24 Comments

  1. Did you mean “Not a CIDU”?

    I just yesterday watched a YouTube clip of a 2013 centenary performance of the Rite of Spring by the Mariinsky. I’m used to the camera showing the front curtain paintings during the rather long introduction passages of each act, but this video instead (after a bit by a very young French presenter) showed the orchestra in the pit before there was any stage action.
    I still have trouble taking in Valery Gergiev’s general appearance and expressions, but he makes good music.

    The striking thing during the intro, however, was the earnest and well done extended solo passages on the bassoon in its upper register. A performance worthy of note in some upcoming issue of Bassoon Aficionado.

  2. A painting of a musical ensemble usually focuses on the conductor, or perhaps a soloist, or is a general view of the players. The fact that this one focuses on the bassoon, of all things, is odd when you think about it. So it must have been commissioned by some strange person or organization obsessed with bassoons.

  3. I think the cartoonist (?) is mocking the subject of the painting: who cares enough about a bassoon player to make a painting of it? Well, someone working for the “Bassoon Afficionado” magazine, obviously. And “Bassoon Afficionado” is the kind of magazine you wonder about, at the newspaper stand: who does read that kind of magazine? It’s ridiculous, hence funny.

  4. Just as with many “That is Priceless” panels, this isn’t a major joke, just an incongruity. Even if this is just a sideshot of a subset of an orchestra playing in a small pit in front of a ballet stage, the arrangement of instruments seems completely jumbled. Elevating a bassoon to “front and center” is rather unusual (they normally play somewhere way in the back, and are overshadowed by just about everything else). His one moment in the spotlight is then preserved for posterity on the cover of a publication that will be read by bassoonists everywhere, but not by anyone else.

  5. Olivier, I stopped thinking any magazine concept was “ridiculous” the day I discovered Christmas Tree Monthly, a magazine just for people who sell Christmas trees.

  6. Monthly seemed a bit far-fetched, but it does exist, quarterly: https://christmastreesmagazine.com/
    “The World’s Leading Christmas Tree Magazine”, lol, how much competition can they have?
    But you’re right: the world is full of wonders.
    They advertise for a book of Christmas tree cartoons, btw; now, just look for “Russian Nesting Dolls Monthly”, maybe they sell a book of cartoons as well 😉 .

  7. I’ve heard it said that if there’s a murder in an orchestra, you should look at the bassoon player. Basoons are hard to blow and the pressure required can cause microstrokes, leading to erratic behavior.

  8. Sorry for doubting you, Bill. (But I think you might recall there have been occasions when what you intended and what you marked were different.)

    In any case, comments have pointed out the likely intended point of amusement – – the odd specificity of the publication, and maybe also something about the composition of the painting.

    There is some disagreement in the comments as to whether there is a tradition of abuse or mockery directed at bassoonists. I don’t know about that, but I do recall the bassoon’s double-reed cousin the oboe being called “an ill wind that no-one blows good”.

  9. @beckoningchasm #1: As a bass player, I can answer this. What you’re seeing is the dark edge of the ebony fingerboard. Behind it is the lighter-colored wood of the neck, which unfortunately blends into the background a bit. The older instruments preferred by professionals often have the varnish on the wood worn away by decades (or centuries!) of use, leaving the back of the neck a lighter color than you might expect.

    Here’s a better image of the original:

    https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-opera-orchestra-edgar-degas.html?product=poster

  10. I’m on my way home from a symphony concert featuring a new commissioned piece for orchestra and solo bass clarinet. Okay, not a bassoon, but close.

  11. In one of the write-ups about the original painting, “The Opera Orchestra”, it mentions that the bassoonist was a good friend of Degas, and thus his unusual positioning to the front of the orchestra. It implied that other members of the orchestra were portraits of the real musicians, also.
    As an aside, regarding bassoonist as murderers, of the four wind instruments, I found the bassoon to be the easiest to play. (Note: I m talking about learning enough of the instrument to make a respectable sound, not become a performer.). I had always heard that it is the constant low vibrations that drive bassoonist over the edge 🤪

  12. @Are bassoonists more frequently murderers than other orchestral positions?

    They could tell you, but then they’d have to trill you.

  13. I heard this story decades ago from a percussionist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Someone from a local radio station did interviews with different members of the orchestra. When he started an interview with a bassoonist, the bassoonist said while gesticulating and moving about wildly, “Some people say that BASSOON players are CRAZY! But it’s not true, IT’S NOT TRUE!”

  14. cp: cigar aficionado : magazine for cigar lovers and maybe a few scattered cigar fetishists (capnolagnia)???? I don’t know if there are any bassoon fetichists living among us.

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