais moi, je l’utilise uniquement comme compliment. Leurs attributs sont trop uniques pour la description verbale.

Prestige :
Ces instruments sont surtout attrayants pour leurs qualités uniques qui les font sortir de l’ordinaire. Qu’ils jouent ou sonnent vraiment mieux que d’autres peut rester une question d’opinion personnelles, mais ces instruments sont généralement plus difficiles à obtenir.

Professionnel solide :
Ces istruments sont conçus pour les professionnels qui souhaitent un instrument plus exigent avec le soutient sonore. Lorsqu’on joue plusieurs heures à tous les jours pendant des années, un instrument “trop facile” peut nuire à l’expérience.

Professionnel :
Instruments avec tout le mécanisme moderne attendu d’un professionnel de bonne expérience. Caractérisé par la fiabilité, construction solide et polyvalence sonore qui permet des qualités expressives qu’on exige des professionnels.

Étudiant / Amateur :
Parfois, ils ont toutes les clefs d’un modèle professionnel, mais habituellement le mécanisme est plus simple pour réduire le prix et la difficulté de réparation. La perce n’est pas toujours traité avec autant d’attention que les lignes professionnelles, alors la justesse et le timbre peuvent souffrir.

Débutant :
Habituellement de bois ou composé synthétique de moindre qualité et mécanisme grandement simplifié. Construits pour le bas prix, vraiment pas pour le timbre, caractère ou nuances.

Pour enfants :
Très peu de clefs avec l’intention d’introduire le hautbois aux tout-petits sans le poids qui vient avec plus de métal et un bois plus épais. Les grands noms y mettent l’effort de construire une perce de haute qualité pour encourager la belle sonorité.
Don’t be impressed by words!

I will lay out my impressions of all the instruments I have tried in the next post. Right now I really want to stress the importance of not letting oneself be mesmerized by sophistication, appearance or status symbol: you could actually damage your progress by choosing a "pro" model if it is not suited to your current situation. The manufacturers produce different levels of instrument NOT just to be able to sell cheap to high schools: the big-names in oboes actually design different models to better answer different needs. A student is not ready to solidly blow most pro models or get distracted by unnecessary hardware, so the student line are designed to help the student play in tune while developing habits that will naturally progress to the pro. models in due time.
Ne vous laissez pas impressionner par les titres!

Je vais donner mes impressions de tous les instruments que j’ai essayés au prochain article. Pour l’instant, je veux vraiment accentuer l’importance de ne pas vous laisser séduire par l’apparence, le statut ou l’air sophistiqué : en choisissant un modèle ‘pro’ vous pourriez carrément nuire à votre progrès s’il ne vous convient pas. Les fabricants font de différents niveaux, PAS pour vendre peuchère aux écoles secondaires: les grand noms font évoluer les modèles pour mieux rémondre aux différents besoins. Un étudiant n’es pas prêt à soutenir le souffle (comme l’exige plusieurs modèles professionnels) et la mécanique additionnelle peut être distrayante. Les modèles étudiants sont conçus pour aider à l’étudiant à jouer juste tout en développant de bonnes habitudes qui feront progresser naturellement vers les modèles professionnels en bon temps.
For example, I am still very much impressed with the Marigaux M2, but this article (here Pointer vers le haut) shows how well I was impressed with the Strasser (Marigaux 801) model.... well, playing the M2 a lot showed that the transition to it from my Lorée would require lots of work, whereas the 901 model (as mentioned here Pointer vers le haut) is a real charm for me (note how many career soloists play the 901: this is NOT a 2nd rate instrument!). Same thing with Fossati: the S model is really appealing, but it might demand more work than the average 30 minutes a day I can give it. On the other hand, the description of the ideal player for the A (or MB) model is exactly me: pro. abilities minus the endurance. Rigoutat is similar, with  with the J being my ideal, but the Expression being better suited. however Mönnig/Frank is a different story: I need more time on them to know for sure, but it seems the Platinum model might require re-building my techniques whereas the Adler was fine (though a bit "young" for me).... ironically, the Ludwig Frank Maple Birallant model appears to suit me nicely.   Par exemple, je suis toujours très intéressé par le Marigaux M2, mais cet article (ici Pointer vers le haut) montre combien le Strasser (Marigaux 801) m’a aussi fait belle impression… avoir beaucoup essayé le M2, je crois que la transition à partir de mon Lorée peut exiger beaucoup de travail, alors que (comme mentionné ici Pointer vers le haut) le modèle 901 me va comme un charme (à noter combien de solistes jouen le 901 : vraiment PAS un instrument de 2e classe!). Même chose pour Fossati: le modèle S est très attrayant, mais peut exiger plus que ma moyenne de 30 minutes par jour. Par contre, la description du modèle A (ou MB) est exactement ce qu’il me faut: habiletés professionnelles en moins l’endurance. Rigoutat est semblable avec le modèle J étant mon idéal mais l’Expression me va mieux. Par contre, mais Mönnig/Frank m’a surpris: je dois plus expérimenter, mais il semble que le modèle Platinum me m’exiger de rebâtir ma technique tandis que le Adler était très bien (quoiqu’un peu ‘jeune’ pour moi)… ironiquement, le modèle Érable Brillant de Ludwig Frank me va admirablement.

Synthetic Bodies

My own Lorée has a synthetic top joint, showing that synthetic materials been available on professional models for around 30 years. Paul Laubin claims that the 2 worst place for cracks are Canada (I assume he meant from Montreal to Toronto: where his instruments are mostly played in this rather big country) and Arizona, so getting a plastic top joint was a real safety net for a non-wealthy student with few real contacts in the music world. People will ask two questions about synthetic instruments:

1. Is there tone colour as nice as wood?
2. Does the differential between the moisture/thermal expansion between wood and synthetic material affect the stability of notes?

Corps synthétiques

Mon propre Lorée compte un corps du haut synthétique, ce qui montre qu'ils sont disponibles sur les instruments professionnels depuis environ 30 ans. Paul Laubin prétend que les deux pires régions pour les fentes sont le Canada (on suppose qu'il veut dire de Montréal à Toronto où ses instruments sont surtout joués dans ce très grand pays) et l'Arizona, alors un corps du haut synthétique aide à calmer la crainte pour un étudiant non-riche avec peu de vrais contacts dans le monde musical. Les gens poseront deux questions à propos des instruments synthétiques :

1. Y a-t-il une différence dans la sonorité?
2. La différence de dilatation thermique et par la variance d'humidité affecte-t-elle la justesse et la stabilité des notes?
As an engineer, I have to comment on question 2 by saying it's very likely that people are concerned based on misunderstanding yielding unfounded fears. My experience confirms what many other people say on the forums: with Lorée, there is NO difference in sound quality. I have played close to 2 dozen Lorées in a variety of weather conditions and it seems to me that synthetic material does not affect the tuning and stability compared to all-wood instruments. En tant qu'ingénieur, je dois répondre qu'un très grand nombre de gens pose la question 2 en se basant sur de fausses idées donnant lieu à des craintes mal fondées. Mon expérience confirme ce qu'un bon nombre d'autres ont dit dans les groupes de discussion: avec Lorée, AUCUNE différence dans le timbre. J’ai joué près de 2 douzaines de lorées dans une variété de conditions climatiques et il me semble que le matériel synthétique n’affecte aucunement la justesse et la stabilité à comparé aux instruments tout en bois.
The Altuglass instruments made by Marigaux conserve their characteristics sound beautifully. The fully synthetic instrument sounds ever so slightly more crystalline than the full wood instrument, but it compensates with even more focus and projection.... Seriously, you have to actively seeking the difference in sound to notice the difference. Marigaux also makes a top-joint only synthetic ("Altunoir") instrument with all the advantages of both wood and synthetic material. Les instruments en “altuglass” faits par Marigaux conservent très bien leurs caractéristiques sonores vis-à-vis du bois. Les instruments entièrement en altuglass produisent un timbre très légèrement plus cristallin, mais honnêtement, il faut chercher pour le trouver. À l’inverse, le matériel améliore le centrage de la note et ajoute à la résonnance de l’instrument. Marigaux produit aussi des instruments avec le corps du haut synthétique (altunoir) avec tous les avantages du bois et matériel synthétique.
I have heard fears voiced that Yamaha's plastic bore insert might compromise the sound. The Yamaha's I have tried with plastic inserts do not show any sign of poor sound. It must be noted that Laubin also does this, and with their prestige, you can be certain they protect their legendary sound quality! J’ai entendu des craintes que les doublures de plastique dans le corps du haut des hautbois Yamaha peuvent compromettre le timbre. Les Yamahas que j’ai essayés avec doublure synthétiques ne montrent aucun signe de lacunes en timbre. Notons que Laubin fait la même chose, et considérant leur prestige, on peut s’assurer d’exellente conservation du timbre!
Also, Christoph hartmann's Dupin Imperial (the one he brought to IDRS 2013) had both top and middle joints made of synthetic compound with only the bell made of grenadilla. Don't be fooled by the You-Tubes of Hartmann (many are pirated and the recording is evidently low-quality on most) but instead listen to his actual CD’s or live performances: full-bodied, super-versatile and living sound from a mostly synthetic instrument! Dupin's reputation for paranoid attention to quality means they took great care before deciding to do this and confirms both the validity of synthetic material for the oboe and the effect of the bell's material on the final tone colour of the instrument. The work by Thomas Orlowski and Weber & Capps (that I was able to verify at IDRS2013…. blog post to come…) serves as conclusive experiments on the importance of bell shape and materials on tone colour. De plus, le Dupin Impérial de Christophe Hartmann (celui qu’il a apporté à la conférence IDRS 2013) avait le corps du haut et celui du milieu en composé synthétique, n’ayant que le pavillon en bois. Ne vous laissez pas tromper par les You-Tube de Hartmann (plusieurs étant piratés ou évidemment souffrant piètre prise de son) mais écoutez ses CD et performances sur scène : timbre riche, vivant, hyper-polyvalent venant d’un instrument surtout synthétique! Dupin a la réputation d’être presque paranoïaque avec la qualité veut dire qu’ils ont songé longtemps avant de produire un tel instrument et ça confirme autant la validité de matériaux synthétiques et l’effet du matériel du pavillon sur le timbre de l’instrument.Le travail de Thomas Orlowski et Weber & Capps (que j’ai pu vérifier à IDRS 2013… article à venir…) fait lieu d’expérimentations très conclusives sur l’importance du pavillon (forme et matériaux) sur le timbre.
Experimenting with the position of microphones in home recording show convincingly that the sound comes from the resonance of the entire body, not just what comes out of the bore. So in my opinion, for anyone who lives in a crack prone are or who travels, a synthetic top joint or insert is a no-brainer. Jouer avec la position des microphones lors d’enregistrements à domicile montre clairement que le timbre est le résultat du corps entier de l’instrument, pas juste ce qui sort de la perce. Alors, selon moi, pour quelqu’un qui habite une région propice aux fentes ou qui voyage beaucoup, choisir un instrument avec corps du haut synthétique est absolument indiquée.

Wednesday, July 10

Oboist’s Trinity / IDRS 2013 art. 2 / Trinité du hautbois

I'm still working on finding the right vocabulary to describe my impressions on the various instruments I tried at IDRS 2013. Take a look at really interesting threads on the Oboe BBoard and you'll quickly see how words, when they can be found to describe musical sound, really don't convey the same idea from one person to another! In the mean time, another word on fitting the instrument to the person. Je cherche toujours le vocabulaire pour décrire mes impressions concernant les instruments que j'ai essayés à la conférence IDRS 2013. Jettez un coup d'oeil sur les fils de discussion du Oboe BBoard pour voir que les mots, quand on peut les trouver pour décrire le timbre sonore, ne véhiculent vraiment pas la même idée de personne en personne! Entretemps, un autre mot à propos d'appareiller l'instrument à la personne.
I have been told by a few professionals and oboe makers that my reeds are not stable; this would account for my complaints about tuning. Because of their very high profile, I want to accept their criticism and believe that my reeds need improving.

Problem is, the very same reeds, in the very same geography and weather conditions play perfectly in tune and with full stability in Dupin, Marigaux, Rigoutat, Mönnig/Frank, Fossati, Püchner and Bulgheroni (I think Covey and Howarth too). So a person begins to wonder where criticizing bad reeds should end and criticizing bad instruments might begin.

Je me suis fait dire par quelques professionnels et fabricants que mes anches ne sont pas stables; ce qui expliquerait mes plaintes concernant la justesse. Étant donné le très haut calibre de ces critiques, je veux volontiers accepter leur propos et croire que mes anches profiteraient d'amélioration.

Petit problême: les mêmes anches, dans la même géographie et conditions de météo jouent parfaitement juste et avec pleine stabilité dans un Dupin, Marigaux, Rigoutat, Mönnig/Frank, Fossati, Püchner et Bulgheroni (je crois Covey et Howarth aussi). Alors on se demande à quel point la faute de l'anche cesse et celle de l'instrument commence.
I asked two highly respected professionals, David Walter and Peter Cooper, what they thought about choosing an oboe with respect to the reed or how embouchure and breath should be altered for the instrument. The fact that they both play Marigaux is coincidental, but it is striking that one is “full-European” and the other is “full-American” in style, technique and reeds, yet they both answered the same thing: the instrument, the reed and the musician (person) form a threefold partnership and the trick is to find the combination that works best.

So it’s really not enough to say: “reeds work better this way” or “this instrument is better than that one”… it’s really a matter of experimenting and growing with the reed styles, the instruments and the breathing techniques to find what works best for each person.

Peter Cooper

David Walter
J’ai demandé à deux professionnels grandement respectés, David Walter et Peter Cooper, ce qu’ils pensent à propos de choisir un instrument vis-à-vis l’anche ou comment l’embouchure et le souffle doit être altéré pour un instrument choisi. Le fait que ces deux artistes jouent Marigaux est une coïncidence, mais ce qui frappe est que Walter est complètement européan alors que Cooper est complètement américain en termes de style, technique et anches; pourtant, les deux ont répondu la même chose : l’instrument, l’anche et la personne forment un partenariat et l’astuce est de trouver la combinaison qui va le mieux.

Alors, il n’est pas question de “faire les anches comme ceci” ou “cet instrument est mieux qu’un autre” … c’est vraiment une question d’expérimenter et dénicher ce qui va le mieux à chaque individu.
Playing is believing…
Two funny things really nailed the point that the right instrument/reed setup for one person is not necessarily the right one for another person.
La foi dans le jeu…Deux événements ont solidement fait le point que l'instrument idéal pour une personne ne l'est pas forcément pur une autre.
A Facebook friend of mine brought her ansolutely unique oboe d'amore to the Püchner exhibition to try bocals. One of them produced an F# so flat, it was almost a precise natural: all other notes were fine! Her other friend tried the same instrument+bocal with her own reed: real F#, but tended to sag badly. Then I took the same instrument+bocal (2 of my reeds): PERFECT TUNING over entire range, crystal clear and solid F#!!!

Now, these 2 friends are professionals that play every day in a variety of orchestras and do play d’amores every so often. My only public performances are the home-made You-Tubes I produce every few months, so the problem was not their reeds and certainly NOT because I play better than them: their playing can run circles around mine any day of the week! The issue really was matching the bocal to the person.
Une amie Facebook a apporté son htb. d'amour (absolument unique dans le monde) pour acheter un bocal chez Püchner. L'un d'eux produit un Fa# si bas que c'était presqu’un Fa bécarre juste. Une autre amie a pris l'instrument+bocal avec sa propre anche: vrai Fa#, mais instable et bas. J'ai pris le même instrument+bocal (2 de mes anches): justesse parfaite sur toute la tessiture, aucun signe d'instabilité au Fa#!!!

Maintenant, ces 2 amies sont professionnelles qui jouent dans une variété d’orchestres et jouent le htb. d’amour assez souvent pour en valloir la peine. Mes seules performances publiques sont les productions-domiciles You-Tubes que je fais aux quelques mois, alors la question n’est pas leurs anches et certainement PAS que je puisse être meilleur musicien: leur technique peut enterrer la mienne n’importe quand! La question est vraiment d'apparier le bocal avec l’individu.
Then, a conference buddy up'ed and bought a Mönnig Platinum! Buyers' remorse set in when he noticed that from G to C, the notes were really windy. He asked what I though of his new purchase, so I tried it with a few of my reeds: never the slightest hint of muffle or anything, perfectly clear... absolutely lovely instrument. To complete the evaluation, I handed him my Lorée to see how he fared with it... NOW I STILL have to fight with my Lorée for sound quality and stability... he took it and sounded as great as Sébastien Giot!!!! ... HEY, I offered him a straight exchange: my 28 year old Lorée for his brand-new Gebr. Mön. Platinum.... somehow, he did not accept... go figure... Ensuite, un copain-conférencier a pris la plonge d'acheter un Mönnig Platinum! Le remords du consommateur s'installe avec des notes bruyantes (venteuses) entre le Sol et le Do. Il m'a demandé de lui donner mon avis sur son achat, alors je l'ai essayé avec plusieurs de mes anches : jamais aucun signe de vent, parfaitement clair! Pour terminer l'évaluation, je lui ai passé mon Lorée pour voir la comparaison.. MAINTENANT, je dois toujours me battre contre mon Lorée pour la justesse et le beau timbre: ce copain le prit et sonna aussi bien que Sébastien Giot!!!! Je lui ai offert un échange direct: mon Lorée de 28 ans pour son Gebr. Mön. Platinum flambant neuf.... cherche à comprendre, il ne voulut pas.....

Sunday, July 7

How to choose? / IDRS 2013 art. 1 / Comment choisir?

I still want to digest my impressions from having tried all the oboe brands at the IDRS 2013 conference, but the experience really begs the question "How does a person choose?"… especially when there are so many excellent instruments to choose from! IMG_00000196
Alain deGourdon of Lorée
Je veux prendre le temps de digérer mes impressions d'avoir essayé toutes les marques de hautbois à la conférence IDRS 2013, mais l'expérience mène à la question : "Comment choisit-on?"… surtout quand il y a tellement d'excellents instruments à choisir!
Asking some high profile professionals on Facebook to compare makers or models, I found it frustrating when they answered "it's a matter of individual preference"..... shouldn't one be clearly better than another? Well, I don't know about 3 years ago, but in 2013, most makers produce truly remarkable instruments. They all said this was partly the result of meeting and talking with professionals over the years at the IDRS conferences and other venues: BRAVO to IDRS for this!

Renaud Patalowski and Jean-Marc Jourquin from Marigaux
J'ai trouvé frustrant de demander, sur Facebook, aux professionnels de renommée de comparer les marques et modèles parce que leur réponse était le plus souvent : "C'est une question de goût personnel".... ne devrait-il pas y avoir une distinction nette? Et bien, je ne sais pas comment c'était il y a 3 ans, mais en 2013, la plupart des fabricants produisent des instruments vraiment remarquables. Ils ont tous dit que c'est partiellement le résultat de rencontrer des professionnels au fil des ans à la conférence IDRS et autres avenues : BRAVO à IDRS pour ceci!
Friendly Competition
The makers I spoke to and corresponded with believe success should come from integrity, not commercial manipulation. This struck in me a chord of disbelief due to our capitalistic-consumerist age, but the more I talk with them, the more I'm inclined to believe them. They all said they work with professionals to build an instrument that helps musicians reach our goals. Naturally, different makers concentrate on different aspects and different musicians have different goals, which means different people will prefer different makers: they seemed completely at peace with this, not wishing anyone to buy theirs half-heartedly.... though, naturally, their business interests and pride are hoping we get theirs!
Jürgen Stork, oboe-guy at Püchner

Philippe Rigoutat
Compétition amicale
Les fabricants à qui j'ai parlé et correspondu croient que la réussite doit venir de l'intégrité, pas par manigances commerciales. Ceci m'a laissé incrédule dans notre génération capitaliste et consommatrice, mais le plus je leur parle, le plus j'ai tendance à les croire. Ils affirment tous travailler avec des professionnels pour développer des instruments qui aident aux musiciens à atteindre nos objectifs. Bien sûr, chaque fabricant se concentre sur des aspects choisis, ce qui implique que les buts différents de chaque musicien graviteront vers différentes marques: ils semblent à l’aise avec ceci, ne voulant pas qu’on choisisse le leur à reculons.... quqoique, bien sûr, c’est flatteur et plus profitable qu'on choisisse le leur!

Perfect fit:
Choosing an oboe might very well be like choosing running shoes. My first few years in the Canadian Army Reserves, as a musician, I still had to do military training which included a lot of physical fitness. We did a lot of running and I would use the running shoes provided by the Army, but the other members with more experience kept telling me to buy expensive shoes from a sports store. A few years later, I did that and POOF: no more tight muscles and both speed and endurance just sky-rocketed! But you can select from many brands, some are great for you while actually damaging to someone else's ankles. I now think the same goes for oboe: if I dislike one maker, it might be a God-send for someone else.

Frank Meyer, businessman for Ludwig Frank and Gebrüder Mönnig

Bulgheroni, father and son

Taillé sur mesure:
Choisir un hautbois peut bien être comme choisir des chaussures pour la course. Mes quelques années comme musicien dans la Réserve Militaire du Canada comptaient l’entraînement militaire, incluant beaucoup de course. J'utilisais les espadrilles fournies par le militaire, mais les autres membres avec plus d'expérience me disaient d'en acheter des dispendieux dans un magasin sportif. Quelques années plus tard, je l'ai fait et POUF: plus de crampes aux mollets et un accroissement soudain de vitesse et d’endurance! Mais on peut choisir parmi un nombre de marques et tandis qu'une marque peut être formidable pour soi, elle peut carrément causer des blessures chez quelqu'un d'autre. Je crois que c'est pareil pour le hautbois: si je critique un fabricant, le même est peut-être miraculeux pour quelqu'un d'autre.

Stopping at Innoledy's booth on the last day, Tong Cui applied his inescapable logic in order to help me decide on a favourite. His killer questions were:

1. "No holds barred, which is the one you would buy if you had a million dollars but could only buy one?"

The answer to this was the Dupin Imperial.... but I must confess the 'exotic/unobtainable' aspect of that instrument holds some kind of sex-appeal for me!

2. "If you HAD to buy an instrument RIGHT NOW because you have to perform tonight, which would you want to take home?"

I surprized myself to answer was Fossati because I found it the perfect mid-point between what I like from Marigaux and Rigoutat.... but here too, I have to confess that my answer came too quickly, because at this point, the characteristic sounds of Marigaux and Mönnig Platinum (or L. Frank) still have tremendous appeal to me while the absolute freedom of Rigoutat and the sheer power of Püchner (with the Bulgheroni at mid-point) are terribly attractive!

So honestly, right now, I cannot choose! I will enumerate my impressions in detail of these in one or two posts.

Ton Cui of Innoledy

Christoph Hartmann,
Christophe Dupin, Rolland Dupin

Pascal Emery (Fossati)

Visitant l'étalage d'Innoledy le dernier jour, Tong Cui a appliqué sa logique inéluctable pour m'aider à choisir un favori. Ses questions-pièges étaient :

1. "Sans aucune restreinte, quel instrument achèterais-tu si t'avais un million de dollars mais ne pouvait acheter qu'un seul?"

La réponse est le Dupin Impérial, mais j'avoue que son aspect 'exotique/intouchable' ajoute à son attrait!

2. "Si tu DEVAIS acheter un instrument IMMÉDIATEMENT pour un concert ce soir, quel apporterais-tu à la maison?"

Je me suis surpris à répondre Fossati parce que je le considère à mi-chemin entre ce que j'aime de Marigaux et Rigoutat... mais ici aussi, je dois avouer que j'ai répondu trop vite, parce qu'à ce point, les timbres caractéristiques de Marigaux et Mönnig Platinum (ou L.Frank) me tiennent toujours captif tandis que la liberté absolue de Rigoutat et la pure puissance de Püchner (avec Bulgheroni à mi-chemin) restent irrésistibles!

Donc maintenant, en toute honnêteté, je ne peux pas choisir! Je ferai l'énumération de mes impressions de ces essais dans un ou deux articles.