Vienna Phil’s French principal, 25, passes her trial

Vienna Phil’s French principal, 25, passes her trial


norman lebrecht

September 13, 2016

We hear from pals in the Vienna Philharmonic that Sophie Dartigalongue, a bassoonist snatched from the Berlin Phil, has passed her year’s trial with flying colours – on a unanimous vote of the players.

She is now officially principal bassoon of the Vienna opera orchestra.

In three years’ time she will become a full member of the Vienna Phil, another small step towards gender balance.

sophie dartin



  • Bviolinistic says:

    Congratulations, Sophie!

  • Wai kit leung says:

    She is also their first-ever female principal wind player. I also believe she is their first female player who passed the trial.

    • Bviolinistic says:

      Your comments are often ambiguous ; what exactly do you mean? Yes, Miss Dartigalongue is the first woman to win a principal wind position. As for the other women in the orchestra, all of them passed their trial period… Had they not, they would not be members.

      • Wai kit leung says:

        Sorry I had a typing mistake. I meant to say I believed she was the first female WIND player who passed her trial, which turned out to be incorrect.

        • Max Grimm says:

          No worries Mr. Leung. Honestly, the thing that I found most surprising is the fact that Norman apparently has “pals in the Vienna Philharmonic”.

          • John Borstlap says:

            We sneak-in together at rehearsels and chat with [redacted] and [redacted] in the intervals, and then climb out of the little window in the bathroom at the north side of the building.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Sophie Dartigalongue is the first female principal wind player.
      The orchestra’s first female wind player period is the flutist Karin Bonelli, who joined the Vienna State Opera Orchestra in 2012 and became a member of the Vienna Philharmonic in 2015.

  • Thomasina says:

    Félicitation! Berlin a raté quelque chose, n’est-ce pas?

    • music_montreal says:

      Well, yes, Berlin could have given her tenure, but it was for a contrabassoon/utility bassoon position. Even with tenure in Berlin I’m sure Mme Dartigalongue would have gone for the principal position in Vienna.

  • Carlos Alfonso says:

    Congratulations Sophie. Did you play with the orchestra last Juny, Monday 27, in Barcelona’s Palau de la Música? it must be you, because I noticed a female player in the basoon section, but my seat was far from the stage. Anyway, it was a great concert and a privilege to hear this legendary orchestra live.

  • Freddynyc says:

    Can someone tell me what distinguishes a bassoonist from the Vienna Philharmonic to let’s say the Chatanooga Symphony – in terms of sound….?

    • Wai Kit Leung says:

      The Viennese school of bassoon playing is (or was) quite distinct. They bassoons are set up differently – the whisper key action is the opposite of the norm, and they use certain fingerings that are not used elsewhere. There are other differences regarding the tone and the use of vibrato. Michael Webra and Stepan Turnovsky have both made solo recordings, in case you want to investigate further.

      • Carlos Alfonso says:

        Is it perhaps the same case as with the French horns? The famous Viennese Horns used by the hornists in the orchestra are very different from the horns used elsewhere, and the the technique in order to play them is somehow different, accordingly. S

        • John Borstlap says:

          A couple of years ago, the website of the VPO offered an interesting essay about the playing style of the orchestra and the nature of the instruments, from which could be concluded that the differences with other orchestras was, as a result of the built of the instruments and the performance tradition, primarily a stronger resonance of the overtones of the harmonic series, which produces a greater clarity than elsewhere.

          Unfortunately, the essay (by Clemens Hellsberg) has been removed since, I don’t know why.

    • matteo says:

      The case of Sophie Dartigalongue is quite interesting.
      Back in 2010 she participated to the AudiMozart! competition in Italy. Of course she won that competition and I was in the audience.
      She was a very young French girl, schooled in France, but one of the first thing I thought when I heard her playing was: “wow, she has a very Viennese style!”. In fact, her small but beautiful sound, her phrasing and articulation reminded me the typical Viennese bassoon style of playing. In fact, not everybody in the audience appreciated that (I did for sure and, most importantly, the jury did appreciate).
      So I was not surprised at all when Sophie was announced as the new principal bassoonist of the Vienna Philharmonic.
      The interesting fact is that she’s not Viennese, she did not study in Vienna and she doesn’t play on a Heckel. But she has a very distinctive Viennese sound. This tells that the most important thing is not the instrument or the school but the player and his/her concept of sound.

  • Pamyna says:

    Bravo Sophie

  • John Borstlap says:

    My PA expressed some reservations about ladies performing on the lower woodwind, brass and celli, suggesting a diminishing in feminine grace and dignity. But she prefers the Torino Mandoline Orchestra anyway so such oldfashioned concerns do not count.