Instruments | Bassoon | Early Baroque | Classical
The bassoon, constructed in three parts, started being made in the mid-seventeenth century, perhaps in France in imitation of the flute and oboe. Built with three keys by the Denners of Nuremberg, the new instrument allowed greater virtuosity in the player than the one-piece curtal and dulcian, which began to decline in favour of the bassoon at the end of the seventeenth century. The playing position of the hands settled as left up, right down. A four-key instrument was developed in the early eighteenth century. It was to remain standard until the late classical period.
Made of pear or maple wood, the bassoon has a conical bore and is a tight U-shape, so the ‘bell’ or exit of the instrument is adjacent to the crook. This is the equivalent of the staple in an oboe: the reed that goes into the player’s mouth is mounted on it. The sound of the Baroque bassoon was not unlike that of the oboe – similarly buzzing, but deeper. The bassoon was usually relegated to the bass line, supporting other instruments, but a number of more challenging solo pieces appeared for the bassoon at the hands of both Telemann and J. S. Bach; Vivaldi distinguished himself by composing no fewer than 37 concertos for the instrument.
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