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Johann George Tromlitz (1725-1805)





This is a picture of me, Johann George Tromlitz (1725-1805). On behalf of myself, I would like to welcome you to my home page.

At the moment I am a member of the exclusive club of Dead White Males, but a couple of hundred years ago I lived in Saxony (a part of Germany), where I was a famous flute player, teacher, composer, instrument-maker and writer. Back then the World Wide Web was not around, but, hey, things change.

Further down the page you can read my bio, and a list of articles and books I wrote, and look at pictures of flutes like the ones I invented and made. You can also learn about my compositions, but these are frankly not as cool as the other stuff so I have put that bit right at the end.

Where I am is not yet on-line, so you can't send me e-mail. If you have any questions you could ask an associate of mine, Ardal Powell, who might be able to get in touch with me and get back to you.

BIO of myself, Johann George Tromlitz (1725-1805)

I was born at Reinsdorf, near Artern, on 8 November 1725, and I died in Leipzig, on 4 February 1805. I married in 1747 and in 1750 received the degree of Imperial Public Notary at Leipzig University. I began making flutes at about this time--just for myself, as I was not impressed with the ones you could get from German flutemakers at the time.

In 1754 I became principal flautist of the Grosses Konzert, a forerunner of the famous Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra. The orchestra disbanded during the Seven Years' War, and I left it in 1776 to spend more time teaching, writing, and making flutes. I made solo tours as well, including one to St Petersburg.

People who heard me said I was a really tremendous player. They mentioned my perfect intonation, brilliance and precision, and strong, trumpet-like tone. In 1774, Johann Friedrich Reichardt considered me one of only four Leipzig virtuosos worth naming. I was one of the first players to introduce the bravura style of concerto playing in Germany, with the strong and cutting tone best suited to this style.

I wrote three books about flute-playing. In the 1786 Kurze Abhandlung (Short Essay on Flute- Playing--no English translation of this) I said how important it was to have clarity of articulation and expression, and perfect intonation in a system having both large (5-comma) and small (4-comma) semitones, (for which both Eb and D# keys invented by Johann Joachim Quantz in 1726 are essential). I thought it was about time someone mentioned that performers ought to have total technical control and be completely emotionally involved in the music.

Having got warmed up, I then wrote my Unterricht (The Virtuoso Flute-Player) (1791). Since there were no good teachers around (except me, obviously) I decided to write a book that could be used without one. So I went into a lot of detail on all aspects of flute-playing: intonation, articulation, flute maintenance, posture and breathing, dynamics, ornaments, musical style, cadenzas and aspects of the flute's construction. I may have gone a bit over the top in the two chapters on articulation, but even if they are rather exhaustive--exhausting, even--, they were the most thorough treatment of this subject in writing for any instrument and I couldn't really have said any less if anyone was going to understand me. I wrote a whole chapter on the trill because I was fed up with hearing people play trills unevenly and out of tune. I reduced all these subjects to a set of really quite brilliant rules, and gave plenty of examples.

This is a picture of my most famous book, The Virtuoso Flute- Player, in the English translation by Ardal Powell. It has-- quite correctly, in my view--been called "lively, informative, and eminently readable", by Eric Haas. I do not know Eric, but he obviously knows whereof he speaks, as, evidently, do Jane Bowers, Edward R. Reilly (who translated the almost equally cool flute tutor of Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773)), Lisa Beznosiuk, Niall O'Louglin, Nicholas Swindale, and Denis Verroust since they have also said highly gratifying things about the book. Click on the picture at right if you want to read quotes from their reviews and order a copy.

The Virtuoso Flute-player

FLUTES invented and made by me, Johann George Tromlitz (1725- 1805)

When I started off I made two- keyed flutes (D# and Eb keys), the kind I wrote my 1791 tutor for. I first announced that I was making flutes with added keys in 1781. Between 1783 and 1785 I developed a C" thumb key and two keys for F. By 1796 I added a second lever for the right index finger to the thumb Bb key. The 1796 system consisted of keys for D# and Eb, G# (all developed before 1781), C" for the left thumb (1785), double F (1785), and double Bb (1796). I did make a C'-foot, but the flute didn't sound as good as it did with the shorter D-foot, so I tried to discourage people from having them. Here's a picture of my coolest type of flute, which I first announced in 1796.

My flute of 1796, by Folkers & Powell

BTW, if you want to know more about my flutes, you can read Ardal Powell's article, "The Tromlitz Flute", in the Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society Vol. 22 (1996), pp. 89-109. As it says in this very useful article, I did not make up the whole system: the Bb, G# and short F had first been used in England in the 1750s, and the long F had been invented in 1783 by the father of the young blind virtuoso, Friedrich Ludwig Dülon, who showed it to me in the following year. My original contributions to the key configuration were the long Bb, and the C"/Bb arrangement for the left thumb, which I am told was taken up after my death by someone called Theobald Boehm.

The Keyed Flute

The Keyed Flute is the English edition, as you may already have guessed, of my book about my keyed flutes. Besides a translation of my tutor and several other interesting shorter texts, the book has a lot of information about flute making and playing while I was alive--click on the picture at left to see review extracts and a table of contents.

Having invented this flute, in 1800 I published a book about playing it, über die Flöten mit mehern Klappen (The Keyed Flute), as a supplement to the 1791 tutor. I intended my eight-keyed flute to play scrupulously in tune in all 24 keys with a full set of major and minor semitones, even when accompanied by an equal-tempered keyboard. Anyone who takes the trouble to try it will find that I was right.

Towards the end of my life I played around with another invention, a chromatic flute with only one key. I gave up this experiment because I got tired of figuring out the fingering, but I wrote about it because I thought someone might come along and finish the job. I believe it did influence this Boehm person, theone who invented this metal flute most of you use now.

WRITINGS by me, Johann George Tromlitz (1725-1805)

Here is a list of my articles and books.

The highlighted entries are English editions of the tutors I mentioned a bit about before. If you have forgotten already, click on the title in the listing--it will remind you, and you can use your Back button to get back to the list.

`Nachricht von Tromlitz Flöten', ed. J. G. Meusel,
     Miscellaneen artistischen Inhaltes 8 (1781), 115-21
`Nachricht von Tromlitz'schen Flöten', ed. C. F. Cramer,     
     Magazin der Musik, 1. 2 (Hamburg, 1783), 1013-21,     
     trans. Ardal Powell, `Information on Tromlitz flutes', Traverso 6. 1 (Jan 1994), 1-2
`Neuerfundene Vortheile zur bessern Einrichtung der Flöte',  
     ed. J. G. Meusel, Miscellaneen artistischen Inhaltes 26 (1785), 104-9
Kurze Abhandlung vom Flötenspielen (Leipzig, 1786) 
Ausführlicher und gründlicher Unterricht die Flöte zu spielen
     (Leipzig, 1791/R1973, 1985) trans. and ed. Ardal Powell,
     The Virtuoso Flute-Player by Johann George Tromlitz
     (Cambridge, 1991)
`An das musikalische Publikum', Musikalische Korrespondenz der 
     teutschen filarmonischen Gesellschaft, 32-4 (10-24 Aug    
     1791), 252-69
An das musikalische Publikum (Leipzig, 1796/R1982)
über die Flöten mit mehrern Klappen (Leipzig, 1800/R1973, 1991) trans.
     and ed. Ardal Powell, The Keyed Flute by Johann George
     Tromlitz (Oxford, 1996)
`Abhandlung über den schönen Ton auf der Flöte',   
     AMZ 2 (Jan 1800) 301-16, translated in trans. and ed.    
     Ardal Powell, The Keyed Flute by Johann George
     Tromlitz (Oxford, 1996), 239-42
`Replik auf die Anfrage, "Sollten nicht unsere Flöten durch  
     die vielen Klappen sehr verloren haben; und hat jemand     
     bewiesen, daß diese nöthig waren?"' Kaiserlich-    
     priviligierter Reichsanzeiger (Gotha, 1800) No. 98, 1271-72
Fingerordnung für meine Flöten zu 3, 5 und 7
     Mittelstück und 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 und 6 Klappen, nebst dem  
     Gebrauch des Register und abgetheilte Propfschraube (Leipzig, n. d.)

COMPOSITIONS by me, Johann George Tromlitz (1725-1805)

I wrote a few concertos, a collection of unaccompanied pieces, some little sonatas and rondos for flute and continuo, and a handful of sonatas for flute and piano. There's a list of my compositions in Frans Vester, Flute Music of the 18th Century,(Monteux, 1985), p. 495.

An edition of my Concerto Op. 1 No. 1 in D major (published by Johann Julius Hummel, Amsterdam, c. 1774) is in Janet Becker's dissertation, "The Eighteenth Century Flute Concerto: A Study and Edition of Two Manuscripts from the Fuerst Thurn und Taxis Hofbibliothek Regensburg with Reference to Contemporary Treatises" (D.M. diss., Northwestern University, 1993; University Microfilms Order No. 9317256)

I also wrote: 11 Gesänge für Klavier, gedichtet von Schiller und Hölty. Sammlung deutscher Gesänge beym Klavier, 1ster Theil (c. 1796), mentioned in Ernst Ludwig Gerber's Lexicon of 1812/14, s.v. Tromlitz.

Well, that's about it for my homepage. Glad you made it this far, and hope you enjoyed it.
Here are some cool links to be going on with.

FOLKERS & POWELL, Makers of Historical Flutes (inlcuding mine, natch)

Homepage of Ardal Powell, the dude who translated my books into English

Other Classical and Rococo Composers

'Mozart and the Troml;itz Flute', an English version of 'Mozart und die Tromlitz-Flöte', as it appeared inTibia 26.3 (2001)

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