Oldest orchestral flute still in play?

Christina Smith, principal flute of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and stand-in for the Chicago SO in its personnel predicament, believes she plays one of the oldest and heaviest flutes heard in any orchestra. It’s a 1938 platinum by Verne Q. Powell, apparently the first he made, and it was used by her Atlanta predecessor for more than half a century before she bought it.

Most principals these days, says Christina, play silver or gold. But platinum, she finds, ‘has more body to it.’

Read a fascinating interview here.

christina smith

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  • Please would you consider not posting stories where one clicks on the link and it says that one has to become a subscriber to continue reading? Not all of us can afford to or are interested in doing that even if it might be for trial periods of a few weeks or for a few articles.

    • I tried that but probably didn’t understand properly what you meant by “opening the link on a desktop” – can you explain that more specifically? Thanks.

  • Speaking without any real authority, it’s fair to say that in the UK there are a number of prominent orchestral players playing on flutes older than this. I’d imagine a pre-1938 American flute is exceptionally rare (in orchestras) but there is a fascination with old French flutes dating from the mid to late 1800s (Louis Lot, Bonneville etc). Admittedly, the vast majority will have been modernised to some extent (retuning and/or new mechanism) but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was also the case with Ms Smith’s flute (although it is quite possible it’s ‘as new’).

    I’m told these old French flutes are mainly popular in the UK – but I’m sure someone more knowledgeable than I can correct/expand upon that.

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