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Dave Marcus

English Baritone From David Robertson (Evaluation)

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I today received a baritone bought from David Robertson and thought that some might like to hear comments on this instrument. It is a Wheatstone, estimated by David at ~140 years old. Flat wooden ends (ebony?) with metal buttons and steel reeds. I paid about 3/4 the price I was expecting to pay for a very good baritone - David described himself as "not a greedy bloke" and that was accurate. No idea what he paid for it, but given that the good price he offered included new thumb straps, new pads, valves and bushes, and a bit of refinishing, he certainly isn't trying to become rich quickly. I feel very good about the value received; had I paid what I expected, I'd still feel good.

 

To my surprise, the reeds, other than the very bottom, are pretty quick and the action is fast (and quiet). David commented as we discussed the instrument by email "I think I have only ever had one baritone that performed better than this one, and that was a 1950's Crabb," I thought that was hyperbolic but it isn't. I can definitely play a note-full Irish reel up to tempo on it. More useful, I tried a 16th c. theme and variations on it, with some of the variations being quite fast and found that it was not only playable but also sounded 'right' on the instrument.

 

Getting used to it will take a bit as it is my first baritone and I suspect that as I learn the pressure and velocity to use across different parts of the range the sound will only improve. It has already marked improved after 2 hours of playing with it.

 

David finished it up very nicely and tuned it nicely as well; the reeds sound very consonant in chords. I don't find the reeds too "tubby" and the sound in most of the range the reeds have the same sound and characters. It is a somewhat muted sound - not a very sharp and bright sound - and that is just fine for me. David's comment: "The tone is typical of the period - nowhere near as harsh as, for example, a Model 21 Wheatstone treble". But nowhere as dull as, say, a cheap Bastari.

 

As for size and weight, it is 71/4" flat to flat, and weighs in at 3lb 10 oz. It was well packed and there's only one reed that in my view needs a bit of adjustment; I expected more of them to protest the travel.

 

In sum, I am happy and I would cheerfully do business again with David.

 

Dave

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