In Search of the Baroque Flute the Flute Family 1680-1750

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In Search of the Baroque Flute: The Flute Family 1680-1750 Author(s): Christopher Addington

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Source: Early Music, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Feb., 1984), pp. 34-47 Published by: Oxford University Press

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Christopher Addington







The flute family 1680-1750

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1 Frontispiece to M. Marais, Pieces en trio (Paris, 1692): engraving by C. Simonneau (Paris, Biblioth6que Nationale)

The'Baroque flute' is now a familiar sight in the concert hall: it is readily identifiable as the type of instrument popularized by Quantz in the mid-18th century. This became the standard flute of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and was the kind that was mass- produced in England by Richard Potter and Henry Cahusac. Thus most of the instruments we know as 'Baroque flutes' are actually of a type prevalent 50 or a hundred years after the time of Bach and Telemann. It is open to question, then, whether they are representative of the instrument for which those composers wrote. Paradoxically, many flutes from after the late Baroque period survive (and may still be bought quite cheaply), despite the fact that flute music from about 1750 onwards was in a state of decline. Yet only a few dozen survive from the period which ends with Quantz's

Versuch of 1752.

This imbalance may not be entirely accidental. One of the first principles of the search for 'authenticity' in music is that in dealing with a single historical period we should not rely on certainties of a later date: thus in

principle we are no more justified in identifying the true Baroque flute with the instrument played in the late 18th century than we would be in identifying it with the cylindrical Boehm-type flute. Before examining the flute as it existed in the first half of the 18th century, we must clear our minds of three 20th-century precon- ceptions.

First, we are used to regarding 'the flute' as a single instrument rather than as one member of a family of instruments. This results from the standardization of the orchestral flute sounding d' with all seven holes closed (or 'in D', and so on for flutes of other pitches). But in the 16th and early 17th centuries the term 'flute' -usually 'German flute'-denoted any member of a consort of instruments ranging from descant to bass, with the bass a particularly prominent member. There is evidence that this usage continued into the 18th cen- tury far more widely than is generally appreciated.

A second source of misunderstanding results from a Darwinian attitude towards old instruments, which tend to be evaluated in terms of their survival rate. Thus,


if an instrument once existed in two versions, that now represented by the larger number of museum speci- mens is often regarded as the 'standard' one, and the other is treated as a deviation. But the preservation of instruments is a haphazard affair: 20 years after their manufacture, for instance, one model may become fashionable while another, now unsuitable for more recent music, will be discarded (especially if it is very difficult to play) I believe this is precisely what happened in the case of the Baroque flute. Historical factors and geographical accident also have to be taken into account: the British, for example, are a nation of collectors, whereas the French have been extremely unsuccessful in preserving their old instruments, largely because of the Revolution.' This is particularly unfor- tunate in view of the fact that the flutes played in France show a much greater variety and sophistication than those of any other country: in the history of the flute, France occupied the centre of the stage during the whole of the period under examination, while England lurked very much in the wings.

The third preconception concerns pitch. We have become accustomed to the idea of an international pitch standard based upon a value for a' that is defined in terms at least as fine as one vibration per second. Performers of Baroque music have tended to settle on a pitch standard exactly a semitone below this (a'=415) as being 'correct' for the music they play. But all the evidence from the period shows that pitch varied wildly, at least from a'=350 to a'=500. This variation, of about a 5th, arose from various factors.

According to Quantz, national pitch varied by almost a 5th, with three main standards: the medium'German' pitch, which itself varied by six commas (two-thirds of a tone); 'French chamber pitch', a minor 3rd below it; and the high 'choir pitch', a minor 3rd above it, which was used especially by the Venetians.

There were also pitches proper to certain instru- ments. Instruments tended to become fixed at particu- lar pitches-the 18th-century German organ, for exam- ple, was often in choir pitch. We know from Quantz that there was a similar association between wind instru- ments and French chamber pitch. Chamber and orches- tral music may each have had an appropriate pitch.

Throughout the late Baroque there was a movement towards a rationalization of pitch and its notation. Corelli, Couperin, Bach, Rameau and Quantz himself all played a leading part in the development of a fixed, in- ternational pitch. However, the process was necessar-

ily slow, as can be seen from Quantz's description of a prevailing situation that by our standards was chaotic. The question of pitch is particularly important in relation to wind instruments, since they almost alone have a fixed sounding-length, and their 'voice' is defined entirely by that length. In the case of the flute, pitch is not merely a technical matter, since a difference

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2 Five 18th-century ivory flutes (Paris, Musee Instrumental du Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique)


of even a semitone will alter the timbre quite noticeably, while larger variations involve a degree of difference comparable to that between a soprano and an alto singer. What then was the true Baroque flute like?

It is clear from written and--occasionally--musical sources of the time that the following types of flute were played in the first half of the 18th century:

1 High octave flute (flauto piccolo, sopranino, 'flutet'). In D, an octave above the 'ordinary' flute.

2 Fife or 'Swiss Pipe'. In B flat, a military instrument. 3 Descant flutes. Quantz mentions a 'little quart flute' in G, a 4th above the 'ordinary' flute; there was also certainly a high quint flute in A.

4 Flauto terzetto. A medium-high flute in D at choir pitch, playing at about a'-480-500. This would have sounded a minor 3rd above the pitch of most harpsi- chords and orchestras. The terzetto was the ancestor of the later 'flute in F' but seems to have been of slightly different construction.

5 Concert flute. Known to Quantz as the 'ordinary' flute, this was usually in D, but that D itself was highly mobile, varying at least from a standard of a'=390 to one

of a'=450.2

Table 1 Baroque flute tunings.

6 Flute d'amour, flauto d'amore. An alto instrument tuned to D at French chamber pitch (about a'=350) and thus sounding a major or minor 3rd below the normal pitch of harpsichords, and played at either of these transpositions. It was treated as an instrument in either B or B flat; in the latter pitch it was known as the flute pastourelle.3

7 Tenor or intermediate bass flute. Quantz mentions a low quart flute in A, but a more common instrument seems to have been the bass flute in G, that is, the low quint flute, based on the 6' organ pipe.

8 Octave bass flute. In the D below that of the concert flute.

Specimens of most of the flutes listed above survive (and can be identified with surviving instruments) with the exception of the descant flutes and also possibly the original flauto terzetto and the low quart flute. Bearing in mind the critical importance of a flute's length, a good idea of the variety of instruments played in the 18th century may be gained from illus.2, which shows ivory flutes in the instruments museum of the Paris Conservatoire. (This by no means covers the full range of flutes in that collection; there is one flute with

Bass flutes Flfite d'amour Concert flute Terzetto Descant flutes Piccolo

Octavej Quint I Quart in Bb in B in C in D in D I in E in F Quart Quint in 8a

Clef and key

transpositions: Open (c) - C# F# G# A A# B CO Cx D E F G# C# (B> ) B E F0 G G# A B B0 C# D E F0 B


(F) - Fo B C• D D• E F• FX G A B C A F ()E A B C D E E F G A B E - -7 D G A B6 B C D D# E F G A D Bottom note ' _1_1 (D fingering): _~-

This table is based on the flute methods of Quantz, Hotteterre and Corrette and sources of music by Hotteterre, Couperin, Philidor, Bach, Telemann, Quantz, Graupner and Molter.


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3 Opening of a brunette from Jacques Hotteterre's collection Airs et brunettes . . tirez des meilleurs autheurs (Paris, 1721) (Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale)

a sounding length four times that of the smallest shown here and thus pitched two octaves lower.)

Composers hardly ever specified the type of flute they were writing for; and the boundaries between the different types were blurred. Since the playing pitch both of other instruments and of the individual flute was so variable, many instruments could have played as different kinds of flute in different performances. The problem is one of notation, since all flutes were written as if they were in

D--at least during the first quarter of the 18th century--whatever pitch they played at. The note played with all finger-holes closed was written as d' and called re even in music for the bass flute in G. Thus it is often extremely difficult to judge simply from the score which flute the composer had in mind.

In discussing this wide range of flutes I shall begin with the three types in the middle range (nos.4-6) and then go on to describe briefly the distinctly high- and low-voiced varieties.

The middle range

As if the multiplicity of pitches were not complication enough, there are two quite different designs of flute. One, constructed in three pieces, was played in the first quarter of the 18th century; the other, in four pieces, superseded it in the second quarter.

The three-piece flute. The conical one-keyed flute was invented in France in the second half of the 17th century, probably by members of the Hotteterre family. For several decades the French had a virtual monopoly in flute making. The frontispiece (illus. 1) of a collection of trios by Marais for flute or recorder (Paris, 1692) is the earliest representation known to me of the new flute design. Some of the surviving specimens, however,

such as the Chevalier (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts) are thought to be of an earlier date. The first compositions scored specifically for the flute are La Barre's five Pidces pour la fltlte traversiere (Paris, 1702).

Over a dozen surviving specimens of this instrument, all made either in France or by Frenchmen living abroad, have now been identified. The design is dis- tinctive and appears to be quite homogeneous, apart from small variations in external appearance and critical differences in the all-important matter of pitch. The exterior consists of two long, plain tubes connect- ed to three ornately turned smaller parts: the distinctive cap to the headpiece (usually very long); the socket connecting the head with the single middle joint; and the foot joint (often of ovoid design). The mountings are usually made of ivory. Other features distinguish this flute acoustically from the later four-piece model: its generally wider, less regular bore; larger and less undercut mouth-hole; heavier walls; and larger finger- holes placed further down the flute. Of particular interest is the fact that the end appears originally to have been stopped with wood rather than cork.4 These apparently small details combine to make a decisive difference to the player's technique and the instru- ment's sound.

But most of the interest in this flute has focused on the question of pitch. In his Versuch, Quantz several times mentions the low pitch that was a distinctive feature of the early French flute: 'Indeed', he says of the entire new generation of wind instruments created by the French, 'they owe their existence to the low pitch.' His identification of French chamber pitch as being a minor 3rd below the German standard of his own day is supported by the most famous of all the players of the three- piece flute, Jacques Hotteterre himself. InL'artde




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4 A group of French musicians: detail from a painting by Robert Tournieres (1667-1752) (Lon- don, National Gallery)

preluder, written in 1719, he devotes a whole chapter (chap.x) to flute transpositions. One of these, which involves the overplaying of the two G clefs, he considers crucial to flute technique 'because it enables one to play tunes in their true tonality [or 'pitch'-the French ton could mean either], and in unison with the voice'. This can mean only that the flute was not normally in unison with the voice, but played a 3rd below. (For an example of this overplaying technique, see illus.3,from Hotteterre's Airs et brunettes (Paris, 1721).)

The surviving examples of this flute are to be found in

museums and collections across the world; and although their makers were French, nearly all of them seem to have been owned by people living outside France. Those that have survived in Britain have pitches of about a'=405-1 5, while those in the German-speaking countries are lower, at abouta'=390. However, that may be an indication of the pitches prevailing in the countries where the purchasers, rather than the makers, lived. Only one of these instruments remains in France, and it was almost certainly played in France: the flute made by Naust (Strasbourg, c 1700) and now in the Paris


Conservatoire. This is pitched at about a'=360, which corresponds closely enough to Quantz's description. There is one other surviving instrument which may be at an even lower pitch: the flute by Du Mont (Paris, cl 692) in the Dayton C. Miller Collection, Washington, DC. These two instruments are, I believe, the only sur- viving true representatives of the famous French flute that created such a sensation in the early 18th century.

We have strong pictorial support for this view in the well-known group portrait, attributed to Robert Tourn- ieres and now in the National Gallery, London (illus.4), which shows four musicians, thought to include La Barre, Hotteterre and Marais, grouped around a piece by La Barre. The ivory instrument held, with apparent pride, by the player seated in the foreground is almost entirely visible. From the proportions of the picture, this flute is extremely long (and therefore low-pitched), even longer perhaps than the Naust. Further visual evidence is provided by the two offset holes in the third and sixth positions, which are clearly visible in the painting and have long puzzled writers. The principal problem in the making and playing of long, low-pitched flutes is that on any instrument larger than the concert flute the distance between the finger-holes stretches the hand to its limits, particularly as regards the third and sixth holes. In the Naust flute, for example, each hand must stretch about 15mm further than on the average concert flute. On my own copy of this instru- ment I have brought these two holes within reach by drilling them slightly high, in an offset position. I believe this is the explanation of the extra holes in the 'La Barre' flute: the third and sixth holes were originally so widely spaced that the player had them filled with wax and new holes drilled in a more accessible position. Most convincing, however, is surely the sound of the instrument. It is difficult to believe that the instrument that took France by storm and inspired an entirely new form of musical composition was the rather bland- sounding Baroque flute heard in the concert hall today. The sound of the alto-voiced Naust flute is quite dif- ferent: it has a far richer, more eloquent sound than any other flute I have heard; and it is perfectly suited to the music composed by the great flautists of the day, La Barre, Hotteterre and Philidor. Not only is it tuned to a very low pitch, but it is designed to play particularly strongly in its lower range. Thus it sounds at its best playing the notes at the bottom of the staff, which were much favoured by those composers. It also has the plaintive quality considered so typical of French flute music.

The four-piece flute. Quantz, writing in 1752, tells us that the four-piece version of the flute came into use 'about 30 years ago'. Naturally, the changeover from one design to the other did not take place overnight. Some early versions of the four-piece design, such as those by Thomas Stanesby (i) and P. J. Bressan, date from around 1720 and have some transitional features. The latest appearance of the three-piece flute is in Majer's Museum musicum theoretico practicum (Swdbisch Hall, 1732). This has an illustration of a flute, together with a fingering chart, and they are particularly interest- ing for two reasons: the instrument has a very' advanced' feature in the form of an extended footjoint giving c'; but this is connected to the out-of-date, single-piece middle joint. Majer makes no mention of the new four- piece design. But a transition of only ten years is quite short, compared for example with the length of time it took for the cylindrical flute to replace the conical one in the 19th century.

The external appearance of the four-piece flute is very different from that of its predecessor and is too familiar nowadays to require description. Acoustically there are a number of subtle but very important differences, which affect all the sounding elements of the instrument: the bore, the cork position, the em- bouchure, the finger-holes and the thickness of the walls. The new kind of instrument has a more refined sound than the old French flute, and a much wider range: it can cover as much as three octaves and a semitone and is very strong in most of the notes above the staff, which in the French flute are little more than falsetto notes. The instrument has a much clearer, more precise tone and is extremely nimble, handling rapid passage-work and dramatic jumps with ease. The com- pensating loss is that, even in its lower-pitched form, it cannot quite match the sensuous, resonant quality of the French flute.

There is nothing to suggest that immediately the four-piece flute was invented it took the form exclusive- ly of the Baroque flute played today. On the contrary, there seems to have been a period of experimentation- and of extreme confusion--lasting ten or twenty years. Among the enormous range of pitches used at that time, it is nevertheless possible to discern three basic levels, described in the list above under types 4-6.

As one would expect, the majority of instruments that have survived from this period are of the same type as the modern Baroque flute at a'=415. They are identical to the instruments that remained standard well into the 19th century, except for some small


changes (especially in embouchure). The variability of pitch, however, can hardly be overstated. At this time, almost every flute originally had several different corps de rechange; indeed, it was largely the problem of pitch, according to Quantz, that brought about the invention of the divided middle joint.

In its lower range, the four-piece flute remained at the old French chamber pitch. This is the version sometimes called thefltite d'amour orflauto d'amore. It is 100-150mm longer than the concert flute and plays about a major or a minor 3rd below a'=440. A number of these instruments have survived. The most interesting thing about them is that, apartfrom their length, they do not differ in any way from the concert flute; that is to say, the bore and embouchure are identical. This led me some time ago to suspect that these two forms were not really looked upon as different kinds of instrument, but merely as the same-flute at different pitches; logically, it seemed possible that one flute should be capable of being adjusted to both pitches. I have since discovered that one of the flutes in the Paris Conservatoire does precisely this: the remarkable Schlegel flute (described below in the appendix).


thefl, te d'amour has the same tuning as the French three-piece flute, its sound quality is quite

different, and in the middle and upper registers the very narrow bore produces a haunting, veiled tone. It is as expressive as the French flute, but its timbre is quite different, being darker, more innig.

I know of no surviving specimens of the original flauto terzetto. The well-known 'flute in F' seems to be a late 18th- and 19th-century type. Quantz, however, speaks of flutes tuned to the high choir pitch, three semitones above German pitch. He complains of their unattractively shrill sound, and also makes an interest- ing technical criticism. According to a well- established principle of flute making known well before Boehm's treatise, the diameter of a flute's bore and embouchure should be in direct proportion to its length. Quantz, however, notes that these high-pitched flutes had the same bore as the'ordinary' flute, and were therefore not built to the usual proportions. (This is not true of the later flute in F, whose makers seem to have heeded Quantz's advice.) Some Baroque flutes sound consider- ably above a'=440 at their highest setting, and I think Quantz was indicating that some flute makers of his time were taking this tendency even further and cutting another 50 or 60mm off the normal flute's length.

Thus there seem to have been three types of flute of common bore but differing in length by up to 50%.

Table 2 The expanding Baroque flute

Embouchure Approximate Diameter of Diameter of

distance pitch at a' bore (mm) embouchure (mm)

Instrument fingering (Hz)

Flauto terzetto ?475 500 19-13.5 9x8.5

(from Quantz's description) (choir pitch)

Schuchart (Bate Collection); a typical concert 540 430 ) (German 19.5-13.6 9.5x8.8 flute, at two corps de rechange settings 575 405 1 pitch)

Fridrich (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum); 683 350 19-13.5 8.5x8.5

a typical flzfte d'amour (French

chamber pitch)

Scherer (Bate Collection); low flzte d'amour 715 330 19-13.5 8.9x8.3

or pastourelle

Anciuti (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum); 970 280 19.5-14 9.5x9 bass flute in ?G

Note: In all these cases, the last two figures remain almost unchanged.

Sources: Quantz's Versuch, Bate Collection Catalogue and author's own measurements


Stranger still, this anomaly is also to be found in the bass members of the flute family. Table 2 shows the measurements of several Baroque flutes whose pitch varies by almost an octave. Thus it seems that many flute makers of this period considered the flute to have a certain ideal bore, which could be lengthened and shortened at will, as it were a trombone. Those who have observed this anomaly have naturally concluded that the dimensions of the higher and the lower flutes are deviations from the'correct' proportions of the concert flute. But Quantz, who surely would have known better than anybody, expressly contradicts this, saying that the dimensions of the four-piece flute were originally based on the design of the low flute. This means that the fl^te d'amour must be the archetype of the Baroque flute from which the other forms are derived (in the Encyclo- pedie it is stated that the flute's range is particularly wide in the d'amore setting); and it tells us a great deal about the sound quality that people of the time expected of a flute.

Before examining the way in which these differences in the flute's design may have affected the playing of the instrument, we ought to consider several important and closely related events in the history of the flute that took place at exactly the same time as the invention of the four-piece design.

Until the early 1720s, all French flute music was written in the French violin clef (Gl). In general, any music written in this clef would have been played at a tuning about a 3rd below a'=415, that is at about a'=350. But there were serious discrepancies. Italian musicians had for many years been settling in France, and they brought with them the exciting new go?t italien. One of the most striking differences between the two national schools of music was that of taste in instrumental colouring. The Italians played at a much higher pitch than the French, using the modern treble clef(G2). In theory, the two Gs were the same; in practice they must have been several semitones apart. In France, music for the harpsichord and the voice had always been written in the treble clef, and the impact of the brilliant but strident Italian violin must have been intense. The everyday Baroque solution to the problem of fitting the idiosyncratic French flute into this variety of contrast- ing sounds was transposition, as may be seen in illus.3.5 Hotteterre's instructions to the bass are to 'play in this clef in order to tune with the upper voices' (i.e. the flutes). This technique of transposing by, as Quantz put

it, '[imagining] a different clef for the notes' was part of every flautist's technique.

Couperin seems to have been particularly troubled by these discrepancies and went to great lengths to 'unite the tastes'. He was a conscious innovator and seems to have been aiming for an international pitch standard based on a compromise between the low(doux) French sonority and the shrill, harsh (hagard) Italian one.6 He was the first Frenchman to write chamber music in the modern treble clef. By doing so he abandoned the low chamber pitch associated with the dessus line and fixed the pitch of a piece according to that of the bass line. This does not mean, of course, that Couperin expected the wind instruments to alter their pitch; instead, he intended that they should transpose up to the key of the bass. This technique may perhaps have been known as playing en amour. Couperin is not usually thought of as a composer for the flute. His music is too low-pitched and the keys he uses too difficult. However, in his avertissement to the Concerts royaux he does mention the flute as one of the instru- ments for which the music was intended, and if we consider that he was writing for a low, transposing flute (in his case, always by a minor 3rd), much of his writing suddenly emerges as beautifully idiomatic for the instrument. For example, the passage from Ritratto dell'amore shown in ex. 1 is unplayable on the flute as written (ex. 1 a), but transposed backto the French violin clef (, in which it must originally have been written, it reads like a passage by La Barre or Hotteterre (particularly with the passing c' sharp). By 1730, most other French composers had followed Couperin's lead and abandoned the French violin clef in favour of the treble clef.

Ex. 1 From Frangois Couperin, Ritratto dell'amore: Nouveau concert no.9 from Les gofits-refinis (Paris, 1724)

(a) as written & " #W wo reIL w, " I , - ,,'IW W I •-'-

(b) transposed to the French clef


Although the French kept their primacy in perfor- mance on the flute, the new generation of composers had completely lost the spirit of the gotit francois, and French composition for the flute went into a sharp decline. Of the two leading flute virtuosos, Michel Blavet wrote music that is indistinguishable from any other compositions of the international style galant, while Pierre-Gabriel Buffardin became so italianized that he even styled himself 'I1 Sigr. Bufardini'.

The Germans took up the flute with almost as much enthusiasm as the French, and before long it once again became the 'German flute', in fact as well as name. There is very little German flute music from before 1720. Bach was one of the pioneers, and his interest may have been stimulated by the new four-piece design, since only one of his compositions seems to have been written for the bottom-heavy three-piece flute. This is the early G major Trio Sonata BWV 1039, a work quite different in style from Bach's other flute music.

At this time too the flute began to be heard with an orchestra. It is notable that all the French flute music of the first quarter of the 18th century was scored for very small forces-for one, two or occasionally more flutes playing together, often without a bass. The French seem to have had the greatest difficulty in combining the flute with any other instrument, even the harpsichord, and it was not until the 1730s that a French composer ventured to write a flute concerto. The Italians were great orchestral innovators but they had little interest in wind instruments, though Vivaldi began to compose for the flute in this period. German composers took the lead here; Bach, from his Brandenburg Concertos onwards, was an important innovator.

Initially, the 'ordinary' flauto traverso was probably the flzte d'amour. The conical-bore flute was entirely a French invention, and it had acquired a status almost equal to that of the violin, purely on account of its mellow, inimitable tone colour. When the use of the flute, in its altered four-piece form, became more wide- spread, musicians must naturally have preferred the version which came closest to the sounds of the low French flute-in other words, theflute d amour. Quantz describes the ideal flute tone as being 'thick, round, masculine'. 'In general', he says,'the most pleasing tone quality on the flute is that which more nearly resembles a contralto than a soprano, or which imitates the chest tones of the human voice.' This is plainly a description of the flzite damour. Quantz's evidence is particularly telling, for he was writing at a time when the standardi-


5 A flute player, possibly the imperial court musician F. J. Lemberger painting (1709-24/5) by Jan Kupeckdl (1667-1740) (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum)

zation of the flute at the higher pitch was already well under way, and he himself contributed more than any other to that process.

An interesting sign of the d'amore's popularity can be found in the inventory of instruments belonging to the Kapelle of Sayn-Wittgenstein. In this collection, the wind instruments in the lower range far outnumber their ordinary counterparts. Of the flutes, there are only two ordinary instruments to three flzites d'amour (one of which is described as 'large'). Again, the surprising thing is that this inventory is dated as late as 1741, only a decade before Quantz's Versuch. I think it probable that for the first 10-15 years after the introduction of the four- piece design, the d'amore was played at least as much as the type nowadays known as the Baroque flute. The choice of different types of flute must have been first and foremost according to function. The flzte d'amour is essentially a chamber instrument: it was the flute on which one would play serious, expressive music such as the trio sonata in the Musical Offering. Most if not all of Bach's chamber music for the flute was written for this instrument. The Sonata Bwv1030 is particularly important. Bach wrote two scores of the 42 EARLY MUSIC FEBRUARY 1984


keyboard part for this sonata, one in B minor, the other in G minor. Oboists, perhaps frustrated by the lack of any chamber music by Bach for their instrument, have sometimes claimed the G minor as Bach's original version, for oboe. But since we know that the flute at this time was a transposing instrument, there is no reason to suppose that Bach intended the two versions for different instruments. They are merely written in two different keys for the instruments used, flute and harpsichord. It will be observed (ex.2) that the trans- position used in this piece-two flats to two sharps-is the same as that used by Hotteterre in the brunette shown in illus.3. And it is the harpsichord part alone of BWV 1030 that survives in G minor.

Ex.2 J. S. Bach, Sonata in B minor Bwv1030 Andante




Bach's two eldest sons also showed a preference for the flfite d'amour, whose sound is ideal for the empfind- samer Stil of their music. With its strong vocal quality, the instrument would also be the perfect obbligato instrument in vocal music. Philip Bate7 has pointed out that flute obbligatos in Bach's church cantatas are often intended for the d'amore.

The soprano-voiced concert flute, on the other hand, owes its popularity and eventual predominance over other flutes to the rise of the orchestra. The develop- ment of orchestral music during this period is perhaps the most critical factor in the history of the instrument. Theflu^te d'amour is unsuitable for combination with an orchestra for two reasons. First, it is at a different pitch from the other instruments (though this could, of course, be solved through transposition). The main disadvantage, however, is its mellow, intimate tone quality, which tends to blend rather than contrast with string instruments. Orchestral music demands a level of uniformity and balance between instruments that we take for granted, but which was signally lacking at the beginning of the 18th century. The flute joined forces with the orchestra only after its design and technique had been considerably modified-that is to say, after it had become transformed from a basically low-pitched instrument into the soprano instrument that it has remained. There are nevertheless a dozen or so pieces forflate d'amour and orchestra written in the late 1720s and early 1730s by Telemann, Graupner and Molter (possibly for one particular player). The striking thing

about these compositions is their unity of idiom. They all have a distinctly pastoral air, and in one of them Telemann actually calls the instrument the 'fli te pas- tourelle'. It is significant that the only piece in which Bach combines the fluite d'amour with orchestra is the Pastorale from the Christmas Oratorio. (This group of pieces is the only context in which I have encountered the name'flauto d'amore' in manuscripts of the period; unless we are to conclude that the instrument was seldom played, this must mean its use was so normal that it was only exceptionally specified by name.)

The flauto terzetto also probably had its origins in these experiments with the orchestra. Its descendant, the flute in F, can hold its own in any band or orchestra by virtue of its penetrating sound. There are two concertos written for the terzetto by one of the Graun brothers, who were Quantz's colleagues at the court of Frederick the Great. But quite a lot more of the early music for flute and orchestra may originally have been scored for it. In view of Quantz's comment that the Venetians used to play at the shrill choir pitch, it may be that the terzetto was the flute for which Vivaldi com- posed. Certainly its chirpy sound is ideal for his 'Gold- finch' Concerto RV428.

High-pitched flutes

It is often stated that the true piccolo at the octave did not come into use until Beethoven's time. In fact, it was very common in the Baroque era, from which some examples have survived. It is difficult to see what other instrument Bach can have had in mind as the'Fl. Trav. in 8a' of his choral scores. Corrette tells us that the piccolo was the correct instrument for playing the tambourin pieces that were becoming fashionable at the time he wrote his Mdthode (c1740). The quart and quint flutes were probably played mostly in France, as descant members of the three-piece flute consort. The rather short instrument in Jan Kupeck,'s portrait of a flautist (illus.5) may be of this type. And what were Bach's 'fiauti d'eco' in Brandenburg Concerto no.4? Were they perhaps two little quart flutes?8

Bass flutes

Various kinds of bass flute seem to have been played a great deal throughout the Baroque period, though until recently only one piece of music was known to have been composed for such an instrument-C. P. E. Bach's delightful F major Trio Sonata wQ163. (Modern editions specify bass recorder for the 'Bassfl6te' called for here, but it is difficult to see why C. P. E. Bach should have


chosen to write such a sophisticated piece of music for an obsolete instrument that would have been inaud- ible against a viola, rather than for one which seems to have been very popular at the time.)

By the middle of the century, French makers had evolved an elaborate five-keyed design with the head connected to a U-pipe; this instrument was either in G or in the octave at D. Two other kinds of bass flute have survived from this period, one by I. Beuker of Amster- dam (now in the Paris Conservatoire), the other by J. M. Anciuti of Milan, 1739 (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum; illus.6). Both instruments are fascinating, above all because their makers set out in opposite directions to solve the problems of bass flute design. In essence, the Beuker is simply an oversize four-piece flute. Its length is double that of the concert flute, and the maker followed the principles later approved by Quantz and Boehm in making the diameter of the bore and embouchure correspondingly large. The finger- holes are large and widely spaced, but the difficult third and sixth holes are brought within reach by a double- action key system similar to that of the oboe. The instrument is surprisingly light for its size.

The Anciuti flute is extraordinary in every respect, and deserves further discussion. Especially remarkable is the fact that although it has a sounding length almost as great as that of the Beuker, its embouchure and bore measurements are exactly the same as those of the concert flute. The problem of reach on the Anciuti is solved through two devices: a bent-back head-piece made out of a single piece of wood, and an ingenious system of cutting the finger-holes, which are raised above the outside of the wall and cut at a very acute angle with fine craftsmanship. Despite its curious features, though, the Anciuti is easy to play and has a lovely sound. Mersenne, discussing the problems of the bass flute a hundred years before these two irstru- ments were made, says: 'Still, one can remedy this defect in the bass of the said flute by many keys, or by breaking them and doubling them back, as is done in the bassoon'.9 In other words, these instruments are both of a very old design. (Even in Mersenne's time there was nothing new about the use of keys to make the diatonic notes reachable; but the concept of adding keys for chromatic notes was revolutionary, and did not take hold until the end of the 18th century.) The bass flute seems to have been particularly favoured in France. Included in the pieces in Hotteterre's Airs et brunettes are some trios in which a flute plays bass to two higher-pitched flutes in consort, and several of the

6 Bass flute by J. M. Anciuti (Milan, 1739) (Vienna, Kunst- historisches Museum, Samm-

lung alter Musikinstrumente) It


transposed solo pieces are written for the low quart or quint flutes. Two passages in Couperin's L'apotheose de Lulli appear to have been scored for the bass flute in G; another piece written specifically for itis Philidor's solo La chasse (ex.3). Since such an instrument would have been the flute equivalent of the oboe da caccia, it would have been ideal for such a composition.

'At present', says Quantz, of the 'unusual' types of flute like the flt2te d'amour, 'none approaches the regular transverse flute in trueness and beauty of tone.' But this is a value judgement, and a highly partisan one at that, which comes from the person most responsible for making these instruments obsolete. His use of the words 'at present' is significant: they imply that the situation was not always so, and that the 'regular transverse flute' had only recently begun to match the 'unusual' ones.

From the extremely complex state of affairs described above, it appears that the standardization of the flute was a far from straightforward process. Quantz is not as reliable in questions of taste as he is in matters of fact: this is one of the rare areas in which we find something self-contradictory and equivocal in the Versuch. On the one hand, he several times emphasizes the importance of the low tone of the flute, and speaks out strongly against the shrill sound of the terzetto flute then becoming prevalent. He complains that this tendency was'denaturing' the flute and turning it into a fife. At the same time he says: 'I do not wish to argue for the very low French chamber pitch, although itis mostadvantageous for the transverse flute' (my italics) and decides in favour

of the medium German pitch, which is 'neither too low nor too high'. Perhaps many of his contemporaries would have been convinced by these statements; but the jump from the old French pitch to that of Quantz's 'ordinary' flute was greater, if anything, than the interval between Quantz's pitch and that of the shrill terzetto. If La Barre, for example, had heard Quantz play one of his soprano-voiced flutes, he might well have found its pipsqueak sound as excruciating as Quantz found that of the terzetto. (Quantz was probably aiming, as a compromise, at a level somewhere at the lower end of the middle German pitch. His own flutes appear, from their measurements, to have gone down to about a'=400. It may be significant that quite a few flutes made in France at the same time-by Bizey, Lot and Leclercq- are tuned to the same pitch.) In fact, Quantz was largely endorsing a process that had been taking place quietly during the 1730s and 1740s. Bach's Sonata

Ex.3 Pierre Danican Philidor, La chasse, from op.3 (Paris, 1718)


A]I I J . J .




* *

for flute and obbligato harpsichord BWV 1032 is thought

to have been written in its present key of A major around 1736, apparently in transposition from an original C major (though the middle movement seems to have been raised a minor 3rd). These alterations are entirely consistent with the idea that Bach was rewriting the sonata for the soprano-voiced concert flute then coming

into fashion. 10

Musicians now seem for the first time to have thought in terms of a fixed, international pitch system. Even unaccompanied flute pieces were now written in remote keys: for example, of W. F. Bach's six duets for flutes, two are in E flat and one is in F minor, a key almost unheard of in such music. These were definitely intended for the fltte d'amour in B flat, but an earlier composer would have written them in G major and A minor respectively and left the choice of flute to the discretion of the player.

This brings us to a very important set of pieces written around 1740, Telemann's 12 Fantasias for unaccom- panied flute. This is the flautist's Well-tempered Clavier, for it is the only collection of pieces for the flute systematically covering a range of different keys. Frans Vester has suggested (letter to the author) that the more 'remote' of these fantasias were meant for the fltte d'amour. I am inclined to agree with him, but it is also worth bearing in mind that at this time the ordinary flute's technique was being extended to cover all keys, and that Telemann may have been putting the instru- ment through its paces.

Hitherto, the flute had had a variety of higher and lower 'voices', each of which was only really at home in the four or five keys it could play most naturally. As the Potsdam flautists began to use only one type of instru- ment, the concert flute, they compensated by develop- ing a technique that made a much wider range of keys available. Frederick the Great's rigorous solfeggios cover about 15 different keys. But one wonders how widespread these techniques were. (Prussia, after all, was still the only country in Europe whose soldiers were drilled to march in step!) No one really succeeded in turning the one-keyed flute into a fully chromatic


instrument: within 20 years of the Versuch, Kirst, who must have know Quantz well, was already introducing extra keys for the more difficult notes.

The traditional attitude to the flute had its champion in Sans Souci itself. C. P. E. Bach, who was one of Quantz's colleagues, seems to have been particularly fond of the unusual types of flute. To Quantz, with his reformer's zeal, this attitude must have seemed like an irresponsible and retrograde desire for the chaos from which he was trying to rescue the flute; and it no doubt contributed to the poor relationship between the two men. Quantz was trying, in fact, to do to the flute what his employer was doing to Germany; his success was every bit as swift and as far reaching. From the time of his Versuch, a single type of instrument came to be regarded as the flute: the orchestral instrument which is known nowadays as the Baroque flute. By then, how- ever, the Baroque era was almost at an end. Perhaps this instrument could more aptly be called the Rococo flute."I

I am particularlygrateful to Frans Vester, who sent me the list ofcompositionsfor the 'flzte d'amour' that he has preparedfor the second edition of his flute repertory catalogue. Appendix: the Schlegel flute

One of the instruments on display in the instrument museum of the Paris Conservatoire is an ivory flute (no. c.440) made in Basle by Schlegel in the third quarter of the 18th century (illus.7). In appearance it is a typicalfluted'amour, very similar to the Scherer in the Bate Collection. (The museum has seven other pieces of the flute which are not on display.) The Schlegel flute is the missing link between theflzted'amour, the low-pitched old French flute and the German concert flute. It is unique in that all four of its parts (if we include the sliding cork) can be adjusted in some way to alter the sounding length. The upper middle joint has seven numbered corps de rechange; there is a longer and a shorter lower joint; and the foot joint expands by up to 14mm. The expanding sleeve (or 'register') is calibrated by numbers to match the different corps de rechange. The silver key is also extendible.

There is a marked difference between the first corps de rechange and the remaining six, as can be seen from illus.7. No.1 is 75mm longer than no.2; but no.2 is only 42mm longer than no.7 (the shortest), and the intervening sizes diminish in steps of 8-9mm. The longer lower joint, with its wider spacings for the finger-holes, obviously goes with no.1, the shorter with the remaining six settings.

Between no.7 setting and no.l, the distance from the middle of the embouchure to the tip of the foot joint increases from 508 to 665mm; in other words, the flute can vary in length by nearly a third. At its longest, the instrument has the same dimensions as either a flzte damour or the type of

t?;:' 1' ? . ~..??1? ??~:? r:: ...: i?~,?; jb:~:d??t:: ?s :i`

~:ii ~II i~ ::~:~ :ri: ~"" "" ~~~ ::o: P~?i: ~':? ? ? o I::: i? s:li*:,!k:% i' ? .i- : . ii::?.tF (;~`-?T ; "?:: ?.;.,t: .,. i$i I' 45 :









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7 Ivory four-piece flute by Schlegel (Basle, c1730-40), shown at the

no. 1 setting, with corps de rechange (Paris, Musee Instrumental du Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique)

instrument seen in the Tournieres painting (illus.4); it is less than a quarter-tone flatter than the Naust flute in the same collection. The note a'=440 is sounded in the C sharp position: in other words, the flute in its no. 1 setting is in B flat at modern pitch or in D at a tuning of a'=c350. This no.1 setting is almost certainly the corps d'amour mentioned in the 'Flute allemande' section of the Encyclopedie. The other six settings bring the instrument to exactly the proportions that


are most typical of the German 18th- century flute as described by Quantz and as found in many extant examples. No.2 tuning is around a'=415 (present-day 'Baroque' pitch), while no.7 sounds sharper than a'=440 (modern concert pitch). The grades in between each correspond to a comma. The flute therefore plays at two quite distinct levels, the low French chamber or d'amore pitch, and the variable German pitch probably used by most orchestras. The intervals between these two levels are: a minor 3rd at the lower end of the German tuning (no.2) and a major 3rd at the highest (no.7). Both of these intervals occur as transpositions in German music for the flzte d'amour (e.g. in Bach's flute sonatas).

Dr Kriekeberg, curator of the Berlin Musikinstrumenten- Museum, has sent me information on Exhibit no. 1531 there, which consists of several ivory flute pieces by Scherer that belonged to Frederick the Great. Dr Kriekeberg believes that 1531 was originally a pair of flutes, each having a corps d'amour. Thus Frederick definitely played the flzite d'amour, which corroborates my belief that J. S. Bach's two Potsdam flute works (the trio sonata in the Musical Offering and the E major Sonata Bsw1035) were originally intended for that instrument; the same is also true of much of C. P. E. Bach's flute music, particularly the Trio Sonata wQ162 in E major, a characteristic d'amore key.

'P. T. Young, Twenty-five Hundred Historical Instruments (New York,

1982), lists only 102 extant flutes that can definitely be said to have been made between 1670 and 1750; of these, 55 were made in England and 15 in France, and only two of those 15 have been preserved in France.

2The use of exchangeable upper joints known as corps de rechange enabled the pitch of many flutes to be altered by well over a tone, but even this was not always sufficient to cover all the variations in pitch between different kinds of instruments. Thus the flautist would sometimes be obliged to transpose by a tone or a semitone. The concert flute was therefore sometimes played as a'flute in C', or E (or even D sharp). The picture we get from Quantz, Corrette and Diderot

and D'Alembert's Encyclopddie (Paris, 1751-65) is that the corps de

rechange, when first invented, could alter a flute's tuning by as much

as three semitones, and that the span was refined at a later date to between a semitone and a whole tone. Not many flutes have survived

with all their corps de rechange. In general, any flute from this period

that has survived as one assembled piece should be treated as only one version of a variable instrument.

3This could be the instrument known as theflf2te d cinq pieds. Writers

are aware of the existence of theflf2te d'amour in B, but seem to have some resistance to the idea of one in B flat. But in the 18th century any flute was likely to adjust its tuning by at least a semitone (I am sure, for example, that the very low-pitched Scherer in the Bate Collection, Oxford, originally had a corps de rechange that raised its pitch by a semitone, and I have reconstructed such a joint from the dimensions of another flute in Vienna). Conclusive evidence is provided by Molter's E flat Concerto for 'Flauto tray. d'Amore' and orchestra (Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, 307). In the manuscript

score, thefluzte d'amour part is written in G, a major 3rd higher, which

involves the same transposition as I use in playing Bach's E flat Flute Sonata swv 1031. Molter was personally acquainted with Bach and his family.

4See E. Halfpenny, 'A Seventeenth-century Fli7te d'Allemagne', GSJ, iv (1951), p.42; the replica I have made of the Paris Naust includes such a stopper, which I find gives a certain edge to the tone.

5Editors are prone to regard all transpositions that they find in 18th-

century flute music as recorder transpositions, but that cannot be the case here. In was Hotteterre himself who originated the idea of

recorder transpositions, in the avertissement to his Livrepremier, but his

suggestions are unconvincing--for example, that the D major suite should be transposed a major 3rd for the recorder, which would give the key of F sharp major, little used on any instrument, let alone the recorder.

6The elaborately constructed programme of L'apothose deLulli is in

fact an allegory of Couperin's ideas on the standardization of pitch. An article in which I analyse this work is forthcoming in Recherches' sur la musique frangaise classique.

7The Flute (London, 1969), p.185

8They were certainly not recorders in F. Bach wrote a different version of the concerto for the latter, in their home key. The fiauti deco must have been flutes or recorders pitched a tone higher, in G; and the 'little quart flute', which is mentioned both by Quantz and in the

Encyclopedie, fits the bill exactly.

9Harmonie universelle, i (Paris, 1636), bk 5, sv 'Flfite allemande'.

'?See R. L. Marshall, 'J. S. Bach's Compositions for Solo Flute: a Reconsideration of their Authenticity and Chronology', JAMS, xxxii (1979), pp.463-98. Marshall believes that, in the extant version, Bach has altered the key relationship of the slow movement to the two outer ones, raising it from the relative to the tonic minor, possibly because in its original version the slow movement was the only one that went below the range of the concert flute.

"After Quantz, theflzte d'amour continued to be played sporadical-

ly, enjoying a modest revival at the turn of the century. To meet this new demand, the London workshop of Muzio Clementi began in the 181 Os to produce copies of the earlier instrument-the first contribu- tion, perhaps, to the early musical instrument revival?





As seen in the well-known Tournieres painting: the French alto flute, for the music of Hotteterre, La Barre and Couperin. The C & C "Naust" flute is copied from one of two surviving specimens. It is tuned at the

old French Chamber Pitch, and will play

with other instruments at a'=415 or 440. It can also tune up to Concert Pitch with an extra "Rippert" joint.

Standard version: Grenadilla with

boxwood mounts: ?338.

Other materials: by arrangement with the maker.

"Rippert" middle joint: ?70.

Each instrument is sold with instructions on how to play at French Chamber Pitch, together with a table of Hotteterre's G-Clef transpositions.

SC & C (Oxford) Ltd 2 Bladon Close Oxford OX2 8AD Tel. (0865) 59185




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