J N Savary, Paris, 1824
Gifted in 1980
Musical Instrument Collection: MIMEd 153

This bassoon, gifted by F Geoffrey Rendall, was made by one of the leading French bassoonists and bassoon makers of his day. Savary’s instruments were in great demand in France and Britain in particular. Surviving instruments demonstrate that Savary was continually rethinking the keywork on his instruments, presumably in order to address the ever-changing needs of musicians in the early-19th century.

Bassoons are usually made of maple, a strong wood which is good for turning, and are often stained to a dark brown. Maple is quite a pale wood, so if left in its natural colour would show up the grime from player’s hands very easily. Bassoons of this type have more keys than their baroque counterparts, but still far fewer than a modern bassoon.

F Geoffrey Rendall (1890-1952) was a professional librarian whose career path led to him being appointed Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum. He was also an amateur clarinettist and leading scholar of his time on the history of the clarinet.

Rendall’s collection of 107 woodwind instruments includes first-class examples of their types. It was initially left in trust to Graham Melville-Mason who placed in on loan with the Galpin Society (the UK’s society for the study of Musical Instruments) in 1969. The Galpin Society lent the collection to be displayed at the Reid Concert Hall Museum of Instruments, a move which was crucial in the establishment of the University of Edinburgh’s Musical Instrument Collection as a world-leader in this field. Ownership was transferred to the University in 1980 and strong links remain between the University of Edinburgh and the Galpin Society.

Listen to this instrument:

Story by Dr Jenny Nex, Curator, Musical Instrument Collection