Station: [8] Double Reed Instruments: the Dulzaina and the Bassanello

Once upon a time... is how all fairy tales begin. And so does the story we’d like to tell you about the dulzaina. The dulzaina is a traditional Spanish woodwind instrument from the oboe family. It’s the cylindrical instrument with the flaring bell.

Anyway. Once upon a time, there was an English warship called the Mary Rose – Henry the Eighth’s flagship, in fact. It was built between 1509 and 1511, but sank in 1545 in a naval battle against the French during the Italian War of 1542-1546. More than 400 years then passed, until the ship was raised from the seabed in 1982. Among the items found on board were four musical instruments. One of them was a dulzaina, which Kurt Reichmann recreated on his lathe. It’s thanks to him that we now know what the instrument sounded like.

The second globally unique instrument we promised to show you is the bassanello. It produces deep tones and is played through what’s known as a crook – that’s the S-shaped piece of tubing you see. The instrument, which was invented in Venice, is a kind of shawm from the period around 1600. Kurt Reichmann recreated it from sketches by Michael Praetorius.

Have you noticed the colourful dragon resting on the floor of the display case? It’s a woodwind instrument from the Renaissance period known as a tartolt. The one on display here is a replica made by Kurt Reichmann. The five remaining originals are all at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

The dragon has a beautiful exterior and a fascinating interior. In this instance, the crook resembles the coil of an immersion heater. When he made the crook, Reichmann had to fill it with molten lead and then wrap it around a rod to ensure there’d be no kinks. Next, he re-smelted the lead and drained the tube. Only then did he add the finger holes and join the crook to the body. Our cast iron replica is very heavy, unlike the originals, which have brass crooks. However, the sound is not affected.

All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch