English, Manufactors, Woodwind

A “Castelino” children’s traverso, made by Fridtjof Aurin

 

On March 16, 2014 Fridtjof Aurin was invited to Antwerp, our hometown, for the first day of the baroque flute, known as : “Traversodag”.

This event was a collaboration of 18FM (Eighteenth-Century Flute Matters ! www.18fm.eu ) and Ma’go, one of the schools where Pieter Van Overloop teaches the baroque flute.

Initialy we planned to invite the brothers in arms Frank Theuns and Andreas Glatt.
It was a great loss to us all when Andreas passed away on the 4th of May.

It was in a conversation with Frank and Adelheid Glatt, that Fridtjof was then suggested to take part on the first day of the baroque flute. Andreas and Fridtjof had been sharing ideas in the past, and seemed to have much similar ideas on building historical flutes.

Where Frank was invited to entertain us on the sound-flavour of historical flutes, Fridtjof was invited to exhibit some of his instruments and to give insights into how instruments are built and how they should be maintained to prevent cracks and malfunctions.

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One of the exhibited instruments was a copy of a flute made by Giuseppe Castel. It ’s an instrument that isn’t built by many manufactors, unlike the Rottenburgh or the Grenser.

Reading the New Langwill Index we find that Castel was a workshop in Italy at the second quarter of – until the late 18th century (although there is an interrogation mark). There were different stamps in use, which indicates that several makers were associated with the workshop. Their kinship and chronology are unknown. One flute is located in the Musikmuseet in Stockholm. The other remaining instruments are recorders.

A flute manufactor, named Giuseppe Castel, is mentioned separatly in the New Langwill Index. This manufactor lived in Italy at the second quarter of the 18th century. Also with a question mark. One flute is mentioned, belonging to the collection of Ronald Pelzel in Bensheim (Germany).

In the book of Philip T. Young, Castel is even not mentioned.

According to Fridtjof’s information, the original instrument he measured in the private collection of Peter Spohr in Frankfurt dates from the first quarter of the 18th century (c. 1730) and is therefore probably the oldest preserved four part italian flute. Fridtjof specifies : “It was presumably made in Venetian, maybe Venice itself, which is to be assumed from the Venetian lion on the stamp. A connection to Vivaldi is therefore most likely. The boxwood flute is fitted with wide ivory rings and a decorative engraved silver key. It has a small oval shaped embouchure hole and a wide bore with surprisingly little taper. As a result, the flute has a very full and rounded tone, despite the high tuning of almost a=440. “

The Castel copies made by Fridtjof are made of boxwood (the original is made of boxwood) or ebony, with imitation-ivory rings. The instruments play very lightly and have a very open sound. The pitch is a=440 hz.

The pitch and the characteristics or qualities of the instrument inspired Pieter Van Overloop to ask Fridtjof to make a traverso for children.

A regular traverso pitch a=415 hz is too big for a child’s hand. A flute with pitch a=440 hz is shorter, and for that better suited.

Fridtjof explains : “In general instruments with higher pitch are proportionally altered lower pitched instruments which have therefore lost a good deal of their original sound qualities or they are of a later period (classical), and don’t have the typical carateristics of an earlier baroque flute.”

This seemed to make the Castel flute so interesting.

When Fridtjof accepted the challenge, for both it was clear that the young players should be taken seriously. Where Aulos flutes in synthetic material had been used so far, Pieter wanted an upgrade for the children’s traverso.

The task was to build a solid wooden instrument, with real traverso-characteristics, close to the original.

And then, on Sunday 22nd of June Pieter Van Overloop took me along to visit Fridtjof Aurins atelier in Düsseldorf.   Luc Van Vaerenbergh, director of Ma’go and harpsichord player, was enthusiastic about the idea and authorised us to buy two instruments for the school.

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In his beautifull house in Düsseldorf Fridtjof told us he and Andreas were working at the same time on a Castel flute. And they were sharing ideas on the instrument.

We got to see the Castel copy, an instrument that Fridtjof produces on regular demand, next to the prototype of his “Castelino” childrens traverso.

There are some striking choises made, which make the prototype look different from its ‘big brother’.

Where the copy is made of ebony with imitation-ivory rings, the prototype is made of stabilized maple (esdoorn), and without the imitation-ivory rings.   By stabilizing the maple it becomes heavier, and approaches the qualities of ebony, though it is less difficult to maintain. Nevertheless the instrument should be oiled frequently (almond oil is recommended).

The bore of the instrument has been respected. The finger holes have been set a little bit closer toe ach other to make it easier for children to play. This was compensated by slightly altering the undercutting of the holes.

The embouchure has been made a little bit bigger and more roundish, but still oval.

These characteristics give the instrument a clear sound and good intonation, but it stays a baroque flute, excellent to start with.

More than a detail : the question arose whether to use cork or cotton to keep the joints together.   Cotton beat cork. Children should learn that by the moisture of playing, the joints will get tight and they should learn to regulate the tension by (un)winding the cotton.

I am sure that this instrument, built with love will with no doubt, bring great pleasure to the young flute players.

The instrument will not be commercialised though. It is only for those happy few of Antwerp.

Lucky ones !

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