Historical Oboe

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Historical Oboes 2: Development of the

Historical Oboes 2: Development of the

French Simple System Oboe 1800-1840

French Simple System Oboe 1800-1840

By Robert Howe

By Robert Howe

Wilbraham, Massachusetts

Wilbraham, Massachusetts

n the last issue I discussed four

n the last issue I discussed four nineteenth century oboes: two nineteenth century oboes: two from Dresden, one from from Dresden, one from Prague and one from Prague and one from Philadel-phia. This may have given a phia. This may have given a biased view of the development of biased view of the development of oboe key systems, much of which oboe key systems, much of which occurred in France. French and occurred in France. French and German oboes evolved along German oboes evolved along dif-ferent lines after 1800. Paris in ferent lines after 1800. Paris in 1800-1840 was the crossroad of 1800-1840 was the crossroad of European intellectual ferment European intellectual ferment11; ; itit

was also Europe’s busiest center of was also Europe’s busiest center of musical instrument manufacture. musical instrument manufacture. Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Prague Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Prague and Vienna were hubs of wind and Vienna were hubs of wind instrument manufacture in instrument manufacture in east-ern Europe, but none boasted the ern Europe, but none boasted the number of makers or instruments number of makers or instruments made as did the French capital. made as did the French capital. This was due to political factors. This was due to political factors. France had been a single large France had been a single large nation under a king since the 12th nation under a king since the 12th century, with Paris as its political century, with Paris as its political and educational capital the entire and educational capital the entire time. Until the 19th century, time. Until the 19th century, how-ever, central and eastern Europe ever, central and eastern Europe consisted of relatively small consisted of relatively small nation-states without a common artistic states without a common artistic

or cultural center. State academies for or cultural center. State academies for distin-guished singers and actors were established in guished singers and actors were established in Paris by Louis XVI in

Paris by Louis XVI in 1784 and 1786; the National1784 and 1786; the National (later Paris) Conservato

(later Paris) Conservatoire was ire was founded in 1793founded in 17932,32,3..

These national artistic centers were preserved These national artistic centers were preserved by very different by very different suc-cessive French cessive French govern-ments through the ments through the tur-moils of the French moils of the French Revolution, Napoleonic Revolution, Napoleonic era and Bourbon era and Bourbon res-toration

toration33. . They They servedserved

to concentrate French to concentrate French musical, dramatic, and musical, dramatic, and balletic resources in balletic resources in Paris; painting and Paris; painting and lit-erature inevitably erature inevitably fol-lowed suit.

lowed suit.

During the During the Napole-onic wars (1792-1815), onic wars (1792-1815), much of Europe was much of Europe was


subjugated or imjugated or impoverished. poverished. Musi- Musi-cal instrument makers came to the cal instrument makers came to the relative stability of Paris to learn relative stability of Paris to learn and practice the

and practice their trades, ir trades, profitingprofiting from sales to professional from sales to professional musi-cians, students and the French cians, students and the French army.

army. Paris Paris thus thus abounded abounded withwith woodwind makers; their names fill woodwind makers; their names fill 8 columns in the standard 8 columns in the standard ref-erence

erence44. . Many Many made made but but oneone

type of instrument, a type of instrument, a specializa-tion that was not possible in the tion that was not possible in the more widely dispersed east more widely dispersed east Euro-pean market

pean market22. In these years, var-. In these years,

var-ious improvements in metal and ious improvements in metal and woodworking wer

woodworking were applied to e applied to windwind instruments

instruments. . The The industrial industrial revo- revo-lution provided the technology to lution provided the technology to produce large numbers of produce large numbers of inter-changeable parts, making mass changeable parts, making mass production of woodwinds possible production of woodwinds possible by mid-century. Makers in such by mid-century. Makers in such villages as LaCouture, villages as LaCouture, Ivry-la-Bat-taile, Chateau-Thierry, taile, Chateau-Thierry, Mantes-la-Ville, Garennes and Mirecourt Ville, Garennes and Mirecourt con-tributed parts, signed instruments tributed parts, signed instruments and unstamped instruments to the and unstamped instruments to the enormous number of woodwinds enormous number of woodwinds produced in the area of the French produced in the area of the French capital. Thus, it is no surprise that important capital. Thus, it is no surprise that important advances in woodwind

advances in woodwind design occurred here.design occurred here. When studying the history of a woodwind When studying the history of a woodwind instrument it is tempting to count and describe instrument it is tempting to count and describe keys, presuming that this is all that we need keys, presuming that this is all that we need to

to know. know. This presumption is This presumption is false; the false; the devel- devel-opment of an instrument did not occur in a opment of an instrument did not occur in a vacuum, nor consist solely of the addition of vacuum, nor consist solely of the addition of keys. To understand the development of a keys. To understand the development of a wood-wind instrument one must study key systems, wind instrument one must study key systems, the metal used to make the keys, the method of the metal used to make the keys, the method of mounting the keys to the body, manufacturing mounting the keys to the body, manufacturing methods, the wood used for the body, the methods, the wood used for the body, the deco-rative designs placed on the wood, the rative designs placed on the wood, the dimen-sions of the bore, toneholes and vents, the sions of the bore, toneholes and vents, the design of the reed, the players

design of the reed, the players’’ concept of whatconcept of what the instrument should sound like and how that the instrument should sound like and how that sound can be achieved, the instrument

sound can be achieved, the instrument’’s role ins role in the orchestr

the orchestra and its compass or range. a and its compass or range. BecauseBecause the oboe

the oboe’’s Parisian development was s Parisian development was profoundlyprofoundly influenced by work carried out on other influenced by work carried out on other




FIGURE 1.Two key oboe by Geh- Two key oboe by Geh-  ring

ring, Leipzi, Leipzig 1755-18g 1755-18111; 12 key 1; 12 key  oboe (

oboe (originoriginally ally 2-9 keys) 2-9 keys) by by Guil- Guil-  laume Triébert, Paris, circa 1815; laume Triébert, Paris, circa 1815;  Sellner model oboe by Ludwig &  Sellner model oboe by Ludwig &


 Martinka, Praka, Prague, 1857-86.gue, 1857-86.


FIGURE 2:Trademark oTrademark of f  Gehring oboe. Gehring oboe.


ments, I will touch on the history of the flute and clarinet as well.


In 1800 the orchestral wood-wind choir was clearly defined as pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons. The oldest of the stan-dard woodwinds was the two keyed oboe. The Eroica Symphony (1803) was probably premiered on an oboe such as the Gehring in figures 1 and 2. Johann Christian Gehring and his son Heinrich Gottfried Geh-ring made woodwinds in Leipzig between 1755-1811, possbily in con-junction with Gottlieb Crone5. This instrument dates from circa 1780, and plays very well at A430. It is

of boxwood, the standard material of 18th cen-tury woodwinds, and has brass keys. The simple scale of the two keyed oboe is D, with a flat F#6. G# was produced by a double hole on 3; F, Bb1 and c2 by cross fingerings, Eb and c1 (the lowest note on the oboe) by the two keys; c#1 was absent. Notes above the staff were made by long cross fingerings as overblown lower octave fingerings were less stable. An octave key was not required on the two keyed oboe; when first added during the 19th century, it was not used as on a modern oboe, but only to assist with upward slurs and occasional awkward intervals using the short fingerings. Tellingly, it was called the “slur” or “speaker” key2. The tone holes were undercut, the bell had an internal rim and two vent holes, and the bore expanded acutely at each joint. The reed well was in the form of an inverted cone and the reed was usually not placed all the way to the bottom of the well.

The two keyed oboe had great tonal flexibil-ity but limited technique in chromatic passages or in keys remote from C. The early acoustician J. A. Charles in 1802 noted that “The oboe plays very well in the keys of C, F and E flat; it is extremely difficult in the sharp keys; and prac-tically impossible in the key of E major”7. Why was playing in sharp (or very flat) keys so hard? Because of several balky fingerings. The player had to humor F# up into tune, using a double hole on 4 and the Eb key; G# is awkward in pas-sages going to F, E or D, as the left hand must pivot around a tiny radius; there was no low c#1 while c#2 was flat; and the interval c#2-d#2 required that the player shift from one flat key for the right pinkie to another without leaving any gap between the notes.

Knowing this gives us insight into the oboe and oboe d’amore writing of Bach and Telemann, as opposed to the classical masters. In the baroque era, oboes typically doubled violins in tuttis, writing was very florid and the oboist was fre-quently exposed as a soloist in can-tata or instrumental writing in sharp keys. Composers knew the capabil-ities of their players; baroque era oboe solos are almost always in the comfortable keys of G, C, F, or Bb, less commonly in D or Eb. But not all music was written in these keys. The oboe d’amore provided a color to the baroque orchestra but more importantly allowed the oboist to function as a soloist in the concert keys of A or E major. Bach rarely writes for the oboe in A major, or for the oboe d’amore in flat keys.

The baroque oboe d’amore had a very pale, monochromactic sound (at least in modern reconstructions) which was poorly suited to music written in the predominantly Italianate late 18th century styles. Also, oboe writing in the clas-sical period was simpler and more restrained; the oboist rarely needed to play a lot of notes in A or E major, and certainly not in a solo capacity. Thus the oboe d’amore no longer had a reason to exist, and it died with Bach and Telemann as a new fashion of oboe writing replaced the old.

As the 19th century began, keys were added to the oboe in an ad hoc fashion to meet the needs of new musical styles and to improve pitch2,8,9,10. Many players and makers were skepti-cal about adding keys2; the prominent Dresden maker Heinrich Grenser and the virtuoso Wilhelm The-odor Johann Braun wrote articles opposing the addi-tion of keys to the oboe8,11. This may have been because leather pads closing on flat holes in boxwood seal poorly12and impair the resis-tance and tone of the oboe. To improve the seal, keyed tone holes are generally drilled in flattened areas on the body (figure 3).

But perhaps this con-servatism is the natural skepticism of a professional towards changes in his work-ing tools. A musician who has

FIGURE 3.Tone hole design on an 18th century woodwind. This is the low c from an oboe by Thomas Cahusac (Senior),

circa 1780.

FIGURE 4. Construction of Eb

and C keys on Gehring oboe.


spent years learning to play a difficult instru-ment has little reason to give up his advantages, so long as he can continue to play well; nor do the realities of regular professional engagements make such a change practical. We see this is the twentieth century, when such logical instruments as LeBlanc’s Le Rationalle saxophone and the McIntyre clarinet gained no professional favor; and in the difficulties that faced British and American bassoonists changing from French to German system instruments.

The keys on a 2 key oboe are mounted in raised wooden rings left during the turning of the wood; the upper ring is inevitably squared off and supports the Eb key ( “small key” ) and the C key’s ( “great key” ) touchpiece, while the rounded lower ring holds the great key’s pad (figure 4). Other original keys may be mounted in blocks left on the wood during turn-ing, as shown by the Bauer and Weygandt oboes in the previous article8. Added keys are usually (but not always!) in brass saddles8. The saddle is screwed into a slot cut into the wood (figure 5). Brass saddles do not bind when wood shrinks and thus may be more reliable than keys in wooden rings. Period specimens often show several added keys, effectively making a new instrument out of an old one with little change in its playing qualities. It is common to find that an oboe had several added keys which differ in their details, suggesting that they were successively added to preserve the oboe’s useful playing life8,13,14.


Most French oboists in 1800 used 2 to 4 key oboes2. The first professor of oboe at the Paris Conservatoire was François Alex-andre Antoine Sallantin (served 1793-1816), who used a four keyed oboe3,15,16. The third key, an F# corrector, allowed F# to be played as 1234-F# key, avoiding the need for a half hole on 4. As figure 6 shows, the key was opened by the ring or pinkie finger; this was awk-ward in fast passages. The fourth

key closed a vent hole on the bell to lower the pitch of c1. Conrey states that Sallantin played a Delusse oboe with 10 added keys3, but eight of these were added after Sallantin’s death17. Sal-lantin was succeeded by Auguste Georges Gus-tave Vogt (served 1816-53), who at first played a four keyed oboe but changed to a Delusse with 7 added keys around 18243,17,18. The next profes-sor, Louis Stanislaus Xavier Verroust (served 1853-63), used a Tulou oboe built with nine keys. All three of these oboes are on display at the Musèe de Musique in Paris19.

While the Parisian gray hairs used extra keys to help with pitch, younger players used keys to simplify technique2. Henri Brod (1799-1839) was a virtuoso player and later an oboe maker who made several notable improvements2,24,20. A  native Parisian, Brod entered the Conservatoire at the age of 12. At 20 he was playing second oboe in the Opera orchestra to his teacher Vogt. He wrote in his Method of 1826: “When buying a first instrument the beginner can economize on the exterior; but above all he must get an instrument provided with all the keys. Other-wise, having an instrument that is not in tune, he will be obliged to force certain notes up or down and will become used to poor fingering habits which avoid the keys. Advanced or begin-ning students who cannot appreciate the qual-ity of an instrument would do well to leave the choice to a good teacher...The best oboes are made in Paris at Triébert’s. Those of Delusse are also very well regarded but one is always obliged to add keys, because in Delusse’s time the instru-ment only had two”21,22.

Garnier’s oboe tutor of 1800 recommended oboes made in the exact proportions of Delusse’s model5,23. Sallantin, Vogt and Brod used and recommended oboes by Delusse, as did Veny, another prominent player, in 182824. This is odd; was no one making fine oboes in Paris at the turn of the 19th century? It says much about the social insta-bility of the French revolution and Napoleonic era that the finest oboists in France advocated using oboes by a maker who had died 40 years earlier25. One might ask, how many major modern players use B series Lorées?

The workshop of Jacques Delusse and Christophe Delusse flourished from 1748 to 17895—or did it? Evidence concerning Delusse is confusing; it is even unclear if these makers were father and son or the same person

FIGURE 5. Metal  saddle with Eb key  as added to Tri ébert 

12 key oboe, circa 1815.

FIGURE 6. F# corrector on Tri ébert  oboe circa 1815; note the identical 

location of the F# vent on Lor ée oboe CY68 (1973).


working under different names5,26. Jacques was listed as one of five woodwind makers in the Community of Master Musical Instrument Makers in 17485; Christophe Delusse was made a Master in the Community, on 10 May 175827. Was Jacques Delusse an earlier maker or the same person as Christophe, elevated to Master in 1758?26.

The Community of Master Musical Instru-ment Makers28 is an interesting organization, a loose association of makers which enforced quality standards among its members and pro-moted the sale of their products. A recent paper describes the Community and lists all the makers who were members from 1723 to 1789 (except for 1731 to 1734, the records of which were lost)26. Makers could join the Community of Masters by working as an apprentice and presenting a “masterwork” (exhibition instrument); by being the son of a maker; by the award of a privilege ( “brevet” ) by the members of the Community; by the award of the King’s Council ( “conseil du roi” ); by past experience; by the deliberation of the Community; or by the award of a privilege upon completing an apprenticeship specifically for orphans in l’Hôpital de la Trinitè.

Such manufacturer’s organizations were common in 18th century Europe, in a time when large industrial firms were unknown; they were remnants of the Medieval trade guilds. Their attitude survived the Industrial Revolution in such Parisian woodwind makers as Le Union de la facture instrumentale, Association fraternelle d’ouvriers facteur d’instruments de vent, Associ-ation générale des ouvriers, and Ouvriers réunis association générale, which flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries5,29.

The Delusses’ Paris shop made various wood-winds including galoubets (French bagpipes), bird whistles, flutes and bassoons5,30. However, they were most noted for their oboes; 25 of the 43 Delusse specimens listed in Phillip Young’s 4900 Historical Woodwind Instruments30 are oboes of one sort or another. These included curved cors anglais, tenor oboes (straight oboes in F with wider bores than a cor anglais), and the only known contrabass oboe, two octaves below the usual oboe5,30. Jacque’s oboes were illustrated in Diderot and d’Alembert’s famous Encyclopédie of 1769, in the article “Musique” penned by “M. de Lusse” (this was Charles de Lusse, who apparently was not related to Jacques Delusse)5. The Delusses’ work was highly regarded in their time; of the 18 Delusse oboes known to exist, half have added keys30, showing that players liked them enough to keep them up to date. Michel Piguet has recorded the Mozart Oboe Quartet on a two keyed Delusse oboe31. Curiously, 6 of the

18 Delusse oboes are of woods other than box (2 of cedar, one each of cocuswood, ebony, vio-letwood and palissandre), as are 8 of their 15 known flutes and whistles30,32.

No Delusse clarinets are known. This might suggest a rarity of use of that instrument in Paris before 1790; the great French clarinet makers Michel Amlingue, Joseph Baumann and Jacques François Simiot opened their ateliers in 1782, 1790 and 18085. However, it is more likely a sign of the Delusses’ specialization in oboes, or of the ravages of history. Clarinets were initially made in Paris in small numbers beginning in the mid-1750s. Gluck was obliged to substitute clarinets for cors anglais in the 1774 Paris premiere of

Orphée et Euridice33,34. Evidence for the construc-tion of many clarinets in eighteenth-century Paris is found in the inventory of the Prudent work-shop in 178635,36, probably undertaken on the death of the proprietor and father, Prudent Thi-erriot. The shop contained 143 clarinets (in Bb, C, D, and F), 22 oboes, 58 bassoons, 177 flutes, 36 fifes, 261 flageolets, and 41 recorders. Of the three surviving Prudent clarinets none appear early enough to be made by Prudent përe, but he had three sons. The first son, Jean-Baptiste Pru-dent Thieriot (born 1762) is absent from Paris after 1792 and not heard of after this date. The extant Prudent clarinets were probably made by his second son, Nicolas-Louis Prudent Thieriot (1777-1822), known as a key maker from 1793. There was also a third son and maker of instru-ments, Jean-François Prudent Thieriot (born 1781), who made instruments until 18115,27.

Unfortunately, examples of French clarinets before 1800 are quite scarce today; many makers are known by a single specimen37. By the 1770s most French clarinets were made for military use. One logical explanation for the dearth of early French clarinets is that most of these instruments perished during

the French Revolution (1789), during which numerous sym-bols of Royalty, the Catholic Church and the military were destroyed or defaced. Alter-nately, the Napoleonic Wars may have ruined earlier instruments and caused their replacement by later spec-imens. Certainly a clarinet would make excellent fire-wood for a French soldier shivering on his way back from Moscow during the winter of 1812.

FIGURE 7. Half  hole apparatus as

added to Tri ébert  oboe, circa 1840.



The Delusse’s work was con-tinued by Henri Brod, who obtained their oboe making tools and began making his own innovative oboes by 18292,5,30, at times in conjunction with his younger brother Jean-Godefroy5. He anticipated the modern English horn by devis-ing a straight form of the instru-ment21. To improve the reliabil-ity of Eb2 and pitch of c#3, Brod

developed a half hole plate, which has been a part of virtually every oboe mechanism since (figure 7). He ultimately adopted the c#1 mecha-nism shown in figure 25, eliminated the bell vent to standardize the lowest note as B, and mini-mized the internal bell rim (figure 8). Of 11 Brod oboes recorded in Young30, two have a single vent and the others, none. His oboes are slim and elegant, perhaps the sveltest oboes ever made13,14,38(figures 9, 10).

Whereas 18th century flutes are usually beautifully simple, oboes were almost always graced with elegant and

elab-orate turnings. It is for good reason that modern copies of 18th century oboes are some-times dismissed as “chair legs”, for more than one noted oboe maker began his work as a furni-ture maker5. Particular design schemes are characteristic of individual makers and of oboes made for different purposes. Even the plainest 18th century oboes, the English straight-top oboe, often has elaborate carv-ing on the lower joint and bell39,40. Cecil Adkins has shown that the 18th century oboe uses then-contemporary archi-tectural motifs derived from classical Greek and Roman models41. He illustrates how the ornamental elements on the facade of a two story building of that period have exact homo-logues in the turning of an oboe, suggesting a common underly-ing sense of proportion in archi-tects and oboe makers. Brod’s work, with its simple elegance, represented an extreme depar-ture from that esthetic.

Boxwood had long been the preferred wood for oboes. Gar-nier wrote in 1798, “The box-wood of which the oboe is made must be quite dry, with-out nodes and of a very close to equal porosity throughout its length. A piece of boxwood never has same porosity throughout. As experiment shows that the top of the instru-ment always has less influence on the sound than the rest of the body, the maker must use the hardest wood for the top and the softest for the bottom.”23

Brod wrote that “One can try several kinds of wood in manufacturing oboes, such as ebène, grenadilla, cedar and boxwood. Boxwood always offers the best results, its tone quality is supe-rior not only for sweetness and flexibility but for strength and balance. Cedar, however, should not be scorned, it makes for beautiful instru-ments and gives a very soft tone which is appro-priate in small rooms”21,42. However, Brod did not follow his own advice in his choice of wood for making oboes, preferring tropical hardwoods to European boxwood. Young includes data on 12 oboes by Brod or Brod Frérés; 3 are of box-wood, 6 are of rosewood and one each are grena-dilla, violetwood and maple30. Let us contrast this to the habits of Brod’s contemporaries. Forty-nine of 50 known oboes by Augustin and Heinrich Grenser (Dresden, 1744-1813) are of boxwood. So are 29 of 30 by William Milhouse (London, 1787-1840), 5 of 6 by Prudent (Paris, 1765-1830), 12 of 15 by Stephan Koch (Vienna, 1807-66), 4 of 4 by Dominique

Antony Porthaux (Paris 1782-1824) and 11 of 11 by George Astor (London, 1778-1831)30. Clearly, Brod had a reason to favor the harder woods (as had Delusse), probably relat-ing to the greater sta-bility of these woods with changes in humid-ity, an attribute that was of increasing value as more keys were added.

Young notes that the keys on Brod’s oboes “are of unbelievable lightness and delicacy, per-haps more so than any oboe keys before or since”14. This facility was obtained by placing tiny circular metal shims between each rod and

FIGURE 8. Bell rim of Tri ébert  12 key oboe. FIGURE 9.Oboe by Henri Brod, 1828-39. This specimen is less slender than those illustrated  in the references, but  the key work is

indeed  extremely  smooth. Col-  lection of the late Josef Marx, by kind permis-  sion of Deborah


FIGURE 10. Trademark of Brod oboe.


post to smooth the motion of the rod. Note on Brod’s oboes, as well as on all the other French oboes illus-trated in this paper, how the keys are much more elegant and pleasing in form than those on contempo-rary eastern European oboes shown in the last paper8.

Brod died aged 39 years, depriving the oboe of a major innovator. It is said that he died while giving a recital in Algeria13,15, although this is a romantic legend5,20. Goossens notes of the composer Cherubini, “When told, ‘Brod est mort, maitre’, he replied: ‘Qui?’ ‘Brod’ ‘Ah! Petit son!’“(small sound)15,43. Apparently the attitudes of composers toward musicians have not changed

greatly in 160 years.

By 1811 Iwan Müller (a German then living in Paris)5 had introduced a 13 key clar-inet which gave the player more technical facility in all tonalities (figures 11-13) with-out excessive use of cross fingerings44,45,46. The old cross fingerings remain valid on Müller’s clarinet and can be used freely. To avoid the leaks inherent from added keys, Müller invented the modern

pad as a small ball of leather stuffed with wool and sewn shut. His key cups were hemispheri-cal ( “salt spoon” ); later makers used cardboard shims behind the wool with flat key cups. Müller was the first to countersink keyed tone

holes, allowing a perfectly sealed pad and eliminating the leaks that plagued early keys44,45(figure 14). By 1814, when Beethoven wrote his 7th and 8th Sym-phonies, such multiple key systems were rou-tinely available on other woodwinds but still variable on the oboe9. It is likely that the most modern designs were used only by adventurous professionals or wealthy amateurs who would spend enough money to purchase the most advanced instruments.

One wonders why the oboe added keys and achieved mechanization after the flute, clarinet and bassoon. The answer is basically that other instruments needed more help than the oboe47. In general, cross fingerings on the clarinet are not as successful, especially in the low register, as on flutes, oboes, and bassoons; thus the clarinet with 5 keys was standard as early as 1800. The enormous number of flutes made for amateur players led to an early proliferation of improve-ments to that instrument; however, the old cross fingerings work well on many flutes, including those with more than 8-keys27.

Cross and double-holed fin-gerings work better on the oboe than on other woodwinds. The reason lies in the relatively broad, supple reed used in the 18th century47,48. Such a reed gave these oboists greater flex-ibility of pitch and voicing than we have today; thus the oboe did not need keys as soon as the flute or clarinet. A broad, bassoon-like reed gives the two keyed oboe a fabulous low reg-ister while a narrower, smaller reed supports the high notes better49,50and encourages the use of the simpler short fingerings. Although 18th and early 19th century reeds are quite rare51 a fair number of datable French reeds exist from the mid 19th century. These are illustrated9,10,21,50-52 and

dis-FIGURE 11. M üller system clarinet in Eb by Buthod &

Thibouville (Paris 1857-67). Five key Eb clari- 

net by Graves (Winchester   NH 1830-50). The Graves is analogous to the two keyed 

oboe while the Buthod  &Thibouville is analogous

to the 10-12 key simple system oboe.

FIGURE 12.Graves trademark.

FIGURE 13. Buthod & Thibouville trademark.

FIGURE 14. M üller ’ s method of  countersinking tone holes.


cussed21, 50-53in several references.

Brod, of course, had something to say about the reed and the sound of the oboe. He wrote, “The quality of the sound depends on the reed and especially on the choice of the cane. I will describe at the beginning of the second part of this Method, the manner of making reeds; it is good that a pupil play upon

those of his Master, to be in a position to know well what constitutes a good reed. The making of reeds is not the same in different countries where one plays the Oboe; the Italians, the Germans and in general almost all foreigners make them stronger than us. Therefore they have a hard sound which misses the essen-tial nature of the instrument, and makes their playing so painful that it becomes tiring for the listeners. The quality of sound which is obtained from the oboe in France is indisput-ably the finest, and brings the

oboe closer to the sound of the Violin.”54

Early in the century the oboe reed was fairly broad, with a conspicuous expansion of the width towards the tip to as much as 8-9 mm. There was a continual narrowing of the cane through the mechanization of the oboe, so that by the end of the Triébert period the modern form, with a width of about 6.5 mm and almost parallel sides, was fully established in France. Figure 15 shows modern reconstructions of reeds for oboes from circa 1720, 1780, 1805, 1860 and 1993.




Müller’s advances were adopted by oboe makers. Figure 1 also shows a much altered Parisian oboe of circa 181555. It is by Guillaume Triébert, the predominant oboe maker of the 19th century56. Born Georg Wilhelm Ludwig Triebert in Storndorf, Hesse (then a Grand Duchy, now a central German state) in 1770, he learned fur-niture making5 and engraving2, crafts that would prove useful to an oboe maker. He walked to Paris in 1804, becoming a French citizen 7 years later. Triébert founded his atelier in 1810. His first trademark was a little tower with three stones (merlons) on top (figure16a). It is believed that in 1848 when Guillaume died and his sons Charles-Louis and Frédéric took over the firm, the word “Bre-veté” (patented) was added above the tower (figure16b). Frédéric died unexpectedly in 1878, leading to a crisis during which François Lorée, who had been foreman since 18672, founded his own firm5. Triébert’s excellent repu-tation is shown by the fact that as late as 1913, the cover page of the Lorée catalog noted that F. Lorée was former shop foreman for the Tri ébert firm57. The modern firm of Lorée thus represents an uninterrupted link to Guillaume Triébert and the first mechanised oboes.

In 1881 the Triébert family sold their trade-mark to Gautrot (later, Couesnon) but required that a fourth stone be added to the tower (figure16c). Figure 16d shows the trademark from a Couesnon-Triébert oboe dating to circa 1930. An oboe marked “Triébert” can thus be assigned to a range of dates by the trademark14 as well as

FIGURE 15. Modern reeds intended for  copy of Denner oboe, circa 1720; for Geh- 

ring oboe, circa 1780; for copy of Floth oboe, circa 1805; ; for Tri ébert oboe, circa

1860; for Lor ée oboe KL40, 1993. Tip widths are 8.9, 8.0, 7.4, 7.2 and 6.9 mm


FIGURE 16.Trademarks of the Tri ébert firm. A, 1810-48 (from Tri ébert oboe in figure 23).  B, 1849- 80. C, after 1881. D, mid 20th century.


by the details of the body and key work58. Triébert instruments bear-ing the 4 merlon mark were not made by the Triébert family and are not examples of the oboe’s early development. By the time that the company passed out of the fam-ily’s hands, all modern varieties of French oboe except Systeme 6 bis, the modern French plateau keyed oboe, had been developed2.

Before 1881 Triébert made oboes and bassoons almost exclusively; a single clarinet from the Gautrot era and 7 early flutes are mentioned in Young,30 while two other clarinets and a saxophone are known from the Gautrot or Couesnon eras27. Guil-laume Triébert’s flutes were simple system instruments with one to eight keys30; two are shown in Gianni-ni’s history of French flute makers59. A Triébert prospectus from circa 186060 shows 26 double reed wood-winds including hautbois pastorale (musettes), oboes in Eb, Db, C and Bb, cors anglais, baritone oboes and bassoons11,61,62,63.

Guillaume Triébert was very interested in modernizing the oboe; of 101 three merlon specimens listed in Young, only one oboe and two English horns are known with 2 key design30. During the years 1840-1875, the firm introduced 6 “systemes” of oboe key work. These were the Systeme 3, introduced in 1840; the

Systeme 4 of 1843; the Systeme 5 (thumb plate system) of 1849; Charles-Louis Triébert’s revision of the Boehm oboe and the Barret Systeme, both introduced in 1855; and Frédéric Triébert’s Systeme 6 of 1875.9,10,11,58

The 12 keyed oboe in figure 1 has the three merlon trademark, which shows faintly in figure 5. It was probably built with 9 or fewer keys. The great and Eb keys are clearly original, as they are mounted in turnings. The left hand Eb is certainly added, as the low B has been moved laterally to make room for this key (figure 17a). It has a salt spoon cup, rather than a flat cup as elsewhere on the oboe; it traverses a brass sleeve in the squared key ring on the boxwood, which the other keys lack; and it lacks a square design element which is on the keys that are unquestion-ably original (figures 17 b,c). The long keys for low B and Eb are levers rather than a single axle and the bell has a thick internal rim.

Other changes are evident. The octave key is probably added, as it is mounted on posts as on a modern oboe, rather than a saddle; posts were invented by Theobald Boehm around 1830.64It has the only needle spring on the oboe (invented circa 1840 by Auguste Louis Buffet)45and lacks design elements common to

FIGURE 17. Evidence of changes made to Tri ébert oboe.  A, shows repositionin g of the saddle used to add low B key.

 B, repair to ring passing the key for left hand Eb; note the shape of the cup. C, right hand Eb key showing original cup style.

B. C.


FIGURE 18.C#1 apparatus on Tri ébert (above) and Bauer  (below) oboes. The Tri ébert  apparatus is almost certainly  added; the Bauer may be origi-  nal. The Bauer is from Prague,


the original keys. The evidence of other spec-imens is interesting on this point. A Triébert oboe owned by Han de Vries13,14 is identical to this oboe but without octave key, half hole, or left hand Eb. This suggests those keys were added to the oboe in figure 1. A specimen in a Paris museum is identical to De Vries’, but with a side c2 key65, while MacGillivray displays an oboe from his own collection which resembles DeVr-ies’ oboe but with octave key, half hole and side c2 key66. It seems likely that Triebert made oboes with key systems to order.


The c#1 apparatus seen on this and similar French oboes differs from the c#1 keys on the Germanic oboes shown in my last column (figure 18). In those, a small thin key opens a tiny hole below the c1 hole. The touch of that key over-laps the touchpiece of the great key so that when c#1 is pressed, c1 closes and c#1 opens. The two keys are side by side. On this oboe, a box-like apparatus contains both keys. The c#1 key over-lies the c1 key, and the touch of the great key extends farther back. Thus, the same effect can be obtained; if the great key is pressed, the large hole is closed. If c#1 is pressed,

both keys operate, c1 closes and c#1 opens to produce the tone c#1. On the French oboe the spring that keeps the great key opened and the c#1 key closed is between the two keys, and does not contact the wood of the oboe.

C#1 boxes identical to this are seen on the deVries, Paris and MacGillivray specimens mentioned above. Another is shown on the oboes drawn in Henri Brod’s Method 

of 182621,67 and on Sallantin’s oboe. Since writing the last column I have had the opportunity to study the Floth oboe at Yale; it has a similar box, but made of silver. On the Triébert oboe in figure 1, removing

the box reveals a channel cut in the wood under the c#1 key. This is the location of the spring for the great key when there is no c#1 appara-tus; this implies that my oboe was built without a c#1 key. Most likely on these oboes, the box was placed after the oboe was completed to add the missing semitone to the oboe’s range. It is reasonable to suppose that Parisian mak-ers—including Triébert—used a standard mech-anism to extend the capabilities of earlier oboes. Triébert probably had a drawer full of these c#1

keys, which could be added to any extant oboe by removing the old great key, drilling and coun-tersinking the c#1 hole, applying the new appa-ratus, and replacing the great key. The whole operation might take a half hour.

This all relates to the key on the oboe ’s bell. A modern oboist assumes that this key closes to produce low B. However, the Triébert oboe in figure 1 has a second bell vent which is filled with wax and cork (figure 19), showing that the bell key on this oboe was originally not a low B, but rather a low C corrector. On early oboes with a bell key, if an unkeyed bell vent is present, the bell key flattens low c1 down to pitch. If there is no bell vent or if a second vent has been filled, the key gives low B17.

Why is this so? On the two keyed oboe the great key was closed to produce c1 and c#2 through paired holes in the bell; c1 was very sharp and c#2, very flat. Neveu wrote in 1772 that “Low C is always false; it is too high to be a C natural, and too low to be C#, even while forcing. Consequently I have put a crescent over these notes (ie, in his example) to see that these sounds are not given. One should be especially careful of these notes in a Solo. The only time to play it unaltered is as a passing tone. (He gives examples).... In this Example (an arpeggio down to c1) before the low C make a little rest, one can then release the lips a little, which makes it less false....It is similar for C#, which is of similar degree”68.

On such an oboe, one can also bring c1 down to pitch by closing one of the vents against the knee; closing both produces a B. Makers learned to correct the pitch of c#2 by enlarging the leftmost vent on the bell and placing a key on it. The c#2 was raised from being flat by the enlargement of the keyed vent hole. However, this made the low c1 intolerably sharp. Hence the bell key; closing the c1 key and this new bell key produced a perfect c1. The earliest example of this that I have seen is a Delusse oboe from circa 1785, now owned by Geoffrey Burgess; the date of the added key is uncertain69.

Two keyed oboes, of course, had no c#1 key. When the c#1 assembly was added, the new key was used for c#1, and the traditional fingering was used for c#2. This may seem illogical but it is typical; the early 19th century oboe had numer-ous notes that fingered differently at the octave: f#1, a1, Bb1, b1 and c2. Players were accustomed

FIGURE 19.Obliterated bell vent  on Tri ébert 12 key oboe.


to these fingerings.

Period fingering charts prove this point. Vogt’s Methode de Hautbois (1813) has a chart showing a four keyed oboe, having only c1 corrector, c1, Eb and F# corrector keys; this is the oboe as used by Vogt

and Sallantin. The chart shows the bell key closed for low c1; c#1 does not appear on this chart70. The charts from two editions of Henri Brod’s Method 

of circa 1830 show a bulb topped 9 key French oboe21,67. The bell key and the great key are pressed for c1; the c#1 key for c#1; and the great key, for c#2.

Two pages from the French translation of Joseph Sellner’s

Theoretisch praktische Oboe

 Schule (written 1825, translated circa 1830) were kindly given to me by Dr. Albert Rice71. One shows a 9 keyed French instrument (with no speaker key!), upon which the bell key is labeled “Grande clef d’UT bas” ( “Big key for low C” ). The fingering chart shows this and the c1 key depressed for c1. The other page illustrates a Sellner model oboe, on which this key is marked “Clef de SI” ( “B key” ). The fingering chart shows that this does, indeed, produce a low B. German oboe makers had learned that the c#1 tone hole could be altered to give a properly pitched c#2 with the same fingering. Filling in the other small vent on the bell put c1 into good tune, with the long key now giving B, not c1. There are no proven examples of an oboe made outside of France with a c1 corrector72.

The use of a bell key as a low C corrector has been consistently misinterpreted by histo-rians although the evidence of instruments, fin-gering charts, and composers’ habits is unmis-takable17. Only one major English language ref-erence on the history of the oboe mentions the c1 corrector, and then only in a footnote73; else-where it is always listed as a low B9,10,11,14,30,58,74-76. One writer printed Vogt’s fingering chart but overlooked this fingering in an otherwise very detailed article on Vogt’s music70. Another stud-ied a later instrument that lacked the vent hole and concluded that the low C fingering in Brod’s charts, although consistently shown using this key, was “an obvious error”!77. This conceit does not belong only to modern oboists; Auguste Bruyant studied with Vogt in the 1840s. He added a note to Vogt’s fingering chart to the effect that the master must be wrong; but of course Bruyant was the one who didn’t understand17.

This explains the avoidance of low B by com-posers through the mid 1800s. I can find no low B’s in Berlioz, although my search was not comprehensive. The lack of the low B on early 19th century oboes produced some inter-esting writing. See, for example, bars 52-55 of the second move-ment of the Schubert Unfin-ished Symphony (figure 20). Note that the flute carries the chordal motif from e2 down to b1. The oboe, alone of any instrument in this movement, moves instead from e1 up to f#1. Schubert avoided a note that did not always exist on the oboe he knew. Knowing this, should modern oboists play a B here? Carse’s comment that “before the mid-(19th) century the B-natural, a semitone lower, was sometimes available” seems the best summation of the situ-ation78. The low C corrector carries two morals for students of early instruments: Things are not always as they seem to a modern player; and whenever possible, consult and believe period sources.

Getting back to the Triébert oboe in figure 1, I am unsure if the half hole, side c2, side Bb, G#, F# corrector and short F keys are original or added. The workmanship on the indisputably original portions of this oboe is wonderful; for example, the bell ivory is threaded onto the wood of the bell. All keys except Eb and the c1 key are saddle mounted, and thus could be added on. Few of the saddles are applied in a fully satisfac-tory manner; some look “tacked-on”. I doubt that Triébert would have made such an oboe as new; his craftmanship was too fine. One can thus rea-sonably argue that this oboe started with as few as two keys, or as many as nine. I conclude that this was originally a four keyed oboe and that Triébert added side c2, side Bb, G#, c#1 and short F as a first modification. Another (less gifted) craftsman, using keys from a different source, later added a half hole, octave and the left hand Eb key, while simultaneously moving the low c1 corrector laterally and converting it into a low B by plugging the bell vent.


By 1824, the year of Beethoven’s 9th Sym-phony, 10-13 keyed oboes were in general use; German oboes tended to have more keys than French. In 1825 the Mainz woodwind maker Schott9made 2 key and 14 key oboes; these latter (and 12 key Müller clarinets) were labeled “new

FIGURE 20. Bars 52-55 of the Schubert  Unfinished Symphony, second movement.  Shown are flutes, oboes and clarinets in A.


invention”. The 14 keys were octave, right hand and left thumb keys for Bb and C (all located on the upper joint), left hand G# plus double 3 holes, upper B-C# trill, F# corrector, long and short F, left and right hand keys for Eb, low C#, C, and B6,8,47. This is the typical Sellner model oboe (figure 1)9,79, which con-tinued (with minor variation) to be used in Eastern Europe and Italy until the 20th cen-tury. Note the left hand F on this circa 1870 oboe. Bor-rowed from the flute (figures 21, 22), this key is found on Sellner oboes as early as 182514,71,80, although it only appears on French oboes before the 20th century in Barret’s 1855 system52,81.

Figure 23 shows three Parisian oboes, two from circa 1830. The left oboe82 is by Frédéric Guillaume Adler (figure 24), yet another German émigré5 who worked in Paris from 1808 until his death in 1854. It has 10 keys, all of which appear original. The keys, including the speaker key, are now plate mounted rather than ring mounted. There are no duplicate keys for F or Bb. Note that the layout of the right hand pinkie keys has been improved. The c#1 box is gone, replaced by a much more graceful

apparatus that uses a touchplate to link the c1 and c#1 keys (Figure 25). The c#1 touch moves two keys in opposite directions to open c#1 while closing c1. Side keys for c2 and Bb allow an alternative to the use of cross finger-ings. The top baluster is retained and may have been been short-ened by 7 mm (as sug-gested by the case,

which may be original); however, the cylindrical reed well is the same depth (11 mm) as on the Triebert and the Buffet. A reed box which is preserved with the oboe suggests that the reeds had a length

of 60-63 mm and a width at the tip of approximately 7.5-8.5 mm. Note the lack of a half hole key. Several cracks in the top joint have kept me from restoring this oboe to playing condition.

With the Adler is an oboe by Buffet83. The trademark does not match that of any of the seven Buffets making woodwinds in Paris then (Figure 26)5; I suspect it is by Denis Buffet (flourished

1825-42) or Jean Louis Buffet, who founded the firm of Buffet-Crampon which flourishes today. The oboe is similar to the Adler but more slender (like a Brod),

and has a single rather than double hole for 4. Several factors sug-gest it is later than the Adler. The speaker key is post mounted but has a flat spring rather than a needle spring. Note the new design of the baluster, which now displays a long finial that became fash-ionable among French makers. The bore is

FIGURE 22. A simi-  lar long F on Nich-  olson model flute by 

Clementi (London), circa 1825.

FIGURE 23.Oboes by   Fr éd éric Adler (Paris

1808-1854), by Buffet, (Paris circa 1830) and  by Guillaume Tri ébert  (Paris 1840-1848). All  are boxwood with brass keys and ivory mounts.

FIGURE 24.  Adler ’ s trademark.

FIGURE 25.C# apparatus on Buffet oboe. This is the

typical French right hand   pinkie finger apparatus

from the time of Brod  to the mid 1840s. FIGURE 26.  Buffet trademark. FIGURE 21.  Sellner  model oboe by Ludwig &  Martinka, showing left  hand F.


narrower, and there is a thumb rest, which has been moved from its original position84. It plays well with a reed such as shown in the center of figure 15, giving better longnotes with the tradi-tional long fingerings than with the short finger-ings using the speaker key.

The simple system oboe with 10 to 12 keys had advantages over the 2 keyed oboe. It pro-vided alternatives to cross fingerings for Bb1, c2 and F, allowed a well-tuned F#, and had a complete chromatic scale. The French simple system oboe is more complicated than the 8-key oboes discussed in the December column8 but less complex than the Sellner system, as it lacks the duplicate touches for several keys; it is the equivalent of Müller’s 13 key clarinet. Every half step in the instrument’s range is available and it plays with facility in most keys. Both the old style forked fingerings and the new fingerings using keys are valid on this instrument. It is the apogee of a simple system oboe.

By “simple system” I mean that the oboe is based upon the 2 keyed oboe, with keys added in a more or less standardized manner. The instru-ment has not been redesigned from ground zero, only improved. It is not “mechanized” in that most any individual key could be dispensed with and the oboe would still play; except for c1-c#1, there are no mechanical linkages between any two keys.

Such an oboe meets the difficult, chromatic music of Berlioz, Mendelssohn and other mid 19th century composers with assurance. This is the oboe for which Berlioz wrote in the Sym-   phonie Fantastique; his description of the oboe’s

tone in his Treatise on Instrumentation is reveal-ing: “Artless grace, pure innocence, mellow joy, the pain of a tender soul—all these the oboe can render admirably with its cantabile. A certain degree of excitement is also within its power; but one must guard against increasing it to the cry of passion, the stormy outburst of fury, menace or heroism; for then its small voice, sweet and somewhat tart at the same time, becomes com-pletely grotesque85,86.”

This oboe design had some flaws. First among them was the F# corrector, obligatory for f#1 and useful for f#2. It was awkward to use in fast passages; Berlioz describes the F# major arpeg-gio as being quite difficult85. Excepting Brod’s oboes, venting of the half hole was inconsistent, depending on how much the player rolled his finger down; the note Eb2 was particularly unsta-ble. The preferred fingerings for f#2, a2, Bb2, b2 and c3 did not match those of the lower octave. The right hand pinkie finger keys did not permit easy movement between c1, c#1 and Eb1. The

G# key was too small and high on the instrument (to avoid being located on the central tenon) and produced a rather strained sound compared to the half-holed G#, which could be shaded by the player. The c#1 key was likewise too small and high, placed where it was to avoid compromis-ing the lower tenon, and produccompromis-ing a squawky sound. The side key fingering for c2, being vented from a very tiny hole, was of poor quality. There being no articulations between various keys, cer-tain combinations were difficult to play quickly and impossible to trill. Berlioz noted that of 61 possible whole and half step trills within the range of the oboe (B to f3), 13 were difficult and 13 others impossible85.

Having analyzed the flaws of the French simple system oboe, Guilliaume Triébert mech-anized the oboe, introducing his Systeme 3 in 1840. The last oboe in figure 23 is an early Triébert Systeme 3 oboe, with a 3 merlon mark on all joints87. I leave this as a teaser, as I had intended to discuss this and later mechanical developments in this column. But the hour is late and I do not want to tire the reader (or myself) any more than I have already. Triébert’s mecha-nization of the French oboe will wait for the next issue of the Double Reed .


 Drs. Geoffrey Burgess and Albert Rice reviewed  the manuscript, provided references and offered  innumerable helpful suggestions and corrections. I  thank them both for their valuable help.


1. Barzun, Jacques. From Dawn to Decadence. 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. HarperCollins publishers, New York 2000. Pages 491-518

2. Bate, Philip. The Oboe. Ernest Benn Lim-ited, London, 1956. Pages 52-81, “The Oboe in the 19th Century”.

3. Conrey, George A.The Paris Conservatory:  Its Oboe Professors, Laureates (1795-1984). Jour-nal of the InternatioJour-nal Double Reed Society 14:7-17, 1986.

4. Waterhouse, William. The New Langwill   Index. A Dictionary of Musical Wind-Instrument   Makers and Inventors. Tony Bingham, London

1993. Pages 474-476.

5. Waterhouse, William. Opus cit. See refer-ences to individual makers.


6. I use the pitch notation c1-b1 for the octave extending up from middle C. c2-b2 is the upper octave of the treble staff and low B is the note below c1. Notes that may apply to either octave are in capital letters (F, G#, etc). Fingers are labelled 1-6 from the top of the instrument down.

7. Barbieri, Patrizio. Musical Instruments and   Players in J.-A. Charle’ s Acoustique (Paris, c.

1787-1802) and Other French Technical Sources.

Journal of the American Musical Instrument Soci-ety XXIII: 94-120, 1997.

8. Howe, Robert S. Historical Oboes 1— the  Development of Keywork, 1800-1820.Double Reed,

December 2000, pages 21-27.

9. Baines, Anthony. Woodwind Instruments and their History.W. W. Norton, New York 1963.

10. Bate, Philip. Oboe. In Sadie, Stanley (ed),The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musi-  cians.Macmillan, London 1980. Volume 13, pages 468-471.

11. Joppig, Gunther. The Oboe and the Bas-  soon. (Translation by Alfred Clayton of Oboe &  Fagott , Halliwag AG Bern, 1981). Amadeus Press,

Portland OR, 1988.

12. Robinson, Joel. Personal communica-tions, 11/20/00, 12/8/2000

13. de Vries, Han. Hobo d ’ amore. The collec-  tion of oboes (1680-1980) of Han de Vries. Rijks-museum Twenthe, Enschede (Holland), 1999.

14. Young, Philip T.  Loan Exhibition of His-  toric Double Reed Instruments. University of Vic-toria, 1988.

15. Goossens, Leon and Roxburgh, Edwin.

Oboe.Schirmer Books, New York 1977.

16. Margelli, Tad. The Paris Conservatoire Concours Oboe Solos: The Gillet Years. Journal of the International Double Reed Society 24: 41-55, 1996.

17. Burgess, Geoffrey.Gustav Vogt (1781-1870) und Konstrukstionsmerkmale franz ösischer Oboen im 1. Viertel des 19. Jahrhunderts. (Gustave Vogt  (1781-1870) and the French Oboe Design in the  First Quarter of the 19th Century). Tibia 1/94

(1994): 14-26

18. Burgess, Geoffrey. “  Le premier hautboï ste d ’  Europe” : A Portrait of Gustave Vogt: 19th-century  oboe virtuoso, teacher and composer.In press.

19. Guide du Musee de la Musique. Editions de la reunion des musees nationaux. Paris, 1997. Page 81.

20. André Lardrot’s forthcoming biography and definitive worklist of Brod’s compositions (in Tibia, 2001, in press) shows that Brod died in Paris but that his oboe was then taken to Algeria. 21. Brod, Henri.  Method de Hautbois. Paris:  Dufaut et Dubois, c1826. This is reprinted in Warner, Thomas E.  An annotated bibliography of  woodwind instruction books, 1600-1830 . Detroit, 1967.

22. In the original French,

“Lorsqu’il s’agira de l’acquisition d’un premier instrument les commencants pourront bien, par mesure d’économie ne point s’attacher à l’extérieur, mais, il ne devront rien épargner pour qu’il soit bon, et pourvu surtout de toutes ses clefs: sans cette précaution ils s’exposeraient à contracter de mauvaises habitudes, ayant un instrument peu juste, ils seraient oblig és de ménager ou forcer certains sons, selons qu ’ils seraient trop hauts ou trop bas, et s’habituraient a de mauvais doigtes, que leur ferait éviter l’usage des clefs. Les élèves ou commençants hors d’état d’apprécier la qualité d’un instru-ment feront bien d’en laisser le choix à un bon professeur....Les meilleurs hautbois. Se font a Paris chez Triébert... Ceux de Delusse sont aussi tres estimés mais on est toujours oblige d’y faire ajouter des clefs, car de son temps l ’instrument n’en avait que deux.”21

The translations from French are my own. I apologize to my French-speaking friends for any mayhem I may commit on their beautiful lan-guage.

23. “modèle du Haut-Bois d’après Delusse, dans ses proportions éxactes”. This and the next quote by Garnier are from Garnier, Joseph Francois. Methode Raisonnée Pour le Haut-bois,

pages 2-3. Paris, circa 1798. Reprinted in Les-caut, Philippe and Saint-Arroman, Jean. Hautbois.  M éthodes et Trait és-Dictionnaires, pages 150-51. Editions J. M. Fuzeau, Courlay, France, 1999. This invaluable book contains complete reprints of 17 French sources on the oboe, 1636-1798.

The original French for the quote on box-wood is “Le buis, dont il est fait, doit être bien


sec, sans noeuds et d’une porosité a peu près égale dans toute sa longueur; je dis a peu près egale, par ceque le même morceau de buis n’a jamais la même porosité dans toutes ses parties; mais comme l’experience démontre que la partie du haut de l’instrument influe toujours moins sur le son que produit le corps entier, le facteur doit employer la partie du bois la plus dure pour le haut et la plus molle pour le bas.”

24. Delusse oboes are recommended in Veny,

 M éthode abreg ée pour le hautbois. Paris: Pleyel et Cie, 1828. This was reprinted with some changes by V. Bretonnière as:  M éthode compl ète pour  le hautbois à 8 et  à 15 clefs nouveau edition augment ée de Tablatures des syst èmes Boehm et Tri ébert et suivie de 4 Grands Etudes par V.  Bretonni ère. Paris: Cotelle, rue St Honoré, circa


25. Susan Thompson of Yale University relates that students at the Paris Conservatoire in the early winters of the nineteenth century were forced to burn old harpsichords, by Taskin and others, for heat. They started with the harpsichord stands and when these were all gone, burnt the actual instruments. The harpsi-chords had been relegated to storage after being replaced by pianos years earlier.

26. Jean Jeltsch and Denis Watel. Maî tres et jurandes dans la communaut é des faiseurs d ’ instruments de musique a Paris. (  Masters and   journeymen in the Parisian community of musical  instrument makers ). Musique-Images-Instruments 1999. No. 4 pages 8-31

27. Rice, Albert. Personal communication, 1/14/01.

28. “Communauté des Ma î tres Luthiers” 29. These names are of worker-owned musi-cal instrument making firms from late 19th cen-tury Paris. Le Union de la Facture Instrumentale = United Musical Instrument Makers. Associa-tion fraternelle d’ouvriers facteur d’instruments de vent = Fraternal Association of Wind Instru-ment Makers. Association générale des ouvriers = Workers’ Association. Ouvriers réunis associ-ation générale = Reunited workers’ associassoci-ation. Any relationship between these companies and the Communards of Paris (1871) is speculative but entirely plausible.

30. Young, Phillip T. 4900 Historical Wood-  wind Instruments. Tony Bingham, London 1993.

See references to individual makers.

31. Mozart, W.A. Quartet, K370 for oboe and strings. Michel Piguet, oboe. Das Alte Werk/ Telefunken 6.42173AW (LP record)

32. The words ebony, ebène, and grenadilla are often confused. Ebony is a specific African hardwood, Diospyros ebenum, the dark-colored heartwood of which is used for piano keys. The French word ebène translates literally as ebony but is sometimes used to mean grenadilla, Dal-  bergia melanoxylon, which is also referred to as African blackwood and ebène de Mozambique. Note how Brod42specifies both ebène and grena-dilla. Interestingly, the French word “ébéniste” means cabinet maker. Grenadilla (in French “la grenadille” ), the common material of modern oboes and clarinets, is denser and harder than ebony and is readily recognized by the fact that it is heavier than water; ebony is not (see reference 2, page 129). For safety, I use the terms ebony, ebène, and grenadilla exactly as they appear in original sources; if I describe an instrument as being of grenadilla, its bell sinks in water. Palis-sandre is rosewood, a Brazilian species of genus

 Dalbergiahaving a dark red color with a strongly marked grain and a striking appearance when varnished or polished.

33. Burgess, Geoffrey. Personal communica-tion, 1/3/01.

34. Croll, Gerhard. Gluck, Christoph Wil-libald. In Sadie, Stanley (ed),The New Grove Dic-  tionary of Music & Musicians. Macmillan, London 1980. Volume 7 page 465.

35. Giannini, Tula. A French dynasty of master  woodwind makers revealed, Bizey, Prudent and   Portheaux, their workshop in Paris, Rue Dauphine,  St. Andr è des Arts, ca. 1745-1812: new archival documents. NAMIS vol. 27, no. 1 (Feb. 1998): 7-10

36. Jeltsch, Jean.  Prudent a Paris: vie et  carri ére d ’ un maî tre faiseur d ’ instruments de vent. Musique-Images-Instruments no. 3 (1998): 129-152.

37. Albert Rice lists these early French makers of clarinets, most with only one surviv-ing example: Gilles Lot (Paris, 1752-75), Martin Lot (Paris, 1743-85), Dominique Portheaux (Paris, 1782-1824), Nicolas Viennen (or Winnen, Paris, 1788-1833, brother-in-law to Jean-François Pru-dent), Naust (Paris, circa 1780-90), Theodore


(Paris circa 1780-90), Bernard (Lyon, circa 1800), Cuvillier (St. Omer, after 1792), Roberty (Bor-deaux, late 18th century), and Proff (Tours, circa 1790).

38. Young, Philip T. The Look of Music. Uni-versity of Washington Press, Seattle, 1980. Pages 148, 189-193.

39. Adkins, Cecil. William Milhouse and the  English Classical Oboe. Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society XXII; pages 42-88, 1996.

40. Howe, Robert. Communication on Adkins, William Milhouse and the English Classical Oboe.

Journal of the American Musical Instrument Soci-ety XXV; pages 164-65, 1999.

41. Adkins, Cecil.  Proportions and Architec-  tural Motives in the Design of the Eighteenth-  Century Oboe. Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society XXV; pages 95-132, 1999.

42. Brod’s original text reads: “On a essayé plusieurs sortes de bois dans la fabrication de cet instrument, l’Ebène, la Grenadille, le Cèdre et le Buis, ce dernier est celui qui a toujours offert le meilleur résultant, il donne une qualite de son supérieure, soit sous le rapport de la douceur et du moelleux, soit sous le rapport de l’énergie et du brillant. Le Cèdre cependant, n’est point à dédaigner, il fait de fort beaux instruments et donne un son tres doux qui convient dans les appartements.”21

43. Goossens derived this anecdote from Berlioz, Hector. Les Grotesques Ce la musique

(Paris: Librairie nouvelle, 1951), page 256.

44. Brymer, Jack. Clarinet. Schirmer Books, New York 1976.

45. Shackleton, Nicholas. The development  of the clarinet. In Lawson, Colin (ed), The Cam-  bridge Companion to the Clarinet . Cambridge Uni-versity Press, Cambridge, 1995. Pages 16-32.

46. Shackleton, Nicholas and Rice, Albert,

C èsar Janssen and the transmission of M üller ’ s 13-keyed clarinet in France. Galpin Society Jour-nal LII (April 1999): 183-194.

47. Benade, Arthur H. Woodwinds: The Evolu-  tionary Path since 1700. The Galpin Society Jour-nal XLVII (March 1994). Pages 63-110.

48. Benade, Arthur H.  Acoustics IV. Wind   Instruments. In Sadie, Stanley (ed), The New

Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians. Macmil-lan, London 1980. Volume 1 pages 77-82.

49. Haynes, Bruce.  A Reconstruction of Tal-  bot ’ s Hautboy Reed. Galpin Society Journal LIII, 2000. Pages 78-86.

50. Hedrick, Peter.  Henri Brod on the  Making of Oboe Reeds. Journal of the

Interna-tional Double Reed Society 6: 7-12, 1978.

51. Burgess, Geoffrey; Hedrick, Peter. The Oldest English Reeds? An Examination of 19 Sur-  viving Examples.Galpin Society Journal 42: 32-69, 1989

52. Barret, Apollon Marie Rose.  A Complete  Method for the Oboe. Second Edition, 1856.

Boosey & Hawkes, London (ND).

53. Ledet, David. Oboe Reed Styles, Theory  and Practice.Indiana University Press, Blooming-ton 1981. Page 38.

54. Brod’s reedmaking is discussed in ref-erence 50. His original French text reads: “La qualité du son, dépend de l’anche de sa confec-tion et surtout du choix du roseau. Je décrirai au commencement de la seconde partie de cette Méthode, la manière de les faire; il est bon qu’un élève ait poué pendant quelque temps celles de son ma î tre, pour être en état de bien connaitre ce qui constitue une bonne anche.

La facture des anches n’est point la meme dans les différens pays ou l’on joue le Hautbois; les Italiens, les Allemands et en général presque tous les étrangers, les font plus fortes que nous, aussi ont ils un son dur et sourd qui dénature l’instrument, et rend leur exécution si pénible qu’elle devient fatigante même pour les audit-eurs. La qualité de son qu’on est parvenu à obte-nir du hautbois en France est sans contredit la meillure, et qui rapproche le plus cet instrument du Violon.”21

55. Vichy (France) Auction Catalog. Instru-  ments de Musique Vents et Divers. 4 December 1999. Lot 216 (illustrated)

56. Waterhouse16 notes that Georg Triébert “Frenchified (his name) as ‘Guillaume Triébert’...”. However, every 19th century oboe and document that I have seen spells it “Triebert”, including the price list of circa 1860, where it appears 6 times. In deference to current usage I




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