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date: 29 September 2020

Savary, Jean Nicolaslocked

  • William Waterhouse


(b Guise, Aisne, Sept 1786; d Paris, Feb 9, 1853). French bassoon maker and bassoonist. His father was the Paris woodwind maker known as a Savary père (flc1798–c1827) comparatively, few of whose instruments survive. About an elder brother Savary fils aîné listed 1819 to 1837 variously as woodwind and string instrument/maker, nothing else is known. Jean Nicolas first trained as bassoonist under Delcambre at the Paris Conservatoire, winning a premier prix in 1808 and later becoming principal at the Théâtre des Italiens. He probably started making bassoons in 1816/17, in association with his father; by 1823 he had his own workshop, styling himself Savary jeune, and listed as ‘fournisseur de la maison du Roi, de l’Académie et de l’école royale’ and inventor of a model à coulisse mécanique and culasse à bascule. An instrument of this type, dated 1823, with five machine-operated tuning-slides fitted to the three lower joints and to the butt-knee, is at the Shrine to Music Museum, Vermillion, south Dakota. He fitted many of his instruments with a pioneering form of automatic crook-key mechanism and made early use of the key roller. His background as an excellent performer was undoubtedly of great practical value and helped him subsequently to become the most celebrated maker of his time both in France and England. His instruments, which he habitually dated, were unequalled for the sweetness and singing quality of their tone and remained in use and sought after by professionals, especially in London, for almost a century; Day called him ‘the Stradivari of the bassoon’. Of his prolific output, 51 bassoons, eight tenor bassoons and one octave bassoon are listed by Young as surviving today. He did not participate in any of the Paris exhibitions. He had no workshop successor, his stock being sold after his death....

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P.T. Young: 4900 Historical Woodwind Instruments (London, 1993) [enlarged 2nd edn of Twenty Five Hundred Historical Woodwind Instruments (New York, 1982)]
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
W. Waterhouse: The New Langwill Index: a Dictionary of Musical Wind-Instrument Makers and Inventors