19th century piccolo found in Tarragona

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Fig. 1. 19th century piccolo found in Tarragona

This little 6-keyed piccolo belonged to my grandfather. After many years and a restoration made by Mr. John Coppen, it can be played again. It has an inscription: “Juan Ayné. Tarragona“. Juan Ayné was not the maker, but an instrument and music shop from Barcelona. The shop’s site in Tarragona was located at the former Rambla de Sant Joan, 46, nowadays called Rambla Nova, on the second half of the 19th century.

A similar piccolo can be found at the Museu de la Música de Barcelona (MDMB 255), dated 1870-1926 (Fig. 2). The lowest fingered note on this instrument is a D, sounding E flat (A-440).

Mr. Jem Hammond, from Flute History Channel, told me that it is assuredly a french-made instrument by the style of it and that these instruments weren’t normally expected to be played closed up, but using a slide (which mine has) to tune. He expected mine would play in Eb at A-435 diapason normal with the slide open a bit – it is far more likely that a french instrument in this style was built for A-435; but it is still an Eb instrument, probably intended for use in military bands. It may be able to be used closed up at 440, but the scale won’t give its optimum intonation there. He is right: the instrument it’s extremely difficult to play in tune at 440 closed up, the scale is very unbalanced.

This piccolo was given to my grandfather when he was a child and entered the city band in Reus. They probably tuned at A-435 at that time as Mr. Hammond says. Nevertheless, my grandfather never took playing the piccolo seriously and ended up being a percussionist. But the piccolo stayed at home… and I found it being already a professional flutist… I am so happy an instrument like this can be played again, outside a museum. Grandpa would be happy too… thank you grandpa!!

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Fig. 2. Museu de la Música de Barcelona’s piccolo, Ref. MDMB 255

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Fig. 3. New Langwill Index of Wind Instrument Makers

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Fig. 4. Juan Ayné’s shop ad at “El Correo de la Provincia”, 20/03/1892 

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