Van Eyck Recorders


Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, inv.no. 1.75, original pitch a'=478 (low d'')

The Danish Music Museum, inv.no. 2009-3, original pitch a'=532 (high eb'')

Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. no. 8517, original pitch a'=440

Dean Castle, Kilmarnock, Scotland, inv.no. 75, original pitch a'=500 (high d'')



A recorder for Jacob van Eyck: Der Fluyten Lust-hof

Model 1 and 2For many years, musicians and musicologists have shown great interest in Jacob van Eyck's collection of music "Der Fluyten Lust-hof", which dates from the 1640's. Its virtuoso pieces have become obligatory repertoire for many professional recorder players. However, one does not often hear this music played on recorders which correspond to instruments of van Eyck's time, since most musicians play either Renaissance recorders of the Ganassi type (ca. 1530) or Baroque recorders (ca. 1680-1750). Neither of these types were used in van Eyck's time; and they are not particularly well-suited to his light and graceful music.

One explanation of this rather inauthentic choice of instrument is that there are but few original instruments preserved from the period, and they have first been examined and copied in recent years. The first article to deal thoroughly with the van Eyck recorder is Fred Morgan's and Eva Legêne's: A Recorder for the Music of J. J. van Eyck in The American Recorder, May 1984. This article presents the Rosenborg recorder as an instrument which is particularly suited to van Eyck's music with regard to date, tuning, fingering, range and musical qualities. The Rosenborg recorder is not, however, the only possible model for a van Eyck instrument; in recent years, several interesting and suitable instruments have turned up, which I have had the opportunity to examine and measure.

We cannot trace an unequivocal development from the ensemble recorder of the Renaissance to the solo instrument of the Baroque. Makers in different parts of Europe have - presumably independently of each other - endeavoured to accommodate the Renaissance recorder to the demands made by the new music. These efforts ended abruptly at the close of the 17th century, when the Baroque recorder suddenly appeared and in a very short time superseded the older types. Instrument makers of the 17th century did not manage to establish a real tradition; and that can perhaps justify classifying their instruments as "transitional instruments". Nonetheless, they were valuable and important, well adapted to music of their time.

The desire to extend the range of the recorder upwards must have been strong; all recorders preserved from the early Baroque have a narrower bore than those of the Renaissance, - just what makes such extension upwards possible. At the same time, the lowest notes become less full-toned, and the recorder gets a clear and pure, but not particularly strong sound. The slightly conical bore of the Renaissance recorder is retained, and often its simple outward form as well. The windway is curved as on the Renaissance recorder, but it is new that the sides of the window slant somewhat outwards on most of the instruments. The recorders have very thin walls, and are most often made of ivory.

Since the windway and lip of the original instruments are often severely damaged or deformed, it is rather difficult to judge tuning and tone quality of the highest notes b''', c'''' and d''''. However, one feature they seem to have in common is that the note c'''' is a bit too low with the fingering given by van Eyck (01 45); either it must be played somewhat stronger, or with hole 1 a bit open (01 45). To judge from the copies, the highest notes had a pure and clear sound with an easy attack; the models differ somewhat on this point, however.


General survey of my models

In order to afford present-day recorder players the greatest possible inspiration in their interpretation of van Eyck's and other 17th-century music, I have endeavoured to build my early Baroque recorders as nearly as possible like the original instruments; and each of the models is based on close study of the corresponding original instrument. In some cases it has been necessary to make slight adjustments of the size and placement of finger holes in order to achieve tuning in accordance with present standards; but beyond this no changes have been made in relation to the original models. Thus I also chose to retain the pitch of the original instrument.

In order to make all comparisons as simple as possible, c'' is reckoned as the lowest note of all models. The range is c'' - d''''.

The tone f'' is cross-fingered in the first octave 01234 6, while f''' in the second octave is taken 01234 7 or 01234 6. The recorder's highest notes bb''', b''', c'''' and d'''' are fingered as on Baroque instruments (c'''' is however better in tune with the first hole slightly open, as above). When ordering, the customer may choose whether d''' in the second octave (the ninth tone) is to be fingered as on Renaissance recorders (all holes open) or as on Baroque recorders (second hole covered); the original instruments differ on this point. The tone d''' can also be taken with the auxiliary fingering 0123456, which in contrast with Baroque recorders is nearly in tune; this proves a great advantage in fast passages and trills.

Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, inv. no. 1:75

Material: Original: narwhale tusk, copy: boxwood.

Pitch: c'' at a'=478, i.e. fundamental a bit lower than modern d''.

Design: Ornaments at the block and on the foot.

Finger holes: All in line.

Musical characteristics: The attack is light, especially on the high notes. Sonority bright. The lowest notes are less rich in tone.

The recorder's history: It has belonged to the Danish royal family since the 1600's. Though first mentioned in an inventory from 1678, it could be quite a bit older. It's possible connection to van Eyck's music has been known since the 1980's (see above).

The Danish Music Museum, inv.no. 2009-3 (ex private collection, Århus)

Material: Original: ivory, copy: boxwood.

Pitch: c'' at a'=532, i.e. fundamental is a bit higher than modern eb''.

Design: Simple Renaissance form, though the foot is more flared.

Finger holes: Seventh hole displaced sideways, duplicated.

Musical characteristics: Tone is bright and clear, and there is a fine balance between top and bottom. The recorder gives a nice feeling of resistance on all notes. The bottom notes are very stable and rich, while the top notes require more attack than 1.

The recorder's history: The recorder closely resembles a soprano recorder by Richard Haka (1646-1709) in Edinburgh University Collection, but is a minor third higher. It turned up in an antique shop in a Danish provincial town towards the end of the 1980's. In 2009 it was acquired by the Danish Music Museum.


Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. no. 8517

 Material: Original: maple; copy: maple or boxwood.

Signature: Two "apples".

Pitch: c'' at a'=440 (both original and copy).

Design: Simple Renaissance form, very short windway.

Finger holes: Seventh hole displaced sideways, duplicated.

Bore: Cylindrical down to about the seventh hole, where it suddenly narrows to a smaller diameter, which continues cylindrically throughout the rest of the recorder.

Musical characteristics: Round tone, secure attack, also on the low notes. Rising towards the high notes, a gradual increase in pressure is necessary.

The recorder's history: The form of the recorder and maker's signature shows that the recorder was presumably built before about 1640. The profile of the bore is only found in very few other recorders. Up to the present (1999), no connection with van Eyck's music has come to notice.


Dean Castle, Kilmarnock, Scotland, inv. no. 75

 Material: Original: ivory; copy: boxwood.

Pitch: c'' at a'=500. i.e. fundamental a bit higher than modern d''.

Design: Simple form without ornamentation, very thin walls.

Finger holes: All in line.

Musical characteristics: Clear and bright sound, unlabored top notes up to c'''', while d'''' requires stronger attack. The pitch seems stable in the face of modified air pressure, which gives a nice feeling of resistance.

The recorder's history: It was presumably built about 1650. Since 1945 belonging to the instrument collection at Dean Castle, Kilmarnock, Scotland, its possible connection with van Eyck's music first came to notice in 1995. I was the first to examine and undertake detailed measurement of the recorder in 1998.


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