The Shawm ~ Bassoon’s Grandaddy


Double reed players: imagine holding the entire double reed INSIDE your mouth!  That was the Medieval shawm….apparently a Bagdad-ian invention in the reign of Calif Harum-al-Rashid (763 – 807). Possibly it was uncomfortable (!?) because by the time of the Rennaissance the double reed had migrated OUTSIDE the mouth and was fully controlled by the lips.  This Iowa State site includes some interesting sound bites: 29/2/2106








Musical Espionage – Cambini


GUISEPPE CAMBINI (1746 – 1825) was an elusive character, possibly even a “shady” character.   Consider:   his use of multiple names; the uncertainty of his birth and death dates; his self-promoting & fanciful myths (dramatic capture and abuse by pirates; rescue by a rich Venetian);  his outright duplicity about early relationships with known musical figures, including Haydn; and his easy adoption of new genres to achieve popularity….the symphonie concertant, for example, which got him noticed on the art-music scene in Paris during the 1770’s.  He was prolific, no doubt, writing more than 80 symphonie concertantes, PLUS 9 symphonies, 17 concertos and over 100 string quintets.  He also wrote three wind quintets, a very minor part of his huge output.  His crowning deceit came in 1778 when Cambini allegedly colluded to block the performance of a new symphony concertante by Amadeus Mozart (KV287b for flute, oboe, horn and bassoon).  Mozart wrote to his father about the planned performance at the Concert Spirituel….but Cambini persuaded the concert director (Joseph Le Gros) in favour of a work by Cambini himself!  At least that is Mozart’s version.  The Mozart autograph “disappeared” and has never been recovered.  So my question is this:  Would you vote for this man???

Cambini    ?1746-1825?

This note is based on the following Web articles:


“The Search for Cambini”. 25.02.2016; “Guiseppe Maria Gioacchino Cambini”. 25.02.2016; “Guiseppe Cambini”. 25.02.2016** **Refers to the 1969 anti-Nixon presidential campaign slogan.

Rise of the Classical Wind Quintet

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgWhat forces led to the incremental rise in classical Wind Quintet music during the late 18th century?  A quick tally shows ROSETTI wrote one quintet (1), CAMBINI (3), DANZI (9) and REICHA outdid himself with twenty four (24)….establishing the genre by 1820.  Here are three factors that no doubt influenced the zeitgeist:

  1. HARMONIEMUSIK set a precedent for wind instrument ensembles.The Holy Roman Emperor of Austria Joseph II (1741 – 1790) hugely popularized court music for 8 instruments (two each of oboes, clarinets, horns & bassoons. No flutes). These were in-house bands, part of the musical staff; and their function was to provide recreational serenades for banquets and outdoor garden parties.

HARMONIEMUSIK    Harmoniemusik Band  

Emperor Joseph II     Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II

2.  JOSEPH HAYDN’s (1732 – 1809) chamber compositions.  After Haydn’s release from his Esterhazy commitments and the subsequent publication of his early string quartets in 1781 (opus 33), chamber genres gained in popularity. Other composers began applying similar ideas to wind music (small groups/balance of instruments).  We’ve included a little miniature of Haydn’s wife Anna.  You already know what Haydn looks like….

Haydn's Wife AnnaAnna Haydn

3. DEVELOPMENTS in instrument making, especially the clarinet.  As wind instruments became more technically adept in the 18th century, the compositional possibilities increased. For example, keypad, ligature and reed shape changes to the early Denner clarinet (17th c) were made by Iwan Muller in 1812. Suddenly tonality and reliability improved (it seems the old felt keypads did not guarantee a good (or any) sound!).  Composers were not backward in exploring/exploiting(?) the new possibilities.

EARLY CLARINET Muller (1800)                                                         Iwan Muller period clarinets













Sydney Sopranino


Upcoming ABO concert, Recorder Revolution[1], is featuring a Vivaldi concerto for sopranino recorder (the Flautino).  Popularly known as the English Flute in the 16th – 18th centuries, the recorder family hosted as many as 8 members: the Flautino/sopranino being the very tiniest (8 inches long).  All but forgotten in the 19th and early 20th centuries, recorder music has—you could say—“done a Renaissance”, starting in 1930’s Germany with its adoption by the Youth Movement for folk music. By the 1950’s it was in western schools big time as a first instrument for children.  On the professional side, music for recorder got a boost with the rise of interest in the Baroque and early performance practices.[2]  How do they look?  Here is a collection of modern recorders, with the sopranino on the right.  There’s a somewhat tenuous relationship with the chalumeau  (to ponder in a future post!)

 Recorder FAMILY2

  1.  See the Australian Review 20-21/02/16
  2. These notes based in part on the article re: music instruments/recorders 20.2.16





Seeking the Chalumeau

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgTalking about early instruments, we came to  the CHALUMEAU…that elusive late 17th c pre-cursor to modern clarinets. Here is a handsome modern replica chalumeau in C, with enlarged bell.  It is likely that the originals…sadly difficult to find these days…. had a straight bore with no bell .  Images from (left) and (right)









In the beginning

It’s early days but we already have a great sound.  We were pretty surprised to like playing Cambini (1746-1825)…so much that we’ll probably try another quintet (he wrote 3) before moving on to Danzi and Reicha.  The dessert was great! (Pinterest recipe for lemon merinque pie)…..


CAMBINI   Guiseppe Cambini