The Pleasant Companion is dedicated to the family of instruments known as “flageolets”. Popular in Europe and America from the late 16th until the early 20th centuries, particularly amongst amateur musicians, flageolets are interesting instruments which deserve greater interest than they current receive.
Latest News (see also the Old News):
The caricature statute of Collinet by Dantan is the only portrait of this famous French flageolet player that I have found. I have recently come across the third engraving of it: in the Illustrated London News in 1842. It is accompanied, not by an article about Collinet or a review of one of his concerts, by possibly the worst poem I have read!
To hear you play
Your flageolet, from day to day
Enchanted maids might hearken;
But in what fit
Did Dantan’s wit
High mount you on that perch to sit,
Your gentle brow to darken?
[continues for two more stanzas]
An unusual instrument I recently came across on the French ebay is a small, metal bird flageolet which is not something I had previously thought existed.
This flageolet is about 4½ inches long, with a lowest note of G two-and-a-half octaves above middle C (at A=440). Clearly made quite cheaply in at least two parts, it mostly plays in the lowest octave with conventional French flageolet fingering.
Its construction method would suggest it is from the late 19th Century, when bird flageolets were not well known and played. I therefore wonder if it was designed as a toy, although this remains a little mystery.Published on: Mon, 11 Jan 2016 14:14:25 +0000
About this Site: “The Pleasant Companion” is designed to be a resource for anyone interested in flageolets and their history and music. Transcriptions of Historical Flageolet Tutors from the 17th to 19th Centuries are available, along with free sheet music; biographies of famous flageolet–players, such as Samuel Pepys, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Parry; articles about flageolets (both new and historic); and a bibliography and discography for further listening and reading.
A short introduction: From simple beginnings in France as recorder–like instruments, over the centuries flageolets became increasing complicated and sophisticated instruments, used for personal enjoyment; making guest appearances in operas and even being used to teach birds to sing. In an attempt to smooth rough amateur breath control a distinctive arrangement of barrels and beaks was introduced in the early 18th Century and, soon, instrument makers were combining this unique profile with the simple 6–holed fingering system of recorders and transverse flutes to make a new instrument—the English flageolet. Both this and the traditional (“French”) flageolet continued to be popular in the 19th century, joined with the multiple–flageolets, invented at the turn–of–the–Century. However, despite a late revival as the solo instrument in Quadrille bands, the production of cheap tin or penny whistles took away the amateur market, resulting in a slow decline of the instruments into obscurity.