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Bassoon by Savary jeune, 1842
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These photos show an instrument that I bought in the early 90s and sold again in August 2008. For the whole time I had it, it was missing a number of keys, which needed to be made up, but otherwise it was in very good condition. I left it for restoration with a repairer who “never got round to it”, and in the meantime I bought two other Savary instruments, so I lost interest in restoring it.

Savary jeune

Jean-Nicolas Savary jeune (the younger) built bassoons in Paris from 1823 until 1850. His instruments had a reputation unsurpassed by any other woodwind instrument maker. His instruments have been likened to the violins of Stradivari. To quote Lyndesay Langwill, “The Bassoon and Contrabassoon” (London, 1965):

His bassoons were very popular in England, where they were highly esteemed by many of the principal payers. Indeed, Savary bassoons were passed down from one generation to the next and some were still in use and very reluctantly discarded when orchestral sharp pitch began to be lowered in 1935.

This quote appears to base on a similar text in Anthony Baines' “Woodwind instruments and their history”.

Langwill also states that his instruments bear dates from 1824 to 1842 (on the back of the butt). This is incorrect, though maybe at the time of printing no other ones were known. I have an instrument dated 1847, and I have seen instruments dated as late as 1850.

To my knowledge, only about 100 Savary instruments have survived, so it should be well worth-while restoring this one.

The condition

Here's a more detailed description:

Tenor joint: 2 thumb keys (a and c). c is missing. Once had a crook key (whisper key), which operated on the top of the joint, not the crook (bocal), also missing. Front had 4 keys, (Eb, C#, 2 trill keys), all missing. The mounts for the keys are still present, with the exception of the first trill key and the Eb key.

Butt: 4 keys, all present (Bb, F, Ab, F#). This joint is in near-perfect condition

Bass joint: 5 keys (D, Eb, C#, B, Bb), covered C. C# and Bb are missing.

Bell: Remainder of the Bb key missing.

No crook (bocal).

With the exception of the low C# key and the crook (whisper) key, all the holes with missing keys are blocked up, but could be easily unblocked. As a result, the instrument is playable.

Wood in excellent condition, no cracks. The top of the bass joint is slightly chipped out, but there's no crack.

Photos

I've taken photos of this instrument over a considerable period of time. The ones that follow immediately were taken in about 1998, and they're the only ones showing the instrument as a whole. You can get progressively larger versions of the photos by clicking on the photo.

 

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Photos taken 4 and 5 February 2008

These photos are intended to show the current state of the instrument.


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Photos taken in March 2002

Tenor joint

The tenor joint is in by far the worst condition as regards keys.


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The photo above shows the blocked-off holes for the C# and Eb keys and the remains of a mount for the lower trill key. I'm not sure what the wood inlay to the right shows. The yellow colour in the third finger hole is wax, presumably for tuning.


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The holes for the two trill keys, and the saddle for the upper trill key.


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The lower end of the tenor joint. The edge of the tenon is worn, but not cracked.


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Another view of the lower end of the tenor joint.

The butt

The butt is in excellent condition. It probably only needs repadding.


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The bass joint

See the overall photos below for the bass joint.


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The top end of the bass joint. The tenon has some breakage, but there are no cracks.


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The bottom end of the bass joint. The bore is not centred correctly, obviously a manufacturing problem, but the tenon is in impeccable condition.

The bell

See the overall photos below for the bell.


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This is the only clear marking of the manufacturer's name. It's as good as impossible to photograph the date at the top rear of the butt, unfortunately.

Pictures assembled


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