Sol Schoenbach interviewed by William Dietz

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William Dietz, professor of bassoon and wind chamber music, and coordinator of woodwind activities, has served on the University of Arizona faculty since 1983. He is a member of the Arizona Wind Quintet (a faculty ensemble) and Trio Arizona, an oboe, bassoon, piano combination.  Both ensembles perform regularly on campus and at national and international venues. Dietz studied at West Virginia University and the University of Washington, receiving a Doctorate of Music in bassoon performance from Florida State University where he studied with William Winstead. He has served as principal bassoonist with various orchestras including the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Costa Rica, the Flagstaff Festival of the Arts Orchestra, and the Arizona Music Fest Orchestra.  He was a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra for 16 seasons. As a recitalist and chamber musician, he has performed in the United States, Canada,Mexico, Central/South America, and in Europe.


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Sol Schoenbach

Excerpt I

WD (William Dietz): I understand that at the time you started studying seriously, the French bassoon, was in effect, as popular in the United States as the German bassoon. Would you talk about that period and how it came about that you began to play on the German system instrument.

SS (Sol Schoenbach): To understand the story completely I must give you a little background. At that time there were two orchestras in New York, the New York Philharmonic and the New York Symphony. Walter Damrosch, the conductor of the New York Symphony, dominated the entire New York City educational system of music. He had a theory that all string players should be Russian or Polish Jews, that all brass players should be German, and that all woodwind players should be French. His orchestras was made of of these different ethnic groups and he would hire European musicians each year from these various countries to staff openings in his orchestra. Two important wind players who were involved in this European importation were the flutist George Barrere, and Marcel Tabuteau, the famous oboist. Others included the French bassoonists Auguste Mesnard and Louis Letellier. This fine group of wind players became part of the faculty of the Institute of Musical Art, which was founded by Frank Damrosch, the older brother of Walter Damrosch. The Institute of Musical Arts later merged with the Juilliard School.

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The young Sol Schoenbach

Excerpt II

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. I modeled my approach on his. I thought everything out carefully, and presented it with confidence, and nobody bothered me!