essi vartioThis is the fourth interview in our series Weaving the Web of Finnish Orchestral Bassoonists. The series introduces some of the orchestral bassoonists from all over Finland. Each guest will get the same set of questions. Our fourth guest is Essi Vartio.

Essi Vartio
What orchestra do you play in, what is your position, and how long have you been there?

I’ve played assistant principal bassoon in the Lahti Sinfonia since February of 2011.

Did you play an instrument before you started playing bassoon?

I played flute from the age of 6 until I was 16 years old.

Who introduced you to music?

At home my mom listened to classical music now and then, and in the end took me to take flute lessons.

When did you start to play the bassoon, and where did you get the idea from?

I began playing bassoon when I was 14 years old, because I wanted to try a different instrument. Because of my age, and also a bit because of my sister’s suggestion, I chose the bassoon. I thought bassoon was very exotic because I had no idea what it even looked like...

Who was your first teacher?

My first teacher was Jaakko Luoma.

When did you start to think about becoming a professional bassoonist?

I finished by second level studies on bassoon. After high school I applied to other schools as well as the Sibelius Academy, but I didn’t get in. At Siba the idea of a profession became more concrete.

When you started to play, who was your favourite bassoonist?

Help, I don’t remember...I probably listened to some Turkovic recordings. Or whatever happened to be in the Lahti library...

What is currently your favourite recording of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto ?

I agree with Eri, the piece has worn a bit thin for various reasons..., I listened to a few youtube versions for this interview and Dag is pretty nice to listen to ;) Just an amazing sound...

If someone had to describe your sound in one or two words, what would they be? (you can cheat and ask someone for help with this one!)

So hard to judge for one’s self, what one sounds like. So I asked a completely objective opinion from my husband; luscious and jammy.

If you were limited to only one piece to play for the rest of your life, (solo piece for bassoon, or bassoon and piano) what would you choose?

Bach’s solo pieces can be played forever.

Who taught you how to make reeds?

I began making reeds with Janne Pulkkinen, and later Jaakko patiently coached me with reed-making.

What reed shape do you use?

I have to confess that I have never been interested in making is an unavoidable evil. So I use the Rieger 1a shape.

What is your favourite reed-thread colour?

Variated purple.

What do you listen to (if anything) while you are making reeds?

I listen to anything but classical ;)

What is your greatest extravagance spent on making reeds?

I bought a Legere reed, but I couldn’t get comfortable with it (actually the orchestra might have payed for it...)

What is your favourite reed-making tool?

I like the file.

If you had to describe the world’s best bassoon reed, what would it be like?

A perfect reed would be in tune, have a soft sound and all attacks and legatos would be perfect (is it asking too much...)

If you could change anything about the world of classical music, what would it be?

I wish that classical music wouldn’t be seen as such an elitist and difficult thing.

What is the best advice you have gotten, and where from?

On my refrigerator door is a quote from Minna Tervamäki: "The beginning of my career was spent in tears and the end in laughter. At the end of my career I would find myself saying to my tearful younger colleagues that it’s not so serious. It’s just dance."

If you weren’t playing bassoon, what do you think you might be doing instead?

I applied after high school to study political history and it still interests me.

What is the hardest part of your job in the orchestra?

I find switching between first and second bassoon a challenge, the roles are so different.

Can you describe something an orchestra colleague should never say to a bassoonist?

In my opinion sound is a enough of a holy thing that one shouldn’t make comments about it, at least not too directly.

What is your favourite orchestral excerpt?

I can’t say...But my husband’s favourite is certainly not the Schoenberg Chamber Symphony’s contrabassoon part ;) Once on a rainy day in October, when I had been practicing it at home and thought it had been going quite well, I found my better half on the terrace with earplugs on.....

What is your favourite memory from a concert that you played in?

Tours have made a strong impression on my memory, and of course the concert that had an concert after-party after which began my relationship.

What is the nicest thing another bassoonist has ever done for you?

My colleagues in Lahti are always flexible about work shifts.

Every bassoonist seems to have a passionate hobby, what is yours?

My spiritual age must be 70, I am a gardener ;)

Thanks Essi!

oulu jkl lahti