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Robin Madge

Early 38 Key English

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post-352-1121936999_thumb.jpgpost-352-1121936642_thumb.jpgpost-352-1121936662_thumb.jpgWhilst at Ely festval we had a look round the antique shops and came across this 38 key Wheatstone english for sale. It has number 670 on the ends and is supposed to have some signatures inside, though I couldn't make out who is supposed to have signed it.

The shop let me take some photos so here goes at posting them.

 

Robin Madge.

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... 38 key Wheatstone english for sale. It has number 670 on the ends and is supposed to have some signatures inside, though I couldn't make out who is supposed to have signed it.

Robin,

 

I just looked it up in the ledgers and found that it was originally bought by a Mrs. Wayne. It wasn't signed "Neil" by any chance ? :blink:

 

Mind you, it was on 2nd October 1843, and I don't think he's that old ! :huh:

 

(Sounds like I might have to buy him a pint in Crotty's too ! ;) )

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Just a little footnote to Stephen's note: yes, C104a does record the sale of no. 670 to MRS Wayne. . . .note, though: C1046 records the sale of the same instrument to MR Wayne. . . . .that is a fairly frequent conflict between the listings in those two ledgers. . . . .happens rather often...............Allan

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... C1046 records the sale of the same instrument to MR Wayne. . .

Allan,

 

So you mean, Neil bought it himself ... ? ;)

 

But on a more serious level, it seems strange, with today's perspective, that Wheatstone's would build a top-of-the-range amboynawood-ended concertina with such a restricted range as 38 keys (probably 668 & 669 too ?) when they were already building mainly 48-key instruments. Evidently some people had other than musical priorities ...

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STEPHEN AND FOLKS: might have been NW's great-great-great (do we need another one)-grandfather. . . . . . . . .

 

the question that you raise about the 38-button instrument -- otherwise high quality-- when 48s were becoming the standard is a good one. . . . . . . .as is the question about "musical" priorities. . . . . . . i think, though, that we have to look at the repertory that was available for the instrument. . . . . .as far as i can tell, there wasn't very much around. . . . . . .and though Joseph Warren had already begun to turn out virtuoso showpieces such as his variations on "The Last Rose of Summer" and the theme from the Bellini opera (the first of which Regondi played in Ireland in 1834 -- i find that truly amazing -- and both of which he played at the birmingham festival in 1837), the instrument was sold in 1843, prior, i think, to the time that regondi and blagrove started turning out their own big pieces. . . . . . .

 

QUESTION FOR YOU (you would be the one to know): what would the layout have been on that 38-button instrument. . . . . .to what extent did it sacrifice "range" (OK--let's say it lost a note or so at the very top) and to what extent did they reduce the number of buttons by doing without the "duplicate" E flats/D sharps and A flats/G sharps (and thus sacrificing the instruments distinctive "meantone" tuning). . . . . .perhaps musical priorities were not entirely thrown to the wind. . . . . .

 

allan

Edited by allan atlas

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Hi Allan,

 

I think we can figure out the layout for this instrument, assuming that the red buttons are the C naturals as is normally the case with ivory keys, and that the other buttons where present are given the notes we would find in corresponding positions on a 48 key. If so, the lowest button on the left is a C and the lowest button on the right is a B (without its "normally associated" Bb). You can work out the rest from this. Continuing this reasoning, both the range and at least one accidental (though not one that is "enharmonically duplicated") were sacrificed from the layout.

 

Paul

 

(edited for grammar and to make better sense, and to add):

 

If my prediction holds, the entire range of the instrument would be from B to a G that is two octaves and a sixth higher in pitch; within this range of pitches every note (including accidentals and the duplicated enharmonics) would be included.

Edited by Paul Groff

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PAUL: good thinking!. . . .had completely forgotten that the pictures were there. . . .THANKS!

 

i would venture to say that such an instrument could probably have managed most of what was available for the instrument in 1843........................allan

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. . . . . .and though Joseph Warren had already begun to turn out virtuoso showpieces such as his variations on "The Last Rose of Summer" and the theme from the Bellini opera (the first of which Regondi played in Ireland in 1834 -- i find that truly amazing --

Allan,

 

It seems likely that Regondi must have been playing on one of the early 24-key "open-pallet-model" concertinas (like the first one, below) at that time. But they have a very limited range of just over two octaves B to C, without the "duplicate" semitones Ab and Eb.

 

post-9-1074230053.jpg Click here for an enlarged end-on view.

 

(Edited for typo.)

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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FOLKS: with respect to the range of Warren's "Last Rose" and "Bellini Variations":

 

LAST ROSE: extends from the b (just below middle c') to g'''

 

BELLINI VARIATIONS: extends from g (a fourth beneath middle c') to a'''

 

thus neither piece requires the range of a 48-button instrument...........

 

assuming that the published versions (and they were published well after the premieres) are what regondi played in 1834 and 1837. . . .he would have needed instruments with those ranges. . . . .obviously, the version that he performed back in the '30s could have differed somewhat from those published some twenty years later................allan

 

P.S.: both pieces call for the duplicate accidentals. . . . .though they can be played without them (from a technical point of view). . . . . . .in fact, i can't remember the last time i touched the low d sharp. . . . .i use the low e flat almost all the time (even when the note notated is d sharp. . . unless i'm playing on my meantone instrument. . . in which case i'm careful to distinguish between the buttons)........just one of my own idiosyncracies.............allan

Edited by allan atlas

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P.S.:  both pieces call for the duplicate accidentals. . . . .though they can be played without them (from a technical point of view). . . . . . .in fact, i can't remember the last time i touched the low d sharp. . . . .i use the low e flat almost all the time

Allan,

 

You would have no problem deciding which you should use on the open-pallet models, they don't have either. :huh:

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...it seems strange, with today's perspective, that Wheatstone's would build a top-of-the-range amboynawood-ended concertina with such a restricted range as 38 keys (probably 668 & 669 too ?) when they were already building mainly 48-key instruments. Evidently some people had other than musical priorities ...

Is that really so strange, or is the strangeness that they didn't build more of the smaller models?

 

Much is often made of the fact that the range of the standard 48-button treble English matches that of the violin. This 38-button instrument seems to have a range matching that of a flute: from B just below middle C up 2½ octaves to G. In that range it's fully chromatic and includes all the duplicate keys. Could it have been built for someone who already played the flute, or at least someone who intended to play from the flute repertoire? Hmm. The original purchaser was a woman, but at the time the flute was considered an unladylike instrument, no? So maybe this concertina was a way to play the "flute" without playing the flute? That's hardly a proof, but it does seem consistent with the facts.

 

Stephen, the instrument which is your avatar also has that same B as its lowest note, and I've seen at least one other -- a 28-key Lachenal, if I recall correctly -- that started either on that B or on middle C. My memory is uncertain as to which, but flutes of the time -- as today -- might have had either D, C, or B as the lowest note. A possible glitch in my theory is that you say the open pallet model has neither Eb nor D#, while I believe a D# key was common on flutes at the time it was made.

 

Could the earliest concertinas have been conceived as "flute substitutes", with the "violin substitute" concept coming later? Well, that's rampant speculation, but given that its predecessor was operated by blowing... why not? I can even imagine that after development of the "violin standard" model there would have been some thought of having two standard models -- "flute" and "violin", -- but since the latter includes all the notes of the former, it was considered too much trouble. "Flutes" could still be made to special order, but such requests were apparently rare.

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Is that really so strange, or is the strangeness that they didn't build more of the smaller models?

Jim,

 

Wheatstone's gradually built up to the 48-key model, but it was becoming more or less "standard" by the date this instrument was made. However, the main way they could build a concertina that was significantly cheaper, at that time, was to put less reeds in it. So they still made some instruments with less keys, and even with single action, hence the single-action 32-key rosewood instrument, #440, that I have.

 

Hmm.  The original purchaser was a woman, but at the time the flute was considered an unladylike instrument, no?  So maybe this concertina was a way to play the "flute" without playing the flute?

Ah, but the violin would have been considered unladylike too ! (The only "acceptable" instruments would have been the piano, harp or guitar.)

 

I would say that, as Allan has mentioned, there was still relatively little music available specifically for the concertina, and that flute music would have been considered eminently suitable for it, and perhaps easier for an amateur to play. But it has occurred to me that perhaps there is an element of this instrument being built as a "lady's model" - in the prettiest finish, but smaller and lighter than a full-size concertina ?

 

Stephen, the instrument which is your avatar also has that same B as its lowest note ... My memory is uncertain as to which, but flutes of the time -- as today -- might have had either D, C, or B as the lowest note.  A possible glitch in my theory is that you say the open pallet model has neither Eb nor D#, while I believe a D# key was common on flutes at the time it was made.

B is commonly the lowest note on modern flutes in the United States, and it is sometimes seen on 19th century German flutes, but it would have been highly unusual on an English flute of the time, and French players objected to even the C footjoint (the one-keyed flute was still being taught at the Conservatoire in Paris after Boehm invented the modern flute), so the Eb/D# key was still the only one that was on all flutes at the time.

 

Anyway, I did say "with today's perspective" ! ;)

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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Hmm.  The original purchaser was a woman, but at the time the flute was considered an unladylike instrument, no?  So maybe this concertina was a way to play the "flute" without playing the flute?
Ah, but the violin would have been considered unladylike too ! (The only "acceptable" instruments would have been the piano, harp or guitar.)

Why "but"? It seems reasonable to me that there would be demand for "ladylike" substitutes for two "unladylike" instruments if there was demand for one.

 

...it has occurred to me that perhaps there is an element of this instrument being built as a "lady's model" - in the prettiest finish, but smaller and lighter than a full-size concertina ?

Could be, though the size of even the 48-button treble might make it seem a "lady's model" in comparison to some other instruments.

 

Stephen, the instrument which is your avatar also has that same B as its lowest note ... flutes of the time -- as today -- might have had either D, C, or B as the lowest note.
B is commonly the lowest note on modern flutes in the United States,...
More common by far is the C foot. The B foot is an option mainly on more expensive models.
...and it is sometimes seen on 19th century German flutes, but it would have been highly unusual on an English flute of the time, and French players objected to even the C footjoint...
A possible glitch in my theory is that you say the open pallet model has neither Eb nor D#, while I believe a D# key was common on flutes at the time it was made.
...the Eb/D# key was still the only one that was on all flutes at the time.

Would a special-order concertina be more likely to emulate the most inexpensive flutes, or more deluxe models with more keys? (Here I'm thinking more about the 38-button instrument that started this thread, not the earlier instrument that's mysteriously missing Eb/D#.)

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...it has occurred to me that perhaps there is an element of this instrument being built as a "lady's model" - in the prettiest finish, but smaller and lighter than a full-size concertina ?

Could be, though the size of even the 48-button treble might make it seem a "lady's model" in comparison to some other instruments.

True enough, but nevertheless a smaller, lighter concertina is easier to play, and even the 44-key model (like #508 which I recently brought back from Paris) was smaller than a 48-key, at only 5 15/16" across, and this 38-key would probably be the same size (based on #584, CMC 208, also an amboyna 38-key) or smaller.

 

 

Would a special-order concertina be more likely to emulate the most inexpensive flutes, or more deluxe models with more keys?

I wouldn't be so sure that #670 was a "special-order concertina", the two preceding instruments in the ledger, #'s 668 and 669, also had 38 keys (maybe #667 too ?) suggesting a "batch", and now #584 (one of a batch of 4/6 ?) is starting to make it sound like almost a "standard model", rather than a "one-off".

 

The normal professional models of flute, made by Rudall & Rose, had a footjoint going down to C, though the most expensive ones sometimes went down to Bb ! (And some Viennese models even went down to G !!!!! :blink: )

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l-order concertina", the two preceding instruments in the ledger, #'s 668 and 669, also had 38 keys (maybe #667 too ?) suggesting a "batch", and now #584 (one of a batch of 4/6 ?) is starting to make it sound like almost a "standard model", rather than a "one-off".

Interesting. I'll still suspect that the range is flute-inspired.

No surviving catalogs/price lists from that period, I suppose?

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Interesting.  I'll still suspect that the range is flute-inspired.

Jim,

 

Like I said :

 

... there was still relatively little music available specifically for the concertina, and that flute music would have been considered eminently suitable for it, and perhaps easier for an amateur to play.

The flute was a very popular amateur instrument at the time, and there was a lot of music available for it that would not have been too demanding on the concertina. Indeed, one leather-bound collection of "Concertina Music - Sacred and Miscellanious" that I have (it belonged to a Mr. Edwin Edge) starts with a copy of the New Flute Tutor. Bernard Lee's Edition, of Wragg Improved and includes a copy of Six Variations on a favourite Thema in F, for the Concertina originally a flute work composed by the prominent flautist Raphael Dressler, and some Gems of Melody for flute.

 

 

No surviving catalogs/price lists from that period, I suppose?

No, the earliest one (known) is from 1848 and the start of mass production, though Louis Lachenal was still advertising cheaper concertinas with 22, 24, 32, & 40 keys up until 1862, and I have an example of a 32-key one from about 1859.

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FOLKS: just two minor additions to all this: Wheatstone definitely made two different sizes of bass concertinas. . . . .with the smaller one being specifically pegged toward women. . . . . .the evidence: his blurb in the 1851 Great Exhibition Catalogue. . . . .moreover, there are at least one or two entries in either C1052 or C1053 that are specifically recorded as "small bass". . . . . .and i have therefore chalked those up as having been purchased by women (in my Inventory). . . .

 

a very very very good treatment of ladylike and unladylike instruments and when the latter started to become the former:

 

Paula Gillett, MUSICAL WOMEN IN ENGLAND, 1870-1914: "ENCROACHING ON ALL MAN'S PRIVILEGES" (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000). . . .it's particularly good for the shift in the status of the violin with respect to women..............

 

allan

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a very very very good treatment of ladylike and unladylike instruments and when the latter started to become the former:

 

Paula Gillett, MUSICAL WOMEN IN ENGLAND, 1870-1914: "ENCROACHING ON ALL MAN'S PRIVILEGES" (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000). . . .it's particularly good for the shift in the status of the violin with respect to women..............

The worm has indeed turned, as indicated in two recent articles by Daniel J. Wakin in The New York Times:

 

Violinist Dropped by Philharmonic Goes to Court

"A promising violinist is charging the New York Philharmonic with sex discrimination, accusing it of a pattern of preferring female violinists."

 

In Violin Sections, Women Make Their Presence Heard

"Women have come to dominate the violin sections of some of the nation's leading orchestras, or at least hold their own."

 

........... :)

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