8-keyed 19th C German flute (antique by ??)

This flute is not marked at all, and it is difficult to say much about its origin with any certainty. It's design is typical of 19th and 20th century 'simple system' flutes made in Germany. It has the same 8 keys as the Nicholson, but the keys are mounted on posts and designed for the modern type of pad. The proportions of bore and tone holes do not follow the tendency to exaggeration of the Nicholson, with the result that this flute is much easier to play in tune, and fork fingerings can be used if desired. The flute is made of some form of very dark wood with metal fittings. There is no separate foot joint, as can be seen in the illustration - the flute plays down to a low c, with the three lower keys all being on the same piece as the f keys (long and short) and the three lower finger holes. This is the only flute I have which actually currently plays fully functionally down to low c (although the shortness of my little finger means that it is still difficult for me - the keys work fine, but since there is no separate foot they can't be rotated independent of the finger holes, and it is hard for me to close them whilst still covering the holes).

The head of this flute is not in very good condition. Apart from anything else, it appears that an inexpert attempt has been made to enlarge the embouchure at some point. The head is also quite badly cracked, and the join with the lower section is very loose. In practice, I don't make any attempt to play this flute with its own head - I was able to get it to play, but it really didn't sound very pleasant... the effect was rather thin and screechy, perhaps largely due to the mangled embouchure. In practice I play this flute with the other head illustrated. This is a boxwood head with was originally part of a reproduction baroque flute by Gunter Korber, a German who was one of the earlier modern makers of traverso copies. Unfortunately it appears that the Korber flute was made of wood which was not adequately seasoned, and it shrank and warped to an extreme degree, resulting in the strangest bending and curving, plus an overall decrease in the size of the instrument, and the appearance of lateral cracks (which is most unusual - cracks in flutes almost always run along the length of the flute). The Korber flute is now quite unplayable in itself, but when its head is combined with the lower joints of this German flute an instrument results which, certainly, looks very strange, but which actually plays well, and sounds quite pleasant.

With the alternate head, pretty much anything can be played on this flute - it speaks clearly without a problem all the way from the bottom to the top of its range (c-a'''), and plays in tune using either the keys or fork fingerings. The tone it produces is woody, but perhaps a little sharp and breathy - not as mellifluous as the Potter or the Astor, nor as light and sweetly flexible as the Boudreau Rottenburgh copy, but still pleasant to play and hear. Despite the late date of its lower sections, I tend to mostly use it for playing later 18th century works - it seems quite well suited, for example, to Devienne's mixture of gracious melodies and rapid gymnastics, or indeed to Mozart's more strenuous works (the concertos, say, as opposed to the quartets).

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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