The oboe's close relative is the bassoon, the tall chimney-like instrument lurking in the orchestra. Most non-musicians, upon being shown a picture of a bassoon, will identify it as the oboe, the sound of which word reminds them of the tone of the bassoon. This is an understandable mistake, based of course, in ignorance. If you were to correct these good but mis-informed people, most bassoonists will be deeply in your debt.
The heyday of the bassoon is long gone. Vivaldi wrote fifty concerti for it, Mozart four and Weber one. Yet in that period the expressive powers of the orchestral bassoon increased enormously. The bassoon is a creature of half-moods. In its native register one would use the cello for lushness of tone. With the bassoon one gets dignity. For power the trombone is unrivalled. The bassoon offers earnestness. The French Horn gives grandeur, while the bassoon offers quirkiness. The bass clarinet, snarling, suggest evil, but the bassoon can only manage cantankerousness.
You will hear the bassoon as an unrivalled spare-parts instrument, colouring a cello solo, offering a woody octave sound to the clarinets, being, for all practical purposes, a fifth horn here, and a third trombone there. In chamber groups too, the bassoon is popular and useful. The bassoonist is never short of colleagues, all of whom want that warm, solid bass to underpin their efforts. The reed is larger and more forgiving than the oboe, and the amount of back pressure is quite a satisfying one.
Expense may be a problem, as most school bassoons could cost as much as two flutes, two clarinets and an oboe all put together (or, roughly, six flutes, or five clarinets or three oboes or dozens of recorders). But many schools will go out of their way to encourage and accommodate a budding bassoonist. There is nothing quite like the sound of the bassoon, the "voice of the tree".
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