Semi-contrabassoon

The semi-contrabassoon (also called quint bassoon, semi-contra or half-contra) is a double reed woodwind instrument pitched between the bassoon and the contrabassoon. It is pitched in either F (quint bass) or G (quart bass) a fifth or fourth, respectively, below the bassoon.

These instruments were used mostly in the 18th century and are remnants of the old quart bass dulcians. They were considered easier to make than the larger contrabassoon. A semi-contrabassoon was shaped like oversized bassoon, between five and six feet tall with a long descending bocal. Little literature exists that indicate that these instruments were used, although it is possible that they may have been used to some extent in military bands. No attempt to revive this instrument in the present day has been made. The great organist Charles Marie Widor in his book on orchestration expected that the semi-contra would be added to the orchestra’s roster.

The basson-quinte has not yet been made, but bassoon-players are calling for it. It would form the true bass of the Woodwind group, a fifth below the standard instrument, descending consequently to Eb, a semitone lower than the double bass. The low A, which Wagner wrote below Bb is admirably rich and full; 'then', say professionals, 'why not descend to Eb, with the same fingering and the same capabilities as the ordinary bassoon?' We have already seen that the low fifth, from double Bb to double F, is sufficiently robust to bear any weight of sound; the "new" low fifth would be still more robust. The basson-quinte is said do be easy of construction; we look to instrument makers to provide us with it in the near future.
—Charles Marie Widor, C. Pierre, La facture instrumentale à Exposition de 1889.

No instruments were ever constructed on his instigation. Widor's remarks come in light of the dismal state of the French contrabassoon in the late 19th century, which was generally replaced with a contrabass sarrusophone. Famous operetta composer Arthur Sullivan is said to have owned a semi-contra in F and included parts for it in some of his operettas. Aside from the Great (quart) bass dulcians, the only modern reproductions of historical semi-contras are being made by Guntram Wolf of Germany.

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.