The Pleasant Companion is dedicated to the family of instruments known as “flageolets”. Popular in Europe and America from the late 16th until the early 20th centuries, particularly amongst amateur musicians, flageolets are interesting instruments which deserve greater interest than they current receive.
Latest News (see also the Old News):
The French ebay recently turned up a French flagolet tutor by A. Patusset. The IMSLP Petrucci website suggests a publication date of 1866 to 1874 by reference to the publisher’s address (Alphonse Leduc; 36 rue Lepeletier).
The work has the usual introduction to musical theory; the instrument; fingering charts; and a number of studies and pieces of music of increasing difficulty. I hope, one day, to publish some of the music on this website.
In the meantime, the introduction to the instrument is interesting for its description of the French flageolet in this period. Recorder-style French flageolets were still popular but were seen by Patusset as less attractive instruments than more classical styles of the instrument (which apparently also had a sponge to condense the moisture).
Of the Flageolet
The flageolet is an instrument that is used today in every ball orchestra; in salons with piano accompaniment; and in all amateur concerts to play quadrilles. It is very easy to play; the embouchure is learned [by playing] on it; in fact, it is made by placing the lips on it and blowing, to bring out the notes.
There are several forms of flageolets; some have mouthpieces, called a short flageolet (“flageolet court”); others have a windcap (“pompe”); they all play the same way, even those with keys, the only difference is in the ease with which one plays some of the runs.
The best flageolets are in ebony with a windcap. In the windcap there is a sponge that fills the void, concentrating the humidity, without preventing the passage of the wind.
The flageolet in A, the only that is used in orchestras, is the one to study in preference. It is indeed, also, the one whose sound is more pleasant.
Published on: Sun, 29 May 2016 21:47:40 +0100
Le flageolet est un instrument en usage aujourd’hui dans tous les orchestres de bals; dans les salons avec accompagnement de piano et dans toutes les réunions d’amateures pour exécuter des contredanses. It est très-facile à jouer, son embouchure s’apprend de suite; il suffit, en effet, de la poser légèrement sur les lèvres et de souffler, pour faire sortir les notes.
Il existe des flageolets de plusieurs formes; les uns sont à bec, on les nomme Flageolets courts; les autres sont à pompe; ils se jouent tous de la même manière même ceux à clef, dont la différence unique consiste dans la facilité qu’on éprouve à exécuter quelques traits.
Les meilleurs flageolets sont en bois d’ébène et à pompe. Dans la pompe, on introduit une ponge qui remplit le vide, concentre l’humiditê, sans empêcher le passage du vent.
Le flageolet en la, le seul dont on se sert dans les orchestres, est celui qu’il faut étudier de préférence. C’est du reste, également, celui dont la sonorité est la plus agréable.
The caricature statute of Collinet by Dantan is the only portrait of this famous French flageolet player that I have found. I have recently come across the third engraving of it: in the Illustrated London News in 1842. It is accompanied, not by an article about Collinet or a review of one of his concerts, by possibly the worst poem I have read!
To hear you play
Your flageolet, from day to day
Enchanted maids might hearken;
But in what fit
Did Dantan’s wit
High mount you on that perch to sit,
Your gentle brow to darken?
[continues for two more stanzas]
About this Site: “The Pleasant Companion” is designed to be a resource for anyone interested in flageolets and their history and music. Transcriptions of Historical Flageolet Tutors from the 17th to 19th Centuries are available, along with free sheet music; biographies of famous flageolet–players, such as Samuel Pepys, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Parry; articles about flageolets (both new and historic); and a bibliography and discography for further listening and reading.
A short introduction: From simple beginnings in France as recorder–like instruments, over the centuries flageolets became increasing complicated and sophisticated instruments, used for personal enjoyment; making guest appearances in operas and even being used to teach birds to sing. In an attempt to smooth rough amateur breath control a distinctive arrangement of barrels and beaks was introduced in the early 18th Century and, soon, instrument makers were combining this unique profile with the simple 6–holed fingering system of recorders and transverse flutes to make a new instrument—the English flageolet. Both this and the traditional (“French”) flageolet continued to be popular in the 19th century, joined with the multiple–flageolets, invented at the turn–of–the–Century. However, despite a late revival as the solo instrument in Quadrille bands, the production of cheap tin or penny whistles took away the amateur market, resulting in a slow decline of the instruments into obscurity.