Great Flute Makers of France: The Lot and Godfroy Families, 1650-1900.
The book includes reproductions of many original documents (such as birth records, marriage contracts, inventories, and invoices) and their English translations. Using genealogy charts, the author has clarified the intricate genealogical links among many of the most important French wind instrument makers, and she reveals that all the French flute makers with the surname Lot were from the same family, Also included are many photographs of flutes discussed in the text. The author assumes that the reader has a basic knowledge of the flute and terminology related to it. The book is thus perhaps not for the general reader but is of great importance to flutists and scholars with an interest in the history of European woodwind instruments in the post-Renaissance age.
Among the many revelations is the fact that the great eighteenth-century flute maker, Thomas Lot (1708-1787) was married to Jean Naust, daughter of the important flute maker Pierre Naust, whose instruments are among the finest surviving examples from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Through this marriage, Thomas Lot inherited the Naust workshop. Thomas Lot was the great-uncle of Louis Lot (1807-1896), the seminal maker of Boehm flutes in France in the nineteenth century. The Lots also married into other families of instrument makers, such as the Noblet, Thibouville, and Godfroy families.
In 1833 Louis Lot married Caroline Godfroy, daughter of Clair Godfroy aine, the distinguished flute maker. Shortly thereafter, Clair's son, Vincent Hypolite, and Louis Lot entered into a business association for the manufacture of flutes. By 1837 they were producing a conical Boehm-system flute, the first flute makers after Theobald Boehm to make the new flute.
The first professional French flutist to take up the new Boehm flute was Louis Dorus. Since Dorus performed with the Paris Opera and was a soloist with the Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire, his switch to the conical Boehm flute by 1834 must have strongly influenced Godfroy and Lot in their decision to manufacture the Boehm-system flute.
Giannini recounts in exquisite detail the refusal of the Paris Conservatoire to allow the teaching of the Boehm flute at the time of the first petition for its use there in 1839. We are taken behind the scenes at the Conservatoire for an intimate glimpse of the politicking and intrigue that accompanied the growth in use of the Boehm flute over two decades. Such illustrious figures as Luigi Cherubini and Hector Berlioz were involved in the deliberations at the Conservatoire. The old-style flute continued to be the official flute of the Conservatoire until 1860.
Meanwhile, in 1847 Boehm had completed further experiments on the flute and had designed a cylindrical flute made principally in meal. About two weeks after patenting the cylindrical flute, Boehm sold the rights to its manufacture to Godfroy and Lot. The author calls this "one of the most important events in flute history" (p. 134).
Giannini also argues that Louis Dorus should be rightfully regarded as the founder of the modern school of French flute playing rather than his pupil, Paul Taffanel, who has generally been given the credit. Dorus had been a strong advocate of the Boehm cylindrical flute for many years and in 1860 he became the first flutist to teach the Boehm flute at the Paris Conservatoire. Dorus, along with Godfroy and Lot, gradually transformed the taste of the French musical community to accept the metal Boehm cylindrical flute as the preferred instrument. It is this flute that is used throughout the world today (with the exception of flutists who pursue historical performance practices on old-style flutes).
If one may quibble about anything in a book of such distinction, it would be that the inclusion of a glossary of terms for the nonspecialist reader would have been helpful. One also wonders if it would have been possible to include photographs or engravings of the important figures discussed in the book (other than Quantz, who is pictured), Louis Lot lived until 1896. Are no photographs of him extant?
JOHN SOLUM Vassar College
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1995|
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