Three Generations
of Rigoutat Oboes

Interviewing the members of the Rigoutat family was a special and gratifying experience for me. My relationship with Rigoutat oboes is a symbol, really, of how much one person can change-and how gratifying that change can be. So, by way of an explanation, I'd like to tell a personal story.

When I was in undergraduate school, I took a semester off to study in Germany with Heinz Holliger. I was playing a Laubin oboe at the time, and planned to go to Paris to buy a Loree while I was in Europe. Which I did. Holliger played on a Rigoutat at the time-as he still does. The reader should know that I had no interest whatsoever in Rigoutat oboes. I had actually tried one of Holliger's oboes and loved it, but no, no, no, at the time, it never even entered my mind to consider playing on one! At that time, most of the French played Rigoutat, the Americans generally played Loree, and that was that. Before I left for Paris, Holliger said, "Oh yes, there goes the American, like every other American, to buy a Loree." Holliger had very intentionally hit the raw nerve for an American, although he was also reflecting the prevailing bias of French-trained oboists at the time. I never forgot his comment. Looking back years later, I can only smile about the idea of Rigoutat for the French and Loree for the Americans. The past decade has seen fascinating changes in the markets for clifferent oboe makers, as well as so many wonderful new models by so many manufacturers-certainly including Rigoutat and Loree prominently among them! It's a very different oboe landscape today than what it was, and I'm sure that is altogether a good thing.

So, my Rigoutat story is a vivid personal symbol. By good luck, I was able to interview the Rigoutat family ten years ago, when I did a series of interviews with European oboe makers. More recently, I had the opportunity to become the ccmpany's American agent, and was delighted to add the Rigoutat name to the other world class oboe makers whom I have the pleasure of representing. These days, playing, servicing, and working on oboes of virtually every fine oboe maker in the world-and most probably playing more oboes by more makers in a year than anyone alive-it is simply inconceivable to me that I could ever have been the "typical American." What a wonderful change! I own a Rigoutat bass oboe which is sensational. Every time I open the case I can't help but take a moment to be thankful I have such a great instrument and, just as important, that I can appreciate its wonderful qualities.

The interview that follows includes two of the three Rigoutat generations: Philippe Rigoutat (the current director), Madame Claude Rigoutat, his mother (who has been the director of the office at Rigoutat for many years), and her husband, Roland Rigoutat, who was the Director until the Spring of 1992, when his son took the reins. Philippe Rigoutat has been very busy building on his father's work. He has already introduced two new oboe designs, the Evolution and the Symphony models. Although these instruments-the Evolution model in particular-are quite new, especially to the American market, they are making impressive inroads. But Rigoutat is not making an oboe for everyone. I suspect that a Rigoutat is an instrument for someone who is part connoisseur. It appeals to someone who has the skills to appreciate a wonderful oboe-and will also take the time to find out what the instrument can do. As Philippe says, he wants an oboe with some resistance, but he doesn't necessarily want an oboe that's too easy to play. So, my feeling is that for the player who is willing to make the effort, a Rigoutat can provide a unique palette of tone color and flexibility which is limited only by the player's imagination. Fascinating.

Interview with Philippe, Roland and Claude Rigoutat Joinville-le-Pont, 9 Nov. 1992

Nora: This interview is an anniversary of sorts, since I first met you, Philippe, exactly ten years ago, when we did an interview together for the l.D.R.S. You were twenty-three at the time; now you are a doddering old man at thirty-three, right? I would like to say that it's an honor for me to be here again. I'm so much more familiar with your instruments now than I was ten years ago. I admire and appreciate your work now in a way I would not have been capable of in the past. So, I've really looked forward to this

As a player, I personally think that the most striking feature of the Rigoutat oboe is the complexity and the interest of the sound. It has a highly developed personality from the tonal point of view. But more on that later. First, I would like to ask you to explain the awards and honors Rigoutat oboes have received, which are displayed in one room downstairs.

Philippe R.: Of course. The first award was won by my grandfather, Charles Rigoutat, from the International Exposition of Brussels in 1951. This was the Diploma of Honor for his collaborative work with Mr. Georges Leblanc. This was the Leblanc of clarinets, of course, and my grandfather was Leblanc's foreman at that time.

Roland R.: Yes. At the time, the Leblanc factory was still in Paris, on the rue des Rigolles. My father was the foreman at Leblanc for about five years. But he also worked for Cabart, and there as a keymaker at Loree. He worked for Loree for something like seven years. This was before World War 11. He started learning to make oboes with his father-in-law. This was the brother of Ceorges Leblanc, who took care of him because Leblanc was married to my grandmother. This was early on in the 20th century-it makes us all old!

Philippe R.: My grandfather was born in 1892. His father died when my grandfather was only eighteen months old. So, Mr. Leblanc took care of the child, and made him work with him. At that time, Leblanc and my grandfather worked for Cabart. This Leblanc was the brother of the famous clarinet maker. It was the same family, but slot the same wallet, if you know what I mean! So, my grandfather worked for Georges Leblanc, who was the father of the famous Leon Leblanc. But my grandfather really started making oboes in 1945, right after the war. During the war, he just did repairs, since all oboe production in France had stopped. My grandfather was a real patriot-he had served in the First World War-and he completely refused to work for the Germans during World War 11. After the war, my father and grandfather worked together alone, and that was really the beginning of Rigoutat oboes. They were at Rue Polonceau at the time-it was just two rooms, without even a bathroom. It was in what later became the Algerian area of Paris. Because of the problems associated with the Algerian War my father moved to Joinville in 1968.

when the war started, and I could stay home!

Actually, four men had started making oboes during the thirties at Leblanc. This was Mr. Marigaux, Lafont, Porsche and my father. They were all working at the same place, and they were friends. Mr. Marigaux only stayed about a year though, and then went off on his own to make oboes. He became a competitor, of course.

Philippe R.: Yes. And the funny part about it is that Mr. Marigaux died right here in Joinvillele- Pont. He was in a retirement home here, and lived into his nineties. He knew my grandmother, and I met him once as a small child.

You know, my father was the first person to buy an engine for our factory. Before that, they used treadle lathes, etc.-nothing was made with electricity! Everything was made with foot pedals. In fact, he still uses his pedal bench motor-let me show you! (Roland Rigoutat then gave us a short demonstration)

Nora: Amazing! I suppose this actually has advantages, since you can always control the speeds.

Philippe R.: Right. And it's great for doing the threading on things like making screws. It's much easier than with a motor.

Roland R.: I'm the only one here who can work without electricity. Forward, reverse, I can do it all. Years ago, this was how everyone worked. Of course, it's less tiring with electricity...

Nora: What do you think one of your oboes would have cost in the early days?

Roland R.: Something like six or seven hundred francs.! But, at the time, that was a lot of money. There's something I'd like to mention about these old oboes which I think will interest you. Because my father worked as a keymaker for Loree, there are similarities between our oboes and the keys of the older Lorees. If you look at an old Loree, you will see some similarities.

Claude R.: Yes. And I have something else Which might interest you. This is an invoice written by Charles Rigoutat in 1960 for repairs for a Loree oboe. He wrote to the customer that he didn't know whether the owner realized it, but the keys were made of solid silver. He also wrote that he had been the person who made the instrument. and that the year would have been 1929 or 1930.

Philippe R.: Yes. In 1930, with solid sterling keys, the price was 3,500 francs! But back to those awards, to answer your question. The next one is from the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.

Claude R.: That was in 1951. The father of Jostrins, the Dutch player, still has the English horn that actually won that award. After that came the gold medal from the French Craft Work in 1984. To be recognized as a craftsman in France, it is necessary to have very specific diplomas. This is a problem for oboe makers here. because there is no diploma for making oboes. That means that my husband cannot officially receive recognition for his work. He is not recognized as a craftsman. and he doesn't have the legal right to teach a worker how to make an oboe! This is the same for the other makers as well, of course. That means that we cannot take someone as an apprentice (which is much less expensive for us), but that we must pay the beginning workers the full salary of a trained worker.

Nora: So the real problem is that there is no school to train people, since no one can officially be certified to teach someone to make an oboe in France. Is that correct?

Philippe R.: Absolutely.

Claude R.: My husbarnd has his prize as on oboist from the Paris Conservatoire, but that isn't the diploma for an artisan! So I think that the gold medal was given to my husband as another way of the government saying that they recognize the quality of a fine maker, since he cannot have a diploma in France.

Nora: This also means that no other oboe maker in France can be recognized for his accomplishments. This is really crazy when you think that French oboe making has represented the state-of-the-art for so long; it has been the most important model throughout most of the world since the court of Louis XIV in the late 17th century.

Claude R.: Yes. Then there was the Victory Music Award in 1990. We found out later that we were chosen by the Minister of Culture himself to have that award. Then in March of 1991 we were chosen for the Nef d'Or awarcl of the Chamber of Commerce. An award for export, it really celebrates the transformation from a small artisan's workshop to a little industry.

Philippe R.: Yes. We were able to change, but also to keep our high level of craftsmanship. We trained workers, kept our tradition, and didn't fire anyone. This is very important in France.

Claude R.: Then this town, JoiIlville-le-Pont, was very pleased that we had received all these honors, and they gave us the Medal of the City in 199().

Philippe R.: With all these awards. I sleep better now!

Nora: That's good to know. I'd like to ask your mother a few questions. Mrs. Rigoutat, I'd like to ask you about your responsibilities here. You are really the business manager of Rigoutat oboes. Do you see yourself like a Nigel Clark of Howarth, or an Yves Rilba of Marigaux'?
Claude R.: Yes, a little. But, with my son as the director, it has changed from how it was when my husband was the boss. When my husband was the director, yes, I was like an Yves Rilba. He made the oboes and I took care ot the business. But Philippe takes on some of the business responsibilities, in addition to all the oboe making. Often I will ask Philippe if he agrees with something I would like to do. This is the biggest change. My son takes much more responsibility for the office than my husband did.

It's very different to work with my son than to work with my husband. If I may say so, my husband was not at all my boss. We worked together, side by side, yet entirely separate. But Philippe is a bit my boss, as well as being a partner. We work much more together than I did with my husband.

Philippe R.: Yes. I'm much more interested in the business and the commercial aspects of the business than my father was.

Nora: Since you've worked with oboe players for so many years now, I wonder if you can generalize a bit about them as a group. I am the first one to admit that we are a little crazy, that's not a surprise!

Claude R.: Well, I think that, first of all, you must always realize that oboe players are artists. For that reason their feet are not necessarily on the ground. Not at all! Of course, if their feet were on the ground, they wouldn't be artists! Fine. I hope i understand them after all these years, and we do seem to be able to work well together here.

Nora: Who is your dream customer'?

Philippe R.: (laughing) The ones who are always happy, and pay cash!

Claude R.: Of course, we really do have go relationships with our customers. When they come here, they are like friends, not custom. Of course, after all these years, so many of them are good friends, and that makes things so much easier for me. We also have very good relationships with the other oboe makers. When we abroad together, we have really good relationships between us-perhaps more than makers of other instruments.

Nora: Other oboe makers have commented to me that they find that oboe players expect to be treated a little bit like family. It's a s group, and there is a real sense of family. I see it in my business all the time, and wonder if you noticed the same thing.

Philippe R.: Yes. I was very surprised week in Japan, for example, that people asked for my autograph. It was the same in China. It was really a surprise, since I am not a star! But it was a real pleasure for me. I would also add that oboe players are a very kind group of people. Someone might have a problem, but he won't shout at you; instead he'll say he knows it's probably his reed, but could I try this and's a very interesting group of people. Yes, some of them are eccentric, but they like to laugh, to drink, to live..

Claude R.: Most of the players don't actually check the accounting for their bill with me. If I tell a player that he owes us a certain amount, they say fine. They are very confident in me; that's because we are honest, and so are they. When we are overseas, the contact with the musicians is always so easy-like a family again. With my son, often he doesn't have to say anything-I understand what he wants to do before he says it. It's a bit of an instinctive understanding, and we experience that with many players.

Nora: Tell me a bit about the challenges and the satisfactions of keeping Rigoutat oboes a family business.

Philippe R.: Well, the nicest part of being a family business is that you always have a job! In our family, there is no competition between my father or my mother and myself. In that sense, there are no secrets. No one fights here, there are no real conflicts that I can think of. It's very comfortable.

Nora: When we did that earlier interview ten years ago, your mother said that in a family company she can take much more responsibility than she could. in another situation. Can you give me an example?

Philippe R.: When I am out of the country, I often have to make business decisions that I wouldn't be making if I were in the factory making oboes. In the factory, the office is run by my mother and is separate from the oboe making. So, I do what I have to do when I am abroad, and I am sure that what I do will not be criticized when I return. In another company, working for someone else, you could not dare to make those decisions.

Nora: If I remember correctly, you are the only oboe maker in France who has kept the direct father-to-son line for three generations. Is that correct?

Philippe R.: I think so, yes.

Nora: You have three beautiful young children. Do you hope that one of them will continue Rigoutat oboes one day'?

Philippe R.: That will be up to them, of course. Making oboes is difficult work, and it's a lot to think about.

Nora: When did you actually become the President of Rigoutat oboes?

Philippe R.: April first, 1992. My father officially retired on the 31st of March.

Nora: But I noticed he is still here working this morning!

Philippe R.: Yes, he still works, but more like part-time.

Nora: Have the number of workers increased here over that last decade?

Philippe R.: Yes. We were about twenty-two ten years ago, and we are about thirty-two now. We moved to this factory in 1989. We really needed the space! But we still have the old factory. We use it for keymaking and wood turning. All the really noisy things are done there.

Nora: (The thing that I've seen change quite a bit in your company over these years is your approach to selling and marketing your instruments. You just blew in from Japan, as a matter of fact. As I recall, your father didn't do much of that. But you've been everywhere in the world, I think!

Philippe R.: Not Australia. That has to be next! But it's a different approach, since my father started with just one worker. His job was to make a solid business, so he simply didn't have the time to travel. It was impossible. But for me now, I look at it like my father did the most difficult part-to train the workers, to design excellent instruments, to have many fine oboists playing Rigoutat. I feel like it is just a pleasure for me, since so much of the hardest work has already been done.

Nora: Of course, you are joking, because I know how hard you work! I guess that the difference is that you have enough people working here that you can leave, whereas your father had to stay put.

Philippe R.: Absolutely. When I was just in Japan, it was my father-and my mother-who took care of the factory while I was gone. Of course, my father only speaks French. But in the early days of Rigoutat oboes, it wasn't necessary to speak English.

Claude R.: Yes, it really wasn't needed at that time, since our best customer has always been France. Advertising, marketing-all this has changed things so much...

Nora: The Frankfurt Music Fair is probably a good case in point-the biggest music exhibition in the world. Ten years ago, you never exhibited there. What made you decide to exhibit?

Philippe R.: I realized it would be a good opportunity to see dealers and musicians. It was a chance to communicate with a lot of other people. It turned out to be somewhat of a mistake because I don't see a lot of musicians there, but it was good because I do see a lot of dealers. We have to listen to the complaints, too. That's not very agreeable, but it's very helpful.

Nora: Over the last ten years, the quality of nearly everyone's oboes has improved enormously-new models, better production, computerized designs, all the advantages of technology. At this point, I'm wondering if you feel there are any companies that make instruments with any similarities to yours. or do you feel completely separate from the others?

Philippe R.: I think that everyone is actually very separate. Marigaux, Loree, and us-the three main French manufacturers-we each march to our own drummer.

Nora: Who do you think your competitors are?

Philippe R.: In a sense, I don't think we have competition, precisely because we go our own way. We try to make the most beautiful sound, and also the most flexibility, and to give the most freedom to the musician. That's really our philosophy. Sound, flexibility and freedom. That way, a musician can make the color he wants at any given moment. Of course, that can mean an instrument which is a bit more difficult to control. You have to have a good reed to do all this, too. At first, someone can mistake the flexibility of a Rigoutat for instability. But then they realize that they can do anything they want-that the oboe will keep up with them. This makes them very happy.

Nora: What do you think a Rigoutat oboe offers that is unique?

Philippe R.: The sound. I realize we have improved in other ways, too. Of course, you can always do better. But for the sound and the flexibility, I think we are unique.

Nora: Tell me about the future of the Rigoutat sound. Do you think about it?

Philippe R: Yes, I do. I want to keep our sound close to what it is right now. When I hear the sound of a Rigoutat in a concert, there is something about it that makes me really happy So I want to keep things about the way they are.

Nora: I'd like to ask you about the different models of professional oboes you have. Can you describe the philosophy behind the three different professional Rigoutat models you have-Classic, Symphony, and Evolution?

Philippe R: The Classic model is easy to explain. That's the model my grandfather and my father made, so I don't want to touch it. didn't design it. Out of respect for their work, I am keeping it exactly as it was. It's a tradition. But, at the same time, I wanted to make more of an orchestral oboe, and that's where the idea for the Symphony model came in. The first one was made in 1987. Some of the second oboe players said they had problems in the lower register-to attack a good low C# pianissimo, for instance. So I tried to make an instrument that had a rounder sound, a little bit of a darker sound, which could fit well for someone what plays second oboe as well as first oboe. It's very flexible; in a sense it's a bit easier to play than the Classic oboe. The Symphony model has a different bore and tone hole design than the Classic model. The Classic oboe is more selective in terms of reeds-you absolutely must have a good reed. Nobody has a good reed every time they have to play! So, the Symphony model is a bit more forgiving for the reeds.

Nora: If the Symphony model is darker, how is it for projection? Some darker oboes do not project as well as instruments with a more brilliant sound.

Philippe R.: Fortunately for us, we have found that this new oboe projects very well. I

don't really think it's darkness per se which is the reason some instruments don't project- but, on the other hand, I'm not sure what it is! The Evolution is very close to the Classical model. I wanted to make another model, although the Evolution is an oboe which can continue to evolve, whereas the Classic model will never change. In fact, that's the reason I called the new instrument Evolution-to imply that is not fixed, that it will develop over the years. We made the first Evolution model in 1991. We have already changed this instrument!

Nora: Of your three professional models, can you tell me what proportion of your production each of these three instruments accounts for?

Philippe R.: We make roughly about the same number of Symphony and Evolution models. We make far fewer of the Classic model, so it's mostly Evolution and Symphony. As far as the Classic model goes, even if I am asked to make only one a year, I will do it!

Nora: Do you have any other new models in mind right now?

Philippe R.: No. But that's because I will use the Evolution to make changes-that will be the new model for the future. Right now we export to forty-four countries. You've got forty-four different ways of cooking, of making reeds, of making music. So, while we can't make forty- four different instruments, we have to stay flexible, and be able to change things as we need to for the needs of different countries. This is especially true because reeds vary so much from one area to another. Cane varies so much. The demand for cane has increased so much in the last ten years, and because the Var is such a small area of France, there is no way to expand the size of cane fields. You've got pollution, not to mention all sorts of economic considerations There are a lot of factors that are beyond the control of the cane growers-I don't think it's their fault.

Nora: Getting back to those different oboe models for a moment, what you are saying i that the Symphony model is completed, but the the whole philosophy of the Evolution is that i can continue to change. Therefore, you don have to think about other new models coming out every few years.

Philippe R.: Yes. Absolutely.

Nora: You have said that one of the strengths of the Rigoutat instruments is that they have lot of color-it's a real soloist's oboe. Of the new Rigoutat oboes-the Symphony and the Evolution, what would your preference for soloist be?

Philippe R.: Well, that's a difficult question, because so much depends on the player. Sometimes you can take two completely different instruments, but the same player will create the same results on both. So, I think the biggest surprise for me has been seeing the combination of the player with the instrument. That's really what it is-you can't think about just the instrument, or just the player. It's only the combination of player, reed and instrument that really matters. The fascinating thing is that while all three can be very different, you can still come up with the same result! I'll tell you a story. An outstanding young French oboist came here to choose an instrument. His teacher and several other well-known soloists in Paris also joined him. Everyone had certain ideas about why the Evolution model would be the best for him, and they wanted him to choose one of those. But the player liked the Symphony model better. So they did the perfect blind test-the other players went into another room while the young man tried one Evolution and one Symphony model oboe. The four professional players all chose the same instrument-the Symphony model! Everyone thought that the sound he was producing could only come from an Evolution. They were so surprised! So, the more I know about making oboes, the more I realize that there is very little you can be sure is absolutely, strictly true! Of course, I am very sure of what I am doing as a maker-that's quite different. But there are so many ways to play an oboe, and you just can't predict the results. Theoretically, the Symphony model should be best for orchestra players, and the Evolution should be best for solo players, but it doesn't always work that way! So I've become much more flexible in my own thinking, because I have seen how so much depends on the player.

Nora: not all three professional model oboes have different bore and tone hole designs?

Philippe R.: The Evolution and Classical have the same bore. But if you play one next to the other, you will see how different they are because of many other things we have changed. Don't ask me to describe all those "other things"! The Symphony model, though, has a completely different bore for all three joints.

Nora: So, the Symphony model is, in some ways, the most different?

Philippe R.: Absolutely.

Nora: I want to go back to sound for a minute. It's such a fascinating subject. There are oboes available today that can be appropriately described as "gutless wonders." There are makers who are looking to the past, rather than the future for their ideas. There are makers who only copy instruments made by other makers-or their own earlier successes. They, too, are looking to the past. None of this is very healthy, and these people are what oboe maker Gerard Fossati calls the Museum Keepers-the "contemporary ancestors of oboe making," to quote him exactly! Fossati says the oboe has to continue to develop, that you can't get fixated on some idea of a past success and think that is OK. That's OK for someone making a copy of a baroque oboe, but it's not OK for the modern oboe, because there is nowhere for you to go. It's a matter of perspective. If you are looking backwards rather than forwards, that simply cannot work unless you are a museum keeper. The interesting thing about Rigoutat oboes is that you haven't fallen into any of these traps, and you are staying flexible to create new designs and respond to what players want. That's a winning combination of factors for the future. What do you think is responsible for this?

Philippe R.: I think it has a lot to do with the beginnings of the Rigoutat factory. My father had only one worker, so their production was very small. They sold many of their instruments in Paris, and they continued to see these instruments very often for repairs, etc. His customers had suggestions, complaints, compliments and, since they lived right clown the street, it was easy for them to stop by. I am sure that is why my father made such progress as a maker. Also, being a Frenchman was advantageous as well, since France has such a distinguished tradition concerning the tone quality of the oboe.

Nora: I'd like to talk about your middle-priced oboe, the RIEC oboe. I see amazing reactions to these oboes. It's a very sophisticated instrument with a very sophisticated sound. It's definitely a 'chocolate' oboe, but with lots of flexibility and pizzazz. And it pretty much does anything you want it to do. I don't see any reason any professional player couldn't pick one up and play a concert on it tonight. No problem at all. What's the philosophy behind these instruments?

Philippe R.: First of all, we make them the same way as the professional instruments. Second, we aren't intending to make an instrument that is easy to play. It's entirely possible that our professional model oboes are easier to play than the RIEC oboes! The reason for this is that when you are studying the oboe, you have time to practice, to think, and
to work! A professional player has to play every night in a big hall with a conductor who, of course, is the very best friend of the musician! So, the student is in an entirely different situation. The student must learn to control the instrument, to make excellent reeds. It isn't possible to learn the things you must learn with a very easy-to-blow oboe; it's just impossible. So, giving someone an instrument like that isn't any kind of gift. The better gift is an instrument like the RIEC. Yes, it's a bit more difficult to play a RIEC, but then when someone becomes a professional player, they have the right habits, and they are prepared for it. They can still scramble when they don't have a reed, but they can handle it. In order to be a successful oboe player, you need to have a lot of experience. And the best time to make your experiments, to be lost, and to suffer is when you are a student. You certainly can't do it as a professional! The RIEC has a lot of sound, lots of color, it has flexibility, but it always has some resistance. You can't learn control of the oboe without some resistance. So, in order to sound good on a RIEC, you have to work! It isn't making any gift to you but, on the other hand, you will get out of it exactly what you put into it. So, if you can make the effort, you really get something from it.

Nora: How many RIEC oboes do you make in a year'?

Philippe R.: About three hundred. Including the professional models, we make more than eight hundred instruments a year. The RIEC oboe is very important to us. We've made them for more than twenty years now. We wanted an instrument that would really hold up well, and they have. Of course, we still see the old ones for repairs; they have kept their sound, and we're pleased.

Nora: Has the RIEC oboe changed much over the years?

Philippe R.: Yes. We added the third octave key, the left F, and the F resonance key. We also made small improvements in the bore and tone hole designs. I don't want to do much more than what we have already done, though, because I don't want it to he too easy to play! I'm sure the students wouldn't agree-but I know the teachers would-that you have to have some resistance in an oboe.

Nora: I have some questions about the mechanical innovations for the oboe. I know your father knows quite a bit about that.

Philippe R.: Right. According to my father, the F resonance key was invented by a flute repairman in Paris named Lamy. The third octave was invented by a Belgian oboist named Lenom, who played all his life as second oboe to Longy in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Of course, the third octave was adopted in Europe many years before players started using it in the US, which was the very last country to accept it.

Nora: And the low Bb resonance key?

Philippe R.: Mr. Marigaux!

Nora: I wanted to ask you a few questions about key design on your instruments. It's terribly comfortable. Was this intentional, was it an acciclent?

Philippe R.: Oh no. We really worked on this! We've also made a number of changes because of the Japanese market. There are lots of female oboe players in Japan, and many of them have very small hands. Their complaints-which we never got in Europe-made us realize that we could improve things, and we did.

Roland R.: It's always the musicians who have the ideas, because they have either difficulties or good ideas, and the manufacturer who realizes the ideas. The plateau system oboe, for example, was developed by Mr. Loree for Mr. Gillet. It's always like that.

Nora: Right. On your baritone oboe, for instance. the angle of the Rigoutat bocal is such that you can play the instrument without having the water get in all the holes. With other baritone oboe bocals, the angle is quite different, and the ship sinks in about ten minutes. That's a big difference.

Philippe R: That was a very happy accident, actually. You know, the man who made the first car in France, Farbier, did a great job. But he forgot just one thing-brakes! So, he went right into a wall. That was his first improvement, and I would say a lot of improvements are made by accident!

Nora: When did you make your first baritone oboe?

Philippe R.: That was in the first half of the eighties. I was interested in making a new instrument, and since we already made oboe, oboe d'amore and English horn, what was my choice?

Nora: What did you use for a model?

Philippe R.: I think it was an old Cabart. I measured an old instrument which was actually in the United States. We worked with a player from the orchestra of the French National Police here in Paris, since he played a lot of baritone oboe. Now we work with a friend of mine who bought one and plays quite a bit of baritone oboe. The player in the police band is just about to retire, so we needed to switch players.

Nora: I really hate to admit this-especially in print-but I've owned three baritone oboes. That's a lot for one person, I know! Most baritone oboes have lots of problems-bocal problems, bore problems, tuning problems- everything. But your instrument has basically solved the big problems. That's a real accomplishment. How did you manage it?

Philippe R.: It was hard work. We had a lot of direction in terms of what we wanted, and we committed the time to do the research.

Nora: Was the first instrument a success?

Philippe R.: I would say that nobody needs to remember that instrument! The second one wasn't so bad. I think we've made around ten
Nora: Why so few?

Philippe R.: That's because where you have sold one in a country, you have supplied the entire market!

Nora: I'd like to talk about materials and wood for a moment. In a very interesting television production about grenadilla wood shown throughout the United States by National Educational Television, Hugo Schreiber of Schreiber Bassoons predicted that unless major efforts are made to replenish the African forests, there will be no grenadilla wood available for instrument making within twenty years. None. What is your opinion on this subject?

Philippe R.: Well, I have to say I don't know much about the situation in Africa. What we have found is that the quality of wood is not as good as it used to be. We throw out more wood than we used to. You have to look at a piece of wood very carefully before you make it into an oboe! In the old days, the quality was higher, and you just took a piece of wood and it would usually be fine.

Nora: You also make oboes in bois de violette-violet wood. How do you find this wood compares to grenadilla wood?

Philippe R.: I am very positively surprised by the quality of our violet wood. However, there is one precaution. We have found that you must oil the bore of these instruments every day! This preserves the wood from changir1g. Two or three drops of sweet almond oil on a feather at least every two days for the life of the instrument. Each customer who does this is wild about their oboe. Each person who doesn't do this is very angry at me! It really works. Violet wood is a special wood that absorbs everything like a sponge, so, it can change a bit, and this is the danger. You oil the instrument just before playing, and then the water just can't penetrate into the wood. It protects the wood, and the sound becomes better and better.

Nora: Fascinating. I've had some rather bad experier1ces with violet wood, thougt1 part of that, 1 am sure, is the dry and excessive heating-with absolutely no humidity-during the winters in the US. It's a killer for this wood.

Philippe R.: Absolutely. Violet wood can change quite a bit, and this is the danger.

Nora: On to the future for a moment: how do you see Rigoutat in the 21st century?

Philippe R.: Well, first of all, I still want to be here! It would be nice to continue to increase our size and our production, but nobody knows how that will go. I can tell you that I don't think I will have more than forty-nine workers, because all the labor laws in France change after that number.

Nora: Of course, when you are small, it's easier to be flexible. I think it's a big advantage.

Philippe R.: Yes. You can control your production better. Being a supervisor-being the boss-isn't really where my heart and soul are, but it's absolutely necessary when your name is on every instrument.

Nora: To you personally. what constitutes success for you here at Rigoutat? What makes you happy?

Philippe R.: It isn't success itself that makes me happy. 11ike being able to do things the way I really want to do then1. I'm happy when 1 make instruments really well, and when they are as close as possible to what I want then1 to be in terms of their quality. That's success for me. I also enjoy having this factory, as well as being able to take care of the needs of my family. I'm really not so complicated! The coi1lpetitive stuff- whether we are selling more than someone else, etc.-I really don't care.

Nora: What do you find to the the most difficult aspect of your work?

Philippe R.: In a small company, you must be able to do a lot of different things. It's like you were telling me earlier today-when you think you finally have five minutes to solve a problem, something else comes along, anc1 your five minutes becomes a dream-you get five seconds instead! For example, I know at the beginning of the week what I plan to get done during the week. At the end of the week, there are one or two days missing because of all the other things I have had to do. It's incredibly disagreeable, because you just can't finish what you know you have to get done! For me, that also means that when the weekend comes, I simply must continue to work-definitely not the greatest! But, of course, as long as the good outweighs the bad, things will work out. And, for me, they generally do.

Nora: Tell me one other thing: if you had the oboe factory of your dreams-and all the money in the world-would you make any changes?

Philippe R.: Here? No. But I do need to replace my old car, since there's a huge hole in the floor pan and I can see the street right through the floor!