== Cross-posted so MusicFans.SE (beta) due to recommendation in the comments ==

Consider this Harnoncourt recording of: Johannespassion, BWV 245, Part 1: "Herr, unser Herrscher". I can't figure out if the very low notes at the very beginning are played by a (contra)basoon or a contrabass (or both). I don't know how to figure this out since there is is no guarantee that Harnoncourt adhered to the instrumentation of any sheet music of this piece that I can find. To me, the first note really sounds like a string being played, while the other ones could also be a woodwind instrument playing.

As noted here, there is a contrabasoon player in the personal list, but unfortunately, this doesn't help us to answer the question either.

I'd be grateful for anyone with a more precise ear than me and even more for someone with a source for the correct answer of this question.


Based on the attack on each note, I'd guess that it's a bowed doghouse bass.

One way to check would be to use the free program Audacity (not Audacy which is the new name of Radio.com) and check out various measurements (spectra, etc.) You should be able to find a sample of both bass and bassoon, perhaps on Youtube. Then compare the spectra or other items. (Or you could compare against known instruments being used in the Passion.) Also, you may try to find a youtube video of Harnoncourt's performances and check the instrumentation. My guess is that the contrabassoon wasn't that popular in Dresden at that time.

  • According to WIki en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. low-pitched bassoons were available. My guess may have been wrong. I based it on various readings about Bach. I do know that there were bassoons in the First Brandenburg (my ringtone). However, the sound is much like a double bass. Perhaps A check with the "Turkish Music" section of the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth may be useful. – ttw May 9 at 23:06
  • 1
    What's a doghouse bass? – phoog May 10 at 7:09
  • Slang name for a double-bass. The leader of one dance band (back before CDC killed off dancing) used to mention it a lot, especially during the bass breaks. It's also called a "bull fiddle." – ttw May 10 at 12:47

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