Sol Schoenbach


Sol Schoenbach (1915–1999) became principal bassoonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1937, a position he held for 20 years. For 17 of those years he performed in the Orchestra as a colleague of Marcel Tabuteau, exposed to and influenced by the oboist’s phrasing concepts. He taught bassoon and coached the woodwind ensembles at the Curtis Institute of Music for many years.

The following is an extract from William Dietz’s article “A Conversation with Sol Schoenbach.” The Double Reed. Vol, 10, No. 3 (1987): 48-50.

WD: During the period that you were in the Philadelphia Orchestra, you mentioned Tabuteau as a big influence.

SS: The greatest musical influence in my life.

WD: What was it about Tabuteau that influenced you and others so much?

SS: The French have a certain logic, and he brought this logic to music in a way that had always escaped me. Tabuteau contended that music has a certain inevitability inherent in it, especially the works of Beethoven. Furthermore, he believed that to achieve this inevitability, one needed to understand and utilize a logical system of execution, which took into account the placement and ordering of the notes and their relationship to each other. This idea of a relationship of notes to other notes, was a novel idea for me. For example, a line of music has a relationship within itself based on pitch differences, rhythmic differences, and harmonic differences. These elements are basically the core of all music. Tabuteau was especially smart about the relationship between the rhythm and meter. I noticed that when he played, there was a special kind of flow to the music. He was able to transcend the bar line. He didn’t hesitate at the bar line or start every bar with a new strength on the first beat. When I would ask him questions about his playing he would give me answers, but he would never volunteer any information, particularly to a bassoon player. Tabuteau had it all, plus a forceful personality. His musical ideas were presented with so much conviction that one could never consider that it could be any other way.

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