About the “Ganassi Recorder”/On the Performance of Early Baroque Music

◻️ About the “Ganassi Recorder”

The “Ganassi Recorder” is named after Silvestro Ganassi, the author of the instructional book Fontegara, which was published in Venice in 1535. In this work, Ganassi wrote the following explanations about fingerings:

The recorder can usually play 9 low notes and 4 high notes, totaling 13 notes.

Some players can produce an additional 1 to 2 notes.

By using various fingerings, he discovered an additional 7 notes that were previously unknown.

Among Renaissance recorders, the term "Ganassi Recorder" refers to instruments that can pronounce high notes using the additional fingerings or similar fingerings discovered by Ganassi in . The instructional book includes fingerings for the high range by three different makers, marked as “♣”, “A”, and “B”. “♣” represents Hans Rauch von Schrattenbach near Munich, “A” represents Schnitzer from Nuremberg, and “B” represents Bassano. Frederick Morgan, a key figure in the early days of recorder making, encountered a certain recorder made by the “B” maker and widely popularized a model based on it.

Morgan discovered that the G-alto recorder SAM135 in the collection of the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum could speak the high notes with fingerings similar to those in Fontegara. However, due to the original design, the G in the third octave was too high. He adjusted the total length of the instrument, allowing it to practically play the high notes in Fontegara. Renaissance recorders which can sound high notes using fingerings conforming to Fontegara are generally called as "Ganassi Recorder."

SAM135 bears a stamp in the shape of rabbit's feet "!!." This is the coat of arms (actually a moth, not a rabbit's foot) of the Bassano family, a renowned musical family in Venice. Therefore, Morgan's Ganassi recorder is referred to as the Bassano model.

In his posthumous writings, Morgan emphasized the importance of Ganassi recorders, stating that this model is the result of Ganassi's theoretical research and that it is fortunate to discover the original recorder (SAM135) capable of producing high notes. Thus, the new instrument (Ganassi recorder) is not a mere "copy" of the original recorder but directly derives from the works of makers of that time.

Some argue that "Ganassi recorders are newly-designed instruments by contemporary makers and not Renaissance recorders." However, comparing the dimensions of the original SAM135 by Bassano, which is publicly accessible on the book by the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum, with the design of the so-called Ganassi recorder, the dimensional differences in the voicing around the labium (windway entrance and exit width, distance to the edge, length of the labium, etc.) are within ±0.1mm, remaining within the margin of error for manual work. The internal diameter also mostly adheres to the original. The main difference is a slight extension of less than 1% in total length, intended to correct the pitch of high G, which would be too high if made to the original design.

As mentioned above, there are undoubtedly differences from the original. However, just as modifications to pitch and fingerings are made in Baroque recorders, in various contemporary performance scenarios, design adjustment considering practical aspects are often necessary. The degree of difference from the original is not significantly greater than in other models, such as Baroque recorders (in that sense, many of early music instruments in circulation today are not “totally faithful copies"). Therefore, it can be said that the Ganassi recorder is undoubtedly based on the original and designed to perform Renaissance-era music, with the concept of playing instruments from that period.

◻️ On the Performance of Early Baroque Music

The Ganassi Recorder is a model designed based on the original, representing a type of Renaissance recorder capable of playing the high notes introduced in Fontegara. While this fact is undeniable, there is room for debate regarding whether this instrument should be used to perform early Baroque (first half of the 17th century) music. Fontegara was published in Venice in 1535, while the early Baroque era is roughly about a hundred years later. Therefore, for the repertoire of the early Baroque era, composed by figures like Dario Castello, Marco Uccellini and so on, this type of recorder could be considered an instrument from a previous generation. However, in contexts where the latest music is performed, the instrument is not necessarily the most recent.

When performing repertoire from the early Baroque era, high notes that regular Renaissance recorders cannot produce are often required. The Ganassi Recorder can articulate these notes, and by dividing the instrument into two parts and using metal rings at the joint, it ensures sufficient sound volume as a solo instrument. Playing with an instrument that meets the performance demands of music pieces is essential and natural attitude for players. Therefore, when performing music from the first half of the 17th century, the Ganassi recorder is considered a viable option among the choices available.