Wooden't It Be Lover-ly? (Part 2!)
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!
Let us now take a short trip to Europe and explore some of the flutemakers there who are bestowing gifts of wood flutage upon the world.
First up, we have:
In my very first blog post ever, I wrote a short review of my experience with his "Mezzo" flute, a collaboration with American flutentrepreneur Jason Blank that fits in the intermediate/pre-professional handmade head/Asian body market segment. It's a fabulous flute, and I very much enjoyed playing it. Bernhard makes amazing headjoints, and many people know of his magical 22K gold flutes (he also makes flutes in silver, 9K, 14K and 18K gold), but did you know he also makes a killer wood flute? He uses both grenadilla and cocuswood in his instruments, and they are simply stunning. They are entirely handmade upon order, so you can have them customized however you wish. (C# trill key, D# and/or C# rollers, hand engraving, and solid gold or gold-plated mechanism are all available).
Bernhard comes from a family with a very long tradition of musical instrument making, and his instruments are infused with that spirit. I've been fortunate enough to play several of his handmade flutes (including the aforementioned magic 22K gold flute, and an incredible 9K gold instrument), and I would strongly advise that anybody wishing to make the switch to a wood flute consider auditioning one of his instruments.
Jason Blank is the North American representative for Hammig flutes, and you can contact him via his website: Bernhard Hammig Custom Flutes. You can read more about Bernhard and his instruments at his official site, Hammig Flutes
Aren't they just beautiful?! (photo credit: B. Hammig, via Facebook)
Well known for his wooden headjoints, it seems few people are aware that Howel Roberts also makes complete wooden flutes! A former member of the Flutemaker's Guild of London, Roberts has always been a great lover of the wood flute, and his handmade wooden flutes very much reflect that passion. Like Hammig, you can get a Roberts wood flute built for you in grenadilla or cocuswood, but you can ALSO opt for cocobolo wood (so very fashionable in the clarinet world these days, and to a slightly lesser extent, oboes). Also like Hammig, you can customize your flute with C# trill, rollers, engraving, gold mechanisms, etc. I've never personally played one, but of course I've played a great many of his headjoints, and if the flutes are anything like the heads....well, I wouldn't take umbrage if one were to appear under my Christmas tree. ;-)
Read more about them at: Howel Roberts Wooden Flutes (and DO note that you can click on all photos on that page to embiggen them...I highly recommend it, especially that shot of the entire flute. It's cocus, and the detail of the wood in the large version of the photo is mesmerizing!)
Virtually unknown to the American fluteplaying sphere, Verhoef flutes are extremely well-regarded in Europe, and for very good reason. They are, simply put, freaking stunning. One of the things that sets Verhoef apart from many other makers is the variety of woods he uses in making his flutes. In addition to the standard grenadilla (African blackwood, or good ol' trusty Dalbergia melanoxylon), you can order a Verhoef in palisander (palisander can mean one of several woods, but it is most commonly used to refer to Madagascar rosewood, or Dalbergia baronii, and photos I've seen of his flutes in this wood support that assumption); African rosewood (or, as most people call it, bubinga. Not a true rosewood, as it isn't a Dalbergia, it's still a fabulous tonewood); coromandel, also not a Dalbergia, but a stunningly gorgeous wood often referred to (perhaps a tiny bit erroneously) as Macassar ebony; our old trusty friend cocuswood; and finally, Bahia rosewood, which is much more commonly referred to in the West as Brazilian rosewood (or Dalbergia nigra, which you may also see referred to as Rio rosewood or Bahia jacaranda), which is an incredibly colorful red wood that those of you who are savvy woodwind doublers may recognize as the brilliantly colored wood that Patricola uses in their rosewood oboes and clarinets.
(Now might be a good time to mention that I will be doing an upcoming blog post on all of the woods that are used in woodwind manufacturing, and addressing such topics as "What exactly is 'rosewood', anyway?". I'm sure you'll want to make some popcorn and gather the kids around for that one.)
I digress...back to flutey things.
Mr. Verhoef painstakingly makes every flute by hand to order, and turns out some pretty marvelous works of art that sound as fantastic as they look. There are some lovely photos on his website, Verhoef Flutes, and check out some fabulous performances using his flutes:
Katja Pitelina plays Bozza's "Images" for us, using her rosewood Verhoef:
And HERE is something I was *super* excited to find, a 20-minute interview (in Dutch) with Mr. Verhoef himself, about his flutes. In the latter half of the video, he disappears for a second and returns with THREE of his flutes, all in different woods, and plays them all for us. It's just fascinating!
A name well-known in Baroque flute and recorder circles, Bernolin also makes a wooden Boehm flute in his atelier in France. I've no personal experience with his concert flutes, but I have played one of his traversos, and know several recorder players who swear by his instruments. His flutes are also quite reasonably priced for a handmade wood flute (in the same ballpark as Yamaha), and you can get them with a solid sterling mechanism or a silver-plated mechanism if you're feeling economical.
Take a gander at some lovely photos of his work at: Bernolin Boehm Flutes
From German flutemaker Anton Braun, we have perhaps one of the most recognizable flutes on our list. This is the flute that you will see in the hands of Michael Hasel and Andreas Blau in the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, and as such, examples of these flutes being played are readily accessible on Youtube. Unique among wood flute makers, Braun inserts a gold riser into all of his headjoints as standards, which gives his flutes a bit more of an edge in an orchestral situation, and adds a crispness to the articulation that is not always found in wooden headjoints. Braun flutes are available only in well-seasoned grenadilla wood, and you can order your flute with a one-piece body, if you so choose.
Like just about all wooden flutes, it's very reasonably priced, a base B-footed model coming in at slightly less than an average silver soldered-tonehole handmade flute.
Have a look around Braun's website, Braun Flutes. There is a bounty of great information to be had, and his C-foot piccolo is also worth a look! :-)
Here is the amazing Andras Adorjan playing the lightning-fast last movement of the CPE Bach D minor concerto on his Braun flute (listen to that articulation!!)
And here is the legendary Andreas Blau, of the Berlin Philharmonic, playing the Reinecke Flute Concerto with HIS Braun:
From the picturesque Tyrolean region of Austria, master flute and clarinet maker Herbert Neureiter is doing some of the most innovative work in woodwinds today. I will expound on his creativity in a future post, but for now let's take a look at his wooden flutes.
Neureiter makes two models of wood flutes, the Vario and the Soloist. The primary difference between the two is in the construction of the head to body connection; the Vario, as the name suggests, is a straight metal tenon which enables one to use various (I see what he did there!) headjoints on the body. The Soloist has a traditional piccolo-style corked tenon, which limits the choices of headjoint you can use on the body, though one must assume that the one supplied with it is the one that is intended for that particular body. :)
Like some of our other wood wizards, Herr Neureiter uses a multitude of woods in the construction of his beautiful flutes, including cocus; cocobolo; what he calls "vera-pok" on his website, but which we know much more commonly as lignum vitae, verawood, guayacan, or gaiac; and violetwood (kingwood). One infers from the Types Of Wood section on his website that other species outside of the dalbergia family can also be special-ordered.
Uniquely among the makers I'll discuss in this series, Neureiter also uses ebonite (or "hard rubber", which happens to be what my primary clarinet is made of, and I LOVE it). The Soloist model can be ordered entirely in ebonite, or you can opt for just an ebonite headjoint. This is a natural material, taken from a tree just as wood is, and the nature of this material enables the maker to produce a variety of colors and patterns in it. See below an example of a Soloist model flute in "emerald marmorate" ebonite (with his patented "Pieno Flauto" headjoint resonance/tuning feature):
Lovely, isn't it? This material can be made in a wide variety of appearances, and completely eliminates the worry of cracking or dimensional changes due to temperature and humidity, while preserving the dark, beautiful sound of the natural wood flute. See below for some of the possibilites! (All photos taken from the Neureiter website, which I will link below)
(the bottom photo is clarinet barrels, obviously, but it's a fabulous illustration of the array of visual options one has with this material!)
There is also a staggering array of wood headjoint options for the Vario, and these headjoints will fit any flute that takes a standard tenon, so you can use them on your silver or gold flute (or your wood Yamaha, Powell, Sankyo, Di Zhao, etc... ;-) )
I am relatively new to Neureiter as a flutemaker (I've experienced only one of his instruments, which was a German system clarinet, and it was lovely!), but I am very, very, very excited about what I've seen; so much so that I have reached out to him for further information. Perhaps a Neureiter demo video and blog review is in the not-so-distant future?? We'll have to wait and see! :)
Read more about his work yourself (really, I highly recommend browsing around the site, even the clarinet stuff!) at: Herbert Neureiter Flutes & Clarinets
That's all for Part Two!! In the third and final installment, we'll come back to the good ol' US of A for a couple final makers, and have a look at one of our British friends, as well!
As always, thanks for reading! :-)