Played in primary schools across the country, the recorder actually has a rich history spanning many centuries. It was very popular in the Renaissance and was made in a family of different sizes, with as many as nine different sizes being known. The recorder doesn’t have a like the clarinet, oboe or bassoon, or an open hole like the flute. Instead, it works by the player blowing in to the open end of the mouthpiece and when the air hits the sharp wedge, called the labium, a little way down the instrument, the air vibrates and sound is produced.

The recorder (3921) you can see here is made of ivory, but they were also often made of wood. This recorder was probably made sometime between 1520 and 1610 by a member of the Bassano family, who were very famous instrument makers who lived in Venice and London. The Bassano family were also musicians at the court of Henry VIII, who was a keen music supporter and played and wrote music himself.

The recorder was played as a consort and solo instrument in the Renaissance period, and became a prominent solo and ensemble instrument during the Baroque period. Edwina Smith plays and discusses a Baroque recorder made by Van Heerde c. 1720.

Video: Edwina Smith discusses the treble recorder in F by Van Heerde, c. 1720 (257)