Debut release from Vienna Philharmonic principal

Debut release from Vienna Philharmonic principal


norman lebrecht

March 04, 2021

The Vienna Phil’s principal bassoon Sophie Dervaux has her first album coming out on Berlin Classics (presumably there are no active classical labels in Vienna).

Sophie has been prominent in the orchestra’s reimaging over the past three years, not just as with more women but with a more diverse sonority.


  • A.L. says:

    “ Sophie has been prominent in the orchestra’s reimaging over the past three years …. with a more diverse sonority.”
    And therein lies the problem. The fabled and unmistakable sound we used to hear is increasingly in danger of disappearing if it hasn’t already. These days it is difficult to tell the Cleveland, say, from the Vienna. Part of the blame, I think, rests on the shoulders of too many conductors without a clue. Even Thielemann is guilty of thinning the sound into something anonymously transparent. Nothing at all to do with women in the ranks and everything to do with a shifting musical culture. Or be careful what you wish for you may get it.

    • doofus1714 says:

      Dear AL,

      not difficult to tell the difference between the WPO and Americam orchestras.
      the previous comment about “diversity of sonority” has nothing to do with why the are hiring women.
      as you pointed out, it is a cultural shift- people from different countries studying all over the world, therefore maybe there is a “globalist” tendency in playing, just like in most other things. we can’t put the genie back in the bottle, nor should we want to. she is an amazing player.

    • BruceB says:

      I remember a famous flute teacher (Geoffrey Gilbert, famous among flute players anyway as the teacher of James Galway and many many others) talking about this to a group of us back in 1982. His take on it was that yes, it was often easy to identify what country an orchestra was from, but it was usually because of bad things, not good.

      • German orchestras: always heavy and sluggish-sounding;
      • French orchestras: terrible woodwind intonation;
      • English orchestras: weak string sections;
      • Dutch orchestras: always a “bulge in the middle of every note.”

      (Mr. Gilbert’s heyday as an orchestral player had been in the days of Thomas Beecham; these descriptions are pretty out of date by now, thank goodness.)

      As those problems improved, of course orchestras began to sound more alike.

    • kh says:

      “The fabled and unmistakable sound we used to hear” is very much a result of their famed hall more than anything else. They have always sounded scrappier than you would expect when they play elsewhere. The hall moulded their sound, and as long as they continue to play there regularly I do not expect a significant change.

      “Even Thielemann is guilty of thinning the sound into something anonymously transparent.” You would be surprised to know how much that depends on the decisions of engineers, most of which do not have musical tastes that align with yours.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      So what is YOUR solution to this so-called “problem”, A.L.?
      No women in the Vienna Phil?
      Or do you propose that conductors never request that an orchestra try to achieve the individual conductors’ sound ideal for a given work?
      Do you want Thielemann to change his own personal musical vision for each different orchestra he may conduct? Idiocy!
      If you actually think it’s true that “These days it is difficult to tell the Cleveland, say, from the Vienna” (which is of course absurd), then so what?
      I’m happy to hear a good performance with a real musical POINT and VISION, without tut-tutting that one orchestra uses rotary trumpets and another orchestra uses valve trumpets.

  • Michael Güttler says:

    She is a brilliant musician and a wonderful human being !

  • Alank says:

    As a bassoonist, I am pleased to see Mr. Lebrecht promoting a superb artist of our sometimes maligned instrument rather than counting the number and classifications of ethnic minorities making the finals of a conducting competition. She is where she is based on talent not on gender!

    • Andrew Condon says:

      Indeed. And as a past member of the Berlin Phil she belongs to a very select group of musicians who have been members of both orchestras. (A couple of the current Berlin strings were previously members of the Vienna Phil.)

  • José Carlos Coelho Cidade says:


  • William Ward says:

    This has been quietly going on for years. The brass section timbre of the East European and Russian orchestras not to mention the demise of the Buffet bassoon in France.