The Colors Of The Rainboboe: 2017 Edition



When I wrote my original post detailing the many wonders available to us in the world of oboes, three and a half years ago, I never dreamed that it would gain such traction and be read by so many of you around the world (over 25,000 of you last time I looked)! I am truly honored that you’ve taken the time to read it, and I LOVE that I’ve actually been able to help some of you find your dream instrument.

Since I first posted this, there have been some very exciting and fun developments in the oboe world, and it’s been pointed out that I also neglected to mention one or two makers, so I hope to address that in this edition. (I’ve also since been fortunate enough to try some instruments that I had not as of the original publication date, such as the Buffet Orfeo!)

The original information is retained, but slightly reformatted. With the IDRS conference fast approaching, my vision for this revised version is to act as a sort of “Buyers and Triers Guide to IDRS”, so that those of you in attendance can show up armed with maybe a slightly better idea of what you’d like to try instead of being just overwhelmed by the avalanche of wonderful instruments there!

NB: This particular post will deal with professional-level oboes. A separate article detailing student and intermediate models, as well as other members of the oboe family is forthcoming!



Lorée
My first publication of this article was specifically to detail the instruments on the market that are NOT Lorées, but in the interest of being thorough, I couldn’t leave them out. Plus, there is a (relatively) new model in the lineup!

The vast majority of you reading this need no illumination where Lorée oboes are regarded, generally, so we’ll just suffice it to say that they are enormously popular for a reason, and between the standard C+3 model, the AK, or the Royal, you’ll probably find something you like. And, like many of the other makers of professional oboes, Lorées are available to order in violetwood or rosewood, with gold-plated keys, and, unique to Lorée, you can also get an oboe built to low A! Synthetic top joints are also available, as are entirely-synthetic bodies.

Étoile
New to the Lorée lineup as of 2014 is a model called the “Étoile”, which is their effort at putting out an oboe that appeals more to the global market outside of the United States. The Étoile is more free-blowing and naturally responsive than their other oboes, and maintains a particular richness in the second octave. Very worth a try, this is an extremely satisfying oboe to play, especially if you have a strong brand loyalty but are perhaps secretly dissatisfied with previous specimens of the marque, or are just curious about what Lorée is up to now!

(photo courtesy of Dolce Japan, http://www.dolce.co.jp )


Marigaux
Marigaux oboes are simply stunning…whether you pick the 901, the 2001, or the M2, you are getting a rich, fat, creamy tone; extreme reed-friendliness, and in the case of the 2001 and M2, some serious ergonomics. (The pinky keys on both hands have been completely redesigned on these instruments, and they are comfortable indeed!) All professional Marigaux model instruments are available to order in violetwood, and/or with gold plated keys.

901
The 901 is their basic workhorse professional model, and you will find a 901 somewhere in nearly every major symphonic oboe section on the planet (outside of the United States, that is). They are a marvelous choice for 2nd oboists because of their excellent response down low and the ease with which you can match tone colors with the principal. The 901 is an extraordinarily forgiving instrument, and one that will work for just about anybody who needs a dependable instrument for everyday playing. They seem to work with with a very wide variety of reed styles, as well, and are quite forgiving of less-than-stellar reeds.

(901 with gold-plated mechanism, photo taken by me in Tokyo)

2001
In addition to all of the characteristics of the 901, the 2001 has a very soloistic sort of bravura color to the sound, though maintaining that trademark Marigaux warmth. Cs and Gs in particular are very stable on this oboe, and quiet attacks in both the extreme low and high registers are less problematic than on many other instruments. The 2000 series is also available in a crystal clear material called “Altuglass”, with gold plated keys, and is one of the most visually arresting instruments ever made, as well as of course being crackproof. For those who find the clear/gold combo perhaps a bit too over the top, there is a more traditional-looking dark material called “Altu Noir” that is available.


The beautiful, ergonomically redesigned pinky keys of the 2001 (image courtesy of Marigaux)


The 2001 in "Altuglas" with gold plated keys (image courtesy of Marigaux)


M2
The M2 sonically is very similar to the 2001, but has a remarkably innovative construction wherein the top joint of the oboe is extremely short, terminating just above the C#/D trill keys, and you are provided with top joints in wood and phenol resin for crack resistance, and of varying lengths for tuning purposes. The middle joint, then, is therefore much longer, and the bell remains the same. Very interesting looking instrument and it has caught on in the oboe world like a house afire! This model has been made in Altuglas as well, and is absolutely breathtaking when ordered with gold-plated keys.

The revolutionary M2 in its case!  (image courtesy of Marigaux)


Rigoutat
Rigoutat oboes are extremely popular in their native country of France, and are perhaps best known to the rest of the world as Heinz Holliger’s oboe of choice. I enjoy the Rigoutat instruments for the lovely sweet sound they all seem to have (if perhaps a bit on the bright side), though I find the Expression model to have a bit more oomph than the Evolution or the Symphony (however one of the finest and richest sounding oboes I’ve ever played happened to be an Evolution in violetwood, so it just goes to show you, exceptions are the rule!).

The “J” model is a horse of a different color entirely, though. Beautiful, round warm sound, great response up top, and a buttery low register; basically, Rigoutat made a Marigaux. It’s exceptional.

Like the others we’ve discussed thus far, violetwood and gold plating are options, as is a left hand C# key.


Rigoutat model J bell, showing the lovely unstained grenadilla (photo courtesy of Innoledy)

Here we have the lovely and extremely talented Celia Craig demonstrating an INCREDIBLE violetwood Rigoutat with gold keys and left hand C# key for us: https://youtu.be/ssSy_DAGhfM


Fossati
For some godforsaken insane reason, very few other oboists I know in this country have even HEARD of Fossati, let alone entertained the idea of playing one.  I find this particularly maddening because Fossati has, by and large, been my oboe of choice for YEARS (except for that short period of time where I didn’t play a Fossati, and we’ll talk about that later).  These instruments are glorious, and they get better and better every year. Fossati has always been a bit maverick in their love of innovation and experimentation, and that is a large part of why I have always been so drawn to them. Never afraid to break away from tradition, they have invented new trill mechanisms, a new kind of tenon cap, used extremely rare/odd woods to build their instruments, and became well known around the world for their stunning mother-of-pearl inlays on the six "mainline" touchpieces. (LH and RH 123)

The MB model, designed in conjunction with French oboist Michel Benet, is one of the finest oboes I have ever tried (an opinion usually shared by others who pick it up), and ever the innovators, they have developed a model called the FX3 which comes with 3 different interchangeable top finials and bell rings for true customization of your sound.


Fossati FX3 oboe, showing all of the interchangeable head/bell rings (photo courtesy of Fossati)

I, for most of my adult life, played a Soliste model in grenadilla with mother-of-pearl inlays in the keys, and a matching Soliste English horn (minus the pearl), and very few oboes or English horns I’ve tried have managed to beat them! Their E30 “Tiery” model is also an extraordinary instrument, and possibly *THE* best value for the money in the oboe world. It’s very affordable, and has the full conservatory keywork, including the 3rd octave key. It is totally a pro instrument in every way, and it’s amazing to me that it’s marketed as an intermediate model, but hallelujah, because it’s also priced accordingly. The E30 is a doubler’s dream…very flexible and reed-friendly, sounds great, and won’t break the bank. I’ve played a Tiery on several cast albums, in countless pit orchestras, and even a few symphony gigs. I’d put it up against anybody’s Loree (or Laubin) any day.


My personal pair of Fossati Solistes that served me well for years

The Soliste (now called the model S), however, takes all that awesomeness and magnifies it by about a trillion. Rich, buttery, sweet, warm, penetrating, whatever you are trying to get out of it, it’ll give you. The scale is also fantastic. These things are REALLY in tune! They offer their instruments in several woods, including cocobolo, violetwood/kingwood, and a beautiful wood called gaiac, which we know better as lignum vitae, on special order. In the past, they have made instruments from pink ivory and snakewood, as well.

Keywork on the Fossati professional models is plated with a platinum alloy instead of the standard silver, ensuring that your keywork remains tarnish free, and thereby also protecting the base metal for the lifetime of the oboe. Gold-plated rings and posts are standard on most of the models, and you can also get your keys fully gold plated, and/or inlaid with mother of pearl. They even made a model, the Soliste V 20th Anniversary, which features keywork plated in black ruthenium with gold posts/bands. Truly a stunning instrument, and performance to match the appearance.



Fossati "Soliste" model in Gaiac wood with gold plated posts/bands and mother-of-pearl inlaid keys(!!) Note the trill key design on the upper joint, featuring only one hole and a stacked pair of keys (the bottom key has a hole in the middle covered by the top key) instead of the standard two holes; this was done to minimize the risk of cracking in this all-too-crackable spot. Fossati has since returned to the standard design, but I would love them to bring this one back!


The 20th Anniversary model, featuring keywork plated in ruthenium, which has a beautiful mirror-like black finish! (photo courtesy of Fossati)

The former “Artiste” model is now called the model A, and features slightly thicker walls (in the vein of the XL/Royale/Sayen/etc) and a two-stage bore reverse taper. It’s a bit more resistant and covered than the S, and would likely be my Fossati of choice if I were to buy one right now.

Those of you who have never tried a Fossati oboe would be doing yourselves a grave disservice if you did not get your hands on one and give them a go. I think you’ll be surprised at just how easy it can be to play the oboe. (They are also surprisingly affordable!)

The authorized US distributor is Gillian McAllister Lopez of River City Reeds, and you can inquire about trials at http://www.rivercityreeds.com


A series of stunning Fossati oboes d'amore in (from L to R) snakewood, pink ivory, grenadilla, and cocobolo. Truly, truly a company of innovation and creativity! (photo courtesy of Pascal Emery at Fossati)

Covey
I neglected to write about Covey oboes in my initial posting, and it was an egregious oversight, as they are certainly not unknown or horribly rare instruments. It should be noted that Covey oboes fall into two “eras”, corresponding to the unfortunate passing of Paul Covey in 2008. Since then, they have been made by Ginger Ramsay, and have undergone a noticeable pattern of continual development. The oboes made by Paul are quite sought after for their beautiful, warm, very centered sound and good scale, and Ms. Ramsey has made further improvements to the instrument that have really boosted them into the top orbit of currently available instruments. The low register is very round and accessible, and there is a freedom of response in the upper register that is quite satisfying. They will take quite a lot of air without “choking up”, and are friendly with a wide variety of reeds (perhaps owing to the more covered nature of the native sound of these oboes, reeds that would be unacceptable in a brighter, thinner sounding instrument work perfectly fine in a Covey). The Covey oboe is a truly handmade work of art, and a labor of love. Much like a Laubin, they are an essential part of the history of American oboe craftsmanship.

A charming signature feature of the Covey oboes is the beautiful handcrafted wood case they have always been presented in.



Grenadilla Covey in walnut case (Photo courtesy of OboeChicago)

They are available in grenadilla, violetwood, or rosewood, and can be ordered exclusively via Shawna Lake of OboeChicago. http://www.oboechicago.com

Used Coveys are often found in the market, usually represent a great value for the money, and should be tried whenever possible!


A beautiful rosewood Covey oboe in its signature walnut case! (Photo courtesty of OboeChicago)


Moennig (Mönnig)
This spectacular German maker has made quite a splash on the scene recently with the “Albrecht Mayer Platinum” model oboe, distributed in the United States by Tong Cui of Innoledy (http://www.innoledy.com).  Though they’ve been around absolutely forever, Moennig has become very visible in the marketplace lately for their amazingly well-crafted oboes and bassoons. The AM model has been a huge hit at oboe festivals worldwide, as well it should be. It is the one of the darkest, most liquid-sounding oboe I’ve ever played, with wonderfully innovative keywork (there is an available option for the right hand pinky keys, for example, to all have rollers on them). The build quality is astonishing, with as much precision as a Swiss watch, and the grenadilla wood used was absolutely stunning. Albrecht himself designed this oboe over several years of collaboration with Ludwig Frank (who actually makes the oboes under the Moennig brand), and is the oboe he now plays exclusively, after many years on a highly-customized Buffet Greenline.


The beautiful Moennig 150-AM in its beautiful suspension case. Note the rollers on the right hand pinky cluster! (Photo by me; I had this instrument on trial for a bit when they first came out) 

For the last year, my dear friend, New York-based freelance and Broadway oboist Jeremy Clayton has been playing a very special Moennig made of mopani wood (with a grenadilla top joint), and it is just a ridiculously magnificent instrument! (You can hear it on the Broadway cast recording of the recent revival of “Sunday in The Park With George”, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, in which Jeremy was the oboist)


Jeremy Clayton's stunning custom Moennig oboe

Recently, Moennig has released oboes, d’amores, and English horns made out of a specially treated maple wood called the “del Sol” models, and they are WONDERFUL. Very lightweight, with a beautiful, smooth sound and great response particularly at low dynamic levels. The wood is also virtually crackproof, owing to the proprietary treatment process. The d'amore and English horn particularly benefit from the acoustical properties of this material! (To be discussed in a further article :) )


The stunning "del Sol" version of the Moennig 155-AM. Photo courtesy of Innoledy, where this instrument is currently available for sale at a fantastic price!


Adler
Made in the same workshop in Markneukirchen as the Moennig instruments, Adler oboes (and bassoons, which happens to be the bassoon I play) are very solidly built instruments that possess excellent scale and lovely dark sounds. The Adler 6000 oboe is a full-Conservatory model that would fit any advanced student/amateur/doubling oboists needs quite well, and probably would not need to be upgraded from. These have been made in cocobolo as well.
Adler model 6000 in cocobolo wood with gold-plated posts and rings. (And a very typically German roller on the RH F key!)


Closeup of the bell, showing the incredible color and grain of the cocobolo, as well as the inserted socket protector, also of cocobolo wood. (As are the end caps for the top  and middle joints)


Ludwig Frank
Ludwig Frank is one of the shining stars in the constellation of oboe makers on Earth today. His instruments are meticulously designed and crafted, and they are beloved by principal players and soloists around the world, particularly in Europe. He is the driving force behind the Moennig Albrecht Mayer model oboe, and the oboes bearing his own name are delectable works of art. When I was performing in Japan, I was generously granted use of an LF “model 12” model with gold keys for a time, and it was truly a magnificent instrument. Very complex, rich sound, with quite a lot of “hold” in the upper register.
The LF model 12 that I played while in Japan...an all-around flawless instrument! 


Closeup of the bell, showing the quality of the wood that is used in these instruments! 

These are truly custom instruments, and just about any request you might have, from special keywork to exotic woods, Mr. Frank could very likely accommodate.


A very special and visually arresting quartet of Ludwig Frank oboes. The 2 grenadilla ones on the left are "Brilliant" models, instantly recognizable by the bell shape. Herr Frank has quite LITERALLY created a Rainboboe! (Photo courtesy of Kungliga Hovkapellet)
  

Howarth
An institution in England, Howarth oboes have finally achieved the global recognition they deserve in the past dozen years or so, especially with the advent of the XL model, which very quickly became the oboe of choice for many esteemed oboe soloists and principal players the world over. No matter which model you choose, Howarth oboes deliver excellent craftsmanship, a very solid and stable sound concept, reed friendliness, and an exceptionally comfortable mechanism. All oboes are available in cocobolo wood, with a synthetic top joint that they call the “VT” option (“Velvet Throat”, and yes, I’m serious), which is an ebonite (hard rubber) lining of part the top joint which maintains the integrity of the bore in the event that the wood exterior cracks, and protects the wood from contact with moisture that might cause cracking in the first place; or entirely made of synthetic material.


S50
The S50 is equivalent to the standard C+3 model Loree or the Marigaux 901; a basic fully-professional model that is at home in any situation, from the solo engagement to the orchestra pit.


Howarth model S50 (photo courtesy of Richard Craig Woodwind, Australia's exclusive dealer of Howarth instruments)

Here again we have Celia Craig (principal oboist of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, in addition to being a stellar and sought-after soloist and clinician for Howarth) demonstrating this time, the Howarth S50 oboe, as well as a Loree Royal in violetwood and the Howarth S40, the model right beneath the S50 in the Howarth lineup: 

Celia Craig tests the Howarth S40 and S50 against a violetwood Loree Royal

XM
Lately, they have introduced a couple of new models at the high-end level, the XM and the LXV. The XL, while a stunning instrument, did not appeal to everyone with its huge sound, tons of projection, and heavy thickwalled body, so the XM was created to appeal to the other end of that spectrum. Players and lovers of French oboes would do well to give the XM a try, with its lighter-weight body, thinner walls and a different bore design that gives a beautiful flexibility to the sound (Howarth describes the XM as having a “Continental darkness”), combined with the steadfastness and reliability of response and intonation that the XL has become famous for.


Howarth XM bell, image courtesy of Richard Craig Woodwind

LXV
The LXV is the newest model, and it is a perfect blend of the two opposites of the spectrum. Sitting perfectly in between the XL and the XM, this is one of the best all-around workhorse oboes you’ll find on the market. It will do anything you ask it to, and, being a blend of the other two models, has the ultimate in flexible voices that will truly allow your own unique sound to shine through.

Here, we have Celia demonstrating this spectacular new instrument in both grenadilla and cocobolo woods, back to back. 

Howarth LXV in Grenadilla and Cocobolo - Celia Craig



Bulgheroni
From a small family-owned workshop on the shores of Lake Como in Italy comes the Bulgheroni oboe (and oboe d’amore, English horn and...piccolo, of all things). I mentioned earlier in the Fossati section that there was a period of time where I did not play a Fossati…during this time, I played a Bulgheroni and a Patricola. The Bulgheroni oboe is one of the best-kept secrets in the oboe world, and their newest offering, the “Musa”, is a total game-changer in the high-end oboe market. Similar to the Howarth XL, the Loree Royal, the Marigaux 2001, etc, the Musa is the very top of the Bulgheroni range, totally handmade with a slightly thicker body and bell, featuring gold-plated rings and posts, and a LOVELY, ringing, creamy sound. (This is doubly true for the English horn version!)


 The Musa, in a beautiful red leather case


Cases are available to order in special colors; this one is green leather! (photo from NetInstruments, this oboe is for sale!)


The oboe that I played for a while was the “Artist” model (as it's sold in the States; Bulgheroni themselves call it the model FB-105), which is a full-conservatory standard professional instrument, equivalent to a standard Loree C+3, Fox 400, Howarth S50, etc. What I enjoyed the most about my Bulgheroni, and indeed every one I’ve played since, is the evenness of tone from bottom to top. It is a very, very smooth instrument, and the response in the bottom register is nearly unparalleled. The keywork is also very, very heavily plated for durability, and they offer a variety of platings to choose from. Bulgheroni also offers an unprecedented SIX wood options (grenadilla, violetwood/kingwood, cocobolo, Brazilian rosewood, Honduran rosewood, and cocuswood) , and not just on their top model, either.  

The “Opera” model, positioned just below the “Musa” in the pricing hierarchy, is one of the finest oboes you can buy, and it will cost you considerably less than an equivalent instrument from one of the other big makers.



Bulgheroni "Opera" in grenadilla with gold-plated keys


Closeup of an Opera bell in rosewood

Recently, Bulgheroni has developed a material they are calling "WoodNoWood", which is their entry into the crackproof-wood-substitute market. I've reached out to them for more information, and will update as I receive it!


Patricola
Known for the stunningly red Brazilian rosewood they use, Patricola oboes are also handcrafted by a family in Italy, and make some of the loveliest oboes/oboes d’amore/English horns/clarinets I’ve ever seen or played. I played a rosewood Patricola oboe with gold keys for quite some time, and not only was it physically stunning, it had one of the sweetest sounds of any oboe I’ve ever played, though I did have to work a bit harder in the upper register to stabilize intonation, and it wasn’t quite as reed-friendly as some other oboes I’ve played.  


My own former rosewood/gold Patricola...note the adjustable double bridge arms on the bell for low Bb and Bb resonance (to operate the resonance key for low B as well)

The scale is quite good (and improving every year…Patricola does huge amounts of work to constantly improve their instruments, and they get noticeably better all the time. Mine was an S.6 “Evoluzione” model, and they are several generations ahead of that at this point; the “Rigoletto” is CONSIDERABLY better than the oboe I had, with much better intonation and easier response in the extremes of the range), and it was a very comfortable instrument to play for long periods of time. This is a brand you absolutely MUST try if you wish to buy a handcrafted professional oboe but you are on a somewhat restrictive budget. They also come up used on eBay quite often (or are sold by large retailers via their eBay stores), and they are always quite affordable.

Opinions on these instruments have varied widely, but as with all things, the best thing to do is try them for yourself...one man’s trash, etc etc! (And the rosewood models are definitely a great way to make a visual splash if you’re the sort of person who likes to be different and stand out from the crowd! It is a rosewood that looks quite unlike any other maker’s exotic wood offerings; it’s almost neon, it’s such a bright orange-red. With gold-plated keys, it looks like you’re wielding actual fire!)

Fox
What would a discussion of oboes be without mentioning Fox? Entirely built here in the good old U.S of A., these instruments are some of the most reliable oboes out there, and the foundation on which many a student has built their oboe-playing career (myself included). The Renard series (330/333) are probably THE most popular student/intermediate oboes in America, and for good reason. They sound good, they play in tune, and they’re very heartily built.

The professional Fox oboes are equally solid, though with the exception of the model 800, it could be said that they lack a bit of depth in the sound and tend to be a bit homogenous, but it isn’t anything that a skilled player with good reed skills can’t overcome. The most outstanding feature of the Fox instruments, in my opinion, is the dazzlingly consistent build quality and uber-stable intonation.  If you’re looking for an oboe that will get you through any gig, and not require huge amounts of work to play in tune, this is it. They blend beautifully in a section, and the all-plastic professional model 300 is a doubler’s DREAM, as well as being an invaluable backup for any symphonic professional who has to endure summertime outdoor pops concerts. The 800 plays very much like a fine Loree, and the Fox English horns are absolutely beautiful instruments. However, what I’d REALLY like to talk about are the 2 newest offerings from Fox’s oboe department, and they are total knockouts.


Fox-Laubin
The result of a partnership between famed oboe makers Laubin and Fox, the Fox-Laubin oboe is a fantastic instrument that is born in Fox’s workshops in Indiana, and finished in the Laubin workshop in upstate New York. I have played a couple of them back to back with actual Laubins, and while they are of course not *identical*, they get very, very close. Truly a great classic-sounding oboe at a very reasonable price! If you’re not up for a 12+ year wait for a Laubin, you really should consider giving one of these a try. They are remarkably good.



Sayen
Fox’s contribution to the thick-wall, dark-sound society, the Sayen is really, really, REALLY great. I’ve played at least ten of them now, and not only are they consistent as heck, they are very different from anything Fox has ever done before, and a true contender in the top-end pro oboe market. Like many of the other premium-level oboes, the Sayen is dressed with gold-plated rings and posts (a brighter 24k-gold color than the typical soft 14k or 18k-rose gold color of most other makers), and a ringless bell, the Sayen brings to mind many of the beautiful German instruments, with a smooth, even, flowing sound and fantastic response in the top. 100% needs to be on anybody’s short list of oboes to try!

Closeup of the bell showing the Sayen logo


This particular Sayen was made as a prototype of a new ergonomic keywork design! 


Buffet
And then, of course, there is Buffet, maker of the (in?)famous Greenline 3613 oboe. The Greenline material was developed by Buffet to combat cracking and weather-related instability, and in that regard, it works beautifully. I must admit, though, I have never been a big fan of the Greenline oboes. I think oboe guru Peter Hurd ( http://www.oboes.us ) nailed it when he described them on his site as a “reed trumpet”. I have always found them a bit on the brash side, they are quite heavy, and the middle tenons have an alarming tendency to shear clean off at the slightest hint of wrong-ward pressure.  They can, however, be coaxed into bliss, as Albrecht Mayer proved. (Of course, it took only a cursory glance to realize that Albrecht’s Buffet was customized to within an inch of its life…the ivory-colored adornments on the head and bell of his oboe made that clear! I believe it was Ludwig Frank who worked on his Buffet, and eventually they just started from scratch and created the Moennig AM model.)

The all-wood Buffet 3613, however, I have found to be a perfectly lovely instrument. Some quirky scale issues (but the expected sort, like dodgy high Cs and top-of-staff Gs that could be more stable, to say the least), but they could be fixed.

However, Buffet has gone back to the oboe drawing board, and given birth to the Orfeo.

Orfeo
When I first published this article, I had not yet played the Orfeo and was unable to offer any real insight beyond “well, it certainly looks pretty!”. Shortly after I started this blog, I ended up in Japan for months, performing and living and trying every instrument I could get my hands on in the glorious well-stocked music shops of Tokyo and Osaka, and among those instruments was, you better believe it...the Orfeo.

It’s a wow. This instrument, plainly put, SINGS. There is tremendous presence in the second octave, particularly up in the left hand notes. High C is very stable, C# and D above come out with zero effort and a lovely tone color, and intervals all over the range of the oboe are easy as pie. The keywork is very sturdy and feels fantastic under the fingers, and the black nickel-plated body rings lend a very sleek look to the instrument. The body of the Orfeo itself has been redesigned, with an almost-sensual curvature to both the head and the bell, which is ringless (of course, as most bells on the prestige-level instruments are these days).

In terms of the sound, I would have to characterize it on the warm side of “very traditionally oboey”. It has that lovely vocal quality with just a hint of that French nasality hiding in the timbre. It is quite flexible, though, and very responsive to varying reed styles, so you could really just get whatever you wanted out of this instrument. It is an oboe that is equally suited for the orchestral principal, the 2nd oboist, the soloist, the chamber specialist, or the pit player. (Perhaps ESPECIALLY so for the latter, due to the crackproof nature of the material!)

I honestly have no idea how they did it, since this instrument is also made of the Greenline material, but it is NOTHING like the 3613 Greenline oboe, in any way except the stuff from which it’s made. If I were to be handed carte blanche to get a new oboe right this minute, I cannot promise that it would not be an Orfeo. It would certainly be on the list of things to consider! Most impressive indeed.


Orfeo oboe in case, via Rakuten

Buffet is also releasing a new model of professional oboe, called the "Virtuose", at IDRS 2017, so look for an update on that! I will try it as soon as I possibly can for you all! I'm very intrigued to see how this model will differ from the Orfeo. 

Hiniker (no website)
I’d also like to briefly talk about Hiniker oboes. The waiting list is a million years long (actually, I think it’s around 10 years at the moment, give or take), but with good reason. They’re absolutely spectacular instruments, handbuilt by one of the most genius oboe acousticians since Gillet and Triebert. These instruments are HIGHLY sought after by top-level players, and they are stunning. Tom builds oboes out of a wide variety of woods (including cocobolo, pink ivory, and snakewood), and has made an oboe entirely out of clear acrylic, much like the Marigaux Altuglas oboe. Jonathan Marzluf has some beautiful recordings on his website (http://www.marzlufreeds.com/audio_samples.php ) of him playing on his cocobolo Hiniker, and champion reedmaker Cooper Wright also has some extensive writing about the Hinikers on his website, as does Peter Hurd (who owned a mind-blowingly gorgeous snakewood Hiniker oboe). Perhaps most interesting of them all, my lovely friend Anne owns a HIniker in clear acrylic, which is just stunning! (She’s named her the “Ice Princess”, and she’s a pretty lady!) It seems that a left hand C# key (next to the left hand F key) is either standard on Hinikers, or an option chosen by nearly everyone who orders one.


Playing Anne's "Ice Princess" clear acrylic Hiniker at IDRS!

Dupin
Roland Dupin has created the absolute Lamborghini of oboes, the Dupin Imperial. This oboe has one of the most unique appearances of any oboe on the market with its Baroque-oboe-meets-Viennese-oboe headstock and bell, and the sound is absolutely magical. Christoph Hartmann plays one, and you can see and hear it on Youtube in his Youtube Symphony oboe masterclass (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EIgJvYx4AE) .

The Dupin Imperial is also on magnificent display in this performance by the oboe section of the Royal Danish Orchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N00JbKpZKKw

I was finally able to spend some time with the Dupin Imperial oboe in Japan (and then again at IDRS), and much like the Orfeo, I was just blown away. It was truly everything I’d hoped it would be, and then some. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that I would be thrilled to play one of these for the rest of my career. They’re horribly expensive and difficult to come by, but if you can, by all means PLEASE try one!


In Imperial bliss in Tokyo, August 2013!


We meet again! Not one, but TWO Imperials (one wood/gold, one synthetic/silver), at IDRS 2014 in New York.


Puchner
Known to bassoonists as "That Really Good German Bassoon That Isn’t A Heckel", Puchner has also made oboes/d’amores/EHs forever, but they’ve recently made a splash in the US marketplace with the 733C oboe and their English horn, which Peter Hurd has declared the English horn of all English horns. I’m going to roll with Mr. Hurd’s opinion on this one, having finally given both the oboe and the English horn a good spin. Dark, thick, beautiful, romantic sound with an excellent scale and very solid, comfortable keywork. I’d put the Puchner up there with the Moennig AM model and Ludwig Frank’s oboes, and would happily play one forever.

Left C# is a popular option on these, and the English horn and d’amore can also be made with a low Bb. Exotic woods and gold plating are options, as well as a new very elaborate bell style that really does change the sound (as you'd expect, since it looks like a very fancy English horn bell).


The standard, basic model 733c. Note the elegant curve of the 2nd octave key and the F roller. Image courtesy of Doublereed Ltd)


733c, this time with gold plated keys! (Image courtesy of Richard Craig Woodwind)


And, the granddaddy of all Puchner oboes, the 733c made in violetwood with the new special bell shape. (Image courtesy of Peter Hurd, the US dealer for Puchner oboes. Contact him for a trial or more information!)



Yamaha
Talk about an instrument that has EVOLVED! I remember playing a Custom 831 when I was in high school in the late 90s, and thinking “Well this is...nice, isn’t it?” and not giving them another thought for ten years. WELL, kids, lemme tell you, this is NOT the Yamaha of the 90s. The most recent model Custom Yamaha oboes are every bit as delicious as any other high-end maker's, and in the case of the 841 in kingwood/violetwood with the lined upper joint is an absolute dream, and a lifesaver if you play 2nd oboe, because the low register response is out of this world.

They are one of the smoothest, sleekest, most in-tune, responsive, bottom-octave-friendly oboes on the market today, and I think every professional orchestral 2nd oboist should run, not walk, to get one of these on trial, because thou shalt be (possibly) converted! They’re also, as the kids say today, mad cheap. (Relatively speaking, anyway)

Yamaha Kingwood oboe (laying down) on a slab of grenadilla, photo courtesy of Midwest Musical Imports

Josef
In the last 3 years, I have played several Josefs (at the time of my prior writing, I’d only tried 2, and one was amazing while the other made me want to jump from a bridge), and have now formed a more comprehensive opinion of this highly stylized and fascinating Japanese maker.

I. Love. Them. Seriously, on the whole, I find them GLORIOUS. There are several different models (all of which can be customized with various woods/platings, which makes for a VERY wide range of different looking Josefs), and all of them has a distinct personality, but there isn’t a single one of them that I wouldn’t consider. My personal favorite is the 20th Anniversary model, which looks a bit like a Dupin Imperial, a bit like a Ludwig Frank, but also like nothing else. The “Metal” model, so named because of the massive gold-plated reed socket that is designed to add mass to the top of the instrument, has a lovely, focused, centered sound that would fit beautifully into any chamber orchestra or as a solo instrument. There are also the “Pegaso” (Pegasus) and “Clement” models, which each possess their own persona, but are quite flexible and would likely do anything you’d like them to do.

Josef has also pioneered a new material they call “LAMI”, which is betula wood that has been spiral cut (kind of like a Swiss roll, from the outside in, around the long axis) and then laminated into highly grained sheets with a polymer material. It is available in five different colors, and offers you the warmth and roundness and projection of a wooden oboe combined with the stability and crack-resistance of a synthetic oboe. Very fascinating and complex-sounding instruments, and I found the 20th Anniversary English horn in this material to be an absolute winner at the last IDRS I attended.

Various woods are an option (such as mopani), and of course gold keys. Josef uses a very beautiful rose gold that is a bit pinker than many others, and is a very lovely compliment to their distinctive keywork.


This is a "Pegasus" model, with gold plated keys. As you might have guessed, this oboe produces a very smooth, lush, Baroque-oboe-like sound. 


A more basic model, still with gold plated keys. 


This is the "LAMI" material, shown in all 5 available colors, in the 20th Anniversary model. (Photo courtesy of Jan Eberle,  Josef Oboe - USA. If you're interested in trying one, contact her, she's super nice and the official US importer of these wonderful instruments.) 


Until next time…happy oboe-nerding! (And check out Robin Des Hautbois’ blog, http://robindeshautbois.blogspot.com He has a plethora of beautiful photos and some very well written and comprehensive posts about the world of the oboe!)

(Also, I've made every effort to properly cite the sources of photos when appropriate, but please let me know if I've missed something! I want to make sure everyone gets credit for their images! :) )






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