The flute family

... has a varied history

As a merely quiet instrument the flute was nevertheless always able to hold its ground in the orchestra and in wind ensembles. It was made of wood or metal, had a variable number of keys, and it ranges in size from the piccolo to the contrabass flute that’s over three metres long.

Video: Flutes in playing condition of the «Klingendes Museum» Bern

Francesca Grilletto compares the Traverso of Augustin Grenser (Dresden, ca 1780) with the replica by Andreas Schöni (Bern, 2019), and plays the flute by Godfroy (Paris, ca 1860).

Video: Andreas Schöni «copies» the traverso by Augustin Grenser

Conservation and restoration

Wind instruments are especially fragile when made of wood. If we start playing a historical instrument again, it can split the wood. This is why – if playing it is allowed at all – we have to treat it first with oil. Its mechanism is often very delicate, and so has to be revised too. Only if we take such precautions can we get a reliable impression of what it used to sound like.

A project of the HKB has involved doing this for a selection of wooden instruments from the “Klingendes Museum” in Bern. Andreas Schöni restored them to playability, without, however, making any interventions in the substance of the instruments.

These instruments included five flutes and a piccolo:

  • Traverso by Augustin Grenser, Dresden, ca. 1780, 1 key, 3 upper joints for different pitches (ca 420 Hz, 425 Hz, 438 Hz), boxwood, ivory, brass
  • Traverso by Andreas Schöni, Bern, 2019, replica of the Grenser flute
  • Flute by Martin Thibouville ainé, Paris, 2nd half of the 19th century, grenadilla wood, nickel silver, 7 keys, C foot
  • Flute by Clair Godfroy ainé, Paris um 1850, rosewood, gold-plated mechanism, Böhm system, 1st patent, closed g# flute (Dorus), C foot
    Suitable for playing French music of the time, such as a trio by Louise Farrenc (see Video above).
  • Flute by Th. Böhm – Mendler, Munich, ca 1880, silver with gold lip plate, open g sharp, b flat with double thumb key
  • Piccolo Louis Lot, Paris, ca 1870, grenadilla wood, nickel silver
X-ray of the flute by Augustin Grenser. We can here see the undercut, made with a machine from the 20th century.
X-ray of the flute by Augustin Grenser. We can here see the undercut, made with a machine from the 20th century.