Sunday, 11 November 2012

History of the Recorder

After about 1750 the recorder generally passed out of vogue, giving way to the modern transverse flute, due to advances in technology and the flute's ability to acheive a greater dynamic range.
The flute type of instruments were known to exist as early as 4000 B.C. in Egypt, Sumer and Israel. They have been traced to China in 2000 B.C. and to pre-Columbian Mexico and South America. These were made of clay or wood. In Europe, the transverse flute did not make its appearance until the 12th century and was called a swegel. The end blown flute or recorder has been around in its current form since about 800 A.D. The transverse flute was used primarily for military purposes while the recorder was the flute of choice for artistic purposes.

The recorder is the most important type of whistle (or fipple) flute. It has a tone quality that is highly individual and unique to each instrument. It can be soft, slightly reedy or mellow. In the span of time since the Middle Ages to the mid 16th century it evolved into a complete family from the treble to bass and was the basis of much important music of the late Renaissance (1500's).

By the late 18th century, one size (the Alto) remained in common use. This instrument was called the flauto by J. S. Bach and G. F. Handel. The flute parts of these composers and others of the period were written and performed on the F recorder. Occasionally the use of the flauto piccolo (little flute) was specified because of its high and piercing tone. The flauto piccolo is our modern day Sopranino.

In the 20 century the recorder underwent a revival begun by Arnold Dolmetsch in England and after 1918 by German manufacturers using large-scale production methods. In the 1970's Japan entered the market producing a large number of plastic recorders, some of which rival traditional wooden recorders in intonation and articulation.

There are two fingering systems, the Baroque (or English) and German. The German fingering has not gained favor and the Baroque is most often used.

Five sizes of recorder are commonly available. They are, according to country of origin:
There are other sizes that are very uncommon (and the big basses can be very expensive!).
  1. Garklein, pitched higher than the Sopranino. Only about 6 in. long (in C).
  2. Alto in G (not recomended since F is the traditional key for this instrument.
  3. Great Bass, pitched lower than the Bass (in C).
  4. Contrabass, a giant of a thing pitched very low (in F).
  5. Sub Contrabass, the biggest of them all. Can be about 9 ft. tall! (in C)
The Alto has the most extensive literature followed by the Soprano. Generally speaking, the music of the Soprano can be played on a Tenor and the Alto music can be played on the Sopranino.

Because of the availability of modern recorders much has been written for them in the 20th century. The F instruments are most played for traditional repertoire and the C instruments are most used for popular music inasmuch as the C range most approximates that of the human voice.

The bass recorder is used primarily in ensemble playing and does not have a solo repertoire.

No comments:

Post a Comment