Alain and Robert de Gourdon interviewed by Nora Post

NP (Nora Post): How about Tabuteau?

AG (Alain de Gourdon): Well, my father worked a lot with him, and so did my grandfather, Mr. Dubois, but it was mostly my father who worked with him. Tabuteau was responsible for the development of Lorée sales in America. My father spent days and days with him. [Mr. Robert de Gourdon joined us at this point in the interview.]

RG (Robert de Gourdon): Tabuteau, yes. Tabuteau came to explain what he wanted in an oboe, to search for a special sound, a special sonority.

NP: What kind of changes did you make together?

RG: We changed the bore a little. We made a smaller bore to give the bigger sound that Tabuteau wanted. The smaller bore gives you a richer or bigger sound, but sometimes the pitch is lower. We are talking about the years from about 1960 to 1965, when Tabuteau wasn’t in Philadelphia any more; he was in the south of France, in Nice. So he didn’t care that much about the pitch! He was working just for himself. Though it may have sounded wonderful, the pitch could have been as low as 435.

NP: When did you work with Tabuteau for the first time?

RG: 1949. I came to work with Mr. Dubois when Alain was born. Of course, Mr. Lucien Lorée and Mr. Dubois worked with Tabuteau before the war —the late thirties. Even though I didn’t work with oboes at the time, I knew Mr. Tabuteau since about 1934.

AG: Of course, Tabuteau worked with quite a few oboe makers. My father worked the most with Tabuteau after 1957, when my father became the director of the factory.

NP: Did Tabuteau contribute a great deal to the development of the Lorée oboe?

RG: Certainly. It was because Tabuteau played Lorée that all his students did; for Tabuteau, Lorée was the best oboe maker. Tabuteau tried everything, but he finally played Lorée. In fact, he had several oboes from Mr. Strasser at Marigaux— about 1965, I think.

NP: Did Tabuteau ever play Rigoutat?

RG: No. Tabuteau was very strong-willed, and I think he went to Marigaux after we had a little disagreement. I think he wanted to show me that it was possible to play another oboe! But it only lasted two or three months. In fact, I worked on one of those oboes. Tabuteau thought it was much better after I finished with it, but he finally decided to come back to us anyway. Aside from our argument, Mr. Strasser was a good businessman, and I think he practically gave those oboes to Tabuteau.

AG: Yes. For Marigaux, it would have been wonderful to have Tabuteau as a customer.

RG: At that time, all the Americans were very surprised that Tabuteau had a Marigaux, since he’d always told them Lorée was the only oboe.

NP: Incidentally, when during those years did the American market grow so much? RG: 1960 or so. But in those days we couldn’t make as many oboes as we do today.

NP: During the late forties, what percentage of your oboes were sold to the U.S.?

RG: 80%. Maybe even more.

NP: And before the war?

RG: Well, before the war, many of the French players went to American orchestras and introduced the Lorée oboe — Andraud, Dandois, Fernand Gillet, and others.

NP: Of all the players who have worked with Lorée, is there anyone whose influence was greater than all the rest?

RG: Yes. Georges Gillet. He changed the ring system to plateau system sometime around 1900. Gillet created the plateau system with Mr. Lorée, but there were very few people in the world making oboes at that time. There was no Rigoutat or Marigaux. Rigoutat began, in fact, as a worker for Lorée. The only competition in the early years was a firm called Robert, which started about when we did, and lasted until 1920.

NP: Interesting. To finish up, though, I’d like to ask just one more question about Mr. Tabuteau. How much time did you spend with him?

RG: He would come during his month-long vacation. He would arrive each day. He would try oboes, make reeds, suggest changes, etc. This was when the Casals Festival was in France, so he was here each year for that. That was in the late fifties, when I had first become director of F. Lorée. So it was an important time for me.

AG: It was work for both of them. Tabuteau was here all day, and at night my father had to make oboes! Also, we used to go see Mr. Tabuteau in Toulon, and we spent many days with him. This was a vacation, but there were always oboes! I myself remember very well that Tabuteau had a wonderful house in Toulon, and there were always oboe students. It was like an institution —Tabuteau and his wife.

RG: The last letter Tabuteau wrote before he died was to me. Later Mrs. Tabuteau told us that. The letter was about oboes, of course.

NP: So his last thoughts were of the Lorée oboe?

AG: Yes!