An Imposition against the Public?
Look inside the lid of the stylish vaulted cases provided with their flutes by Rudall & Rose and you'll find an interesting certificate. It reads:
The certificate is signed:
and in later days carries the date. Here's an example of such a certificate, from a Bb flute in the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Well, is it for real? Were there really other makers passing off their flutes as having been made by the illustrious firm of Rudall and Rose? Or was it just clever merchandising - pretend your product is so good that others are imitating it? We think we now have some real live evidence to put before you ....
But before we look at our smoking gun, let's look for corroborating evidence from writers of around that time. From Lindsay's "A Few Practical Hints" (London, 1829), we find that the practice of faking flutes by well-known makers was well documented:
But more than that, Lindsay reveals the practice of foisting badly-made flutes off as the work of others. He precedes the above with:
Other writers around that time have made the same and similar claims But claims are one thing - it would be nice to see a real live example (pauses for drum roll) ....
The Peoples Exhibit No 1
The flute below was turned up in late 2002 in a second-hand store in Vancouver, Canada, by my good friend and research colleague Adrian Duncan. Several weeks later it landed on my doorstep. It's currently "assisting authorities with their enquiries".
Compared to what, m'Lord?
It has to be said that Rudall & Rose have not made it easy for us to spot a fraud. Their output, some 5800 flutes before they became Rudall Rose & Co, is enormously varied in every conceivable feature. We'll be relying on evidence thrown up in our Rudall, Rose or Carte Models Study, but we have to concede that virtually every flute so far investigated is different in at least some way from every other.
Old Fake or Crummy Repair?
The flute in question is in bad shape. Only one key remains on the body section and most blocks are not integral with the body. What is original work and what is more recent? We need to tread cautiously...
How to proceed?
Our approach will be to look at every detail of the flute, comparing it to what we might expect of an authentic Rudall. We'll certainly point to the things that we find anomalous, before trying to determine if the flute is authentic. If you know better about a point we raise, we want to hear from you. We'll work our way down the flute, bringing every matter of interest to your attention.
Starting at the top we meet the cap. Now the cap plays no part in the acoustics of the instrument (apart from being our way to move the stopper). It's essentially a functional item with some decorative properties. It seems to me that, at 11.2mm, this cap is thicker than the usual Rudall cap and employs different decoration (see below).
The stopper shaft protrudes through the cap and acts as an indicator of stopper position. The classic Rudall indicator is a ball, sitting astride a sloping podium. The ball on this indicator is not round, nor is the podium sloping.
Further, the shaft would normally have a flange at the back of the cork, and the threaded section that screws into the cork would be tapered. The cork would normally be about twice this length.
The shaft varies between 12.3 and 11.7mm (suggesting it is hand-chased and so probably from the period), with the section entering the cork about 8.3mm. Rudall's seemed to go more often for a shaft about 11mm.
The thread pitch though is interesting - it appears to be 17 TPI. Not a common pitch.
The top ring
This is probably a poor repair. It is porous on the outside and perforated on the inside. There are none of the common Rudall thread grooves on the wood beneath.
The head, at 133mm, is very short, compared to the average 160mm, and minimum 147mm thrown up in the RRC study. Why waste wood if you're doing a fake? Most of the "missing" wood is from above the embouchure.
The embouchure hole is crudely cut. The hole in the metal liner is substantially bigger than the hole in the wood, and not set well with it.
Normally, on a Rudall, the two rings between head and barrel take the form of rings with a flange on the visible side. This is just a plain ring.
Male slide gap
The gap in the end of the head which accepts the protruding barrel slide is not concentric with either the ring or liner. Uncharacteristically shoddy work.
The head liner is of yellow brass, apparently soft soldered, with the thin plating completely worn away.
It's thin yellow brass, with no sign of the usual decorative sleeve. The leading edge has been compressed to procure air-tightness. The lower end protrudes well into socket, rather than being rolled to prevent withdrawal, to the extent that a 1mm gap remains when the body tenon is pushed home.
This ring is more narrow than the matching adjacent ring on the head, protrudes more and again has no flange.
The barrel on a Rudall flute normally carries the maker's name.
Normally the widest ring; on this flute is of intermediate size. Again, there are no grooves in the underlying wood.
THE Left Hand Section
The Maker's Mark
Very interesting. RUDAI L & ROSE, with the final L in RUDAI L excessively spaced, as if the penultimate letter was also L. The final L also a little twisted.
| ROSE is drooping; LONDON rising.
No Address. No Serial Number.
Normally one rounded bead serves as both hinge block for Bb and guide block for upper c; only the upper half of the c guide block remains. It appears crudely formed.
A massive rectilinear hinge block has been grafted on for Bb. It is crude and misshapen in every dimension, surface and edge. Its slot is wide, wedge-shaped and rough, and extends well below the surface. It is probably a very bad repair.
C Hinge Block
The C Hinge block is integral with the body, but again poorly formed. No striker plate for the spring.
The C Cork Dot
While cork dot silencers are common on Rudalls, the Long C doesn't normally have one. The cork dot on this flute (visible at the right of the image above) is very badly formed.
G# Block and Key
The G# block is also integral with the body, but unusual in that both of its ends are curved, whereas on most flutes of the period the lower end cuts tangentially back to the side of the body. The key (the only body key left) is unusual too in that it is slightly asymmetric, with a cutaway to reduce interference with the third finger. It looks a little apologetic though!
A small chip from the inner edge of the G# seat probably occurred at the time of making. The hinge pin shows drawplate marks and has been cut off quite crudely. The key is cast adequately but the business end of the spring is poorly finished. Again no striker plate.
THE RIGHT HAND SECTION
Of more normal dimensions, but again no grooves in the underlying wood.
A wide split has occurred, extending 50mm or more down the section. This suggests substantial shrinkage of the wood, with the ring left providing no support. There appear to be two other lesser splits to the socket area. Such splitting in unlined sections is rare in flutes made from adequately seasoned timbers.
Something funny about this socket - it's 4mm deeper than the tenon is long. Very sloppy, very uncharacteristic.
The Maker's Mark
A bit obscured by the rough work of the subsequent repairer, but essentially the same as the marks on the upper body and foot. Again definitely "RUDAI L".
The blocks for both Short and Long F have been added to the flute, but when is impossible to establish. Both jobs display the worst possible workmanship. There are traces of a former guide block for Long F.
And signs of a careless cut with a dovetail saw on the Short F...
The Foot, perhaps the hardest part of a flute to do well, is actually in better shape and is more well made than the rest of the instrument. None-the-less, there are still issues to consider:
As above, the socket has a wide split, suggesting shrinking wood, and the socket is a little deeper than the tenon is long. The ring is better fitted however, and there is a thread groove in the wood under it.
The Eb key conforms to the normal Rudall outline, but is mounted without a striker plate for the spring. The slot is reasonably well cut and pin installed well. The key seat is countersunk and cut better than the remaining seats.
The C & C# touch shafts
These are well enough made, but seem a little wide in the touch area for Rudall's. Because the C and C# holes were not set in line, the two shafts do not run quite parallel. Again there are no striker plates for the springs to bear upon.
The Pewter Plugs
These close onto round horizontally- mounted plates, apparently held in place by adhesive. Rudall plates are usually square, mounted at an angle and secured with tiny screws. Closing is not great. Neither is opening. The lower plug does not open far enough.
The final L in RUDAI L excessively spaced and twisted, ROSE drooping. LONDON horizontal.
In addition to the specific matters above, these general matters need explanation:
The timber could be cocus. It appears to have been stained darker, but most of the staining has been removed during later work. The finish is poor with many visible file, chisel and sanding marks, but it is impossible to determine which are original and which are subsequent abuse.
Nickel silver was not so common in the Rudall & Rose period. It probably is explained by Lindsay's comment "mounted with what is called silver". It would seem consistent with a fake.
The liners on the six finger holes are not rings set in as usual but tubes within the holes. The tubes appear to be pewter - the material is certainly softer than silver and more grey. The tubes on holes 1 & 2 are not flush with the surface of the wood. The tube on hole 2 projects into bore, while the tubes on the other holes do not make it to the bore, leaving a rather nasty surprise for air molecules that might have wanted to exit there.
The key seats are domed, rather than funnel-shaped (for purse-pads) or conical (for card-backed pads). The holes not always concentric with seats. It's rough work.
None of the keys have striker plates to take the spring load. This is unusual; indeed flutes in the Rudall & Rose period were commonly fitted with double springs (see Rudall & Rose No 519).
On a regular Rudall, you might expect to find cork dot silencers under the Bb, G# and Short F keys, but certainly not under the upper C, long F or foot keys. On this flute only upper C has a dot, and it very badly formed.
The Name Stamps
Perhaps the most damning evidence. "RUDALL" spelt "RUDAI L". Recall Lindsay's comment: "sometimes either omitting, adding, or altering a single letter in the orthography of the name, so as to evade the operation of the Law, in the event of the fraud being detected".
The same stamp appearing in three places (normally Rudalls have a different stamp on the upper body). No address (why tempt fate by telling the owner where to bring the flute for service!). No serial number (again to avoid embarrassment when Mr. Rudall appears in court with the factory records).
Best Match with a Known Rudall
So is it like any Rudall we've ever seen? With some reservations (particularly in terms of quality), yes. The best match so far is R&R No 5047, No 592 in the Edinburgh University Collection of Musical Instruments. Firstly, an exaggerated image of the bore:
And the size and position of holes:
There are clear differences certainly, but probably relatively insignificant in performance terms. We haven't got as far as testing this flute yet (you've seen the condition it's in!) but I would expect it to perform well if tidied up.
The apprentice theory
So how did this flute come about? One possibility to be considered is that it actually came from the Rudall works - either as a training exercise for an apprentice or from an enterprising workman working through his lunch hour. But the blatantly fraudulent maker's mark blows that theory out of the water.
I think the evidence is overwhelming - this is a fake! What a wonderful thing to find - clear evidence that Rudalls (and presumably other flutes) were being faked and that Lindsay wasn't just making this stuff up.
Despite my confidence, don't be bullied. If you feel you can poke holes in the evidence, or conversely if you can spot stuff I've missed, get in contact.
Thanks to my good friend and colleague, Adrian Duncan, in Vancouver Canada for finding this little number, entrusting it to our deliberations and permitting this publication.