The word FAGOT (name for the BASSOON in the most of Europe) is derived from the Italian word "fagotto" and means "bundle of trees". The forerunner of the bassoon is considered to be the dulcian, which was played around 1500. It had a very soft sound, hence its name. In Latin dulcis means - gentle, pleasant. Dulcians were divided by registers: there were both soprano and the most commonly used bass dulcian. It was mainly used to accompany church choir music. Dulcian was made of one whole piece of wood, in which 2 connected holes were carved. One of the best-known compositions written for Dulcian is the Sopra la Monica by the German composer Philip Friedrich Bedecker, written around 1630.
Around 1660, news of the bassoon of the German system appeared in Nuremberg and Amsterdam. Unlike dulcyan, it consists of four separate parts: the left wing, the right wing, the boot and the bell. The bassoon also includes S-bocal and a reed. The total length of the bassoon air column is 2.5 meters.
Around 1678, the French bassoon "basson" appeared in France, which continues its evolution today and can be found in orchestras in France, Belgium and South America. It has a quieter timbre and the notes of the upper register are technically easier to play. Nowadays, bassoons of both systems are used in orchestral practice, but the bassoon of the German system is much more popular.
Although in the beginning the bassoon was made by masters who specialized in making various instruments, in the early 19th century there were already a number of masters who worked directly as bassoon makers. The bassoon of the German system is made of maple wood, but the French bassoon "basson" - of palisander or rose wood. Different material gives a different timbre. Over time, the bassoon is technically improved and new solutions appear to cover tone holes..
In parallel with scientific and technical developments, the bassoon of the German system is gradually strengthening it's positions in the world. It is dominated by its bright and supersonic timbre.
Edgar Degas "Orchestra of the Opera "
(L'Orchestre de l'Opéra; 1868)
You need a bassoon reed to play the bassoon. It consists of two reed boards joined in parallel. Most bassoonists make their own reeds, because they wear out in a few weeks, and you have to take care of the next ones in time. Making reeds is a very regular and also patient activity. The production time for one reed usually takes about three weeks, as this process consists of several operations that require a patience. It is related with the drying of reed wood.
Various tools are used in the process of making bassoon reeds. These are different types of planers, very sharp knives, pliers, wire, drills, sandpaper, wood density and thickness gauge, various seams. The bassoon reeds are made of different varieties of reed cane that grow in warm countries. The best-known distributors of bassoon cane wood are Danzi, Glotin, Rieger, Medir. The sound of the reed depends on the characteristics of the reed cane variety, such as the density and resilience of the cane. The sound is also greatly influenced by the shape of the reed - how straight or rounded the edges are, how wide or narrow the particular part of the reed is and how thin the particular part of the tile is.
The bassoon's youngest brother is the FAGOTINO. It is perfect for teaching children to play the bassoon in music schools, because the bassoon itself is relatively heavy and difficult for children to hold. Also, the fingers must be long enough to be able to press all the tone holes of the bassoon. Fagotinos are gradually being introduced in music schools.
The fagotino is available in 3 tunes: in C, F, G. It is played with the reeds of a regular bassoon and has almost identical fingerings with a regular bassoon.
The most powerful and lowest voice of the bassoon family belongs to the contrabassoon. It sounds exactly an octave below the bassoon and has 4 folds. Its total length is about six meters. The contrabassoon is played while sitting. The reeds are wider and larger. Due to its hollow and specific timbre, the contrabassoon is often used to depict larger animals or reptiles, such as a bear or python, in programmatic compositions..
In the end of the 18th century and in the beginning of the 19th century the contrabassoon was still made without folds and looked different than in nowadays. Already at that time it was used to depict some natural phenomena or beasts, such as in Joseph Haydn's oratorio "The Creation".
The bassoonist's position in the symphony orchestra is in the middle of the orchestra between the clarinets and metal wind instruments. The bassoons in the orchestra are often placed directly in front of the timpani. Because of this location, bassoonists often have to use special sound barriers to protect their hearing. The symphony orchestra often uses three bassoons, where the third is a double bassoon, but there are also four and five bassoons, for example, in the works of G. Mahler and H. Berlioz.
During the Baroque period, the bassoon was a distinct instrument of the bass group and most often the bassoon part did not differ from the cello and double bass parts, but starting with the works of Viennese classics, the bassoon acquires the role of a solo instrument in an orchestra. Solo phrases for bassoon appear more and more often in compositions, very often together with flute or clarinet.
Due to the timbre color of the bassoon, composers have dedicated various roles to it. It is a Grandfather in S.Prokofiev's symphonic tale Peter and the Wolf, a romantic narrator of the Prince's tale in N.Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic suite Sheherezade, a gloomy foreborder in the introduction of P. Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6.
In the middle and end of the 20th century the bassoon often played the role of a comic and awkward character, but in the 21st century, therefore, its development, timbre development and high technical level of performing artists often lead to romantic roles and virtuoso compositions.