Instruments | Flute | Early Baroque | Classical

Already a successful instrument in the Renaissance, the Middle Ages and indeed earlier, the flute has a long continuous history. The Renaissance flute was made of wood in one or sometimes two pieces, with a cylindrical bore and six finger holes.

Its distinguishing feature was that it was not blown into directly like the recorder: the player held it sideways to the mouth (the ‘traverse’ position) and blew across a hole (a technique called ‘cross blowing’).

While the basic concept of cross blowing and traverse position remained constant, the flute’s bore was changed to be conical in the third quarter of the seventeenth century. Instruments acquired a separate key for chromatic notes to be played by the little finger of the right hand, and they began being made in three pieces called ‘joints’. It is traditionally the French Hotteterre family of players and makers that is credited with developing the Baroque flute. Pitched at A=392 (that is to say an entire tone below modern concert pitch), the instrument was written for particularly by J. S. Bach as well as Vivaldi and Couperin. At the end of the Baroque period, a four-piece flute established itself, still with one key.

J. J. Quantz

A significant name in the history of the Baroque flute is Johann Joachim Quantz (1697–1773), who wrote a treatise on playing the flute and was himself a maker, player and the composer of late Baroque/early Classical flute music at the Berlin court of Frederick the Great. Quantz’s instruments included something for which the modern instrument has no equivalent (because there is no need): corps de rechange. These were extra joints that could be fitted into the instrument and enabled it to be played at different pitches – pitch varied from region to region.

Styles & Forms | Early Baroque | Classical
Instruments | Bassoon | Early Baroque | Classical


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