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DOUBLE CONTRAFAGOTTO

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Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 41 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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DOUBLE CONTRAFAGOTTO :BASSOON Or CONTRABASSOON (Fr. contrebasson; Ger. Kontrafagott), a wood-wind instrument of the double reed family, which it completes as grand bass, the other, members being the oboe, cor anglais, and bassoon. The contrafagotto corresponds to the double bass in strings, to the contrabass tuba in the brass wind, and to the pedal clarinet in the single reed wood wind. There are at the present day three distinct makes of contra- fagotto. (I) The modern German (fig. 1) is founded on the older models, resembling the bassoon, the best- known being Heckel's of Biebrich-am-Rhein, used at Bayreuth and in many German orchestras. In this model the character- istics of the bassoon are preserved, and the tone is of true fagotto quality extended in its lower register. The Heckel con- trafagotto consists of a wooden tube 16 ft. 4 in. long with a conical bore, and doubled back four times upon itself to make it less unwieldy. It is thus about the same length as the bassoon and terminates in a bell 4 in. in diameter pointing downwards. The crook consists of a small brass tube about 2 ft. long, having avery narrow bore, to which is bound the double-reed mouthpiece. (2) The modern English double bassoon is one designed by Dr W. H. Stone, and made under his superintendence by Haseneier of Coblenz. It From Capt. C. R. Day's is stated that instruments cat. 01 Mus. Inst. by of this pattern are less ppeerottismisswoionodeof Fyre & fatiguing to blow than Sp. Morton model. conical, starting with a diameter of a in. at the reed and ending in a diameter of 4 in. at the open end of the tube which points upwards and has no defined bell, being merely finished with a rim. Alfred Morton, in England, has constructed double bassoons on Dr Stone's design (fig. 2). (3) The third model is of brass and consists of a conical tube of wide calibre some 15 or 16 ft. long, curved round four times upon itself and having a brass tuba or euphonium bell which points upwards. This brass model, usually known as the Belgian or French (fig. 3), was really of Austrian origin, having been first introduced by Schollnast of Presburg about 1839. B. F. Czerveny of Koniggratz and Victor Mahillon of Brussels both appear to have followed up this idea independently; the former producing a metal contrafagotto in Eb in 1856 and one in Bb which he called sub-contrafagotto in 1867, while Mahillon's was ready in 1868. In the brass contrafagotto the lateral holes are pierced at theoretically correct intervals along the bore, and have a diameter almost equal to the section of the bore at the point where the hole is pierced. The octave harmonic only is obtainable on this instrument owing to the great length of the bore and its large calibre. There are therefore two octave keys which give a chromatic compass _ -ah 8va. bassa. The modern wooden contrafagotto has a pitch one octave below that of the bassoon and three below that of the oboe; its compass extending from 16 ft. C. to middle C. The harmonics of the octave in the middle register and of the 12th in the upperregister are obtained by skilful manipulation of the reed with the lips and increased pressure of the breath. The notes of both extremes are difficult to produce. Although the double bassoon is not a transposing instrument the music for it is written an octave higher than the real sounds It is not known precisely when the change took place, though it was probably soon after the transformation of the bassoon, but Handel scored for the instrument and it was used in military bands before being adopted in the orchestra. The original instrument made for Handel by T. Stanesby, junior, and played by J. F. Lampe at the Marylebone Gardens in 1739, was exhibited at the Royal Military Exhibition, London, in 189o. Owing to its faulty construction and weak rattling tone the double bassoon fell into disuse, in spite of the fact that the great composers Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven scored for it abundantly; the last used it in the C minor and choral symphonies and wrote an obbligato for it in Fidelio. It was restored to favour in England by Dr W. H. Stone. (K. S.)
End of Article: DOUBLE CONTRAFAGOTTO
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