I see God in the instruments and mechanisms that work reliably.— Richard Buckminster Fuller, 1895–1983
Frederick G. Morgan (1940–1999), recorder maker extraordinary, always made interesting choices when selecting original Baroque instruments to base his famous reproductions on. They often reflected his search for —and awareness of— specific characteristics such as those offered by various recorder models by different makers, their voicing qualities and bore profiles. Thus, besides the usual list of recorder models and prices, his catalogue contained a brief description of the instruments that included a sometimes intriguing mix of useful information1 and the occasional observation that revealed his insightful understanding of the instrument.2 I believe that these brief observations alone are worth transcribing and sharing his catalogue information here. This article belongs to a series of articles about Fred Morgan that I’m writing out of pure admiration for his work as recorder maker.
1. Fred Morgan recorder catalogue, 1987–2002
The data collected here is based on two different versions of his original catalogue, completed with a later instrument —or, rather, body, since it refers to partially finished instruments— list from 2002 (see below, The Frederick Morgan Workshop in the early 2000s):
- The first one is marked “1987, ’89, ’91 & ’93,” meaning it remained unchanged during all those years.
- The second one is from 1997, and included some new soprano sizes: 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th flutes and a sopranino.3
Shown below is the collected data from the three different catalogues mentioned above, which is highly revealing in showing, for instance, how he kept his price list the same for at least twelve years before his passing (people say that the prices of recorders went up around the world right after his death because Fred was not holding the price at a stable point any more), besides tracing the new recorder models and pitches he kept adding to his catalogue through the years. Prices were originally indicated in Swiss francs, to which I’ve attached an approximate equivalent amount in today’s Euro (€). Where available, I’ve also added links to some photographs of the instruments in the catalogue featured in beautifulrecorders.com
The Fred Morgan 1987, ’89, ’91 & ’93, 1997 & 2002 catalogues
a) Baroque recorders
Pitch is A415 unless indicated otherwise.
Standard wood is boxwood.*
|Baroque recorders||Price (CHF, 1987, ’89, ’91 & ’93 catalogues)||Price (CHF, 1997 catalogue)||Body price (CHF, 2002 catalogue)|
|1. Alto after Bressan||3,675 [€3,400]||3,675 [€3,400]||1,325 [€1,225]|
|1b. Extra centre joint (A409)||900 [€830]||-||-|
|1c. Extra centre joint (A392)||1,200 [€1,110]||-||-|
|1d. Alto after Bressan (A440)||-||-||1,325 [€1,225]|
|2. Alto after Jacob Denner||3,675 [€3,400]||3,675 [€3,400]||1,325 [€1,225]|
|2b. Alto after Jacob Denner (A440)||3,675 [€3,400]||-||-|
|3. Alto after Thomas Stanesby Senior||3,675 [€3,400]||3,675 [€3,400]||1,325 [€1,225]|
|3b. Alto after Thomas Stanesby Senior (A440)||-||3,675 [€3,400]||1,325 [€1,225]|
|3c. Extra centre joint to give A392||-||900 [€830]||-|
|4. Alto after Bizey, A392||3,885 [€3,590]||3,885 [€3,590]||1,396 [€1,290]|
|5. Alto in Eb, after Bressan||-||3,885 [€3,590]||1,396 [€1,290]|
|6. Alto after Debey, A415||-||-||1,396 [€1,290]|
|7. Alto in g’ A415, English type after Bressan||-||-||1,325 [€1,225]|
|8. The Michala Petri Denner, A440||-||-||1,325 [€1,225]|
|9. The Bressan and Stanesby Altos are also available at A440||-||-||1,325 [€1,225]|
|10. Voiceflute in d’ after Stanesby and Bressan||3,885 [€3,590]||3,885 [€3,590]||1,396 [€1,290]|
|11. Sopranino in f” after Stanesby and Hallett||-||3,150 [€2,915]||1,150 [€1,060|
|12. Soprano 6th Flute in d” after Stanesby and Hallett||-||3,300 [€3,048]||1,200 [€1,110]|
|13. Soprano 5th Flute in c” after Stanesby & Bressan*||-||3,450 [€3,190]||1,250 [€1,155]|
|14. Soprano 4th Flute in b’ flat after Stanesby and Bressan||-||3,600 [€3,330]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|14b. with Extra centre to give a 3rd Flute in a’||-||Extra 900 [€830]||Extra 333 [€307]|
|15. Soprano 3rd Flute in a’ after Bressan*||-||3,600 [€3,330]||1,300 [€1,200]|
b) Ganassi type recorders
|Ganassi type recorders. Standard wood maple||Price (CHF, 1987, 89’, 91’ & ’93 catalogues)||Price (CHF, 1997 catalogue)||Body price* (CHF, 2002 catalogue)|
|16. Descant/Alto in g’. In one piece, A466||2,550 [€2,360]||2,550 [€2,360]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|16b. Jointed with brass ring, A466, A440, or A415||2,700 [€2,500]||2,700 [€2,500]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|16c. With lower joints for 2 pitches||3,150 [€2,915]||3,150 [€2,915]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|16d. With lower joints for 3 pitches||3,600 [€3,330]||3,600 [€3,330]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|17. Soprano in c”. In one piece, A415, A440, or A466||2,550 [€2,360]||2,550 [€2,360]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|17b. Jointed with brass ring||2,700 [€2,500]||2,700 [€2,500]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|17c. With lower joints for 2 pitches||3,150 [€2,915]||3,150 [€2,915]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|17d. With lower joints for 3 pitches||3,600 [€3,330]||3,600 [€3,330]||1,300 [€1,200]|
|18. Ganassi F Alto with 3 joints||-||-||1,300 [€1,200]|
|19. Tenor in c’, A466, design almost ready. No key for c'. Derived from an original tenor in Vienna. Maple, in one piece||-||2,700 [€2,500]||-|
|19b. Jointed, with a brass ring||-||2,850 [€2,630]||-|
|20. Van Eyck Soprano||-||-||1,300 [€1,200]|
*Thanks to Nikolaj Ronimus for the information about the Bressan models, which was originally not specified in the catalogues.
2. Instrument descriptions
Here follows a transcription of the instrument descriptions found in the 1987, ’89, ’91, ’93 & 1997 catalogues. The following text accompanied the above list of instruments and prices:
The next pages give some detail about the instruments listed above, and about ordering and delivery. Delivery time at present (1996) is between one and two years. The sopranino, 6th flute, 4th flute and 3rd flute are instruments which I have made very occasionally over the years, but now wish to include in my regular list.
*Though boxwood was so widely used for Baroque recorders, many surviving instruments are of maple. Any of the Baroque sizes can be made in maple, which can give a broad and colourful sound well worthy of comparison with the more centred tone quality associated with boxwood. NB All the instruments, Baroque and Ganassi type, in either wood, are fitted with a deerhorn or bone thumb ring.
Alto after Bressan. Derived from the original Bressan instrument owned for many years by Edgar Hunt, and now in the Bate Collection in Oxford. European boxwood, stained dark brown. Normally made with double holes, but single holes can be made on request. A415.
The 1987, ’89, ’91 & ’93 catalogue adds:
An extra centre joint is available to give the lower pitch of A409.
Low French pitch, A392, can be obtained with an extra long centre and foot.
A box to take any extra pieces for other pitches is included in the price.
Alto after Denner. Derived from the Jacob Denner alto now in the Music History Museum in Copenhagen. European boxwood, usually stained. Double holes, A415. Single holes available on request.
The 1987, ’89, ’91 & ’93 catalogue adds:
NB. This instrument is also available at A440.
Alto after Stanesby. Derived from the alto by Thomas Stanesby Senior in the collection of Frans Brüggen. European boxwood, stained dark. This instrument is of the long foot English type, and has a slightly broader sound in the upper register than the Hunt Bressan, which is the short foot type. A415 with double holes. Single holes available on request.
The 1997 catalogue adds:
Extra centre joint to give A392.
French Pitch alto after Bizey, A392. Derived from an original instrument in the Dayton Miller Collection in Washington. European boxwood, stained dark brown. Single or double holes.
The 1987, ’89, ’91 & ’93 catalogue adds:
The combination of the lower pitch with an unusually shallow windway gives increased expressive possibilities.
Alto in Eb. In bore profile, this instrument closely follows the Bressan f' alto, giving the full Baroque compass. Some adjustments have been made to hole positions to make the instrument easier to finger. Surviving instruments in Eb by Bressan are to be found in the Grosvenor Museum in Chester, England. (Notice that Eb at A415 is the same absolute pitch as D at A440, so that this instrument can also be used as a voice flute in d' at A440.)
Voice flute in d’. This instrument has features of both Bressan and Thomas Stanesby. Available in boxwood or hard maple, stained dark brown. Single or double holes, A415. Full Baroque compass, d’ - e”’ plus the higher notes.
Sopranino in f", A415. This instrument is derived from a surviving example by the English maker Hallett, with adjustments to the bore in the manner of Stanesby to help the tuning. The simple and elegant external profile of the Hallett is kept, and the instrument is made in unstained boxwood. The sound is clear and firm, with an easy slur between d”” and e””. Available with single or double holes.
6th Flute in d”, A415. This recorder is a larger version of the sopranino. Therefore I have kept the same Hallett profile, but, like the sopranino, the bore owes more to Stanesby. The bore and windway proportions are in the manner and within the limits of several old instruments, including in particular the ivory Stanesby Junior 6th Flute in the collection of Frans Brüggen. Available with single or double holes.
5th Flute in c”, A415 (Baroque soprano in c”). This instrument is a development from the Stanesby type soprano that I made in the 1970s and 80s. It is essentially the same, but has some minor bore adjustments to help the tuning of some of the 8ves. Boxwood, standard with double holes, but single holes can be made on request.
4th Flute Soprano in b' flat. The well-known original Bressan 4th flute in the Bate Collection in Oxford, formerly owned by Edgar Hunt, appears to have been shortened to sound at about A440, probably rather early in its existence late in the 18th century. Because of this, it is not so suitable as a model. Therefore I have kept some features of both Bressan and Stanesby (who also made 4th flute sopranos) in this new instrument. Boxwood, or maple, standard with single holes (because the low b' natural and c#" are seldom called for), but with double holes available on request.
Extra Centre to give a 3rd Flute in a' at A415. This extra centre works with the 4th Flute head and foot to lower the instrument to sound in a', hence it becomes a 3rd flute, a few examples of which size do survive. The instrument can then also be used, of course, as a 4th Flute at A392. Standard with single holes, but with double holes available on request. The tuning is good in both 4th and 3rd flute configurations.
3rd Flute in a’ at A415. This instrument is designed after Bressan, and differs from the extended 4th flute described above in that it has the normal proportion of length to bore diameter, rather than the narrower proportion necessarily resulting from the use of a head and foot joint common to both pitches. For this reason, the sound is somewhat fuller.
GANASSI TYPE RECORDERS
Derived from a recorder in g' in the Vienna Art History Museum, these instruments have fingerings which follow the principles detailed by Sylvestro Ganassi in his ’Fontegara’ (Venice, 1535). The XVth in particular requires Ganassi’s fingering of ø1
234567. They are made in c" and in g', in one piece or jointed, and at several pitches. All hard maple, with a thumb bushing of bone, ivory, or horn (as available).
Tuning can be equal-tempered, Aron meantone, or with thirds adjusted as requested. Please inquire if you have a particular requirement for the size of the thirds.
3. The Frederick Morgan Workshop in the early 2000s
It is well known that the Morgan workshop made an effort to continue offering instruments (or rather blanks, or bodies, as they called them, since they were not finished instruments) after Fred’s untimely passing, using his same tools and measurements (and even the same wood turner, Dieter Mücke, for quite some years). Thus, the workshop was capable of producing recorder bodies “up to approximately a third of the finished state,” according to Ann Morgan (Fred’s widow). Those bodies could be finished (i.e. tuned and voiced) later with the help of several makers that offered themselves to collaborate with the workshop. This smart idea from Ann Morgan has fortunately allowed to keep producing stunning Morgan instruments — notably those finished by the magnificent Danish recorder player and maker, Nikolaj Ronimus, to whom I’d like to thank again here for the great job he has done with my instruments and the immense amount of care he treated them with. Chapeau!
Ann Morgan explained it better herself on this text originally published around 2003, still available through archive.org:
Following Fred’s death in 1999, it became apparent that the recorder playing world was still eager to obtain any Morgan design work that was available before the workshop closed.
Orders began to flood in from customers who wanted the chance to own types of recorders from Fred’s order list that they hadn’t previously owned. And so it became obvious that in a positive way, the workshop was still of great value.
Many of you will know well what we are capable of providing from the workshop – but for those who are new to this I will explain.
With the help of Dieter (Fred’s wood turner of ten years) the workshop is capable of producing recorder “bodies” up to approximately a third of the finished state. These are turned, stained, the holes drilled, and most importantly, the bores reamed. This can all be done to Fred’s specific designs, with tools he designed and used daily. Colleagues state that the reaming done in this way is of enormous value.
My clear aim in all this is to provide only that part of the instrument that Dieter had been trained to make, using only Fred’s design figures. So to this point the work is “purely Morgan” as it were.
The recorder is then finished, i.e. voiced and tuned, by the builder of your choice.
Several builders have told me that they would be honoured to finish these instruments for you. Their names can be seen below. Of course, you are free to choose any other builder you wish to bring your instruments to fruition.
In order to speed the finishing process and hopefully save the finishers’ valuable time, Dieter is now capable of fitting blocks undersize to the recorders at our workshop. I stress that he does this to the finisher’s specifications if the client requests it. This is a process that takes approximately three hours – and we can currently do this work for you for CHF: 220 in addition to the cost of the instrument.
Also, you will notice from our order list that we can now produce Fred’s earlier Debey and F Ganassi models with his reamers. (We are obliged to Nikolaj Ronimus for development work on the F Ganassi).
Customers have described the workshop as “invaluable”! I had no idea that we had the capacity to make Fred’s ideas available. The response for his design work has been unexpected but wonderful!
There is presently a two month waiting time once an order is placed. If you wish to specify your chosen finisher, I can send the instrument directly to him/her.
For all your requests, including current prices you may contact by email
With all best wishes
What we do now in the workshop is we do what the wood turner used to do when Fred was alive, which is make about a third of the instrument to Fred’s design work. So this person turns the outside of the instrument and, very importantly, he reams the inside of the instrument with the tools that Fred designed, the reamers that Fred designed. He places the holes, he stains the instruments, he underfits the block, and we send that instrument off to a team of finishers in Europe. So the workshop keeps going to some extent. But we do put a special stamp on the instrument, a little stamp of the Sun, which shows this instrument was made after Fred died. So yeah, we’re very clear about that. So the buyer knows they’re not getting an original Morgan by any means, but they’re getting quite a deal of the design work in there.
4. The Frederick Morgan Workshop today
After Fred’s original turner stopped working, two more woodturners, to my knowledge, have been trained at the workshop: Brendan Stemp and Owen Watkins. But the current situation is, as far as I know, that once again the workshop is training a new woodturner. According to Ann Morgan, this has happened to them every 6 or so years and must be a very time-consuming (and costly) process. Woodturners seem to be scarce in Australia, so it’s probably complicated to find people with these specific skills. Besides, machines are being used more often now, and woodturners sometimes become “artists” in their own right and don’t want to do fine repetition work.
As a result, they’re still able to take new orders, but, for the above reasons, delivery times are very long right now.
I do hope to keep the workshop open. I believe our intellectual property is of use — and that there is an interest out there still in Fred’s design work. Unfortunately I can’t put a date on this…
Sure there is still an interest in Fred’s design work. By making partially finished bodies using Morgan’s original specifications and reamers (later voiced and tuned by a number of today’s recorder makers), the Morgan Workshop has produced some of the most excellent recorders I’ve ever tried.
With this piece I would like to make a small contribution to bring renewed attention to the valuable, priceless work that I hope can still be done by the Morgan Workshop. And, if we want to keep getting recorder bodies and with a shorter delivery time, we should probably make sure that Ann, and the people working at the Morgan Workshop, know about it.
Such as the provenance of the original recorders he used as models, or the different available options regarding fingerings, types of wood and pitches. ↩
“with adjustments to the bore in the manner of Stanesby to help the tuning;” “The bore and windway proportions are in the manner and within the limits of several old instruments;” “[this instrument] has some minor bore adjustments to help the tuning of some of the 8ves.”) ↩
“The sopranino, 6th flute, 4th flute and 3rd flute are instruments which I have made very occasionally over the years, but now wish to include in my regular list.” ↩