In the Edinburgh University Collection, we find a most interesting Pask flute - a Ribas's Improved.
It's marked: (unicorn head) / PASK / 8 LOWTHER ARCADE / STRAND / LONDON. /
PATENT / RIBAS'S / IMPROVED. Like the others we've seen so far, it seems to fit
into the 1842-47 period.
It too is a 9-key, but not the same 9 keys we met earlier. The extra key this
time is a D trill, operated by R1. Note that pressing the D trill
appears to open the C key, for extra venting. Note also the Bb is no
longer the typical English down-the-side key, but has been put more
"in-line" with the thumb. The G# key and its mountings are
missing from this flute, but it's hole can be seen just to the right of
the third finger hole. It presumably followed the German angled
This flute is longer than the others, at 655mm. Of course, this is
not a useful measurement, as it includes parts of the instrument not
involved in its acoustical operation.
Ribas's Improved, by John Pask.
Edinburgh University Collection of Musical Instruments.
Image T. McGee, 2002.
Apart from the slightly unusual keying
arrangements, the most significant improvement was a bigger bore than
those commonly in use. Note the apparent lack of a serial number.
Who was Ribas?
To find out about José Maria del Carmen Ribas and his Improved flute,
we go to the biographies section of Rockstro's A TREATISE ON THE FLUTE,
published in London in 1890...
919. RIBAS (JOSÉ MARIA DEL CARMEN) was born on July I6th,
1796, at Burgos, a town of Old Castile. He was the son of a
band-master in a Spanish infantry regiment, and under his father's tuition
he learned at a very early age to play the flute, the hautboy and the
clarionet. He served for some years as a clarionet-player in the band of
the regiment, and during the Peninsular war, having been taken prisoner by
the French, he was conveyed to the island of Fünen, whence he was rescued
by the British. He afterwards served under Wellington, and was present at
the battle of Toulouse. On the termination of the war, Ribas left the army
and settled in Oporto, where his father then resided. At that time he
began to study under Parado, a Portuguese flute-player of great merit, and
he soon became celebrated both in Spain and Portugal, as a performer on
the flute and the clarionet. He was at one time first flutist at the Opera
in Lisbon, and besides many other important positions that he occupied
while a young man, he was first clarionetist in the orchestra of the
Philharmonic Society of Oporto, the members of which presented him with a
Towards the close of 1825, or at
the beginning of the following year, he incurred the displeasure of
certain priests of Oporto, who posted his name, as that of a recalcitrant,
on the church doors. Not choosing to submit to this indignity, he left the
country and came to England. In a Sketch of the state of Music in
London, published in The Quarterly Musical Magazine of 1926,
appears the following notice: " Mr. Ribas, of Lisbon, was introduced,
and took the station of first clarionet during the season. "As a
matter of fact, he never was the leading clarionet-player in London, but
he soon gained a good position as a performer on that instrument, as well
as on the flute, and he as one of the very few who ever played solos in
public on the flute and the clarionet during the same evening. In 1835 he
was engaged as " second flute " at the King's Theatre, then
under the management of Laporte.
On the death of Charles
Nicholson, in 1837, Ribas was appointed principal. Not long after this he
became the leading orchestral flute-player in London, and that position he
retained until 1851, when, after an extremely successful " farewell
concert," on August 7th in that year, he finally left England.
His intention, on quitting this
country, was never to allow himself to be heard again in public, wishing,
as he said, to retire before the slightest falling off should be
perceptible in his performance. He did not, however, immediately carry out
that intention, for he made a tour through Spain and Portugal, giving
concerts in some of the principal towns, as he had been accustomed to do
at intervals during his twenty-five years residence in London. It should
be mentioned that during one of these visits, Queen Isabella of Spain
presented to him a diamond brooch. In 1853 he once more settled in Oporto
and occupied his time in giving lessons on the flute and the concertina.
If Ribas was less celebrated as a
soloist than as an orchestral player, it was not owing to any deficiency
of talent manifested by him in the former capacity, but because his
orchestral playing was so superlatively fine that it eclipsed his
performance as a solo player. In his time the work of the principal
instrumentalists in the opera orchestra was much more arduous than at
present, for that was the epoch when the ballet was in its zenith, and the
charming dancers Taglioni, Cerito, Carlotta Grisi, and Duvemay, were as
highly esteemed as the illustrious singers Giulia Grisi, Persiani, Rubini
and Lablache. The ballet music of those days abounded in long and
important solos for the principal instruments, and artistic interpretation
was as necessary for the music to the elegant pas seul as for the
delicate obbligato accompaniment to the voice. It need hardly be
said that Ribas, finished musician as he was, never failed to make the
most of his opportunities. I have often heard him at Her Majesty's
Theatre, playing the most difficult passages with consummate ease, and
with such a clear, full tone that not a note was lost. In the matter of
fullness and power of tone throughout the compass of his instrument, Ribas
was perhaps unequalled. He was one of the first in England, to play the
celebrated staccato solo in the Scherzo of Mendelssohn's
"Midsummer's Night's Dream " music. The composer, who conducted,
was so pleased with the performance of Ribas that he asked him to play the
passage three times, at the rehearsal, saying that he had no idea it could
be made so effective.
"Ribas's Improved Flute"
Ribas played the old-fashioned
large-holed flute, not because he failed to recognise the advantages of
the new system, but because he saw plainly that he was too old, as well as
too busy, to be able to change his fingering with any prospect of success.
He made several modifications in his instrument, with a view to improving
its intonation and its power of tone. For the sake of the latter he
greatly enlarged the upper part of the bore; he also added to the
thickness of the wood, thus enabling the tone to be increased in power
with less risk of the loss of its full character.
Throughout his long and
successful career, Ribas was highly respected, as well as admired, by all
who knew him; he had, indeed, a most happy talent for making friends. He
died at Oporto in July, 1861.
I am much indebted to the
kindness of Madame Ribas (née Scott) and of my friend Mr. James
Ramsay Dow, for most of the foregoing particulars. It is not a little
surprising that the name of Jose Maria Ribas is not so much as mentioned
in any Dictionary of Musicians, and I am, on that account, especially
pleased to have an opportunity of paying a tribute to the memory of this
worthy gentleman and excellent artist.
920. The principal published
compositions of Ribas are as follows:
A Duet for Flute and hautboy,
with Pianoforte accompaniment.
FOR FLUTE WITH PIANOFORTE:
Adagio and Polonaise; Fantasia on "God save the King; Idem
on the Spanish Air " El Sereni "; Idem on "The Swiss
Boy"; Idem on " Mary of Castle Cary"; Idem on
"La Cachucha"; Idem on the "Alpesanger´s Marsch";
Three grand Duets; Eighteen original Duets; Forty-eight Duets;
FOR VOICE, FLUTE AND
Cavatina di concerto.
FOR FLUTE SOLO:
Studio di Modulazione; Capriccio on six National airs.
Ribas also composed a Concerto
for flute and Orchestra, which has not been published, and two other Fantasias
for flute with pianoforte.