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bassoon(băso͞on`), double-reed woodwind instrument that plays in the bass and tenor registers. Its 8-ft (2.4-m) conical tube is bent double, the instrument thus being about 4 ft (1.2 m) high. It evolved from earlier double-reed instruments in the 16th cent. and by 1600 was common throughout Europe. When the orchestra developed in the 17th cent., the bassoon was one of the original woodwinds included and has been indispensable ever since. It was much improved in the 19th cent. in both France and Germany; the French and German bassoons have since differed from each other appreciably in tonal quality and construction. Although used in chamber music, the bassoon has only a small literature as a solo instrument. When played staccato it can have a humorous effect that has been frequently exploited by composers. The contrabassoon, also called double bassoon, is pitched an octave below the bassoon. Fingering is the same for both. The contrabassoon's tube, more than 16 ft (4.9 m) long, is doubled back upon itself four times. First made by Hans Schreiber of Berlin in 1620, it was used by Handel, Haydn, and Beethoven. Technical imperfections hindered any extensive use until a German, Wilhelm Heckel, in the late 19th cent. improved its construction and intonation, producing the model in general use today.
a wind instrument. The bassoon, formed by a U-shaped conical tube ending in a bell, consists of four parts. Sound is produced by a double reed attached to an S-shaped metal tube, which connects the reed to the bore. The bore contains 25–30 side holes, five or six of which are covered by the fingers and the rest by keys. The instrument has a range from B b below the bass staff to D or F at the top of the treble staff.
The bassoon was developed in Italy in the 1520’s and 1530’s and was introduced into the symphony orchestra in the mid-18th century. It is used in symphony orchestras, which generally have two or three, sometimes four, bassoons, in wind orchestras, and in other ensembles; it is also used as a solo instrument. Music for the bassoon is written mainly in the bass and tenor clefs. Of the other varieties of bassoon, only the contrabassoon is widely used.
REFERENCESLevin, S. Fagot. Moscow, 1963.
Levin, S. Dukhovye instrumenty v istorii muzykal’noi kul’tury. Leningrad, 1973.
Chulaki, M. Instrumenty simfonicheskogo orkestra, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1972.
Heckel, W. Der Fagott. Leipzig, 1931.