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962

Richard Potter

London

Stamp: Full stamp on barrel joint with slide out: 4/5/6/POTTER/Johnson's Court/Fleet Street/LONDON. All other joints marked POTTER / LONDON. Cork stopper marked 4,5,6, from the top.

Comments: This was our #403, sold through here in 1984. A superb and perfect example of the most famous and successful workshop in classical London, and perhaps throughout Europe. Andrew Ash began his remarkable career playing on a Potter flute in the Netherlands, Mozart apparently composed the flute and harp concerto for a Potter flute player in Paris, even a Roman flute tutor used the Potter flute as the standard. The playing quality of this flute is very much 18th century. The tone is rich and compressed, favoring the lower partials. The action is quick and precise. The volume is strong, all the way down to low C. This flute compares favorably in tone with an excellent traverso, yet has the advantage of the keys. The cross fingerings are not at all as clear as the keyed equivalent. The F is not bad, and the F# is serviceable without venting the F key, although better with the vent. The cross-fingered G# and Bb are very traverso-like. In short, this is indeed a professional quality flute, full of the quirks of a good 18th century instrument. With practice and familiarity I believe this would make a dandy performance instrument. So successful was the workshop that Potter flutes are the most frequently counterfeited instruments, with many bogus Potters still to be found on the market today. The tricks to identify authentic Potters include the unique double undercutting of the tone holes, and the P shaped spring end under the low C and C# touches.

Material: Made of beautiful boxwood with ivory rings and silver keys. The key pads are pewter plugs, patented by Potter in 1785. All of the materials, including the plugs, are in as-new condition.

System: This is the famous Potter 6 keyed flute with foot to C and a fully lined headjoint with tuning slide. The keys are all Potter's patent pewter plugs. Happily the keys all seat, and the flute has a strong low C and C#. Curiously, the blow hole has been undercut as though the player would hold the flute angled towards the audience, blowing towards the upper right corner of the embouchure. This undercutting appears original. This model flute became so popular and famous it really transformed flute playing, ushering in the use of the keyed flute as a chromatic instrument.

Condition: This beautiful flute is in the rare state of perfect condition. There are no cracks, the original finish is untarnished, the pewter plugs are clean and tight. No one has altered the tone holes or embouchure. This is a fine player and an extraordinary example of the seminal flute model of the late 18th century.

Pitch: The number 4 setting gives a pitch of A=425, surprisingly well in tune all the way down to low C (not counting the open, and flat, C#s). All the way in at #6 the highest I can get the footjoint is at A=435, yet the rest of the flute seems to be playing at A=440. I feel that the best pitch is probably A=430, but others may differ. Potter, incidentally, gives instructions that the flutes with long foots need the cork action to be reversed, in spite of the numbers on the cork screw. Thus the more the head is pulled out, the further out one wants the cork set. This does seem to help. Charlie Delaney's trick of pulling out the joints just a tad to compensate for the compression of time also helps.

Sounding Length: Sounding length at mark 6-592 mm. Mark 5-598 mm. Mark 4-604 mm.

Measurements: Embouchure 9 x 9.96 mm.

Weight: 356 g.

Case: In probably the original case, which is a classic Potter case in excellent condition. The whole package appears very little used.

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Photographs (click to enlarge):

This is the stamp that Richard Potter used in 1785 when he patented the pewter plug keys and metal lined tuning slide.  Both of these innovations, especially the lined headjoint, remained standard on English flutes ever after.
This is the stamp that Richard Potter used in 1785 when he patented the pewter plug keys and metal lined tuning slide. Both of these innovations, especially the lined headjoint, remained standard on English flutes ever after.
Potter's tone holes are small and fairly equal in size, although the E hole has to be smaller yet.  The undercutting helps to give these flutes a strong and beautiful tone.
Potter's tone holes are small and fairly equal in size, although the E hole has to be smaller yet. The undercutting helps to give these flutes a strong and beautiful tone.
Potter's lathe work is always excellent, and his use of carefully chosen boxwood makes for beautiful flutes.  This instrument is in mint condition.
Potter's lathe work is always excellent, and his use of carefully chosen boxwood makes for beautiful flutes. This instrument is in mint condition.
The Bb key shows the tapered edge at left, the ornamental line across the shoulders, and the pewter plug.  The lovely piece of boxwood can also be seen throughout these photos.
The Bb key shows the tapered edge at left, the ornamental line across the shoulders, and the pewter plug. The lovely piece of boxwood can also be seen throughout these photos.
Richard Potter was not the first to use a C foot, yet this model became the standard.  Potter had two designs for the low C shank, the early design in which the shank vaults over the C# key, and this design, where the shank lies flat beside the C#, passing through a keyway in the wooden shoulder.
Richard Potter was not the first to use a C foot, yet this model became the standard. Potter had two designs for the low C shank, the early design in which the shank vaults over the C# key, and this design, where the shank lies flat beside the C#, passing through a keyway in the wooden shoulder.
The underside of the footjoint keys shows two classic Potter traits.  The C# touch (right) bears the hash-marks that are ubiquitous throughout the flute.  Both keys have brass springs that end with a rounded section at the rivet in the shape of a P.  All genuine Potter flutes from Johnson's Court have this hidden identifier.
The underside of the footjoint keys shows two classic Potter traits. The C# touch (right) bears the hash-marks that are ubiquitous throughout the flute. Both keys have brass springs that end with a rounded section at the rivet in the shape of a P. All genuine Potter flutes from Johnson's Court have this hidden identifier.
The three body keys for G#, F natural, and Bb (clockwise from top) show the riveted brass springs, pewter plugs, and the hash marks on the Bb.
The three body keys for G#, F natural, and Bb (clockwise from top) show the riveted brass springs, pewter plugs, and the hash marks on the Bb.
Another clear indication of a genuine Potter flute is the two-step undercutting of the tone holes, the sharp edge of which is visible here at the G hole.  A tapered fraise is used first, then a much larger, bell-shaped fraise is brought up, cutting a wide entrance into the bore.
Another clear indication of a genuine Potter flute is the two-step undercutting of the tone holes, the sharp edge of which is visible here at the G hole. A tapered fraise is used first, then a much larger, bell-shaped fraise is brought up, cutting a wide entrance into the bore.
The D# keyway with hash marks, and the metal lined tone hole for receiving the pewter plug.
The D# keyway with hash marks, and the metal lined tone hole for receiving the pewter plug.