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Symphonetta


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I have a beautiful Symphonetta that I am curious about. It is quite old and a faded label says:

 

Left:

Richt? Schell??

Symphonetta

?????????

 

Right:

Alleintget Fabrikant

Ernst L. Arnold

Carlsleld????

 

It seems that Ernest Louis Arnold (1828-1910) was the manufacturer of the ELA bandoneons which were imported to Argentina as well as the Symphonetta.

 

My instrument is in very good condition and plays with a lovely tone. A few leaks of course. It fits in a box and has a folding stand. It seems to have been used by a working musician long ago. Numbers and letters on the colored buttons are worn with use. I can’t find them now, but it came with printed music, parts for Symphonetta for band arrangements of tunes and hand stamped with what I remember to be a Berlin concertina club.

 

Mr. Flake is the author of a web site in German that Goggle refuses to translate, great pictures though. http://users.interstroom.nl/~veldhuis/-symphonetta/

I tried to email Leo Flake but the emails were returned. Does anyone know how to contact him?

 

Does anyone play these now?

post-557-1142572657_thumb.jpg

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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I have a beautiful Symphonetta that I am curious about. ...

 

This is vaguely reminicent of the Wheatstone Tripod Concertina

 

C4bc.gif

 

Howard Mitchell

What do you do with it, pump each side up and down alternately while finding buttons? Surely not? If so I can see why it died out once the initial craze for using it to develop upper back muscles had died out.

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I have a beautiful Symphonetta that I am curious about. ...

 

This is vaguely reminicent of the Wheatstone Tripod Concertina

 

Howard Mitchell

What do you do with it, pump each side up and down alternately while finding buttons? Surely not? If so I can see why it died out once the initial craze for using it to develop upper back muscles had died out.

 

A prototype used in Wheatstone's submission for his 1844 patent - a foot treadle sends wind up the column to the wind chest; each keyboard rises on a separate piston, and the keys are played as usual.

 

From The Galpin Society Article, The History of the Wheatstone Concertina, by Neil Wayne

 

Howard Mitchell

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Mr. Flake is the author of a web site in German that Goggle refuses to translate, great pictures though. http://users.interstroom.nl/~veldhuis/-symphonetta/

I tried to email Leo Flake but the emails were returned. Does anyone know how to contact him?

This morning I spoke to Leo Flake on the telephone. He is busy with a new website and has a new e-mail address. As a result I have sent an e-mail to Leo with a copy to Jody.

Edited by Henk van Aalten
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This morning I spoke to Leo Flake on the telephone. He is busy with a new website and has a new e-mail address. As a result I have sent an e-mail to Leo with a copy to Jody.

Thank you Henk and all.

 

My guess is that this symphonetta was made around 1930. The range is 5 1/2 octaves from Bb” to f#”

 

Below is a photo of the key layout. This is the left hand (the bass side), but the position and number of buttons is the same for both the right and left sides. There is just over one octave overlap in pitches between the right and left sides.

 

Though very worn, you can sort of see the buttons are numbered and lettered. This system has the same note pull and draw, and like the Hayden and others, the intervalic fingerings are transposable to any key.

 

Of the five rows, the middle three are the basic pattern with the outside upper and lower rows being linked buttons to aid fingerings. So just consider those three middle rows to see the pattern.

 

You are looking at three octaves here. You can see the silver inlay at a slant, visually dividing the octaves. The octave pattern repeats for each of the three octaves pictured here. Each octave is made up of the three rows we are talking about and four slanted columns.

 

Starting on the top left and moving down the columns, you get half steps. Across the rows you get minor thirds.

 

post-557-1142658390_thumb.jpg

 

post-557-1142658588_thumb.jpg

 

The left most top row (main pattern row) yellow button is clearly marked 1/C and that is the lowest C on the instrument.

 

A quick search on cnet and related links did not turn up a fingering system like this.

 

I don’t play this beauty, but playing around with it I can get the idea. Just under the buttons is a bar that the thumb curls around and the palm rests on. The four fingers can span two octaves with a stretch. The two bellows can maintain constant pressure with practice. It’s a bit too leaky to hear about articulation. The sound is rich and loud with (I think) two reeds in octaves for every button.

 

The instrument is lovely to look at, but I think it’s very unlikely I’ll ever learn to play it.

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It is a B system Chromatic keyboard, but slanted into opposite direction and with the middle three rows at the core, as opposed to regular B (or C) system, where the core is on the outiside three rows.

I think it hasn't cought up, because a chromatic B system benefits more from free hand, and is more vertical system than horizontal.

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  • 15 years later...

Fascinating!  There's mention of a foot treadle to inflate the bellows in one of the older posts in the thread, but I don't see any evidence of that for the model in the above videos.  Are there maybe springs pushing the bellows up, and you counteract them by pushing down on the bar with your palms?

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I was thinking the same thing. He certainly doesn’t seem to be using his legs to add energy to the system, and I don’t think he’s pulling up with his thumbs, which would seem to leave pushing down as the only way to add energy. Note near the end of the 2nd video where all the musical activity is in the left hand, there is still movement in the bellows on the right, but it appears to follow the relaxation of the right arm.

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Having repaired examples in the past and if memory serves me correctly:

It is an instrument akin to the bandoneon, that is basically split in half, the left and right sections, each, complete with an independent bellows, being mounted on a board with the keyboards orientated upwards. Each bellows is provided with a large internal spring, (like an old fashioned bed spring) which when restraining clips are released (can be seen in the video) causes each bellows to try to expand. Because the instrument is ‘single action’ (notes only sound when the bellows are compressed) one way flap valves are incorporated to allow air to enter the bellows to allow full expansion. A separate button mounted behind the hand rest and operated by the heel of the each hand opens a wind pad to allow each bellows to be compressed, without sounding any notes, and clipped shut for transporting

 

The single action negates the need for a hand strap, effort only being required to compress the bellows during playing.

 

And of course, a strong pair of knees/legs to support models without a stand.

 

Geoff

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I've seen bandoneonistas bounce the instrument on their knees so as to emphasise the rhythm (something I've experimented with on EC).  This instrument could never be bounced in the same way, IMO leaving tango a little flat.

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