Heavenly Flute Players 29 - Some Lesser Big-Wigs!
Theobald Boehm, a German flute player, composer and flute maker presented the final version of his new flute in 1847. As if that wasn't enough, he turned his attention to other pressing matters such as a new way to manufacture and to place the pins on a cylinder of a music box movement for mass production purposes. Then he devised a better way to manufacture and produce steel during this important industrial period. He is reckoned to have invented 'overstringing', the way in which a group of bass strings cross inside a piano case so as to make the most of the available length of string to increase the volume and quality of tone. He arranged music for flute and alto flute – his favourite instrument. He composed pieces and studies for the flute, some of which are often played today such as the Grande Polonaise, and his Studies, the 24 Capriccios, op26 are still widely used. Boehm also made an oboe and bassoon based on his new system.
Long before Boehm shuffled off, an army of inventors came forward with 'improvements' to his system of keywork, a few with far reaching and long lasting results. Most were of little worth, though the Radcliffe System used by John Amadio, a great virtuoso, was still used until the middle of the 20th century. John Radcliffe was a English flautist and his design was based on the old style pre-Boehm simple system flutes.
John Clinton patented some silly ideas, amongst which was the 'Equisonant Flute'. A critic asked if 'Equisonant' meant that it was equally bad all over? Richard Rockstro, another inventor, remarked that, 'Unfortunately it was unequally bad all over'!
Pratten was another who made his 'Perfected Flute' but was little more than the old flute with covered holes.
Abel Siccama's flute was adopted by some well known players for a time.
Dorus altered Boehm's original design of the open G# to reverse it and that has remained to the present day.
Briccialdi added the extra thumb key in 1849 enabling Bb to be played with the thumb.
Richard Carte brought out a new model in 1851, and another in 1867 which was the 'Carte and Boehm System Combined', known as the 1867 flute, also used well into the 20th century, and, had it been introduced earlier, may well have had greater acceptance and success.
Victor Coche and August Buffet also added to the pot of improvements.
Strange as it may seem, though Boehm was German, his flute was not accepted as readily in Germany as it was in the rest of Europe, due largely to the influence of Maximilian Schwedler who produced a whole series of improvements to the old simple system flute, and succeeded in preventing wide acceptance of the Boehm flute in Germany until well into the 20th century.
In Paris, Louis Lot began making his Boehm System flute masterpieces widely in use today - when they can be found!
Finally the Inventions Prize must go to James Mathews. As an historian remarked, 'the climax of tinkering was reached by James Mathews, a Birmingham amateur whose flute had no less than 28 keys!' It was made of gold with silver keys and an ivory lip plate with a square mouth hole. He called his flute 'Chrysostom'.
These are but a few of the inventors, but through it all, the flute of Theobald Boehm still emerges as the best!