Comments on fingerings, the mind set for the opening, and the misprint. By Terry B. Ewell. Bassoon Digital Professor #94.

Loaded on YouTube and, 31 Oct. 12

<music, bassoon solo in Rite of Spring>   

Let’s talk a little bit about fingerings in this passage. I find that my bassoon, and this is a Heckel  bassoon, responds better on high C [C5] if I put down the D key. The D key is this top key right here. [I do this] instead of normally using the C key. It seeks to be a little better in tune for me, it keeps up the pitch. I also find that the articulation, the tonguing, works a lot better and certainly for the opening with this High C this works best.

My fingering would use that one key there. In terms of the rest of the passage, the fingerings are standard. For high D [D5] I use a half hole. Here instead of all the way open, I find it is better in tune, not as sharp. It gives me the articulation that I need, the response that I need.

The second passage at number 12, for the grace note fingering there I don’t use the full Bb going to C and back. That would be a little clumsy. So instead, I finger a Bb [Bb4] and trill just this one finger here. It would be better in tune if I could trill this finger as well so that they both went together like that.


It is slightly sharper with both fingers moving. You might want to try that. I found though that I just don’t have confidence with trilling both of those fingers together, particularly in the second and third measures where you have fit that shake [grace notes] into eighth notes and the quintuplet. So I just use the left hand finger there.

Let’s talk about practicing and your mind set for this excerpt. I suggest you practice just the first note on many occasions. This is perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the solo. You will come back in the first half or second half—whatever it is—and you will be the start of that portion of the concert. It will be the bassoon. Obviously you want the note to come out. No doubt the orchestra will warm up and during that time you will be playing numerous high Cs. There will be a pause, there will be a silence and then you need to enter.

<music: High C, C5>

So practice that start—each reed will be a little different--, you have to memorize that start [with each reed]. Let that be a part of your practicing routine or certainly when you are building up to perform the Rite of Spring. You are going to want to work on numerous reeds and test the response of each.

<music: High C, C5>

So when I am picturing this and visualizing it for success, I am thinking of the breath as being part of the performance.  The whole timing of that. I am imagining the note. I am feeling the way the start of the note will work. All of that. I am rehearsing that over and over again for success.
This is less of an issue with the start of the second portion. The orchestra is going to be clamoring away, there is a lot of noise; all of a sudden there is a break and then is the bassoon (you are all by yourself there) on the C flat. It says come sopra which means as above. In this place it is not an issue of the start of the note, you should be playing this a little bit louder.

<music: Cb5>

[This is louder] particularly since the audience’s ears would be ringing with the sound of the full orchestra at this point. So do bring that out. But the first note is more difficult, you do need to think about that.
Speaking of the second portion of the solo, at number 12 and onward, there appears to be a misprint in the part.  The “Ab” is slurred to an “F” at the end. I suggest that an “Ab” be the note that you play [at the end.] If you are playing this with an orchestra you should of course talk with the conductor and come to an agreement. If the conductor says, “No, I want the F” then you play the “F.” But you might be able to convince the conductor that this is [last note] is probably missing a ledger line, it is a mistake here, and you should go ahead and play an Ab.
Now if you are in an audition for an orchestra, and they leave the “F” there, then play the “F” as written. There is no need to raise a “stink” in the audition. That is not going to be appropriate for you.

In closing, this is an excerpt that you certainly need to sacrifice a lot of time for. If you are interested in the spiritual implications of sacrifice and you would like to hear more about Stravinsky’s story and the change in his life then follow the next link, go to . Thank you, God bless you. Goodbye.
<music: opening of the Rite of Spring>