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Re: Flute models, fute makers

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  • Jem Hammond
    Ron, I have to say I tend to disagree with you here, at least where HIP and transverse flutes in particular - dunno so much about recorders - are concerned. In
    Message 1 of 50 , May 1, 2012
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      Ron, I have to say I tend to disagree with you here, at least where HIP and transverse flutes in particular - dunno so much about recorders - are concerned. In my experience, most of the commercial recordings I have on period instruments make a point of at least stating the instruments any soloists are using. I don't have many very recent recordings, but in my collection on vinyl and CD, mostly from the 1970s, 80s & 90s, and predominantly from The English Concert or the ACAM or chamber groups drawing on the members thereof, I'd say the majority list not only the soloists' gear but the whole band's - maker, and where copies, the original they are based on - at least the makers' names, of not the precise master instrument. Moreover the covers/inserts often contain a discussion of the instruments used, their character and why they were selected. Even the JEG/Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique's Verdi Req has such info in a discussion section of the blurb, if not a full orchestral listing. This informational trait, which seemed to me to be more-or-less de rigueur, was probably one of the things (secondary to the sounds and performances!) that attracted me to period instrument recordings - it appeals/ed to my archaeological/historical/artefactual bent - and I initially learnt a great deal of my organological knowledge (such as it is) from such sources! Certainly most of my solo-flute-featuring recordings (yes, I made a swift inspection before writing this...) by Stephen Preston, Bart Kuijken, Lisa Beznosiuk, Jed Wentz and others almost always credit their instruments used in detail, as do recordings by players of other instruments (e.g. Hacker & Pay, Pinnock & Hogwood, Standage, Hugget, Manze, Podger, etc. etc.).

      I was/am always frustrated by those who do/did fail to proffer such information (a quick perusal of part of my collection found Wilbert Hazelezet to be one such soloist, and Musica Antiqua Koln is such an ensemble, at least in the small selection of their output I own) but bear in mind that may in part be the fault (policy) of the record company - though any HIP/period instrument artist worth his/her salt ought to be insisting such information is published.

      I have, alas, relatively little experience of live HIP performances, but I would hope that at such events either the performers (at least the soloists) would explain their instruments verbally (that was, I understand, certainly common back in the 60s & 70s when there was more proselytising needed and audience understanding/familiarity was less - maybe less true today when more mainstream  formal performance etiquette has reasserted itself) or the programme notes would include the information - though it would not entirely surprise me if that was neglected.

      On balance, I do not think there is any secrecy, conspiracy of silence or even much neglectful laziness about this issue among HIP players - on the contrary, from the evidence available to me. I also cannot conceive of any reason why a performer would wish to be secretive about such matters. Naming the maker in no way "gives away" any credit for performance quality! What a strange thing to say! Besides, I think most players are more generous of spirit than that - and more grateful to and appreciative of their makers, with whom they often have (or used to - maybe less so nowadays, with the vast expansion of the field) significant collaboration where modern copies are involved. Things may be rather different in the modern mainstream classical field - where I agree, it is rare for recordings to carry any information about the instruments and stuffy performance conventions prevail at concerts.

      As for "Irish" flute makers, as Robbie partly said, the issues there are somewhat different. The mid C19th originals they are inspired by were mostly built with compromised, stretched scales due to the pitch-range they were required to be able to accommodate, entailing intonation problems which are unnecessary to perpetuate in an instrument made for modern use only at A=440 - so design modification to iron out those no-longer relevant (to the use envisaged) compromises/distortions is not really an undue liberty. The aim is to build a flute tailored for a specialist modern use, preserving the valued best aspects of the original but eschewing its faults and optimising it for the technique and aesthetic for which it is now to be utilised. A good extended (pun intended!)example of this train of development is the simple system flute "in C"  - a tone below the common D concert flute and a tone above the rare but historical flute in Bb. There are (SFAIK) no original period flutes in C and no HIP player would have a HIP use for one - the modern ITM makers have developed this model for its sonority and due to demand from players, by analogy with Low Whistles and to play ensemble with "flat set" uillean pipes by scaling up/down their D/Bb models derived from the extant source masters.

      Of course, if a HIP classical performer is going to play a mid C19th flute, there really is no need for a copy to be used as (unlike for Baroque and earlier period instruments) there are plenty of good (playable condition or restorable) extant examples of many kinds; but if a copy is to be used, of course it should be a "warts and all" exact one, to the extent that is possible, so that the player must master the full period-appropriate playing technique required by such an instrument to play it optimally and so display its playing character as historically accurately as is feasible. That is not what ITM players seek to do, so "based on/derived from" (even "improved"!) instruments rather than true copies are the proper order of the day for them.

    • Ron
      ... That is an engaging comment. Some of the classical, sons of Bach period recordings I prefer are pre-HIP, performed by middle of the road orchestras with a
      Message 50 of 50 , May 8, 2012
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        --- In earlyflute@yahoogroups.com, "keithfre" <keith.freeman@...> wrote:
        > > [Stephen Preston's] recordings were mostly with The English Concert and The Academy of Ancient Music in their prime and remain well worth seeking out. His CPE Bach (alas only two of them) Concerti are quite superb.
        > Absolutely! A lot of this stuff has been rereleased on CD. I recently bought the CPE Bach CD, along with the English Concert's Brandenburg Concertos, which are taken at a more leisurely tempo than all the recent recordings I've tried (which in parts sound rushed to me).
        > Stephen was the pioneer of baroque flute on the London music scene in the 1970s, when I took lessons from him. Even then he seemed a bit disillusioned with the Early Music scene and moved into choreography in the 80s.
        > -Keith

        That is an engaging comment.

        Some of the classical, sons of Bach period recordings I prefer are pre-HIP, performed by middle of the road orchestras with a sort of confident dignified grace so reminiscent of a bygone age.

        I sat in the audience, near to a top player whose name you would know at one of the Lufthansa Festival events, Smith Square some years ago. A comment he made that I happened to overhear was "everybody who is anybody is here today" which made me wonder who else would come, with a room so full of performers performing to each other while the rest of the world does without.

        If the novelty eventually wore off just as soon as they all got know each other I am not so surprised by that. Toward the fringe of it all there is at least the better chance to escape in good time.

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