These photos show an instrument that I bought in the early 90s and sold again in August 2008.
For the whole time I had it, it was missing a number of keys, which needed to be made up, but
otherwise it was in very good condition. I left it for restoration with a repairer who
“never got round to it”, and in the meantime I bought two other Savary instruments,
so I lost interest in restoring it.
Jean-Nicolas Savary jeune (the younger) built bassoons in Paris from 1823 until 1850.
His instruments had a reputation unsurpassed by any other woodwind instrument maker. His
instruments have been likened to the violins of Stradivari. To quote Lyndesay Langwill,
“The Bassoon and Contrabassoon” (London, 1965):
His bassoons were very popular in England, where they were highly esteemed by many of the
principal payers. Indeed, Savary bassoons were passed down from one generation to the next
and some were still in use and very reluctantly discarded when orchestral sharp pitch began
to be lowered in 1935.
This quote appears to base on a similar text in Anthony Baines' “Woodwind instruments
and their history”.
Langwill also states that his instruments bear dates from 1824 to 1842 (on the back of the
butt). This is incorrect, though maybe at the time of printing no other ones were known. I have
an instrument dated 1847, and I have seen instruments dated as late as 1850.
To my knowledge, only about 100 Savary instruments have survived, so it should be well
worth-while restoring this one.
Here's a more detailed description:
Tenor joint: 2 thumb keys (a and c). c is missing. Once had a crook key (whisper key), which
operated on the top of the joint, not the crook (bocal), also missing. Front had 4 keys, (Eb,
C#, 2 trill keys), all missing. The mounts for the keys are still present, with the exception
of the first trill key and the Eb key.
Butt: 4 keys, all present (Bb, F, Ab, F#). This joint is in near-perfect condition
Bass joint: 5 keys (D, Eb, C#, B, Bb), covered C. C# and Bb are missing.
Bell: Remainder of the Bb key missing.
No crook (bocal).
With the exception of the low C# key and the crook (whisper) key, all the holes with missing
keys are blocked up, but could be easily unblocked. As a result, the instrument is
Wood in excellent condition, no cracks. The top of the bass joint is slightly chipped out,
but there's no crack.
I've taken photos of this instrument over a considerable period of time. The ones that follow
immediately were taken in about 1998, and they're the only ones showing the instrument as a
whole. You can get progressively larger versions of the photos by clicking on the photo.
The photo above shows the blocked-off holes for the C# and Eb keys and the remains of a
mount for the lower trill key. I'm not sure what the wood inlay to the right shows. The yellow
colour in the third finger hole is wax, presumably for tuning.