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date: 18 November 2019

Mahillon, Victor-Charleslocked

  • William Waterhouse

Extract

(b Brussels, March 10, 1841; d St Jean-Cap Ferrat, June 17, 1924). Belgian organologist, acoustician and wind instrument maker. He was the son of the maker C.B. Mahillon , with whom he collaborated from 1865. In 1877 he accepted the curatorship of the newly created Musée Instrumental du Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Brussels. Over the next half-century he systematically built up the collection to become the largest and most important of its kind in the world with over 3300 items. These he proceeded to catalogue meticulously, publishing five volumes that set new standards of scholarship for his time. He prefaced the first volume (1880) with an ‘Essai de classification méthodique de tous les instruments anciens et modernes’, the first attempt to formulate a systematic classification of musical instruments. Though this scheme has since been slightly revised, notably by Hornbostel and Sachs in 1914, it remains essentially valid today. For these achievements, he has been hailed as ‘truly the Father of Organology’ (Baines). The author of several authoritative texts on acoustics and practical aspects of wind instruments, his interests also covered many other fields: for the authentic performance of early music he built pioneering prototypes of oboe d’amore, basset-horn and high trumpet. He reproduced rare models of historic woodwind instruments (many obsolete) for his own and for other collections. He took out various patents (some in collaboration with other family members) for improvements to woodwinds and brass and also officiated at a number of international trade exhibitions. In ...

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