6-keyed English flute (antique by Astor & Co.)

This flute is quite similar in some ways to the Potter... it's an English flute from about the same time period, and it has the same keys (b-flat, g-sharp, f-natural, d-sharp, low c-sharp and low c). The keys are also short, and pivoted in wooden bosses, as in the case of the Potter. However on this flute all the keys are of the simple square, flat, padded type, as opposed to the system of metal plugs used on the Potter. Another difference is that the head of this flute is a simple, un-lined, wooden joint, without a tuning slide. It is, in fact, apparently, not the original head... inasmuch as it is not marked, whereas all the other sections are, and it appears to be somewhat lighter in colour. Presumably the original head was lost or destroyed at some point, and this was made as a replacement. It plays well, and seems quite appropriate to the flute. From its appearance I would assume that the replacement head itself is of considerable age. The marked sections are marked "Astor & Co, London" with the head of a unicorn (see the image above). This would seem to probably place the manufacture of these sections somewhere in the early years of the nineteenth century, after George Astor's brother Johann had left for America and George had taken others into the business. The business was last listed in 1830.

This flute, in large part, probably, because of the simplicity of its head, and because of the smoothness of the boxwood from which it is made, has a soft, lilting tone. It plays very evenly across its whole range, thanks to its keywork (which largely removes the "muted" nature of 'difficult' notes such as low G# and Bb, which is always unavoidable on 1-keyed flutes). Unfortunately, as with the Potter, the low C and C# keys are not currently functional because the simple leaf springs fitted no longer have the strength to open them.

I bought this flute over the internet... well, at least, I found it through the internet, in the listing of second-hand instruments from Hobgoblin. I actually completed the purchase through telephone calls. It was already in close to playing condition, and didn't need much work, beyond a little re-winding of the joints and easing of the keys. So far (touch wood) its most noticeable problem is that there is a distinct curvature to the head... but this doesn't really affect the playing.

This instrument lends itself to similar repertoire to the Potter, being a somewhat similar flute. It is perhaps more suited to works requiring gentleness rather than brilliance - the Mozart flute quartets, for example, are very well served by it.

If you have any questions or comments, or related experiences you'd like to share, or whatever... email me at xorys@idirect.ca.

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