Date of Completion
Richard Bass, Eric Rice, Peter Kaminsky
Field of Study
Master of Arts
The Woodwind Manufacture of Guillaume and Frédéric Triebert:
A Re-Evaluation of Their Dating and Methods
Guillaume Triebert (1770-1848) and his son Frédéric (1813–1878) were the dominant oboe and bassoon makers of nineteenth-century France. Guillaume established his atelier in 1810, as the two-keyed classical oboe was losing favor. Although making all sorts of woodwinds, he concentrated on double reeds. Guillaume’s oboes, cors anglais and barytons achieved renown, winning eight medals in trade exhibitions between 1827 and 1867.
Guillaume’s oldest son Charles was a prominent oboist but did not make oboes. Frédéric played oboe at the Opèra-Comique and replaced his father in the instrument-making firm by 1842. Guillaume patented the first mechanized oboe, “Systeme 3,” in 1840. Borrowing ideas from Theobald Boehm and Auguste Buffet, the family then undertook an astonishing series of mechanical and acoustical improvements, which resulted by 1870 in oboes that were little different from those made today. Frédéric worked with the bassoonist Eugene Jancourt to improve the French bassoon. The importance of the Trieberts in the development of French double reeds cannot be overstated.
Upon Frédéric’s 1878 death, the firm struggled into bankruptcy. Gautrot bought the firm’s assets and mark in 1881, closed the Triebert atelier and manufactured double-reed instruments in their own premises under Triebert’s name until 1885, when Couesnon assumed Gautrot’s business. Couesnon used the Triebert mark on their first-quality woodwinds (including clarinets, saxophones and sarrusophones) until at least 1955.
As the name “Triebert” was used for over 145 years, an important question when studying their instruments is the date of manufacture. Philip Young’s dating scheme is commonly used in assessing specimens. However, my 2011 study analyzing Frédéric Triebert’s 1862 price list (Robert Howe, “Nineteenth-Century French Oboe Making Revealed: a Translation and Analysis of the Triebert et Cie ‘1855’ Nouveau Prix-Courante.” Galpin Society Journal 64) demonstrated that this scheme has fatal errors.
Having studied the manufacture of Triebert woodwinds since 2000, I have found that macro-photographic analyses of their trademarks establishes a more accurate dating. This is supported by micro-computerized tomography of certain specimens, a technique that I and collaborators introduced to woodwind scholarship in the fall of 2014 (Robert Howe et al., “Digital Evaluation and Replication of Period Wind Instruments: The Role of Micro-computed Tomogrophy and Additive Manufacturing.” Early Music 42:4).
This thesis reviews the history of the Triebert company, describes the earlier dating methods, reviews the data I have obtained, and compares these data to conclusions derived from microCT evaluation of Triebert cors anglais. I propose here a new, more accurate dating scheme for Triebert instruments and show how this improves our understanding of the development of the modern oboe. I describe a model of modern oboe developed by Couesnon in the early twentieth century, showing that progress in oboe development did not end with Frédéric’s death. This study also includes a reasonable dating scheme for clarinets, saxophones, sarrusophones and brass instruments made by Gautrot and Couesnon using the Triebert name.
Howe, Robert S. MD, "The Woodwind Manufacture of Guillaume and Frédéric Triebert: A Re-Evaluation of Their Dating and Methods" (2017). Master's Theses. 1041.