countertenor – cornetti


The cornett of the 16th and 17th century was neither made of brass nor filled with ice cream; it was rather a wooden horn, with a conical bore, and seven large finger-holes of equal size and spacing. The cornett was first used for the doubling of voices in polyphony, and later developed a virtuosic solo repertoire of its own. A good cornett reproduction should respond well in all registers and offer flexibility and fullness in every note of it’s 2&1/2 octave range. The instruments presented here are inspired by historical models found in collections throughout the world.

Cornett players are faced with varied needs and so I make a wide range of cornetts to suit them and all their crazy mouthpieces. Also there is a diversity evident in museum collections throughout the world which is currently not represented on the concert stage. While I take great care in finishing all my instruments to a certain standard of quality, each will offer something new and spark the imagination in its own unique way.

Lastly, a beautiful instrument is beautiful in all aspects. Great care is given to leather work, durability, and regularity of form, because a cornett should not look crude if its modern usage is to resemble the refined traditions with which it was once associated.


some encouragement for the beginner

Strong lips and nimble fingers, like any fine muscles, require dedicated and regular maintenance. The grip will seem awkward at first, but in a short time the hands adapt. To a trumpeter, the embouchure will already feel somewhat familiar; for a recorder player, the fingerings give you a head-start. Approach the cornett however as a totally new instrument, for it is indeed neither woodwind nor brass, but a hybrid. Eventually it will be possible to feel totally at ease with this surprisingly expressive stick of wood.

It is for good reason that the cornett is so often likened to the human voice; its range of timbre and articulation allow an eloquent player to color and shade a phrase of music almost as if text were present. Countless treatises advise the instrumentalist to “imitate the singer”. Let text and rhetoric guide your imagination; a cornett can assume all the brilliance and strength of the solo castrato, or the subtlety and blend of the chamber chorister.

some thoughts about the craft

To produce the exact same instrument over and over again is technically admirable but not very interesting, and implies that there is one perfect, all-purpose cornett… which there is not. To copy only the shape of a museum instrument, like a sculptor (or fundamentalist), subjugates sound to form… which is not advisable. Both approaches represent a dead-end in our understanding of this unique and varied instrument. My work is authentic in a way that maintains the adaptability of the original craft, to ensure that instruments compliment the spectrum of 16th and 17th century repertoire.