Pinchgut's New Contrabassoon - FAQ with Simon Rickard

Who built this instrument?
The contrabassoon was made by the Guntram Wolf workshop in Kronach, Germany, in conjunction with Stefan Pantzier. More info at http://www.guntramwolf.de.

Is this instrument modeled on any particular historical instrument?
Yes. It is modelled on an original by Andreas Eichentopf, dated 1714.

Where is the original instrument?
The original contrabassoon is now in the Museum für Musikinstrumente der Universität Leipzig.

What is the instrument made of?
The contra is made from maple, stained to the darker colour.

How long is in the instrument?
It is 2.7 metres.

How much does it weigh?
It weighs 5.7kg. By contrast, a modern contraforte from the same maker's workshop weighs 10kg.

 

Does it come apart into pieces?
Yes. The original has four pieces (left in the pic), but the Wolf workshop has cleverly broken it down further to make it more manageable (right in the pic). 

 

How many keys does it have?
It has five brass keys - Bb, D, Eb, F, G#.

How long is that crook?
The crook is 72cm long.

Can it be used for other music?
We had this instrument made to play in both A=415 (‘Baroque’ pitch) and A=430 (‘Classical’ era pitch) so that we would be able to use it in a number of different contexts.

How does it play in both A=415 and A=430?
The instrument comes with two different crooks – one for each pitch. And the reeds and fingering are slightly different between the two.

How much of an angle are the tone holes on so that they can be both reached by the fingers yet pierce the bore in the acoustically correct position?
Well spotted - the holes are drilled at an extremely acute angle, much more so than an ordinary bassoon. As such, the contra has an extended wing on the tenor joint, which extends all the way down to meet the butt section. These obliquely drilled finger holes, called 'chimneys', are a feature of all bassoons, and contribute to the bassoon's characteristic sound. 

Who designed and made the nifty stand?
The stand is very elegantly designed and constructed by the Guntram Wolf workshop in conjunction with Stefan Pantzier.

What sized reed does this contra use?
Here’s a pic of the reed, with a normal baroque bassoon reed next to it for comparison. 

What repertoire was written for this instrument?
Some of the most famous pieces of the 18th century specifically call for a contrabassoon - Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749) and l’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1740), JS Bach’s St John Passion (1724) and Haydn’s Creation (1798). The baroque contrabassoon might have been used to double the bass line more frequently than these specific cases suggest, in the way that the double bass is used to double the bass line of the string ensemble.

Is it hard to blow?
It’s not difficult to blow but it does take a lot of air. It makes the player’s whole body vibrate when playing it!