jussisarkkaThis is the tenth 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. Guest #10 is Jussi Särkkä, Radio Symphony Orchestra, 2. solo bassoonist since 1995.

Did you play an instrument before you started playing bassoon?

I didn ́t play any other instrument before starting the bassoon

Who introduced you to music?

My parents listened to classsical music and took me with them to the Joensuu City Orchestra (still a semi-professional orchestra at that time) concerts in the early 70`s.

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

I started to play the bassoon just before I turned 11

Who was your first teacher?

My first teacher was Esa Kervinen, actually originally a trumpet player who had started also playing (and later teaching) the bassoon after retiring from the Army Band in the Joensuu Music Institute

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

I decided really thinking to become professional bassoonist only after being in the army for almost a year (and not playing at all during that time) at the age of 20. I was supposed to start studying physics in the Helsinki University, where I was accepted before going to the military service, but the year without playing finally changed my mind and cleared my thoughts.

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

Klaus Thunemann. He was also about the only one I ever had heard from when I was young.

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

Impossible to say actually. Many great recordings are available. One of the very good ones is a quite old one by Eberhard Marschall whose extremely beautiful sound, healthy and natural way of playing the bassoon and making music has always made a great impression on me. I have always appreciated the way of bassoon playing which has no extra tricks, a great sense of style, and no egotripping. Jaakko Luoma ́s recording is also extremely fine, absolutely one of the best ever made, respecting the Mozart ́s music with the finest qualities one can imagine and a great sense of style.

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!)

For this I had to ask my colleagues: ”warm and `jalostunut “`(noble?refined?) (Very kind gentlemen these colleagues of mine...)

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?

If thinking pieces originally composed for bassoon (that means excluding Bach Suites and Partita etc.) I would perhaps say Mozart ́s concerto.

Who taught you how to make reeds?

My first reed making skills came from my first SibA teacher Elola. Since then I had tips and hints from many others, like from the masterclasses with Thunemann, Dag Jensen and others. But somehow I gradually found my own way of making them. Trial and error is not at all a totally strange phenomenon for me. I can’t say that I am the best expert on making reeds, but I know how to make them to suit me. It is not at all rocket science to make reeds, it shouldn ́t be mystified too much. I think the biggest problem is the material we get, the quality of the cane. That is a challenge.

What reed shape do you use?

I use either Rieger 1a or 4. I am not an experimenting kind of a person; since I found my way I haven ́t been searching very much for other ways of making them or different kind of reed types.

What is your favourite reed-thread colour?

Red of course, but right now I have run out of that... so now it is either light blue or grey (referring to this winter weather we have had this year...)

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

Most often radio, usually not classical. Sometimes but very seldom classical CD:s

What is your greatest extravagance spent on making reeds?

I have only spent on very essential things! 😉

What is your favourite reed-making tool?

Diamond drill. It prevents the leaks that might occur.

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

That would have a full, deep sound with ability to also make brighter colours, easy going staccato and flexible legato. Just a couple of times in my life I have got quite close, but unfortunately not very often... 😉

If you have ever used a website or YouTube channel to help you learn about reeds, would you like to share it with us?

No I haven’t. Those who know me, know that I am not very much of the internet kind of a person. I am a dinosaur in the worst meaning of that word.

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

Perhaps sometimes the star cult of some soloists (especially singers) and conductors has gone a bit too far. It seems sometimes to mix-up their sense of reality. With all respect...

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

Many teachers have asked to exaggerate whatever we are doing in music. I think we all tend to hear ourselves and our ideas ( when phrasing or making articulations, for example) more than what the listeners will actually hear.

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

I might be (a very bad) medical doctor, always having been interested in medical science.

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

Sitting in front of the brass. They play extremely well but many times they have to play very loud.

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

Well, perhaps a suggestion to try another reed would be quite indiscrete.

What is your favourite orchestral excerpt?

Many Shostakovitsch excerpts, like the 8th and 9th symphonies.

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

After having played thousands of concerts it is really quite impossible to name one. I think whenever I can feel my heart shiver and almost get tears in my eyes (which has happened many times) I think it can ́t get any better than that. Music has offered me feelings I never could get with anything else.

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

This is also difficult to answer. I have for example such great colleagues that I only can be extremely thankful of that. Of course, if someone buys me a beer, that will exceed everything ... 😉

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

This is not a surprise to anyone: cross-country skiing (in any season!)!

Thanks Jussi!

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