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How many notes does bassoon play per hour? Boss wants to know

June 7, 2018 by norman lebrecht

27 comments.


The management of Russia’s New Opera theatre has sent a questionnaire to orchestra section leaders, asking for time and motion details for each individual player. The criteria are reportedly set by the Russian Ministry of Culture.

Results for bassoon are:

– The weight of the instrument is approximately 5 kg, depending on model.

– The number of notes played per hour is 6,384 (really?).

– Number of breaths per hour: 570.

Read on here.


Comments (27)

  1. Adrienne says:

    I feel sorry for the hapless mandolin player in Mahler 7 then. I assume his cow bell rattler in the 6th has other things to do.

    1. Cubs Fan says:

      There are worse parts: the tuba in the New World.

    2. Ruben Greenberg says:

      For the cowbell, orchestras have to go through the long process of auditioning cows.

      1. Adrienne says:

        Are VPO auditions still confined to bulls?

      2. Max Grimm says:

        At least in Zürich it’s become more open, with cows, bulls and humans being permitted t audition…
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8RdzgB2Mug

        1. Max Grimm says:

          permitted *to* audition

        2. Barry Guerrero says:

          That’s hysterical! Bessie makes her entrance just before the 7 minute mark.

          Thanks for posting this.

          1. Barry Guerrero says:

            Here’s what happens when the hammer player in Mahler 6 gets too bored or goes nuts:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTloV4Bn10I

          2. Barry Guerrero says:

            Here’s another good one (hammer stroke). This was not intentional:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oZu8fFpkU4

    3. PaulD says:

      I remember a pre-concert chat before a Mahler 7th performance during the Mehta-era in Los Angeles. The mandolin player brought in for the performance noted what a great gig it was – play a few bars and get scale for the evening.

      1. Barry Guerrero says:

        The mandolin player on the Tilson-Thomas/San Francisco recording of M7 got to on tour with them to N.Y. and Europe! He’s an excellent lute player, by the way.

  2. Mike says:

    I can’t read russian but did they include how many bars you need to count. This is more stressful than playing.

    1. Meal says:

      Uhh, depends on. A big solo might be very stressful, too. But your and Adrienne’s post bring back to mind a performance of Mahler 6 striking the hammer at a wrong time point (obviously miscounting). This _is_ stress (for all, poor boy).

  3. Will Duffay says:

    Isn’t there a single triangle ting in a Bruckner symphony? Imagine having to sit through a whole Bruckner symphony…

    1. Chris Clift says:

      Will,
      Bruckner 8 has (depending on the edition being played) two bars – which occur twice in the slow movement, which feature a triangle tremolo, and a cymbal clash.
      For the inaugural concert given in Stockholm in December 1985, by the newly formed World Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Giulini, a percussionist was flown from La Paz, Bolivia to play the triangle part.

      1. Barry Guerrero says:

        Here’s what happens when the cymbal player in Bruckner 7 gets too bored.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9s2JSQ-pWo

        1. Barry Guerrero says:

          True story: I once saw the cymbal player completely miss his one and only cymbal crash in Bruckner 7. The performance was S.F. Symphony with Kurt Masur.

          1. bratschegirl says:

            I wonder if that’s the source of the Far Side cartoon where the cymbal player is standing there thinking to himself “This time I won’t screw up! I won’t! I won’t…” except he’s only holding one crash cymbal. Caption: Roger screws up.

  4. Jon Eiche says:

    Truth is stranger than humor. This is reminiscent of the old joke about the minor bureaucrat sent to inspect the Tsar’s orchestra. The conductor was pointing out the different sections: “Here are the first violins, there are the second violins,…” “Second violins, in the imperial orchestra?” snapped the man. “All must be first!”

    1. John Borstlap says:

      This sounds a bit like the story of the army lieutenant who wanted to have all the trombonists in the military band move their arms in the same way.

  5. mr oakmountain says:

    This is such an old joke (The book keeper’s letter to the Ministry of Culture after attending, but not understanding, a concert) that I wonder if this is true. Alas, my Russian is not up to the task of evaluating the source …

  6. Barry Guerrero says:

    I wonder how bassoons (bassoonists) it takes to . . .

    Let’s start a 50 reply string on that beginning.

    1. Barry Guerrero says:

      Brilliant, I left out the word “many”.

      How many bassoons does it take to blow out a birthday candle?

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Answer: ten. Nine first to make the other people leave the room by playing an arrangement of ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ and then help the tenth player blowing-out the candle through the instrument by lifting him/her up in horizontal position.

  7. John Borstlap says:

    I always found it unbecoming for women to play the bassoon. And it’s dangerous. My aunt Cathy played it as a hobby and got under a bus when the driver was distracted by her big case.

    Sally

    1. Chris Clift says:

      I knew a professional lady bassoonist in Scotland, some years ago, whose non-music ambition was to obtain a licence to drive a public service double decker bus. Whether she did achieve that, I don’t know, but a propos of your story (or is it Sally’s) it would at least have saved her from being UNDER the bus in spite of the size of her case.

  8. Barry Guerrero says:

    I find it unbecoming for anyone to play the bassoon – JUST KIDDING!


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