Exploring 9 of the modern early music scene's most copied flutes.
If you are looking for your first baroque flute (or even second or third) and you have no idea which copy to buy, this is for you. Copies are a somewhat confusing phenomenon unique to the early music scene. In the modern world, we simply select a brand, like Powell or Brannen for example, and then we select the model which is easily classified for us by playing ability (beginner, intermediate, professional, artist). This is not the case for baroque flutes. No traverso is intrinsically better than another, rather we select what we need by two coordinates: copy and a maker.
The maker is the easy part; it’s the cognate of the brand. They are the individuals who physically build the instruments for purchase and are (if all is well) still alive today. Some examples of makers are Boaz Berney, Martin Wenner, and Simon Polak, all of whom you can meet and talk to at most major flute conventions. The “which copy” part is in reference to a builder that we cannot talk to any longer, as they are long dead and buried. They were once makers, building their flutes in the ages of lore, and they were lucky enough to have at least one instrument that survived hundreds of years in the tempests of time. These trooper-flutes now live in museums and private collections and are brought out every so often for modern makers to study and measure them. From these findings, makers produce replicas, or “copies.”
Think of it this way: panthers, lions, tigers, and jaguars are all cats (Felidae). Like this, Palancas, Stanesbys, and Grensers are all baroque flutes. Also like cats, each species is perfectly adapted to best suit their environment: a snow leopard wouldn’t have a prayer for catching gazelles on the Serengeti, but cheetahs do the job with evolutionary perfection. In turn, a cheetah probably wouldn’t last too long in the snowy Himalayas like their snow leopard cousins. In the same way, no style of copy is definitively superior to another, instead, each flute was evolved and adapted to perfectly suit the repertoire of its respective region and time. Like in everything, the strengthening of some attributes may cause weaknesses in contrasting qualities, so the type of repertoire you wish to use your flute for should serve as the guiding star for choosing a copy. Let’s take a look at the history, pros, and cons of nine of the modern early music scene’s most copied instruments.
Hotteterre flute by Martin Wenner (https://www.wennerfloeten.de/en/products/transverse-flutes/j-hotteterre/)
There may only be one surviving signed Hotteterre original. There were believed to be at least three until Ardal Powell proved two were copies themselves in the mid-90’s. The last flute standing is housed in Graz, Austria, and it is much debated if it was made by Martin Hotteterre (1635-1712), his son, Jacques-Martin Hottettere ( 1674-1763), or his other son, Jean Hotteterre (1670-1720).
If you’ve heard the name “Hotteterre,” you’ve probably heard of Jacques-Martin, for he is the most famous of the Hotteterres. Jacques-Martin is the one who wrote the treatise Principes de la flûte traversière, the royal suites, and went by the nickname “la Romain.”
In any case, the flute in Graz closely resembles the flute in an engraving found in Jacques-Martin’s treatise which was published in 1707, so that places the time of the flute around then. The Hotteterre workshop is credited for being the first to transition to standardizing a three-joint system (Renaissance flutes were typically a solid piece). Most of the other copies discussed in this article are in four pieces. This means Hotteterre flutes have a very long middle joint that is not possible to break down and they are therefore a little more difficult to pack into bags and transport.
Hotteterre flutes are the most beautiful and authentic kind of flutes for early French music, full of rich color, a strong low-register, and a quintessentially French sound. I like listening to Hotteterres very much but have personally never been compelled to buy one as most makers will only offer them at French low pitch, which has not been useful to the settings I need to play in. I should note, I have heard a multitude of players complain about the right hand stretch on the Hotteterre flutes so these may not be the best option if you have smaller hands.
Location/time period: Paris, France; Approximately 1690-1720
Original pitch: French low pitch (around 392)
Strengths: the ultimate sound for early French music, beautiful low register, intriguing colors
Weaknesses: long middle joint that doesn’t break down, most copies are only sold at A=392, big stretch in the right hand
Three part Naust by Boaz Berney (http://www.berneyflutes.com/the-flutes/baroque-flutes/53-3-part-naust-1690)
Pierre Naust (1660-1709)’s flute is commonly referred to as a “Hotteterre-style” flute, which is unsurprising as the maker was Hotteterre’s contemporary. Pierre’s workshop, which formerly belonged to his teacher and boss, Fremont, was situated on the rue de l’Arbre Sec in Paris. There, he made three part Naust flutes. Upon Pierre’s death in 1709, his wife, Barbe Naust, took over the workshop. Barbe Naust hailed from a famed instrument building family herself, des Pelletiers, and she ushered the business into a position of international fame, securing the Naust workshop’s status as the primary provider of royal instruments to the French crown. She herself was given the title, “maître faiseur d’instruments de la maison du Roy” (master instrument maker for the house of the king), an incredible feat for a woman in the 18th century. Although debated, there is strong evidence that Barbe Naust’s four part traversos may have been the genesis of the corps de rechange. It is possible to purchase Naust copies in both three and four parts. The transition from three parts to four probably took place between 1710-1720.
Barbe Naust relinquished ownership of the workshop to her son-in-law, Antoine Delerablée, in 1719. She died in 1726, and Delerablée died in 1734. Dame Naust’s daughter, Jeanne, then remarried the famous Thomas Lot, who had worked in the Naust workshop since boyhood. The Nausts’ legacy lived on through the Lot workshop.
Location/Time period: Paris, France; 1692-1734
Original pitch: A=398-400Hz
Strengths: Subtle and dignified tone color palette, clear articulation, strong cross-fingerings, great chamber/solo dynamic range, usually comes with corps de rechange at both French low pitch and 415, one of the poster-flutes for early French repertoire
Weaknesses: weaker low-register, difficult for playing with large ensembles, original pitch is not terribly useful today, difficult to play remote keys in tune
T. Lot flute by Folkers and Powell (http://www.baroqueflute.com/models/Lot.html)
Thomas Lot (1708-1787) was the living, breathing continuation of Naust’s workshop, inside which he apprenticed since he was fourteen. When he married Jeanne Naust, he was instantly catapulted into the inner circle of the greatest French flutists and instrument makers–Blavet, Boismortier, and several Hotteterres even attended his wedding! Lot largely retained Naust’s external dimensions and dimensions for many parts of the bore, but made dramatic adjustments to the way he undercut the instruments.
Lot’s flutes were played internationally by the most famous flutists of the time, including Blavet, Dejardin, Boismortier, Wendling, and Naudot, and they were considered the pinnacle of French craftsmanship. Thomas was the ancestor of Louis Lot, the famed maker of Boehm system flutes.
Location/Time period: Paris, France; 1734-1787
Original pitch: Corps de rechange at approximately A=415, A=398
Strengths: easy to get corps de rechange at 415 and French low pitch, full sound, clear articulation, considered a louder instrument than the Naust (there is evidence Lot flutes were even used for concerto performances in Mannheim)
Weaknesses: difficult to play in tune in remote keys, weak cross fingerings
A. Grenser by Von Heune (https://www.vonhuene.com/p-36-von-huene-a-grenser-flute.aspx)
It is much debated whether August Grenser (1720-1807) or Thomas Lot had the most famous workshop in Europe, but all agree that both were legends in their time. August Grenser studied in Leipzig and then moved to Dresden to build his workshop from scratch and is one of the few builders on this list who didn’t inherit his workshop. The design of his flutes stayed largely the same for nearly half a century and he was one of the last hold-outs for adding keys to his instruments, only experimenting with keyed flutes in the final decade of his career. Grensers have a unique sound, described by some as “reedy,” and “penetrating” but they are not particularly loud. Original Grensers have many corps de rechange, with an average of 7 interchangeable joints.
August Grenser is not to be confused with Henrich Grenser, his nephew, who made classical keyed flutes.
Location/Time period: Dresden, Germany; 1744-1789
Original pitch: A multitude of corps de rechange survive
Strengths: very easy to get corps de rechange at all the useful pitches, penetrating sound, great for competing with ensembles or playing with string sections or double reeds, bright sharp keys, design still suitable for earlier baroque music, there's a plastic version of this one too
Weaknesses: sound described as “reedy,” the brightness of the sharp keys emphasizes the weakness of the flat keys (could be a strength depending on what you’re going for), uneven tone across instrument
Stanesby Jr. by Boaz Berney (https://berneyflutes.com/the-flutes/baroque-flutes/13-t-stanesby-1740)
The London-based Stanesby workshop was owned by two generations of Thomas Stanesbys, T. Stanesby Sr. and T. Stanesby Jr., though it is Thomas Stanesby Jr. (1692-1754) who lives on through copies. Almost 50 survive to today. The Stanesby workshop boasted functional, ornate, and functionally ornate instruments. A surviving trade card reads:
“Stanesby Jun. In the Temple Exchange Fleet Street, London. Makes to the greatest Perfection, all sorts of musical instruments. In Ivory or fine wood; Plain, after a very neat manner or curiously Adorn 'd with Gold, Silver, Ivory &c. Necessary to preserve them; approv'd and recommended by the best masters in Europe. Sold as above and no where else."
The first baroque flute I ever bought was a boxwood Stansby made by P. Dickey. It was a versatile flute with corps de rechange for 415 and 440 (though not all Stanesbys have this). My gripe with it was that I found the bore was extremely thin, and as a matter of personal preference, I prefer a heavier walled bore.
Stanesby is copied by most makers, but also funnily enough, by Aulos who makes a plastic version of it. Don’t knock this until you try it. This is an excellent flute to have in your arsenal if you live in a region that is prone to cracking flutes, want to play outside, or wish to practice for more than four hours a day. (Stay tuned for a review of the plastic Aulos Stanesby, coming soon!)
Location/Time period: London, England; 1713-1754
Original pitch: 412-418
Strengths: Possible to get corps de rechange (depends on maker), versatile in sound quality, light, indestructible plastic version available through Aulos
Weaknesses: extremely thin bore, light, more “colorful” cross fingerings (this could be a plus depending on what you’re going for)
G. A. Rottenburgh
G. A Rottenburgh by Grzegorz Tomaszewicz (https://gtmusicalinstruments.com/instruments/baroque-traverso/)
Godfried-Adrian Rottenburgh (1703-1768) learned his trade from his father, Joannes Hyacinthus Rottenburgh (1672-1756), also known as I. H. Rottenburgh. The flutes are modeled after the three joint system and possess a very long headjoint. Makers have described the Rottenburgh as more similar to a Hotteterre flute than anything else. The embouchure is small and perfectly round and the quality of sound produced is almost French in character, though not quite. The top register is easy and free and its ethnic and time-period ambiguity makes it a very versatile instrument.
Most copies are made after Barthold Kuijken’s original.
Location/time period: Brussels, Belgium 1720?-1768?
Original pitch: A multitude of corps de rechange survive
Strength: easy to get corps de rechange in most usable pitches, great high register, sounds ambiguous (and is therefore versatile) in regards to nationality and time period
Weaknesses: ambiguous (and therefore less specialized) in regards to nationality and time period, weak cross-fingerings and flat keys
3 joint J. Denner with C and D foot by Friederich von Heune
The Denner original was only recently discovered in 1991 inside a condemned house in Nuremberg.
A sought after oboist and son of an instrument maker, Jacob Denner (1681-1735) made oboes, clarinets, bassoons, recorders, and flutes. His father, Johann Christoph, is credited for the invention of the clarinet, a fact that attests to the ingenuity and prowess of the Denner workshop.
The original Denner has corps de rechange at a variety of pitches including 415, 405, 392, and even possesses a special joint to transform it into a flute d’amore (a third lower). This is possible because it is a three joint flute like the Hotteterre, so the entire body is replaced with these interchangeable joints. Most makers agree that the d’amore joint is too problematic in regards to intonation and don’t copy this part. The embouchure hole, which is not quite circular, is widely undercut, enabling the flute a noticeably easy response and clear articulation. Some makers make Denners in 4 parts.
Location/time period: Nuremberg, Germany; 1681-1735
Strengths: Great for Bach, easy response, good articulation, corps de rechange in all the useful pitches, can get in 4 parts
Weaknesses: long middle joint that doesn’t break down, doesn’t accept a ton of air
Buffardin le fils by Martin Wenner (https://www.wennerfloeten.de/en/products/transverse-flutes/buffardin-le-fils/)
My Buffie is my “daily driver.”
Pierre Gabriel Buffardin (1690-1768) was one of the greatest flutists of the 18th century. The son of a minor instrument builder, he rose to become the principal of the Dresden Hofkapelle, which was one of Europe’s most desirable orchestras of the time, and was renowned for his technical prowess. Although debated, it is thought that he may have been the inspiration for J. S. Bach’s Sonata in E minor after Bach attended one of Buffardin’s performances. Buffardin taught many notable students including Joachim Quantz, along with J.S. Bach’s elder brother, Johann Jacob. Due to his busy performance and teaching schedule, instrument building was not Buffardin’s main gig, which explains why only one of his flutes survives to today.
Although it was long since documented that Buffardin built instruments, it was thought that none survived until one surfaced in 2015 with the signature Buffardin le fils, meaning “Buffardin the son,” purchased on Ebay by a German collector (the Ebay listing was titled “old flute”). Makers flocked to copy it. The Buffardin is thought to preserve the robust colors of the French flutes but carry the power and sound of German/Italian flutes. The bore is dramatically tapered down the instrument and features a large undercut on the fifth finger hole, making F’s incredibly strong for a cross fingering. This unfortunately causes the fundamental D to be slightly flat.
Buffardins have only been on the market for less than a decade, so it is quite difficult to find a used one. This means that if you decide to choose Buffardin, you will probably need to pay the high price tag to commission one. Makers build Buffardins at 415 and generally won’t make corps de rechange, unfortunately. I asked Wenner to make one for mine and he said it wasn’t possible.
Location/time period: Dresden, 1690-1768
Original pitch: around 415
Strength: thick sound, volume, projects, great for large ensembles and concertos, works for French and German music, strong cross-fingerings without losing color
Weaknesses: not many used instruments available, expensive, can’t get corps de rechange, fundamental pitch is slightly flat which complicates the tuning process
Palanca by Ariel Louis (https://www.baroque-flutes.com/online-store/baroque-flute-after-palanca-in-cocobolo-a-415)
If you’ve heard of the Palanca, you’ve probably heard about its powerful, voluminous sound for which it is famous. Carlo Palanca (1690-1783) was a court bassoonist for the Turin Royal Chapel, appointed in 1719. He hailed from a musical family–his father was a flutist and flute maker and he likely apprenticed under him. Palanca built a variety of wind instruments. Several of his flutes survive, but all of them are from later in his career.
Most baroque flutes have a round embouchure hole, but the Palanca has an elliptical embouchure hole (closer to a modern flute) that allows the intake of more air, and subsequently the output of more sound. Most makers copy the same original, which is housed in a private collection in Frankfurt.
A contemporary of Grenser, Palanca shows many similarities to the Grenser flutes, though his design is credited for stronger cross fingerings and more evenness of sound throughout the octaves. Palancas are versatile from an orchestration standpoint, meaning that they have the power necessary to compete even with a large ensemble, yet can still play solo music beautifully. They are not as versatile from a tonal color standpoint and their strong cross fingerings retract from some of the baroque flute’s characteristic colors in the remote keys. Also, their sound tends to be associated with later repertoire. Regardless, the Palanca is still quite possibly the most popular flute copied and sold today.
Location/time period: Turin, Italy; 1690-1783
Original pitch: Approximately A=414, A=425
Strengths: powerful sound, volume, great for large ensembles and concertos, strong cross fingerings, possible to acquire a corps de rechange at A=440
Weaknesses: lack of color in remote keys, associated with later repertoire
So now you have the “nutshell” information! What do you do with it? First, identify what kind of music you need your new flute for. Below is a worksheet to help you organize your thoughts. Journal the answers in a notebook.
Do you see any patterns in your answers? Are you playing a lot of French music? Is the most important thing to you the volume so you can compete with the sackbuts? Or are you looking for as versatile as you can get? In any case, I hope this article helped you on your journey to selecting “the chosen one”!