“French versus German Flutes”
Theobald Böhm or Boehm (April
9, 1794 – November 27, 1881) was a German inventor and musician, who perfected
the modern concert flute and its improved fingering system. He was a Bavarian
court musician, a virtuoso flutist, and a celebrated composer for the flute.
Theobald Böhm engineered his flute back in 1832, and in 1833 he undertook a
journey to Paris and London, where Böhm introduced his conical ring wood flute
with pointed arms. In 1837 the flutemaker Clair Godfroy in Paris built his first
flute with the consent and authorization of Böhm. Louis Lot was in 1833 an
employee of his father-in-law Clair Godfroy. Theobald Böhm's new cylinder flute
of silver was patented in Paris in 1847 and
the company Godfroy & Lot was
authorized to produce flutes according to Theobald Böhm's patent.
Therefore what is commonly called "the French flute" with pointed arms, in-line G and open-hole keys is not at all French!. French flute makers e.g. Louis Lot have made flutes with closed-hole keys and offset G, and German flute makers have made flutes with in-line G, pointed arms and open-hole keys. Are you confused? - What is French style, and what is German style? A misunderstanding has arisen regarding the design of flute mechanism in general. About the German Boehm flutes, both in the 1800's and 1900's., this is perhaps due to biases or ignorance. As late as in 1855 Boehm’s model 4 has pointed key arms and some open-hole keys, and of course all his early flutes have open-holes. Most of the earliest 6-8 clef wooden flutes from Germany had the pointed key arms and open-hole keys. Pointed key arms were common on clarinets, oboes and flutes in both Germany and France at the beginning of the 1800's, mostly because they were far stronger and simpler to produce by soldering pointed arms which covered the whole keys, than the Y-arms which are only soldered at the edge of the key cups. Boehm simplifies his design with Y-key arms after the 1860’s. Boehm’s successor Emil Rittershausen, Berlin (1852-1927) exclusively used pointed key arms.
Today all the major flute makers offer open-hole flutes and also closed-hole flutes, and many of them offer both pointed key arms and Y-arms. Mechanically this has not much influence on the flute sound. On the open-hole flutes fingers are to be placed on top of the holes to place them more precisely on the keys, when they are to be closed. It is a matter of taste if you like Y-arms or pointed key arms on the flute, both types can be beautifully made. All flute players have opinions about flutes. Most of them are not based much on facts, except:
William Bennett, Quote: “Neither the design nor the material of especially on metal flutes has a significant influence on the flute sound. Most of it is up to the flute player.” His favorite flute is a Bonneville silver plated flute with open-hole, and he often plays on his wooden Rudall Carte flute with a metal head joint.
Marcel Moyse made his own design with the Couesnon Flute, a nickel silverplated flute with offset G, closed holes, extended G# cleff, C# trill, C-foot joint, specialdesign of tone holes and thumb key.
German flute builders offer both pointed key arms, Y-key arms, in-line G, offset G, open-hole or closed-hole keys or but most of them produce with the pointed key arms. See the below photo of an Aug.Rich. Hammig Flute
In these links you can see today’s flute builders in Germany:
August Rich. & Phillip Hammig
Bernhard Hammig -
Harry Gosse -
Souce: Ventzke, Karl: Drei deutsche Boehmflötenbauer des 19./20. Jahrhunderts. Bern:
Müller & Schade, 2004, S. 34-41.
Emil Rittershausen, Berlin - Otto Mönnig, Leipzig - Carl August Schreiber, Markneukirchen: In memoriam Karl Burri. www.flutist.dk