You might have early classroom memories of playing the recorder, perhaps Three Blind Mice or Mary Had a Little Lamb but Tabea Debus travels the world giving recitals as a solo recorder player.

Top facts: 

  1. Recorders come in a number of sizes. The four most commonly played today – a descant, treble, tenor, and bass.

  2. The earliest known version of a recorder is a 14th-century instrumen t found in Göttingen, Germany. It is 256 mm in length and made from a single piece of plumwood. The design is conducive to players who are left- or right-handed due to the presence of widely-spaced double holes for the bottom finger.

  3. During the 16th century, recorders became a staple instrument of professional wind players and were possessions of many upper-class households and palaces in Europe. Some members of the upper class even tried their own hand at the recorder. It then became a popular amateur instrument among the middle class as well.

  4. During the 17th century, or early Baroque period, recorders were constructed in three parts, called joints: the head, middle, and foot. The middle section had 7 finger-holes while the foot had only one.

  5. After 1750, the popularity of the recorder declined and it was not often found in the musical repertoire. However, the turn of the 20th century brought a revival of the instrument in a variety of different musical styles ranging from avant-garde and theatrical to minimalist and microtonal.

“The recorder is a very natural instrument, that’s what I love most about it: it directly translates what you do into sound, colour and musical speech, almost like singing - but at the same time it’s a lot more versatile (and also harder) than people think at first glance… Plus, having a large (and growing) collection of different recorders at home is kind of cool!”

Here is a clip of Tabea bringing this 14th-century instrument to life at the Wigmore Hall...
Information for this post was sourced from the “Recorder” entry by David Lasocki in Grove Music Online.