Klingon Raccoon for contrabassoon – free download

Being a Klingon means you take no shit from others!

Add to that quote the cheekiness of the omnivore and garbage can gourmet the raccoon, and you have an unmistakable indication of in what spirit a piece with this challenging title should be played.

Johnny Reinhard, the spiritual father of this remarkable cross breeding, explains his vision of the piece in the introduction: “This work should be played as if the performer was embodying the spirit of an ‘alien’ raccoon.”

He continues: “As much of my music makes use of science fiction, I thought a ‘Klingon’ animal, a fictional world from the Star Trek lexicon, would be most appropriate for the contrabassoon. Some of the growling, multiphonic and singing instructions should be interpreted with this in mind.”

Reinhard wrote the piece for contrabassoonists Henry Skolnick, Monica Fucci, and the undersigned Lachende Fagottist.

We met each other during the 24th Double Reed Festival in 1995 in Rotterdam. We were all staying in the Pension De Lange on the Mathenesserlaan. At the breakfast table, we contabassoonists had quickly hit it off with the microtonal composer Reinhard , which was completely logical, as every contrabassoonist is a closet seasoned microtonalist. We understood each other!

It is exactly 25 years ago that this exceptional festival was organized by the Rotterdam Conservatory. Exceptional because it didn’t only offer the opportunity to admire the finest double reed players of the day, but also virtuosos of exotic double reed instruments such as the duduk, zorna, and shenai. The festival also offered a forum for musicians who had chosen different paths such as Johnny Reinhard: composer, musician, ethnomusicologist, teacher, radio producer, publisher, journalist, but above all bassoonist and microtonalist.

It can’t be a coincidence that 25 years after the writing of his Klingon Raccoon, just yesterday I found  once again the music in a box that had survived my last five house moves unopened. I had been looking for it for years!

In the same box, I also found the program from a concert given by the Newt Hinton Ensemble on April 26, 1996 in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Overture: the world premiere of Johnny Reinhard’s Klingon Raccoon with soloist De Lachende Fagottist.

From the performance I still remember that I had really tried to enter into the thought process of a Klingon Raccoon and, armed with my contra around my neck, immersed the unsuspecting audience in an atmosphere of threats, aggression, and self pride. Perhaps my snarling, howling, and barking  did not sound like music to the audience, but I made my point and that is what it was all about!

Unfortunately, that was the only performance. To my knowledge the Klingon Raccoon was never again brought to life.

Luckily now that Johnny Reinhard is so willing to make his masterpiece available to the contrabassoon community by a free download on this blog, perhaps that will soon change.

This is an offer that you can’t refuse! Let me know when the performance is!

Thank you Johnny!

Enjoy!

translation: Kathy Snelling

Johnny Reinhard
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Louis Salomons 12 -The Laughing Oboist

Gijs de Graaf plays a Gijs de Graaf

Van Gogh, an Oboist, and a meatball

About one year ago, I published a post De Lachende Hoboist, an interview with Gijs de Graaf, an oboist who came to Mexico in the mid 60’s. He was for several years a colleague of the two famous Dutch musicians, bassoonist Louis Salomons and oboist Sally van den Berg, in the Orquesta Nacional de Mexico.

The interview (in het Parool from October 19, 1968) paints the picture of an adventurous, enterprising, and businesslike young man who, in addition to playing in the orchestra, managed to open a restaurant with the catchy name Van Gogh. The name attracted tourists and the low prices brought in Mexican students. All were served wonderful homemade Dutch meals: saté, meatballs, French fries. It was a huge success.

A noteworthy change of careers

“Would that Gijs de Graaf still be alive?”, I asked myself. And “How much could he tell me about his former colleague?”. So, I began my search. I didn’t find de Graaf so quickly, but I discovered that there was a restaurant called Van Gogh in Guanajuato, which is a few hundred kilometers north of Mexico City. Soon I discovered a harpsichord builder in the same city by the name of Gijs de Graaf. That had to be him!

Gijs seems to have transformed himself from oboist to restaurant owner to a well known instrument builder.

Aside from that I found online that a former classmate of mine from Rotterdam, Kathy Snelling, plays principal bassoon in the local orchestra. There are no coincidences!

A few million readers!

It took awhile before I found contact information for either of them, but it finally worked out due to a growing number of friends on Facebook.

Kathy seemed to know Gijs, she even had his email address and phone number. No hay problema!

She was so enthusiastic about De Lachende Fagottist that she offered to translate my upcoming posts into English, thereby fulfilling a longtime wish of mine. De Lachende Fagottist can finally enlarge its circle of readers by several million!

Over the telephone Gijs seemed to be a very amiable man, who would like nothing better than to recount everything he knows about his friend Louis Salomons to De Lachende Fagottist.

No more tuttis!

That first telephone conversation delivered a wealth of information. It seems that Salomons had the habit of working on his reeds during orchestra rehearsals. He skipped over the tutti passages and only played the solos. This elicited criticism from some conductors, but eventually they accepted his behavior knowing that Salomons would shine in the concert. It is obvious that Salomons’ strong aversion to tutti passages dates back to the years that he sat next to Thom de Klerk in Het Concertgebouw  Orkest and, as the assistant solo bassoonist, had to take on this dirty work.

Never again tutti passages must he have thought in the summer of 1946 when he tendered his resignation and flew off to Cuba.

Just soak and play!

The reeds for which Salomons was so well known were smaller than what is typical in our part of the world. More American style. Made for optimal projection with minimal effort, suited to all altitude and climate changes, stood up to the dry air caused by air conditioning as well as humid tropical outdoor conditions. Salomons sold them for one dollar each, which in those days was a considerable amount. He had an international clientele, including world famous bassoonist Bernard Garfield.

Henk de Wit once told me that the reeds were so good that he had seen his father (who was also a bassoonist) pull one of these reeds out of the package before a concert and play the whole evening on the reed. Breaking in or adjusting was not necessary. Just soak and play!

Although Gijs could not recall ever seeing Henk de Wit Sr. play on one of Salomons’ reeds, only on the larger reeds, he was completely in agreement with the story.

The so-called tip profiling machine

Gijs also recounted that during that last fateful vacation in the Netherlands in the winter of 1970-1971, Salomons not only planned to pick up a Heckel bassoon in Biebrich (he wanted to start building bassoons using that instrument as a model), but also what is called a tip profiling machine (see photo below) from the famous reed expert Kunibert in Hannover. Salomons had sent him a reed so that Kunibert could make the machine. Apparently he wanted to take his reedmaking to the next level. From now on all reeds would be the same! Besides that he could ratchet up his production in a big way.

He would never pick up the machine nor the bassoon. On Thursday December 24th, 1970 around 16:45 a senseless auto accident put an abrupt end to all of his future plans.

The bassoon quickly found a new owner (more over Salomons’ instruments later), but what has become of the tip profiler? Kunibert passed away years ago. The business was taken over by one of his employees. There is a good chance the machine is gathering dust in some corner of the attic. De Lachende Fagottist might need to go take a look at some point!

For the non-bassoonists among our readers: a tip profiling machine 

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Louis Salomons Feuilleton 10 – No Puedo Ser Feliz!

Fantasias Cubanas – Roberto Sanchez Ferrer 1958

After all that has been written about Louis Salomons, it is high time to hear something from the master. It is just that a lot of his recordings are hard to find (unavailable). In my collection I have Soli for winds by Carlos Chavez, which is an LP recorded in 1967.
In Soli 1 for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and trumpet and Soli 2 for woodwind quintet Salomons lets us hear some amazing passages. The story goes that Chavez composed these pieces with Salomons in mind, which seems all the more likely since as the conductor of the Mexican National Orchestra he would have known Salomons’ playing quite well. 

Salomons worked around the same time with Concerto Amsterdam under the leadership of Jaap Schroeder, violinist, on a recording of all the chamber works of Paul Hindemith. On several works,such as the Concerto for Viola, he can be heard alongside of Brian Pollard. It is interesting to notethat in 1953 after 7 years of Salomons’ absence, Pollard filled his position in the ConcertgebouwOrkest next to Thom de Klerk. 

We already know that Salomons was at home in many musical styles. In the early years of World War II, he was a welcome guest with the Groot Joods Amusement Orkest lead by Bernard Drukker.That he quickly became fluent in the music of Latin America can be heard on a curious LP Fantasias Cubanas that was recorded in 1958 by clarinetist/orchestra leader Roberto Sanchez Ferrer with 51 current and former members of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Habana. At the time, Salomons had already worked for years in Mexico, but he was still so well known in Cuba that Ferrer flew him to Havana at his own expense to play the solo in No Puedo ser Feliz, which was a big hit in those days. It was well worth the cost. Salomons delivered a thoroughly lyrical version,with magnificent sound and timing. 

The piece is kind of autobiographical, as the more you learn about him, the more you see thepicture of a man who could not be happy, a man that in spite of his extraordinary talent, his fame and his material wellbeing could never find true love. 

No Puedo Ser Feliz
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Just dead

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The first four weeks without Henk were not so easy. One knew it was going to happen, for months, he was sick and had to die, but that only made the parting more difficult. We had to say good-by for eight months- a whole new experience for me. And not a very pleasant one. And now ? I miss the visits, the emails, the interviews, humor, perspective .

“Move on, to the order of the day”, you might think , but it’s not so simple. Because how do you get someone out of your mind who has such a prominent place in your home? Considering that aspect, know that Henk, generous as he was, had gifted me with an overwhelming legacy. It started with the records-that is, LPs. Who plays LPs? I do! Henk knew. We took them with Stephan from around the corner,  from the attic in his storage. When he was still quite strong, in October last year. We took out ten boxes, or maybe twelve? I do not even remember. They had been there for ten years. Including fifty recordings of Mozart KV 191, the collection of wind quintets, boxes filled with recordings of Leonhardt, Harnoncourt, gypsy music, all kinds of oddities. It was a car full. Then the paperwork came – archives, magazines, all kinds fagottiana – he thought I’d appreciate it. That was true. It is wonderful material for the personal history that will certainly come. Or for The Laughing Fagottist.  All that material arrived in piles, bags and plastic crates. It was strange that a lot of those piles were just as orderly as in his Amsterdam home on the Buiten Bantammerstraat. He had them so, unpacked and placed in a cupboard somewhere. That paper flow persisted all these months. I was always  ready with a plastic bag ready when I came along. Meanwhile, Henk had thought that I had to have the 78rpm records as well, and that was a gift from heaven, which I will be (among others ) grateful to him until the end of time. They were also waiting in the attic in his storage, but this time he did not even help with lifting. That was in November, and December. No small feat. Again, my car was hanging on its springs. Rarely have I driven so carefully. Imagine the treasures! Countless bassoon records with Oubradous, Hongne , Camden, Brooke and other heroes of the past. Gypsy music, jazz – Rudi Wiedoeft, Johnny Meyer.  Unbelievable. And then all those curiosities: records with musical saws, post horns, Alpine horns, yodelling and of course the dog orchestra. He was very attached to those…all of this was was only shortly before his death, along with a few sheets of his favorite violinist Imre Magyar. Finally, I was asked  to pick up the old His Masters Voice gramophone. That happened not long before his death in April. It is now here. I use it often. My kids love that dog orchestra but also they are getting a taste for Johnny Meyer and Imre Magyar. It is as though Henk is sitting next to us and and we are listening together. Just as then. A strange experience I had when I stopped last Sunday afternoon for an amble about the Wezemaalse Winehills. He suddenly appeared and walked with me, as we would have previously done. A strange experience, but also not surprising, because with Henk’s death, my countless memories awakened, suddenly brought him to life. This is reinforced by the enormous legacy of the music, the records, the history. It brought me to the conclusion that Henk is still there, he’s just dead. A comforting thought.

PS The last time I saw him , he asked if he could give me something. When I then replied that he had already been so generous to me , he grabbed the toy shown here, a Tatra 630 off the shelf and handed it to me. Going on adding, ” this one was missing yet! ”
The Tatra is now on the mantle along with the picture of a “stranded” Daf, another shared love of us .

translation: Jesse Read

 

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Quite a feat!

Unknown Nikos Skalkottas
For many,  Henk de Wit will be known in history as the man of the bassoon collection, the teacher or the repairman, where the door was always open and the coffee ready. But who really knows what a brilliant bassoonist he was?  Henk is heard on many recordings, vinyl and CD, but – except on his own LP from 1985 – not often as a soloist. 
 
In 1994, together with pianist Klaas Bakker, he made a radio recording of the Sonatina Concertante for bassoon and piano (1943) by Nikos Skalkottas (1904-1949). 
 
This is not a well-known piece, but important for bassoonists, as Skalkottas was a Greek 12-tone composer, student of Schoenberg, survivor of an internment camp during the Nazi occupation of Greece, and largely forgotten until his compositions were discovered and revived in the 1960s, in the USA, through the interest of the American composer Gunther Schuller.  
 
The Sonatina is a brilliant, complex work, not often played,  as it challenges the two musical partners in every conceivable way.  It is technically formidable, intensely expressive and physically demanding.  
 
Listen to de Wit and Bakker and decide for your self if you agree, that  Henk de Wit was a bassoonist.  Along with, and above, the rest….

Thank you, Jesse for your input and translation!
 
 
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Jesse Read: Reminiscenses on Henk de Wit

My reminiscences on Henk de Wit #2 In Henks Kitchen

Click here to read the moving story about a lifelong friendship.

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A posthumous present

zelfportret Henk and his bassoons (selfie ± 1998)

It is no exaggeration to say that Henk de Wit was one of the most versatile and influential bassoonists in many respects, that our country has ever seen. Apart from the fact that he was an excellent and in-demand bassoonist, he was a popular teacher, a skilled repairman, appraiser of woodwind instruments ( the only one in the

world !) and he knew everything that there was possible to know about the bassoon, including music, recordings, players, history, publications, and the full range of subtle facts regarding its lore, mythology, rumours and special place in the music world. And not least, he was a collector. Henk collected bassoons and everything that had to do with the instrument.

What began in the late sixties as an innocent hobby grew over the decades into a collection that had no equal, and it was known around the world that Henk’s early sixteenth-century house on the Buiten Bantammerstraat was the centre of bassoon lore, focused around the collection that was to be found there. The bottom floor was devoted to four walls of bassoons covering the entire history of the instrument, its development and change. In addition, there were instruments throughout the house, among ancient prints, iconography of all kinds, and of course, everything else that related to the instrument.

It was a unique collection which gave an excellent picture of the development of the bassoon in all its aspects from the eighteenth century to the present.

One hundred and fifty bassoons made up the collection, supplemented by hundreds of prints, paintings and pictures, cabinets full of music, a library of books, LPs CDs, endless amounts bassoon music in every corner, then an array of antique furniture, tools, memorabilia, posters, programs, letters and even bottles of wine .

The visitor to the Buiten Bantammerstraat literally stumbled across the bassoons. Famous was the cupboard under the stairs next to entrance of the house, where there were about sixty, seemingly casually piled there, but of course, kept safe and preserved . Often the visitor was astonished by the sight and could simply not understand how this beautiful, precious treasure could be simply tucked away in the cupboard. Of course this was not out of indifference, but there was simply no room ! Later, the instruments were moved to the renovated basement where they stood three deep (see photo) .

Henk was a walking encyclopedia of bassoon information as his curiosity about each instrument in his collection, and those examples he did not, himself own, became objects of intense study and the regular and constant contact with other bassoonists, collectors, experts and even students provided him with an enormous expertise. He was exceptionally generous and open to the bassoon world, and it was obvious from the first moment of meeting him that he wanted the results of his unbridled passion for collecting to be shared with anyone who had interest . Did you want a book, print or instrument to look at or copy ? He would find it, and you were invited up the narrow stairs to an upper floor in the ancient historic canal house to the music library, floor to ceiling bassoon music….where he kept a photocopy machine in running order.

Because he was also a social, generous and hospitable man with a great sense of humor, there were always people in the house . The heavy solid pine table in the kitchen was for thirty years the center of the universe of bassoons. Here, always around a ready cup of espresso, fellow musicians, fans, students and friends gathered .

About ten years ago, Henk decided to “close up shop”. He withdrew from the working life as a bassoonist after almost fifty years as a professional. He had for some time made serious plans to establish a museum and study centre for the bassoon, but eventually he accepted the fact that there was simply not enough interest and support from foundations and diminishing cultural support from the government institutions in Holland to move ahead. He sold the collection of instruments and moved in 2000 to the North of Holland where he devoted himself to that other long-time love: beautiful classic automobiles.

With the passing of Henk de Wit a tremendous amount of knowledge has been lost. It is said that no one person is irreplaceable, yet Henk is an exception! Who will follow in his footstep? Fortunately, we are now not completely empty-handed: the collection of bassoons is well documented: the occasion of the bassoon festival in the Icebreaker in Amsterdam in 1992, made possible a display of the instruments, selected prints and other information. On that occasion a catalog was produced which forms the basis for this site. As mentioned, the tools are scattered all over the world. And the prints? They are being preserved!

Check out this site!

Have fun !

(translation: Jesse Read)

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A letter from yonder

This morning I received a letter from Henk de Wit with his obituary. Written and addressed by himself, judging from the manuscript. I suppose written before his death. Because everyone who reads this blog who would be a friend or acquaintance Henk, will know, as I take the liberty of posting this message… that it is not at all devoid of the kind of black humor that Henk so enjoyed. Henk will have no objection to your finding it here..

Woke Up This Morning and Found Myself Dead
(Jimi Hendrix)

Hendrik Willem de Wit

Ooit geboren, nu gestorven
Once born, now deceased

Gecremeerd en uitgestrooid
Cremated and scattered

Allen hartelijk dank voor een mooi leven
Thank you all for a beautiful life

Eventuele correspondentie: Eury Dest, Zuid Zijperweg 15, 1766 HA   Wieringerwaard

translation: Jesse Read

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Obituary Henk de Wit

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Born, died , cremated and scattered

When  at the end of July last year I received an email from Henk who asked me to translate into English this epitaph, above, I paid little attention to it. Henk sent me quite often cryptic emails. But I did what he asked and went back to my work of the day, my move to Belgium. Only much later, it dawned on me that it was his own epitaph.

Last summer a routine visit to the doctor revealed that the disease from which he was given to believe he was seemingly cured, had returned in full force. Further treatment made no sense, according to Henk, if it meant that he only had a few months to live, in any case. Those few months became almost a year.

A year in which Henk despite the shock and grief over his approaching departure, it was clear that he was willing to continue doing what he was used to doing; working with cars, with music and interacting as always with his large circle of friends. He was given unconditional support by his partner and guardian Eury. This was a year in which he learned to accept the philosophy that it makes no sense for one to resist what is fated beyond one’s power.  That things are fine as they are. With his approaching end, he was extremely practical; he directed his death, like his life. He left us in the dark about the exact time of his departure. He did not want us to be looking at our watches, he said. Monday April 28 was the day.

During my regular visits I watched him slowly consumed by his illness. And how his world was getting smaller, until he no longer could manage the stairs. Nevertheless, he kept his positive and gentle demeanour. Henk remained until the end as we knew him;  smart, intelligent, philosophical, involved, generous, selfless, social and full of the (black) humor so typical for him.

We will miss Henk de Wit, a virtuoso bassoonist, a true expert in everything related his instrument. And he was an inspiring teacher. Although it will be to difficult to emulate him and even harder to forget him, we know that there will always be new talent, voices and examples of his inspiration arriving.  But none, however, will ever fill the void created by the death of this good man and dear friend.

You were a bit too rushed, Henk, we think of you!

Erik Langeveld
translation Jesse Read

Listen here to Washed ashore (Aangespoeld), a composition by Willem Breuker dedicated to Henk de Wit.
 (please be patient, the recording starts after 20 seconds).

 

 

 

 

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Louis Salomons

Gescande afbeelding 140920001
An intriguing figure in the history of the bassoon in the Netherlands is Louis Salomons. The little that is known about him, we owe mainly to Will Jansen (see Jansen – The Bassoon, dl4, pp. 1782-83). Jansen’s life –work was a multi-volume history of the bassoon, which in a later post will be more closely examined.

Born in 1921, the son of an electrician, Salomons began his bassoon studies with P.J. Elders, then first bassoonist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. He must have been a real prodigy, as he completed his studies in four years, and immediately found a job in one of the radio orchestras. When he was sixteen he went to Paris to take part in the auditions that Arturo Toscanini organized there for his tour of the Middle East. He was promptly hired. Then a year later he returned to Amsterdam and was offered the post of second bassoonist in the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

At age seventeen he was playing alongside the almost ten years older solo bassoonist Thom de Klerk. According to Jansen, Salomons knew that he should have the position and this began a difficult and stressful period for him. De Klerk who realized that the bassoonist sitting next to him was at least as good a player as himself, left no stone unturned to make his young colleague’s life miserable in ways that anyone familiar with the life of a symphony orchestra musician could understand. However Solomon’s revenge was sweet. He unexpectedly was given the opportunity to showcase as a substitute playing the bassoon Concerto by C. M. von Weber, which he did with great virtuosity. The proposed soloist called at the last minute because he had to report for military service. Salomons played without preparation and without rehearsal, after which an endless applause fell upon him, plus he received the praise of his colleagues. A few days later he was offered a job as a bassoon teacher at the Music Lyceum.

The future looked bright for him had not the war thrown a wrench in the works. In the summer of 1941, Solomon along with twelve other Jewish orchestra members resigned. How he managed to survive through the war is unclear. After the liberation he got back his place in the orchestra again, next to his tormentor De Klerk. It takes little imagination to think of what kind of relief he felt in 1946 at receiving an invitation from conductor Eric Kleiber to take the position of Solo Bassoon in the orchestra in Havana, Cuba, an opportunity he seized with both hands. Living In Cuba, Solomons was in his element and style; he had a big house, a hired staff and could play whatever he wanted, as he told his friend and colleague hornist Adriaan van Woudenberg.

Kleiber, after a few years went back to Europe, and Solomon moved to Mexico City where he became Solo Bassoonist of the Orquesta Nacional de Mexico. In addition to his activity as solo bassoonist in the orchestra, he was also intensively involved in chamber music-in particular, recordings of music by Carlos Chavez with The Mexican Woodwind Trio led by the composer are worth mentioning. According to his Mexican counterpart bassoonist Fernando Traba, Chavez wrote this work with Louis Salomons in mind. He was also appointed as a teacher at the conservatory of Mexico City. As a soloist he appeared in Latin America, the United States and sometimes in Holland. Solomon was famous for his beautiful sound and was considered one of the world’s best bassoon players in his time. In addition, he became well-known for his reed-making skills, and he also turned his attention to making bassoons.

In 1967, upon the death of his mother, he returned to the Netherlands, was engaged as Solo Bassoonist of The Hague Philharmonic, but that did not last long. A year later he was back in Mexico. His familiar Orquesta Nacional wanted to have him back but they would not enjoy his presence long. Louis Solomon died on December 24, 1970 in the prime of his life as a result of a traffic accident. He was only 49 years old.

Shortly after his death his studio was broken into and three instruments stamped “ Solomon Bassoons” and two Heckel instruments were stolen along with a box of the famous reeds. Was this simply a coincidence? We will never know.

It is unfortunate that we have almost no sound recordings of this particular bassoonist. Only the recordings he made of Chavez’s Soli 1, 2 and 4 for winds are recorded on LP in1972 . A very rare recording indeed. Perhaps it is time for a CD version to be released.

Not only audio from Salomons is scarce, also photos are hard to find. But here again we are thankful that Will Jansen included a picture of him in The Bassoon, and another photo included here I found in “To the World’s Bassoonists” the forerunner of the
IDRS Journal, taken four days before his death by…you guessed it! Will Jansen!

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translation: Jesse Read

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