Voices from the 18th Century: Uffenbach Pays a Visit to Jacques-Martin Hotteterre



Jacques-Martin Hotteterre (le Romain) was the most prominent member of the French Hotteterre family, whose dynasty produced woodwind instrument makers, instrumentalists, and composers. He was especially known for his transverse flute and musette (bagpipe) playing, both of which he composed pieces and wrote instruction manuals.

On October 25, 1715, Jacques-Martin received a German visitor, J.F.A Uffenbach, at his home in Paris where he was obliged to demonstrate the two instruments he was known for. Uffenbach was very much enamored of the musette, in particular, until he found out the asking price.

“…I went to Mr. [Hotteterre’s], flute du roy, who received me in his quarters on the rue dauphine very politely though somewhat pompously and superciliously. He led me into a tidy room and showed me there many beautiful transverse flutes that he himself makes and from which he wishes to gain special profit. After that he brought forth his musical works, five of which he has published with considerable applause, and of which I bought one on the instruction of the transverse flute for two livre. After that he showed me another curious instrument improved by him, a musette or sort of bagpipe, which can be tuned in all keys and is very pleasing as well as very fashionable here now. It was…very costly, covered with velvet and trimmed with wide golden borders and fringes, and also provided with great many pipes…and with many silver keys, that make semitones. With another musician who accompanied on the harpsichord, he played a sonata incomparably well and in a completely pleasing manner, with such carefully studied agrements, that I could not hear and admire him enough. I immediately took a fancy to have such a bagpipe, but this disappeared soon when he told me the exact price, namely 10 pistolen. At the same time, however, he also informed me, that he made others without decoration for 5 pistolen. He gives his lessons mostly at home, and charges one pistol an hour, which he spoke as a trifle. I declined such distinguished instruction and at the same time thanked him for the courtesy he showed me.” (translation: Jane M. Bowers)

(“Gaspard de Gueidan playing the musette” by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1738, Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, France.)

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