Reichstein, Friedrich August
- Laurence Libin
(b Gnadenfeld, Germany, 1794; d Gnadenfrei, Germany, April 23, 1869). German instrument inventor. He was a member of the Moravian church, served in the Prussian army from 1813 to 1816, and worked as a judicial secretary. Exceptionally skilled at the lathe and musically gifted, he experimented with novel forms of instruments. He built an organized piano, the organ part of which used free reeds; it was played several times in church services when the main organ was being repaired. More interestingly, he invented the Neu-tschiang or Neu-tschang (‘new sheng’), a mouthblown polyphonic free-reed instrument named for the Chinese sheng, known in Europe since the 17th century. Descriptions of Reichstein’s invention are inconsistent: by one account, it had a five-octave range and was hard to blow; the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (vol.31, 29 July 1829) described it as a metal cylinder measuring about 30 by 10 cm, fitted with a blowpipe and 16 keys, and enclosing two rows of reeds encompassing three diatonic octaves; an earlier version reportedly had a wooden cylinder held like a recorder, enclosing a metal plate with six reeds sounding a D-major chord. According to Reichstein himself, it had a quiet and pleasing tone, was small enough to be held in one hand, and was intended as a solo instrument for home entertainment; it seems to have resembled the Psallmelodikon, patented in ...