Recorder Mythbusters: Stanesby Junior Copies and Grenadilla Instruments, Part 3

In my previous post and second part of this four-part post series regarding purchasing my Von Huene Stanesby Junior alto recorder in grenadilla, I left off at the point in my story when I felt extremely torn between the two instruments, strangely drawn to the “taboo” Stanesby in grenadilla — the very instrument I had convinced myself all along that I did not want. Its tone, response, and overall playability had left me totally wowed despite the minor initial setbacks I had found with it. I reasoned that, like any finer instrument and any case of an instrument’s uniqueness facilitating adjustment on the part of the player, I would eventually learn to play the instrument with ease and that doing so would challenge me and take my technique to a higher level. Nonetheless, I reasoned that, since this is an investment for life and I am still a neophyte student, I would need the aid of an expert to make a sound final verdict. Hence, I called up my teacher and scheduled an appointment to try out the two instruments with his help. Hearing my confusion on the other end of my line, my teacher gently reassured me as always and told me, “We’ll take as much time as you need to make this decision.” Relieved, I thanked him before hanging up the phone and recording the date and time in my calendar.

For the next few days with the instruments prior to my appointment with my teacher, I spent time daily trying the instruments. The next day after the first, the results were indeed the same: I was again torn between the two instruments, vaciliating between the two instruments yet gravitating heavily towards the Stanesby. One minute I felt I liked the Denner, the next minute I pushed it to the side when its inconsistency became obvious enough to me. In an attempt to further my objectivity, I began switching between the two instruments and playing for short snippets of time to compare and contrast. After a while, however, my ears and mind became very fatigued to the point of frustration, and I decided that I would put the instruments aside until the next day. Finally, on day three of trials and more extended playing time on each as opposed to the snippet strategy, I experienced a huge breakthrough. I found myself deciding that the Stanesby was far superior, totally smitten with its tone and finding myself slowly adjusting to its technical demands as I had predicted I would. I found myself no longer desiring to touch the Denner, and the next day, the Denner totally sat in my Mollenhauer’s original soft case, which I was using for safe storage in the absence of any case for the Denner.

For the next few days, I began to use the Stanesby in my routine practice, not going beyond the twenty minutes that Patrick had mandated. However, I was no longer playing it merely to try it out, hopping from sonata excerpt to sonata excerpt with scales and long tones in between. Rather, I was practicing my actual repertoire, etudes, etc. on it as if it was my Mollenhauer. I even dared to begin learning a new Telemann fantasia upon it not only as a means of getting used to hearing in 415 pitch, but also unknowingly as a means of accustoming myself to it and its individual character. The more I played, the more I learned exactly how to play it and how it wanted to be played. Gradually, support and articulation issues with the instrument faded, and I began to feel I could express myself more than ever — just as my European correspondents had told me about such an instrument. Indeed, their insistence that I truly needed a handmade 415 alto to further progress as a player and in general was far from far-fetched …

As I slowly learned the new Telemann, I felt myself bonding with the Stanesby. This was no longer a strange instrument in my hands; it was becoming my instrument. I mentally began to consider it as such and treating it like my instrument, placing it on the dresser in my room as I did with my Mollenhaur and turning to it first thing whenever it was time to practice. Meanwhile, the Denner literally sat for two whole days before my appointment, and while I yearned to take the consignment label off the Stanesby, I kept reminding myself that I still needed to “play it safe” and check with my teacher before making the final verdict. Still, my heart continued to nag me to take that consignment label off; I even expressed my “gut feeling” to my mother and several friends, online correspondents — most of whom agreed that I had found my instrument but needed to wait for my teacher’s expert advice. So, with that in mind, I kept practicing with the Stanesby yet patiently waiting for the day to arrive …

To be continued ….

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