Friday, February 3, 2012: Lunch with …

The Czech Philharmonic's 1 pm Lunch Recitals offer a musical feast for your ears

Lunch with … The Heckelphone

The Czech Philharmonic’s Lunch Recital next Wednesday, February 8, features a rare treat: woodwinds and double-reeds – and in particular, the heckelphone.

What the heck, you might be wondering, is a heckelphone?

It’s a double-reed woodwind instrument with the fingering of the oboe, but it’s pitched an octave lower.

It looks similar to the bass oboe, but has a wider bore, and thus, a lower pitch and heavier tone.

A heckel- phone

It’s about four feet long and rests on the floor.

At the upcoming concert, works by Pergolesi and Mozart have been specially arranged by the Czech Philharmonic’s principal oboist, Ivan Séquardt. He’ll also be playing lead solos on the heckelphone (as well as solos on the oboe, oboe d’amore, and English horn).

Only around 100 heckelphones of the 150 believed to have been produced are in use worldwide today. The Czech Republic is lucky enough to have two heckelphones: one is held by the Czech Philharmonic and the other by the National Theatre Orchestra.

The rare instrument was first manufactured by Wilhelm Heckel GmbH company in 1904. It was created to cover the middle register with an oboe-like sound, which would have before been filled in by a bass oboe and the English horn playing together.

Richard Strauss was the first to write a piece of music specifically for the heckelphone in his 1905 opera Salome. Strauss then went on to use the instrument in his compositions Elektra, An Alpine Symphony, Josephslegende and Festliches Präludium.

If you really feel you need a heckelphone of your own, you can still special-order one from Wilhelm Heckel GmbH in Germany. But it may be simpler to enjoy a musical lunch with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and leave the playing to the professionals, Mr Séquardt and the Czech Philharmonic. — oo

– Katie Perkins

Photo Credits: Painting by Floris van Dyck (c 1575-1651)

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