Large or small, a classical Renaissance piece or a modern interpretation: the recorder is more versatile than its reputation. Photograph: Regula Bearth © ZHdK

My favourite piece



Playing the recorder is easy, which is both wonderful and terrible. You blow into the instrument and out comes sound. Unlike woodwind instruments such as the clarinet, for example, the recorder reacts very directly to air fluctuations. As such, it blatantly reveals a lot about the player. No one who plays the recorder can hide. As it conveys strong emotions, unsurprisingly the recorder is symbolically associated with both love and death. One example for the latter is Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata “Actus Tragicus.”

Whether they are made of ivory or plywood, are column- or square-shaped, reminiscent of IKEA, 30 centimetres or 2.5 metres long: all varieties can be enchanting. The oldest recorders found so far date back to the 14th century, although it is fair to assume they existed much earlier. The 16th century is considered the golden age of the recorder. Starting in Venice, the instrument spread across Europe and was sold at high prices. Henry VIII is said to have owned 72 recorders and to have played them every day.

In modern times, the recorder is experiencing a renaissance. Since the end of the 20th century, it has again been more widely recognized and used in performances. This is probably mainly due to its association with love and death. That is because that those who are associated with such elementary and tragic themes will never become extinct.


In this section, members of ZHdK present their favourite objects. For other favourite pieces visit:

Andreas Böhlen ( teaches the recorder in the classical music profile at ZHdK’s Department of Music. His special field is improvisation in various historical styles of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Teile diesen Beitrag: