Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Gwydion Brooke farewell

choosing a bassoon

In 1979 when Gwydion Brooke has his Adler bassoon stolen a chapter of british bassoon playing ended.
and today there was news of his death on BBC3. Obituary in "the Independent"

I went to him once for a master lesson, which took place at a small BBC studio in Maida Vale after a rehearsal.
a good example of a false memory - it was William Waterhouse
who checked on my breathing and that I tightened the whole of my abdomen down to my groin when playing. I was embarrassed about being touched there - but it was a good and correct point.

William's verdict on my playing was good too
"you are good enough to play in a provincial orchestra, but you don't play well enough in tune for London."

Gwydion Brooke's Adler was not patched, so much as fine tuned and adjusted in a unique way.
AS a bassoon player in the fifties - this was before the Fox and Puchner breakthroughs in design - and we all played one particuler bassoon compensating as best we could for its idiosyncracies.

In fifties London there were three schools of bassoon playing, the last of the French instruments. the first wave of German with a mixture of Adler (led by Archie Camden) and Heckel players


im Bau hochwertigster Holzblasinstrumente möchten wir zum Anlaß nehmen, allen Freunden, treuen Kunden und interessierten Musikliebhabern mit dieser Webseite eine illustrierte Darstellung des Familienunternehmens HECKEL - von seiner Gründung bis zum heutigen Tage - zu geben front page

over 160 years of family tradition - Johann Adam Heckel invented the german bassoon in the age of mechanisation of wind instruments - as against the french bassoon which continued to evolve from the Mozart or baroque instrument

Die Wilhelm Heckel GmbH, gegründet 1831 in Wiesbaden, gehört ohne Zweifel zu den ältesten Werkstätten des Holzblasinstrumentenbaus. Ihr Gründer Johann Adam Heckel beaufsichtigte zu damaliger Zeit die Musikinstrumentenproduktion der Firma Schott in Mainz. Er machte dort die Bekanntschaft mit dem Hofmusiker am herzoglich-nassauischen Hof in Biebrich, Karl Almenräder, mit dem er 1831 die Firma ALMENRÄDER und HECKEL ins Leben rief

Im Jahre 1845 wurde Johann Adam Heckel zum herzoglich-nassauischen Hofinstumentenmacher ernannt. Nach seinem Tod 1887 führte sein Sohn Wilhelm Hermann Heckel das Unternehmen unter dem Namen WILHELM HECKEL BIEBRICH fort.

Luckily the factory did not get bombed in WWII.

When I collected mine from the factory in about 1959, I met Edith Reiter nee Heckel who was the first woman ever to serve an apprenticeship as a bassoon maker, and a daughter of the previous owner.

my own bassoons

First, in January or February 1966,
came a no-name german bought second hand from my predessor Dominic Weir, when I was a beginner in the Royal Engineers Staff Band Aldershot
In effect the British Army paid for me to learn to play the basssoon, on condition I purchased my own instrument, and that I played the tenot trombone as a parade instrument.
In 1958 I replaced the trombone with an ebonite Boosey and Hawkes boehm system clarinet purchased second hand in Bill Lewington's first upstairs shop in Soho (I remember the interesting ladies you met on the stairs). On advice I had the standard orchestral lay put on the Selmer mouthpiece by the other Howarths (not T W Howarth the oboe builders).

Then I had the old bassoon keywork modernised and rollers added. The instrument maker (in Ealing) had an old ophecleide in his dustbin which I rescued and many years later sold at Sotheby for a goodly price.
While this was being done I played on the band's old Boosey with the french system keywork.

My first basssoon teacher was Archie Camden, who taught me privately in his study at The Priory Totteridge
When he played his Adler to me I was so impressed by the rippling motion of his fingers - which hugged the keys - and became the model for myself and all my students.

What I call intelligent laziness - less movement is more speed.
Thirdly a Schrieber with a Heckel crook
When I went to the Royal Military School of Musinc (1958 - 1959) while I was waiting for my
fourth bassoon
the Heckel, which I ordered under the guidance of Frank Rendell - the teacher at Kneller Hall and the Guildhall School of Music - and Eton too.

I studied with Frank for six and a half years at Kneller Hall 1958- 1959 and 1964 and the Guildhall School of Music from1959 to 1964 and I got the silver medal for the second highest marks in my LGSM teachers examination.
My ARCM was a bassoon perfomers exam and my LRAM is in military band conducting
(I played bassoon and simple melodies on flute, obeoe , clarinet and alto saxophone).

When I stopped playing I gave my Heckel to Bill Lewington to sell - I forgot to tell him it had solid silver keys so it only sold for about £1800.
I felt it was too good an instrument to keep under my bed - it should be out and in use.

The maple was particularly well chosen and dense from a slow growing tree off a mountain slope, and ebonite lined for the butt and wing joints. I always was a wet player (lots of saliva) so I had the silver ante spit tubes put in the finger holes.

A no expense spared fagot which cost as much as a decent car.

Handmade by Heckel and worth every penny - because it meant my only limitation was myself - and to do enough practice.

Heaven was to play in an all Heckel bassoon section and we listened to each other and made things fit.

When I arrived on the Faeroes a bassonist was needed for the local amateur orchestra so
after playing on a borrowed instrument,
my sixth and last bassoon
I got a top of the range Schrieber from the local music shop.

That one was stolen, with the bakelite clarinet, at the International School, Gammelkongenvej, Vesterbro Copenhagen when I left them in a locked room overnight,
so I don't play any more either.

Anyway better be remembered as a good player than let it be thought "once he was good but not anymore"
which was said to me about the historian Anthony Baines after he became the museum curator in Oxford.

Gwydion Brooke's Liverpool recording of the Weber bassoon concerto slow movement was played on BBC3 in Gwydion Brooke's memory - but my acute ear heard some uncertainties - today standards are higher and higher - each generation hears the failings of the last.
Even Dennis Brain plays out of tune - but Gwydion Brooke and him were both great musicians singing on their instruments with soul and sentiment.


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