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.

Recall:
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
Conclusion
 
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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!

15 comments:

Bob Hubbard said...

Good, review, Robin. So sorry to have missed the conference and the chance to talk with you personally.

And especially sorry not to try them all for myself, but with the ravages of age upon me, I don't play any more and won't have that opportunity so I appreciate the thoughtful commentary.

RobinDesHautbois said...

Bob, my friend!
None of us are getting any younger and that's one of the reasons I'm obsessing with the oboe myself! But I find all this internet interaction and meeting the instrument makers and performers keeps my spirits high: and that does wonders for everything else in life!

Josh Johnson said...

What an excellent post, Robin!! First of all, thank you for mentioning me, I'm honored! Secondly, I'm glad you now understand why I found it so hard to be critical of any particular instrument, when they are all for the most part just so fantastic. You did a marvelous job of explaining the qualities of each individual maker. I'm envious of your experience at IDRS, and hopefully next year in New York, we can try these all together and do a joint blog post! :)

RobinDesHautbois said...

Josh: thanks a million!
Looking forward to NYC - God willing, we'll get together indeed!

Mrs. Webfoot said...

Fun post, Robin. Great analysis. I hope that someday soon you will be able to get the oboe of your dreams. Take care.

RobinDesHautbois said...

Thank you Mrs Webfoot!
I firmly believe music is a language God built that we can understand and that the oboe is the voice of my soul. If the Eternal finds reason for me to get a new one that fits me better, then it will happen no matter what!

Anne Krabill said...

And don't forget, guys, who coined the term "Ice Princess"!! That would be me.

RobinDesHautbois said...

Absolutely Anne. Wasn't sure if you'd like your name in public view! ;-)
I'll mention you when talking about the d'amore!

Johannes said...

What an interesting article! Would be a confusing experience to try all those instruments at once, I reckon - Well done!
I small note on the Dupin - they do crack, at least here in Sweden with the dry and cold winters. I've actually only come across a few that hasn't cracked! However, they usually crack between the trills, and since the Dupin trill tone holes are bushed that's really not an issue. But, they do crack. Dupin wants to send compisite top joints this way nowadays, because of this.

RobinDesHautbois said...

Thank you so much Johannes!
Thanks for the note on cracks. Ludwig Frank also has a reputation for no cracks... Do they crack in Scandinavia? I Think Sweden and Canada might be especially difficult for cracks. Christoph Hartmann has an Imperial made of synthetic compound with only the bell made of wood: the sound is just beautiful: nevermind the You-Tube videos.

Johannes said...

Well, the LF I
Well, the LF I had cracked a few times, but in "good" places that were easy enough to repair. The oboe actually developed to the better after the cracks! A colleague in Stockholm had his LF top joint crack through pretty much every tone hole, had it repaired and now it plays like a dream! I think any oboe made out of wood can crack, regardless of make. Oboists here don't seem to worry about it really, most of the time it's so easy to fix. (Having said that, I did get myself an oboe with a composite top joint to help me sleep better at night - it's just so dry here in the winters, and it's a long drive to the closest instrument maker if I need help..)

RobinDesHautbois said...

Thanks for the great insight!

You're right about not worrying too much about cracks, my Lorée is cracks above the F# hole and the bell Bb hole: doesn't matter because of the metal cylinder under them! I cracks are expertly repaired, then tension in the wood is lessened and the instrument can be fantastic afterward.

Because the bell is so important to the sound, synthetic top joints are really smart.
Thanks again for visiting and leaving comments!

RobinDesHautbois said...

Thanks for the great insight!

You're right about not worrying too much about cracks, my Lorée is cracks above the F# hole and the bell Bb hole: doesn't matter because of the metal cylinder under them! I cracks are expertly repaired, then tension in the wood is lessened and the instrument can be fantastic afterward.

Because the bell is so important to the sound, synthetic top joints are really smart.
Thanks again for visiting and leaving comments!

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