The Flute, Part 2

Apr 12, 2019

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

I mentioned yesterday that by the mid-1700's the modern flute, technically called the transverse flute, had to a great extent replaced the recorder.  The replacement wasn’t complete, though: both Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel had continued to write for both instruments. Then again, by the time of Haydn and Mozart, just a few decades later, most orchestras included a pair of flutes, and no recorders. 

It was in the 1830's and 40's that a German flutist and flute maker named Theobald Boehm—B-o-e-h-m—revolutionized flute playing. Even with the improvements that had come before, the flute was still awkward to play, and its pitch unreliable. Boehm essentially reinvented the instrument, spacing and shaping the holes differently and developing an entirely new key mechanism and fingering system. And with only minor modifications, the Boehm flute has remained the standard to this day.

A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.