The enigmatic timbre

I had no idea how difficult it would be to get the “right“ sound out of a recorder. Unlike other instruments, a recorder has to be “complete” when it leaves the recorder-maker’s hands.

A player of oboe, clarinet or bassoon can use a reed to alter the sound and response of an instrument. In the case of stringed instruments, the player has a wide range of strings available and the violin-maker can always adjust the soundpost and thus have an effect on the type of instrument without putting it in any great danger.

The recorder is a finished object. It has to withstand the constant pressure of moisture and drying. The primary elements that are decisive for the quality of the recorder are beyond the reach of the player, hidden in the core of the instrument. Even if the block is removed, the fine points that distinguish between good and bad can hardly be measured and are therefore not visible. A light stroke with a file, broach or sandpaper can make all the difference between success or failure.

This is where intuition, feeling, many years of experience and practice and the recorder-maker’s steady hand can make all the difference. His work is finished when he delivers it.

I do not want to recount here the many pitfalls and obstacles there are on the way to producing a good recorder. Suffice it to say, that it did not happened over night but has been the product of the tedious assembly of many small mosaic stones.

Today my models and concepts are matured. I can successfully conceive a recorder on paper and the first copy can be used on the concert platform. My pride is the perfect execution of my recorders. Hopefully, they will still be playable and give pleasure long after I have gone.

Lending a recorder its own distinctive personal sound is a matter of give and take. It is mostly amicable, sometimes resolute, occasionally even hazardous. I resist the temptation to force my will on a recorder, but listen to what it is telling me: from a certain point in its evolution it develops a character of its own. From then on, all the recorder-maker can do is nurture and refine the characteristics.

For me, the sound of a recorder is colour and light, comparable with the sensuous nature of a baroque oboe or the vibrant fire of a violin – comparable too with delicate aromas, spices and herbs.

As with any good musical instrument, the recorder should also be in a position to convey to the listener the mood and sentiment of the musician. It is the recorder-maker’s duty and art to produce such instruments.

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