The Keyed Flute

The Keyed Flute

The Keyed Flute

The Keyed Flute

Synopsis

Ardal Powell, a leading authority on and maker of early flutes, offers here a translation and study of J. G. Tromlitz's tutor for the eight-keyed flute, first published in German in 1800. Powell explores the instrument's history and assesses Tromlitz's importance as a designer. The volume contains information vital to the historically informed performance of classical and Romantic music.

Excerpt

In the time of reform and revolution in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century, almost all aspects of life were transformed: manners, economies, philosophy and science, technology, art, and the social order that had stood for generations. The flute, which had begun the century as the preferred instrument of a relatively small number of leisured aristocratic dilettanti, ended it a fashionable emblem of leisure and culture for the dominant male component of a greatly enlarged middle class. The lives of most professional players at the beginning of the period had been spent in the service of noble masters, but by 1800 the major European cities had both a new mass audience and a new generation of independent celebrity flautists. In the orchestra, in the concerto, and in chamber music, the emerging classical style of composition conceived a new role for the flute, calling upon aspects of its character quite different from those revealed in earlier styles. Modifications in the flute itself, like those in the piano, took hold during the birth of the Industrial Revolution, under the influence of many of the same forces of technology, industrial production, the market, and capitalism.

Eighteenth-century method books reflect the flute's changing status, as well as changing approaches among musicians to technique, performance, and musical style. But despite the differences of design and function among one-keyed flutes, tutors before 1760 had not been concerned with distinctive details of the instrument itself. With the emergence of keyed flutes, authors had to be more specific: they either described the particular kind they were writing for or, if they had resisted adopting the keys, tried to explain their reasons. For many authors of the period, including Tromlitz, this new specificity coincided with a commercial interest as well as with a concern for a particular style of tone and intonation. Some were involved with making or selling flutes that could easily be distinguished from others just by their appearance, while for others the main concern was to resist innovation because of their stake in the status quo. In both cases, awareness of the flute 'market' is present in this period's flute tutors for the first time.

Tromlitz's 1800 tutor Uber die Flöten mit mehrern Klappen is by no means the first work to describe a keyed flute, nor even the first German one to give a fingering-chart for it. But its extraordinary importance, together with its complement, the 1791 Unterricht, as a document of eighteenth-century flute-playing, lies in Tromlitz's manifold authority. He was a prominent virtuoso who understood performance, teaching, and composition, and was experienced at expressing his ideas in words and in print. At the same time he was a well-known flutemaker . . .

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