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850

Claude Laurent

Paris, France

Stamp: Engraved on headjoint socket: (script) Laurent / à Paris, 1815 ,

Comments: This is a very fine example of Laurent's flute work. The instrument plays perfectly, among the best of the Laurent's. The tone is intense and full and extremely compelling. The glass is in perfect condition, with none of the scaling or pitting often seen. There is a lovely school of bubbles in the glass, showing how clean and pure the instrument remains. The typical scaling of the zinc content in the glass has simply not occurred.

Material: This beautiful crystal glass flute is made with silver keys and trim, steel springs, a blue (possibly lapis) cabochon in the crown.

System: This is a four keyed flute with two midjoints. No tuning slide in headjoint. The two midjoints suggest that the owner was fastidious, with an eye to the past and an ear to the present. The D# key is rectangular and swiveled. The F key curves completely around the top of the flute. The G# keys are at 90 degrees, with a small stub touch. All springs except the D# rest on the glass. The tubes for the pivot screws for the keys are lined with a steel bushing, I believe.

Condition: This flute is in excellent original condition. The glass is perfect. One pillar, for the D# key, is loose and was glued on for repair. The wood spacer under the blue crown is new. The catch-hook on the heartpiece socket is missing. The original shellac at the headjoint stopper has discolored over time, as usual. Everything else appears perfect.

Pitch: This fascinating flute is a finicky lover. She only accepts the air she wants, usually less than one expects. I found the long joint to come together the best at A=417 when pulled out about 3 mm. All the way in, it seems to play at A=425. This flute responds to one's mind. The short joint seems to play at A=438 all the way in, and down from there. This instrument responds so delicately to one's breath and intent, yet always with a full and wonderful tone, I suspect the actual original pitch is a mystery hidden deep within this flute, to be discovered only by a player with the exact, perhaps mystical, key. The search is definitely worthwhile.

Sounding Length: Sounding lengths 552 mm and 545 mm.

Measurements: Embouchure 10.64 x 8.67.

Weight: Weight with long joint 498 g.; short joint 494 g.

Case: The wooden case is a later replacement.

Sorry, sold.

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Photographs (click to enlarge):

Claude Laurent achieved something few flutemakers have done.  He designed a flute that epitomized the ideal of the Flute-Tone for his time and place, in this case Napoleon's Paris.
After Napoleon fell, Paris was occupied by Germans and English, who all wanted a piece of Napoleon's legend.  If they were a fluteplayer, they bought a crystal flute from the great Claude Laurent.
Claude Laurent achieved something few flutemakers have done. He designed a flute that epitomized the ideal of the Flute-Tone for his time and place, in this case Napoleon's Paris. After Napoleon fell, Paris was occupied by Germans and English, who all wanted a piece of Napoleon's legend. If they were a fluteplayer, they bought a crystal flute from the great Claude Laurent.
The G# key is only one of several places where secret messages are encoded (or written) on Laurent's flutes.  In 1815, the year of the 100 days and Waterloo,  Laurent kept selling crystal flutes to the current victor.  Finally he designed a G# key with a large zigzag!  In this case, the G# key tells us that in fact the keys, at least, on this flute were made closer to 1809, during the height of the Empire.  The owner of a Laurent from 1809 would definitely have been a Bonapartist; perhaps for political reasons the date on the barrel was changed; otherwise, the prolific orders of 1815 forced Laurent to reach into the drawer for an old set of keys.
The G# key is only one of several places where secret messages are encoded (or written) on Laurent's flutes. In 1815, the year of the 100 days and Waterloo, Laurent kept selling crystal flutes to the current victor. Finally he designed a G# key with a large zigzag! In this case, the G# key tells us that in fact the keys, at least, on this flute were made closer to 1809, during the height of the Empire. The owner of a Laurent from 1809 would definitely have been a Bonapartist; perhaps for political reasons the date on the barrel was changed; otherwise, the prolific orders of 1815 forced Laurent to reach into the drawer for an old set of keys.
The crystal flutes allow us to see the undercutting of the tone holes.  We have never heard a reasonable explanation of how Laurent made these flutes; reproducing them today is considered impossible.
The crystal flutes allow us to see the undercutting of the tone holes. We have never heard a reasonable explanation of how Laurent made these flutes; reproducing them today is considered impossible.
The underside of the G# key shows the mark on the leather pad from the tonehole, which is very small, and very much off-center!
The underside of the G# key shows the mark on the leather pad from the tonehole, which is very small, and very much off-center!
The mark on the tip of the key is the hallmark, in this case a bundle (fasces) of wheat with an ax head at the top.  This particular mark shows silver purity and Paris manufacture, before 1810!
The mark on the tip of the key is the hallmark, in this case a bundle (fasces) of wheat with an ax head at the top. This particular mark shows silver purity and Paris manufacture, before 1810!
The top hole is the F# hole, which is cut and undercut much larger than the next hole, for E.  The F# is notoriously low on French keyed flutes, to preserve the cross fingerings.  Even though there is a key for the F natural, this flute is still made to be played with the cross fingerings of the Traverso, or one-keyed flute.  The F natural key helps to vent the F# on held or prominent notes.
The top hole is the F# hole, which is cut and undercut much larger than the next hole, for E. The F# is notoriously low on French keyed flutes, to preserve the cross fingerings. Even though there is a key for the F natural, this flute is still made to be played with the cross fingerings of the Traverso, or one-keyed flute. The F natural key helps to vent the F# on held or prominent notes.
The D# key is another place where a practically lineal development can be seen.  This one, with the classic swiveled pad flap, solved the problem of perfectly closing such a large key.  Later keymakers discovered this was not such a big problem after all!
The D# key is another place where a practically lineal development can be seen. This one, with the classic swiveled pad flap, solved the problem of perfectly closing such a large key. Later keymakers discovered this was not such a big problem after all!
The Laurent embouchure often has a hint of a point at the edges.  Claude Laurent was a terrific flutemaker as well as a skilled glass fabricator, and his embouchure perfectly fits the flute.  Alas, his use of shellac to secure the headjoint stopper always created this old-glue look to the left of the blow hole.
The Laurent embouchure often has a hint of a point at the edges. Claude Laurent was a terrific flutemaker as well as a skilled glass fabricator, and his embouchure perfectly fits the flute. Alas, his use of shellac to secure the headjoint stopper always created this old-glue look to the left of the blow hole.
Laurent almost always decorated his crowns with cut stones.  This one is dark blue, one of Laurent's favorite colors.
Laurent almost always decorated his crowns with cut stones. This one is dark blue, one of Laurent's favorite colors.