I recently purchased the new book Woodwinds in Early America by Douglas Koeppe, published in 2015 by Brother Francis Publishers in Texas.
For instrument collectors and others wishing to delve into the study of historical flutes there are a few books that we can’t do without. Langwill’s The New Langwill Index – A Dictionary of Musical Wind-Instrument Makers and Inventors serves as the most important single source of information on historical flute makers. It provides basic information on most of the known makers including dates, addresses, makers marks and other ancillary information.
As useful as the book is, it only contains the most basic information. Koeppe has focused his sizable effort just on the American woodwinds. Like Langwill, it contains all the basic information but is hugely expanded, containing much more information on the individual makers. In fact, this 752 page book with over 400 illustrations is far more than just a book about American flutes. At the most basic level he gives us information on all woodwinds, not just flutes. Mr. Koeppe has clearly been studying and researching this information for a very long time and the amount of useful and interesting material he presents is quite astounding.
To give a brief idea – here is an abbreviated version of the Table of Contents:
I. Brief Political & Social Histories of Select Colonies
II. Woodwinds in Early Records
III. Early Performances Involving Woodwinds
IV. Musical Societies & the Musical Ensembles Which They Encouraged
V. Early Woodwind Makers and Dealers
VI. Miscellaneous Makers and Dealers
VII. Early Woodwind-making in America
VIII. Anonymous Woodwinds
IX. Important Orchestras which developed in the United States and others which visited and toured here.
X. Tutors, Preceptors and Collections of Airs and Melodies
XI. Woodwinds in Brass Ensembles
XII. Major Fairs and Exhibits
XIII. Performance Pitch
XV. List of Illustrations
XVI. Indexes (by person and by location)
I was recently looking for information on American woodwind maker Charles Peloubet as I had recently acquired a fine flute manufactured by him. I have had four of his flutes and consider his flutes to be of excellent quality. I have even run into three separate members of the Peloubet family who are all interested in his work. Finding much information on him has been extremely difficult, until I turned to page 440 of Koeppe’s book. There I found 6 pages on Peloubet, his business history, family, original advertising information, exhibitions and the reviews he got from them, a list of his instruments owned by Mr. Koeppe, and others in major collections. There are 13 illustrations of his instruments plus a photographic portrait. Virtually any maker one looks up has a similar amount of information.
This is a book that goes far beyond any other sources of information on these makers. As can be seen from the Table of Contents so many related areas are also explored. Musical Societies & the Musical Ensembles Which They Encouraged, Important Orchestras which developed in the United States and others which visited and toured here, Tutors, Preceptors and Collections of Airs and Melodies, Major Fairs and Exhibits, and Indexes (by person and by location) all give us access to a stunning array of interesting information. Taken as a whole this book is unparalleled presenting this material in a fascinating and clear fashion.
The book is well printed on excellent paper and in a high-quality hard binding. It is an excellent example of an ideal book on a specific organological subject. Rather than just dealing with technical details of the instruments and their construction the book makes a serious effort to provide the all-important cultural, musical, and social context. In my own reading I have just touched the surface of what the book has to offer but it should certainly be in the library of any serious flute collector or historical flute enthusiast, along with Langwill, Powell, Bigio, Rocksto, Giannini, and Lenski. I certainly wish we had books of a similar style and quality for French, German, and Italian flutes.
For more information see www.brotherfrancispublishers.com which has the full Table of Contents and some sample pages. To purchase a copy contact Douglass Koeppe at email@example.com The price is $150, but that does not seem excessive when one sees the information contained and the quality of the whole production. At least get your local library to purchase a copy!
Review by Michael Lynn
Michael Lynn is Professor of Recorder & Baroque Flute and Curator of Musical Instruments Emeritus at the Oberlin College, Conservatory of Music. He performed for the inaugural luncheon for President Obama’s first term and has given concerts throughout the United States, Canada, Taiwan, and Japan. He was the founder of Early Music Facsimiles and a founding member of the board of Apollo’s Fire. His recordings can be heard on Wildboar, Gasparo, Eclectra, Koch International, Avie, and other labels. Professor Lynn has written for all major flute publications and will now be a regular contributor to International Flute Journal.
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