Woodwind ambiguities

Here’s the PDF score of this passage

And here’s the MP3

The title page of the score calls for 2(piccolos)+4 (flutes)+bss flt, 4 (oboes)+alto oboe+bass oboe, 2Eb clt+4Bb clt+1 bass clt+cbs clt, 4+1+cbs sar.  The score however has three staves for each group of instruments. On the first page flutes are Picc. Flutes. bass. Oboes are two staves of oboes and one for alto & bass. Clarinets are two staves of clarinets and one for bass. Bassoons start as just two staves of Bassoons and when the third stave appears 150 bars into the work it’s labeled Contrabassoon & Sarrusophone. After the first page each set of three staves is simply Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets & Bassoons. On each individual stave there is either a single voice or two part harmony in rhythmic unison. There is never any indication of solo, tutti or a2 etc and there is never any indication of which particular instrument of the group should be playing any particular part.

It’s fairly easy to surmise that the top flute stave is piccolo throughout although there are some doubtful passages. The second stave stays within the flute range apart from one A3!. The lower flute stave is G3 to B6 so no need for the bass flute, alto will do but the upper range means they must double flute.

The first oboe stave goes down to A3 several times and up to C7 once so needs cor anglais and oboe unless there is some part swapping. The second stave goes down to F#3 and up to G6 so needs cor anglais and oboe. The third stave goes down to G2 frequently and up to Bb5. As far as I can find from a web search the bass oboe’s range starts at B2 and the Hecklephone at A2. With VSL you can pitch bend down but a live player would have to find another solution (presumably just transpose up an octave) and will also need to double oboe.

The first clarinet stave is D3 (no problem) to C#7 (ouch!) right at the top of the Eb range So doubling Bb and Eb. Stave two is C3 to A6 so just into the bass clarinet range but doubling Bb. The third stave is C2 to E5 so nicely in the Bass range and no need for the contrabass.

Bassoons cause no problems except you can forget the Contrabass Sarrusaphone and we’ll have 2 x contrabassoons.

With the lack of indication whether each stave is solo or tutti in a live performance I’d be inclined to let the players decide and in full orchestral passages have parts doubled.

This particular extract is a nice contrast it starts with full wind (except contras) in lyrical counterpoint. Single notes per stave so I’ve used VSL’s flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon a3 ensembles, I’ve doubled the piccolo, cor angais and bass clarinet. The second half of the excerpt is a nice contrast with lots of rapid passages tongued and legato some trills and I’ve used single instruments per stave. Only a small amount of contrabassoon in this passage though. The writing is highly virtuosic. Some passages are so fast as to be virtually unplayable live I suspect. One or two little twiddles are so quick that they would be inaudible and I have doubled their length.

I think VSL copes pretty well with this excerpt. I had to do a small amount of pitch bend with one or two patches where the recorded range doesn’t meet the written range.

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