ann louise wagarThis is the sixteenth interview in our series Weaving the Web of Finnish Orchestral Bassoonists. The series introduces some of theorchestral bassoonists from all over Finland. Each guest will get the same set of questions.

Guest #16 is Ann-Louise Wägar, from Oulu Symphony Orchestra (2nd bassoon 2006-2014, sub principal bassoon since 2015).

Did you play an instrument before you started playing bassoon?

Well, I wanted to play the oboe but it was not possible (thank god!). I have made it through alto horn, flute, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, piano and clarinet. I played the clarinet and the bassoon simultaneously for many years. Then too many semiquavers started to show up in the clarinet etudes so I continued only with the bassoon. When it was too late I noticed that the semiquavers are also to be found in bassoon music!

Who introduced you to music?

I guess my sister. She played mostly rock music but also classical music. And she also bought the sound track to Amadeus, great music in that movie.

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

The leader of the wind band was searching for a victim for his newest instrument investment. He asked if I would like to play the bassoon. I said yes, having no clue what it was.

Who was your first teacher?

Pertti Maaniittu from Vaasa City Orchestra. He came to my home for lessons once a week on Wednesdays. I learned a lot of everything from him. He talked about everything between breathing to how big the universe is...

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

No idea, I sort of went to study music since I wasn’t good in anything else.was supposed to go back to my hometown to be a woodwind teacher in the wind band and music school. But, then I started to get gigs with the bassoon and I had to choose what kind of musician I want to be. It felt that playing in a symphony orchestra is what I really want to do.

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

Klaus Thunemann.

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

Sorry, can’t listen to that piece anymore! I though remember that Dag Jensen had a nice version of it.

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!)

An ex-boyfriend said that the instrument looks like a bazooka and sounds like a cow.

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?

Does it have to be original music for the bassoon? I rather bring the six cello suites by Bach, but Saint-Saens is quite ok too.

Who taught you how to make reeds?

Pertti Maaniittu and Erkki Suomalainen. They tried their best, but I’m a really lousy reed maker.

What reed shape do you use?

Rieger 3, with some adjustments. Nowadays I mostly buy reeds.

What is your favourite reed-thread colour?

Red. I learned from a reed-making program made by YLE, that reeds with a red knot are always the best. Maybe the guys were colourblind...

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

Netflix, and a glass of red wine (thanks for the tip, Bridget!).

What is your greatest extravagance spent on making reeds?

I bought a profiling machine. Now it’s gathering dust since I buy reeds nowadays.

What is your favourite reed-making tool?

Everyone is as repulsive, but I like making knots, they never fail.

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

Great sound, easy to play and perfect pitch. Can it be so hard to make?

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

If you make a mistake, just forget it and go on. Or there will be more mistakes...So true!

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

Hard question, a librarian maybe. I love books.

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

Playing soft. And, since I am the sub-principal, the role changes are in the same time great and hard. I play sometimes first, sometimes second and the main tractor driving (contrabassoon) is on me. If I have for many weeks played only the supporting parts and then gets to play the first, it can be scary. Especially for my colleagues in the woodwinds.

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

When you deliver (in your opinion) the best pianissississsimo in the low register that anyone has ever done - and then the clarinets: “Can’t you pleeeeeeaase play softer?”. *sigh*

What is your favourite orchestral excerpt?

Beethoven’s concerto for bassoons and violin.

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

When I still was young and promising I was a substitute in the RSO. On one of the concerts we played Sibelius’ Second Symphony, it was a great feeling to get to play the second movement with Professor Särkkä.

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

Eri Ikeda let me fulfill my dream of playing first bassoon in Beethoven’s Ninth symphony last December. This dream felt though more like a nightmare when we were entering the stage. It is quite a long song.

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

Knitting socks. Especially patterns with many colours.

Thanks Ann-Louise!

kartta 16