Nonon Flûte Perfectionée

Instrument: Flûte Perfectionée - B-foot with special features

Maker: Nonon, Jacques, Paris (1802-1867) Nonon was in business with Tulou starting in 1831. In 1853 he established his own shop and continued to make the Flûte Perfectionée as he did together with Tulou (1786-1865). 

Pitch: A=446 (plays quite easily at A=440)

Sounding Length: 623mm

Total Length: 675mm

Embouchure size: fairly small

Restorer: Gary Lewis

Discussion of the Tulou F# and the F natural fingerings: Nonon special fingerings <- click here

Pre-restoration and restoration photos: Nonon Flûte Perfectionée restoration <- click here

Notes: The Flûte Perfectionée was developed in large part to compete with the newly introducted conical Boehm flute and eventually the Boehm cylindrical flute. Many technical elements are similar to the Boehm flute, rods and axels, needle springs, and a slightly more “modern” embouchure. Additional trills not commonly found on French flutes are included and a thumb key used for both C and B-flat. These flutes are normally C flutes but this example has a B-foot with a special link so that it is played by LH4. 

This flute has a Tulou F# but played with a special mechanism using the RH ring keys. It allows the vented Tulou F# to be played using the regular F# fingering (minus D# key), rather than the extra key usually employed An additional feature is that playing the F# with a default (123-4 key- 7) gives the normal, slightly low F# and taking off the finger for the D# gives that “Tulou” raised pitch F#. It is clear from this that Nonon/Tulou expected the higher F# to only in special places, where the lower one would be used most of the time. This is the only example I know of this design on a Nonon flute. Other makers, such as Lefevre used this arrangement and it is thought to have been passed to the flute from the clarinet. 

As you can see in the restoration photos this flute has a very special crew cork mechanism with a silver faceplate. It is thought that Louis Lot started using a similar design around #900. This design of lip plate can be seen on other example of the Nonon flute.

The Flûte Perfectionée of Tulou and Nonon must have been the most expensive non-Boehm flute other than Laurent’s crystal flutes. Having played a number of these flutes, I can testify that they exceptional flutes. There is clearly more going on than just the fancy key mechanism. They have a big, sweet, open sound and respond wonderfully to expressive playing. Interestingly, this type of mechanism was adopted by quite a few other manufacturers in models with just a few keys, to ones much like Tulou’s design. From the flutes I have played however, they are just putting a version of the keywork on a regular simple system flute without whatever magic Tulou and Nonon created in their flutes.

The original case for this flute has the name Sam Kennedy and the date 1864. This is almost certainly the date of manufacture of this instrument.  This is an extremely rare and late version of the Flûte Perfectionée. I would be interested to hear if anyone knows of another example of Flûte Perfectionée with the ring key Tulou F#.

The flute plays wonderfully. It is very slightly less good in the first octave from G down. I think this is a common problem with French flutes with a long foot. I tried sticking a random D foot on it and it works perfectly except that it eliminates some of the special features. Plays well down to low B and very easily to 3rd octave A. Tuning is excellent.

Description of the special RH mechanism. The main purpose of the ring-key mechanism is to open the special Tulou F# hole just above the E - this brings the usually low F# up to just slightly above equal tempered F#. In order the get this note one needs to leave off the little finger. The little finger overrides the Tulou F#. This was confusing to me at first but now I realize that the default fingering for F# is still supposed to be the normal 19thC fingering 123-4K-K. The higher pitch F# is a special note - not the default note, so you pickup the little finger to play it. Another fantastic result of this mechanism is that Fnat can be fingered 123-4-6 (no key) - the Tulou F# being closed allows this to be strong and perfectly in tune. 

This flute also features the special thumb key arrangement often used on the Perfectionée. Rather than just the b-flat, we have a C key of the left and B-flat key on the right. Between them is the hole for the RH C-nat. The thumb C works quite well and improves the C# is the finger is left down. If one is used to resting the LH thumb on the flute it requires it being a high up-tube. I would guess that Tulou/Nonon assumed the thumb would be floating. That is really necessary for good use of the thumb keys anyway.

Wood: I’m not certain what this wood is. Gary Lewis, who did the masterful restoration, and I, have discussed this and are both uncertain. It has a very slight hint of red in it under strong light. It doesn’t seem like the normal Blackwoods. It has a sort of oily feel (not from being oiled.) The color of the wood inside the cap is identical to the flute body so it isn’t just darkened from exposure to light, smoke, etc. It feels fairly heavy as well.

Demonstration recordings: coming soon

unpacking video: (just for fun)

Nonon restored 5

Nonon restored

foot keys showing the brill attachment for the low B and the brill attached to the D# key to cancel the “Tulou F#"

Nonon restored 3
Nonon restored 4

right hand ring keys which control the opening and closing of the “Tulou F#” - see Notes above

Nonon restored 6
Nonon restored 7

Keys for L4 - G#, long F, low B

Nonon restored 9
Nonon restored 10

quite a small embouchure - slightly smaller and rounder than I remember from other Flûte Perfectionée

Nonon restored 12

Thumb keys - left=C, right=b-flat

Nonon restored  copy4

Original case marked Sam Kennedy, 1864

Nonon restored 8

original swab - interesting that it has a small and large end allowing the easy swabbing of the entire flute

Nonon restored 14

very special cork mechanism 

IMG 6017

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