Monday, December 17, 2012

Ole Kristian Dahl on

Play with a Pro is a huge and fantastic resource. Clarinetist Adam Simonsen from the Royal Danish Orchestra has collected together what is rapidly becoming an essential library of masterclasses with top pros on many instruments.

I loved the Sergio Azzolini ones because  his passion for the music helped me love the music even more and were delivered with such conviction with a touch of Italian madness. The interview with  Sergio where he describes his path to the bassoon and gives more information on Vivaldi is fantastic too.

And I was looking forward to the new bassoon videos from Ole Kristian Dahl as I had heard such good things about him as a teacher from players who had been out to Mannheim to have lessons.  I have spent a few hours studying these now.

The attention to detail is astounding! These are not for the faint hearted - i.e. they are pitched at advanced students and players. He is really giving us his “hat” on how to prepare for auditions to the highest level possible. The musical ideas are great and the “bassoon fundamentals” are startling and enlightening. Here is a player who has worked and worked to hone his craft and is willing to share that journey so we can all get something out of it.  It is obvious from the videos why he has become such an important teacher as well as player. 

Once again the free clips on Youtube and Facebook (and the free gifts on the site) are tasters and though much more representative of the overall videos  than the Azzolini clip, still leave you with questions rather than giving you all the answers. Dip in and see for yourself.

Having just finished watching the full set all in sequence and then some again with my instrument out (and of course he plays at 442 which is interesting for English players!) I can see these videos are for use again and again rather than “oh that’s nice - I wish I could do that”.

Though they can never be a total substitute for a one on one lesson you could use these to prepare and improve on endless details to work out your own plan of attack on these excerpts. And as for the bassoon basics there are some things I run into again and again with pupils, both beginner and advanced, that were described in a codified and more Scientific way than I have come across before. 

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas,

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Azzolini comes to

When Adam Simonsen (creator of told me that he was going to be filming Azzolini talking about Vivaldi I was more than excited. For me Sergio Azzolini’s Vivaldi recordings both on the modern bassoon and baroque bassoon have taken this music to a whole new level. It was no longer about “wow, what a lovely bassoon sound and great technique” (and there are many fine players with great recordings of Vivaldi).It became “wow this is some of the most amazingly exciting music I have heard!”. The freedom and crazy Italian expressiveness is infectious. So a chance to see him in action is something I have been waiting for since Adam told me this in 2011.

I have only spoken to a few people who have studied with Azzolini and so the chance to see him teaching for myself was a long time coming. Yesterday the masterclass went live on Play with a Pro and I didn’t drop a heart beat downloading this. I had intended to do lots of other things before the end of the day and I thought I would put the video on and make some reeds. Instead I was transfixed for over an hour and a half and didn’t move from my chair. His care, love of the music, insistence, knowledge and musicality is something I just have not seen to this degree in the world of bassoon playing that I have encoutered . As his style is so unique I was interested to see if there would be some Azzolini clones coming off the line.

The masterclass is not about this at ALL. He takes all the players in the room and works on the string parts of the concerto with them playing the bass line, viola, violin 1 and violin 2 parts before even getting to the solo part. There are musical gems in this part of the masterclass before a note of the solo part has been mentioned. And some blowing and reed advice comes up only as a consequence of the music making and not as an end in itself which is refreshing for someone like me who makes dozens of reeds for others each month and can end up fiddling and not practising or music making if I am not careful. And when one of the pupils has a reed that isn’t up to it Sergio just gives him his own reed and continues playing on the pupil’s reed (still sounding amazing!).

Some of the subjects covered are: Tempi - choosing the right one and why; length of notes, especially in basso continuo and why; when to breathe and phrasing of the music in relation to harmony and function of the notes; having a reed that will enable pianissimo attack without great effort but that has enough “wood” on the back to support the sound; tuning of notes in relation to the chord and the difference between A sharp and Bb and why; colour in sound and discussion of vibrato and rubato; fingerings for very high notes for tuning (a nice flatter top C sharp for a start!); spending the time on the music so that a performance can emerge that is truly expressive. And more!

By the end of the masterclass I was inspired to play for an hour and see if I could get anywhere the flexibility and intensity of this playing. Mmmm. Work to be done. But a real pleasure to watch! A truly generous hearted individual who cares intensely for the music and to inspire others. I am grateful to Adam Simonsen for creating such a well produced presentation and to Sergio for being a stellar individual!