Dolcimelo recorders

In May 2000, I was granted permission by the director of the Musical instrument collection of the Vienna Kunsthistorisches museum to measure all the recorders in their collection. This was probably the first comprehensive study of the entire collection since Bob Marvin’s celebrated 1972 Galpin Society article and I am still very grateful to the direction of the museum for allowing me access. I eventually spent more than five weeks at the museum over a 3-year period and my work was eventually incorporated into a new catalogue of the recorder collection, published in 2006 (Edition Skira, Vienna).

This experience led me to a trio of anonymous instruments hitherto undocumented, which bear a makers mark with an unusual motif, reminiscent of a pair of apples. These three recorders have proved a good basis for a late renaissance model with baroque fingering. The three instruments are: a soprano size, inventory number: SAM 130 in modern c”, and alto, SAM 140, a quarter-tone sharp of modern f”‘ and a small tenor, that suffered baroque “remodelling”, SAM 148 a quarter-tone sharp of modern d’. These three instruments have fairly similar bore profiles to the “Rafi” models, except that their actual diameter is proportionally much greater, and surprisingly they play a full two octave range, using the fingerings given by Jambe de Fer and Van Eyck. On the other hand, their voicing and blowing characteristics, seem far closer to baroque instruments than the Rafis. The unusual interval between the three sizes may suggest that their original use was intended more in a solo than a consort capacity.

The window and maker’s mark of Vienna, SAM 140


The reconstruction of these instruments has proved to be remarkably straightforward. The high notes are very reliable and no particular problem was encountered in achieving a good balanced instrument. This is at least as applies to the alto size recorder. The most important problem has been knowing at what pitch to make them, considering that most players would probably want to explore 17th century Italian music with this kind of recorder. Over the years I have made altos in a=392 Hz, 415 Hz, 440 Hz and 466 Hz and sopranos in a=415 Hz and 440 Hz. The tenor size has proved a more difficult instrument and indeed the compromises in the design are far more present, the larger the size of recorder, but I have recently made some successful tenors in both a=466 Hz and 440 Hz.

I make these instruments in one piece, with no joint and will of course be prepared to tune them to any existing instruments.

Download the fingering chart for this instrument (PDF format).


Dolcimelo alto recorder in g’, a=466 Hz; made in maple
Dolcimelo tenor recorder in c’, a=440 Hz; made in plum