Arthur Haswell Flute Repairs
Although New Philharmonic Pitch was introduced in 1896, the old High Pitch A=452 persisted for many years. Even during the 1920s the majority of Carte concert flutes was still being made at High Pitch. But as modern pitch A=440 became established, the best Cartes were returned to Berners Street to have their mechanisms adapted to fit on new bodies. These transplants can be every bit as good as original modern-pitch Cartes.
Nevertheless probably less than a quarter of Carte concert flutes are of practical use today. These are the magical flutes in which we specialise - each unique, with a character all its own.
THE RUDALL CARTE FLUTEMAKERS
The best craftsmen were given the job of making the finest flutes. In most cases not much is known about these flutemakers, yet their names live on in the quality and individual styles of their work.
There were Englishmen such as Christopher Holland, Harry West, Edwin Ounsted, Albert Atkins who specialised in piccolos, Tom Hinde and his son Leonard who became foreman in the 1950s, and Frank Charlton and Fred Handke. Fine makers were coaxed from the Continent: Henri Schumacher originally from Strasbourg, Henri Nivarlet from Belgium, and the Parisian Eugene Goulliere.
After the Berners Street workshop closed in December 1958, a younger generation of flutemakers that included Harry Seeley, Roger (Angus) Harris, Ewen McDougall, and Albert Cooper continued the tradition either working on their own or in Flutemakers Guild.
WHICH CARTES ARE WORTH HAVING?
With so many flutes bearing the name Rudall Carte, distinguishing the nuggets from the mud can be difficult. It is worth bearing two facts in mind: firstly that Carte began making modern pitch flutes in 1903. Secondly that every flute made after the closure of the Berners Street workshop in December 1958 was overseen by the indifferent management of Boosey & Hawkes, whose attitude can be gleaned from the fact that it stamped the Carte name on dreadful cheap imported student flutes.
So the flutes to seek and savour are those made or transplanted between 1903 and 1958. Each was the work of a single craftsman. Most were made on cocuswood bodies, or Monel during the 1930s. A rare few flutes were hand-made completely in silver.
Carte continued to produce not only Boehm but also Radcliff, Guards', Old-System, and 1867-Patent flutes. Because each was individually made, each carries its craftsman's style. And there was room for different keywork configurations within a system's bounds, e.g. the Brossa F#, a LH4 touch for Eb, or any of the alternatives to the Boehm system recommeded by Richard Rockstro.
So every Rudall Carte is a world on its own.
Maurice Heugen is Principal Flute of the Zürich Opera Orchestra. His Carte was made by Nivarlet in 1908.
I just wanted to tell you that I play frequently on my Rudall Carte flute. In fact this afternoon I shall play Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito on it. I did Beethoven 9 on it, which gave me a real kick! Verdi's Macbeth also worked great on it. The blend with the other wind instruments cannot be equalled even by gold in my experience.
Ian Reynolds studied at the Royal Academy of Music under Gareth Morris, and spent most of his career performing full-time with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Rudall Carte 4669 , made by Nivarlet, as a huge voice and is a great flute to really open up on. There is an unfathomable depth to explore. My handmade American silver flute was all brightness and edge by comparison.
I was a bit nervy about how the Rudall Carte would go on its first outing. I was warming up and our oboist came in and said that it sounded amazing at the back, which was a good start. The orchestra knew my playing from days of old and everyone was very complimentary about the Nivarlet. They were also struck by how beautiful it looked and what a lineage it must have had – I introduced it by saying that Stravinsky was composing The Rite of Spring and World War I was still three years off when 4669 was made.
The intonation was spot on and our oboist remarked on how well together everything was.
I mentioned this before, but the intonation of the Nivarlet is what I expect it to be, based on the way Gareth Morris taught me to blow. My silver flute’s scale never seemed so logical and in twenty five years I was never quite as settled on it as I was on 4669 right from the start.
I`m rambling on a bit but I just wanted you to know that I think that your faith in the old Rudall Carte makers is not misplaced and these instruments are the best out there.
I once said that 4669 is far and away the best flute I`ve ever played on, and nothing in my first road-test of it today has made me want to change my mind – quite the opposite!
Ann Unwin plays and teaches in north-east England. She used a modern Japanese flute before falling in love with a Rudall Carte wooden flute made by Atkins. Later she acquired further Cartes by Nivarlet and West, one of them an 1867-Patent system.
'I was taught at Cardiff University by Roger Armstrong (BBCWelshSO), a remarkably self-effacing gentleman and truly inspirational teacher who taught me how to think about playing instead of handing answers on a plate or creating a clone. This invaluable teaching gave me the skills that, many years later, allowed me to be open minded in my approach to Rudall Cartes.'
Playing a Rudall Carte is a journey of discovery, a seeking out of what an instrument holds, and has made me think about flutes differently, opening possibilities that I didn't know existed. I need to work with these instruments in a way I never really did on my modern silver flute. I can’t impose my ideas. I am in a partnership and I have to be flexible. The reward comes in subtleties of articulation and tone colour, and a depth and focus of sound that I find hard to replicate on silver.
My Nivarlet, for instance, is a supple flute that leaps between registers very nicely and is easy to articulate on. Things that I can’t play well on other flutes (including silver) suddenly seem right and musical on him.
This acceptance of the instrument’s character has enabled me to revisit technical exercises and studies and enjoy discovering what each of my Rudall Cartes is capable of. I only occasionally play on a modern silver flute now, but when I do it seems to lack soul and depth.
There’s something special, hard to quantify, about playing an old handmade instrument, the work of a great craftsman. They are beautiful to look at as well as to play. They are not big and brash, but speak with their own voices, and, after you play them for a time a bond develops. So, yes, these Rudall Carte flutes are great – I have learned so much from them!
At the time it was a big surprise to fall in love with a Rudall Carte, but I have been rewarded with first one flute and then others that are a delight to pick up and are always interesting to play.
All these Rudall Cartes were prepared by and bought from us.
With thanks to Robert Bigio, the acknowledged authority on Rudall Carte & Co., for help and support. Also to Mike MacMahon, player on Carte Boehm and 1867-Patent system flutes, for editing and information on the makers.
This text is copyright 2018 by Arthur Haswell.
I have written it in good faith to inform fellow Carte enthusiasts.
Please do not copy and paste it to a sales advert.
Rudall Carte Buyers Guide
WHAT DO MODERN PLAYERS SAY?