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Hidden Treasures

Joanna By Joanna Published on April 15, 2016

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I recently bought two antique flutes on the internet from a man in the south of France who finds old instruments in attics and restores them to playing condition. 

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I'm guessing that the older instrument was made around 1870; it's a conical Boehm system flute with ring keys made by Isidore Lot, the nephew of Louis Lot. It has a deep, rich but flexible tone with the nice agility characteristic of Boehm system instruments. 

The second is a Couesnon monopole flute (9282). There's an engraving on the headjoint tenon which links it to a model displayed at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. It's 'hors concours' because at the time, Couesnon was a member of the exhibition jury.  It came to me in what is probably its original case, key and lock.

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Unfortunately, I don't yet have a sense of what it sounds like; I think that the cork has rotted out and it smells a bit like church basement. It needs a bit of love still, but I'm hopeful that it will come around.  

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In light of these new discoveries, I've been looking at a lot of music which is new to me (as well as old favourites), including a set of pieces by Johannès Donjon (1839-1912), Huit études de Salon. A few of the pieces in the set start with a stanza from poems by Jean Richepin or Théophile Gautier (below)

Le ciel est transi.
Sur la terre nue
La neige est venue.
Sur mon cœur aussi.
Dans l'air obscurci
Les feuilles dernières
Roulent aux ornières.
Mon bonheur aussi.
fait froid ici.
Les cailles, les grives,
Ont quitté nos rives.
maîtresse aussi.
Sur le balcon où tu te penches
Je veux monter... efforts perdus !
Il est trop haut, et tes mains blanches
N'atteignent pas mes bras tendus.
Pour déjouer ta duègne avare,
Jette un collier, un ruban d'or ;
Ou des cordes de ta guitare
Tresse une échelle, ou bien encor...
Ôte tes fleurs, défais ton peigne,
Penche sur moi tes cheveux longs,
Torrent de jais dont le flot baigne
Ta jambe ronde et tes talons.
Aidé par cette échelle étrange,
Légèrement je gravirai,
Et jusqu'au ciel, sans être un ange,
Dans les parfums je monterai !

Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1894) is a musical response to a poem by Mallarmé published in 1876. After waking from an afternoon nap, a faun describes his encounters with various nymphs that morning in a dreamlike monologue. Debussy's symphonic poem was adapted in 1912 for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky with costumes and sets by Léon Bakst.  

Joanna has twice won certificates of honour (and a free beer) for demonstrating “extraordinary courage against the unsurmountable Phaal”, a ludicrously spicy curry.

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