“Ganassi” recorders

In 2004 I first gave a lecture entitled “The Ganassi Recorder – Separating the Facts from Fiction” and the subsequent article that followed this was published in German in Tibia, and recently in English in the American Recorder magazine. The research I undertook into the phenomenon of the “Ganassi” recorder led me to the conclusion that there had never been in the renaissance, a separate “tribe” of “Ganassi” recorders and the instrument as we know it today, had been more or less invented in the 1970s by several makers working independently, the Morgan model achieving fame because it was the most copied by other makers. This design was based on one instrument in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum: inventory number SAM 135. This instrument was later found to be part of a small recorder consort and seems never to have been the evolutionary “missing link” between renaissance and baroque recorders as had been previously thought.

In another development, it seems that smaller recorders of the renaissance consort, particularly those with the !! or rabbit’s-foot mark, might have been made more cylindrically bored than we have been led to believe. I have been trying to test these theories, by making closer copies of the instrument SAM 135 as the main alto size instrument for the !! consort. Of course the voicing of these reconstructions is less trumpet-like, softer and more even than my older designed “Ganassi” recorders, and they are made in one piece, with mean-tone tuning at a=466 Hz.

The celebrated instrument and subject of so much controversy: Vienna SAM 135

At the same time, I have developed a pre-baroque model (listed as the Dolcimelo recorder in the left hand menu) to cover the 17th-century Italian repertoire in a more convincing way. These instruments are based on another instrument in Vienna (SAM 140), which has a step bore and is obviously a late 16th- or early 17th-century instrument. Again, these recorders are made in one piece at either a=415 Hz or a=440 Hz.

So where does this leave our “Ganassi” recorder? I am very sceptical of the opinion that there were ever “solo” recorders in the renaissance. Despite Ganassi’s extension of the register, he uses these high notes (and then only up to note XVI) in only four of the hundreds of diminutions, and I seriously doubt (as did both Marvin and Morgan) that recorders were made specifically to play in this register. However, since the 1970s more than 40 pieces have been written for the modern “Ganassi alto” and it would seem to be in this literature that the instrument can really flourish best. Whilst I acknowledge the popularity of these instruments today, I seriously doubt their historical significance and, since 2005, I have not been making them.