|Pictured at right is a Heckel
contrabassoon. Contrabassoons typically range down to Bb-0, and are often
extended down to A-0 (the lowest A on the piano). The model pictured here
is equipped with an "opera bell" (i.e., range to low C).
The contrabassoon is truly the bourdon of the orchestra, reaching notes half an octave below the string bass (not counting five-string basses, and basses with C extensions). Nearly as agile as the (quite agile) bassoon, it is capable of incredible figurations in the lowest registers, and has a unique singing voice that comes out right about the middle of the bass clef. Modern contrabassoons are made by Heckel, Fox, Wolf, Moennig, Moosman, Püchner, Adler, and Amati (and possibly by others).
The modern contrabassoon was a long time in development. For many years the contrabass sarrusophone (in France and Italy) or contrabassophone (in England),was preferred, having better intonation and volume.
Guntram Wolf has now redesigned the contrabassoon, enlarging and refolding the bore, enlarging the reed, and reshaping the bocal. Howarth's has posted pictures from his recent visit.
See Susan Nigro's site for the world's premiere contrabassoon soloist.
For more about the contrabassoon, see David DeJarnett.
For information about the 1999 CONTRABASSOON FESTIVAL, see www.contrabassoon.com.
Back to the Compendium