A few months ago, an unusual tenor recorder showed up on the big auction site. It was keyed (almost) like an eight-key flute. Other than "Made in Germany", there were apparently no other indications of a maker. The headjoint was clearly cracked in the photos. But it was unusual enough that I decided to place a bid, and surprisingly I won the auction. There was some competition, but I think the cracked head scared most people away. It was obviously a high-end recorder from back in the day....rosewood, keys, adjustable thumbrest, nice case.
The night that I won the auction, the same seller listed another tenor recorder by the same maker. The headjoint and footjoint were shaped exactly the same and the wood looked the same. This time it was a "normal" one, and it had the name Klingson stamped on it. I knew I'd seen that name before, so after some quick research, I found Klingson was a brand name used by woodwind maker Karl Hammerschmidt. I could also see that the headjoint on this one seemed to be fine. Would that headjoint fit the keyed one, or were they possibly switched at some point? I decided I needed to try for that one as well. After waiting a week for the auction to end, I won that one too. Oddly, I was the only bidder. Normally a rosewood tenor would have a lot of interest.
When the first one showed up, the crack was indeed pretty bad. It also had two old cracks that had been "repaired" at some point. Cracks can always be fixed, but I was hopeful the other headjoint would fit when it arrived. A week later, the "normal" one arrived. The headjoint was a tad too small to fit on the keyed one. The normal one had a nice tone, but intonation was a bit wonky. The keyed one was going to have to be restored, and I had just saved a website of a recorder repairman that had been posted in a Facebook recorder page a few weeks prior.
So I contacted Werner John at TLC Recorder Optimization to see if he would take a look at it/them. We decided I should have the pads replaced locally since he would have to special order them, then send both recorders to him to do the rest of the restorations. Jon Goodman at Goodman Custom Woodwinds replaced the pads and polished the keys (they were so tarnished, I originally thought they were brass). Then off to Vermont they went. After receiving them, Werner called to discuss options. We decided since the headjoint cracks were quite extensive on the keyed one, and the normal one had a good headjoint, the best option would be to make the good one fit both recorders and leave the cracked one alone.
The recorders just arrived back from Werner. He did an amazing job! The good headjoint now fits both instruments perfectly. I can tell he did a lot of work on both instruments. They both play beautifully. The wood is just gorgeous on both as well. Pictures don't do them justice. And he was able to fix the wonky intonation on the normal one. He also worked out and included a fingering chart for the highest octave on the keyed recorder. I highly recommend Werner for any recorder repair you may need. And also thanks to Jon Goodman for his work on the keyed recorder as well.
Most people think of recorders as coming in a couple of sizes. Soprano and alto are the most common. As with other woodwind instruments, there is a whole family of recorders. Typically they alternate between the keys of C and F (sopranino in F, soprano in C, alto in F, etc). Recorders also come in more obscure keys.....sopranos in Bb and A, altos in G, tenors in D. I've recently picked up a tenor in D (AKA voice flute).
It is branded "Peter Harlan Markneukirchen". Peter Harlan is credited with developing the German system recorder. He wasn't really a wind instrument maker (I think I read he did make some, though), and hired various other instrument makers in Markneukirchen, Germany to make his recorders. Most of these were made by Martin Kehr. This one is made from beautifully striped rosewood and is the German fingering system typical of Peter Harlan instruments.
Below are pics of the tenor in D, plus some comparison pics of other recorders. I've got one other Peter Harlan instrument, also in an unusual key. It's a soprano in A.
I've picked up a trio of Dushkin recorders over the past year. Soprano, alto and tenor. I haven't been able to find out a lot of information about them. It seems David Dushkin started making recorders around 1934. And he was the first American recorder maker. He started out in the Chicago area, then moved to Vermont. Other than he and his wife opening two music schools, there's very little information available. And the is virtually nothing about his recorders.
Dushkin's wood of choice seems to have been walnut. Although the tenor I recently received looks like rosewood, with a little walnut on the beak. He also made his headjoints overly complicated. Most recorder headjoints are comprised of two parts, the headjoint body plus a "block" insert. Dushkin's headjoints have four components; the headjoint body, the block, a plastic sleeve that goes around that first two things, and then a wooden sleeve that goes around the plastic sleeve.
They all play very differently, but fairly well. The soprano has a very "reedy" quality. Intonation is a little wonky, but not horrible. The alto has a beautiful tone, but it's super quiet. And you need to blow extremely hard. The (keyless) tenor plays great. The tone is a little reedy like the soprano, but the intonation is really good. The tenor looks to be a later model than the soprano and alto. Overall, they all play really well. I couldn't find any information online about how Dushkins played, but was pleasantly surprised.