The Bandoneon History

Primitive Free Reed Instruments

The earliest reed instrument was probably a mouth organ in Chingmian and somewhat later in the third millennium B.C. in China a sheng or tchiang, a mouth blown calabash with connected reed pipes.

In Europe the first reed sounding device is known from 1619, (Michael Preatorius, Syntagma Musicum II, De Organographia) But the invention, perhaps inspired by a Sheng, was forgotten. The sheng itself was introduced by Johann Wilde in the 1740's into the Russian Court Society of St. Petersburg. Benjamin Franklin invented in 1762 the glass-harmonica and which was played even in the 19th century and for which original compositions were made by Mozart and Beethoven. Inspired by Wilde, the Danish physicist Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein used the principle of the sheng to invent a speaking machine, able to pronounce five vowels and which was published in 1770. The first harmonica with a hand driven bellow and an organ like keyboard was build by Kirsnik, Kratzenstein's assistant. The new invention led to Vogler's Orchestrion, an organ like instrument with four keyboards and 63 notes each, and which was finished by the Swedish master Rakwitz in 1790.

In 1810 the German Bernhard Eschenbach was the first to invent a name for a musical instrument Aeoline, combining the name of Greek wind God Aeolos with the German term violine. Newer versions were called Aelodion, Aeolodikon, Elodikon, Aeol-harmonika, Clav-aeoline or Aeola. In contrast to the use at that times, Eschenbach gave away his ideas and knowledge, so that many experimenters like Voit of Schweinfurt and J. D. Buschmann in 1812, Anton Häckl (Vienna), F. Sturm and Schortmann took advantage of this. Therefore many claim to be the inventor of the Aeoline.

In 1821 Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann (June 17th, 1805 - October 1st, 1864) of Berlin invented a diatonic single action mouth organ with 15 metal reeds which he called Aura or Mundaeoline. One year later he added a bellow and constructed the first portable bellow driven free reed instrument which he called Handharmonika or Handaeoline and which he used as an aid for tuning organs. This single action instrument consisted of a reed plate mounted on an wooden base with valves connected to a bellow in a way to produce sounds by the pressure of the own instrument weight. Anton Häckl used in 1821 the term Physharmonika to describe his harmonium-like instrument, a term which is still used today in Italy.

G. A. Reinlein, also Vienna, used the term Aeol-harmonika in 1825 and 1827 and in 1828 the first printed tunes appeared for Mundharmonika (today's harmonica). This name was previously used for the Maultrommel, a single reed instrument using the mouth as a resonant. After the privilege to build harmonikas of the Chinese type was given to Anton and Rudolph Reinlein in 1824, the other inventors were forced to find names for their products. The term Harmonika was then valid to describe a reed instrument with bellow, specially after the Wiener Privilegienverzeichnis (sort of patent) of 1830 thus displacing the term physharmonika. But the common term was Chineser, black lackered square boxes with Chinese ornaments, exported from Vienna through Gera to Leipzig.

Cyrill Demian & Sons (1772 - 1847) from Vienna registered in 1829 a description and drawings of an Aeoline, and which name was manually corrected by someone else to Accordion.

Birth of the Concertina

The novelty of the accordion consisted in playing a predefined harmony (chords) with one single button on opening the bellow and a second one on closing. After the privilege for building accordions ended in 1834, the name and the instrument became very well known and the great commercial interest for the new instrument among other builders was based on the ease of its use, specially for the accompaniment of dance music. This made the accordion very attractive, particularly for non musicians. But the fact that the harmonies were fixed was criticized by some people. Several constructors introduced switches to shut off single tones from the chords, others, like C. F. Uhlig placed the button for single notes in a way they could be combined easily single notes in groups that way to combine easily to chords. It was new to abandon the usual systematic button distribution of keyboard instruments. Uhlig called his instrument Concertina But since the new concept allowed to play chords even with double action buttons, it was still considered an accordion and by people like Höselbarth, Zimmermann, C. F. or Band, Heinrich, and also in other countries. continued considering it an accordion.

A melody instrument presented in Paris by Leclerc was called mélophone, but often confused with a concertina despite of its guitar shape. A special valve control allowed action of the same voice on opening and closing and had an invisible bellow.

It was perhaps Debain, A. in Paris to use in 1839 the term concertina for the first time, before he sold his rights to Alexandre. J for the construction of concertinas or piano-concertinas. Blagrove, R. used an instrument of Sir Wheatstone, Charles (1802 - 1872) to publish in 1839 a Verdi melange “...for the Concertina with an accompaniment for the piano forte”.

During his first concert tour in 1940 - 41, Regondi presented his Wheatstone instrument, which he had bought in 1837 as a mélophone but during his second tour in 1846 he calls it concertina which was common at that moment.

H. Berlioz distinguishes in 1844 between “le Concertina Anglais” and “le Concertina Allemand” but dedicates a detailed description only to the first since the keyboard of the German instruments depended upon the caprice of the builder.

So we don't know exactly when this name was introduced and bacame current.

Creation of The Bandoneon

A Matter of Names

In many countries the terms accordion and concertina were used synonymous.

In the advertisement of Heinrich Band in 1844 he remarks the ability of his 40 and 56 voice accordions to build arbitrary chords for different tonalities. Perhaps the first mention of Bandoneon occurred at the late 1850's in the areas of Krefeld, Mainz and Cologne. Later, when he offered instruments with many voices he labeled them Bandonion. But the confusion persisted, also in Germany.

It finished at the end of the 1850's when the term Bandonion was introduced in the region of Krefeld, Mainz and Cologne. In Bavaria they used Concertina. In Saxony and Thuringia chromatic harmonicas, but those for export to English and French speaking countries where concertinas and from the Rhineland bandoneons. However, the latter with a distinct layout of the keyboard.

After 1860 an additional concertina keyboard system was introduced in Munich perhaps by F. Stahl first with 30 buttons, later with up to 60 buttons an similar to the system of Band. This was probably the basis for the later Bayrisches Schrammelbandonion of Strobl with 132, 136 and 180 voices.

A magazine for bandonion music established in 1895 in Leipzig was renamed after a year to Allgemeine Concertina- und Bandonion-Zeitung demonstrating the similarities among both instrument types. On the other hand, in 1895 there existed in Leipzig of 1895 about 18 bandonion clubs and no one was called concertina club while Wünsch, successor of Uhlig the inventor of the German Concertina was there a member This confirms that concertinas were called there bandonions. Wünsch himself describes in 1890:

This instrument (bandonion) is becoming more and more known so that all instruments with 88 to 260 voices are now called bandoneons.

(In this case the number of voices has to be divided by two since instruments with double chorus (register) are meant). In the beginning of the 20th century a distinction between the rheinische on one side and Chemnitzer and Karlsfelder on the other is established.

The fast propagation of the bandoneon was based on a clever marketing. Besides the distribution of the instruments labeled BANDONION in big letters forming the good visible valve plaque on front of the instrument, Heinrich Band created a merchant chain with members of his family giving lessons and distributing a huge number of chamber music arrangements and sheet music for his instrument. His is brother Johann established in 1859 a shop in Cologne. Others were founded in Mainz, Krefeld, Glasgow? and New York.

During 1868 to 1881 there existed special secti ons for bandoneon music. In Hofmeister's Manual of sheet music with separate divisions for harmonica, accordion and concertina. Because all the instruments were manufactured in Saxony, the factories there expanded accordingly They tried to copy Band's strategy and designed valve plaques saying CONCERTINA for the instruments they sold directly. Until the end of the century the old term harmonika had disappeared. Finally in the 1920's the shape 0 of both instrument became the same. The polygonal shaped instruments were reserved for the smaller 1 or 2-row boxes with limited number of voices. In many parts of Germany the term Concertina was displaced gradually by the newer Bandonion and both terms were interchangeable. It came to that point, when Saxons returned to their own roots and forced their Chemnitzer and Karlsfelder system. In the 20's the need of a unified system became obvious but both parties did not agree and in 1924 the Einheitskonzertina (128 voices)

besides the Einheitsbandonion (144 voices) was created.

Many attempts were made to create unisonoric instruments. Charles Péguri in Paris replaced the reed plates of 142 voice rheinische bandoneons (an Argentine extension of the 130 voice version) with unisonoric ones imprecisely called chromatic bandoneon. This fact simplified the manufacture of instruments suitable for musette players. The Kusserow bandoneon did not become as popular.

The Chronology

The following abbreviations may occur:

sa single action sounds only on opening (draw) or (mostly) closing (pressure)
da double action sounds on opening and closing
us unisonor same note on opening and closing
bs bisonor different note on opening and closing
av automatic valve permits air pumping

<3000 a.C. Chingmian mouth organ
3000 a.C. China sheng or tshiang [sa]
1762 Benjamin Franklin glass-harmonica (first use of the term harmonica)
1770 Kratzenstein, Denmark speaking machine
17xx Kirsnik, Denmark organ like harmonica
1790 Rakwitz, Sweden Abbé Vogler's orchestrion (transportable concert organ)
1806 Bernhard Eschenbach & Kaspar Schlimbach, handaeoline (until 1840) [sa]
  Königshofen (Bavaria) (first reed instrument without tubes)
1820 Buschmann, Berlin aura, mundaeoline (mouth organ) [sa]
1821 E. F. Chladni, AMZ publishes a detailed description of the sheng
1821 Buschmann, Berlin handharmonika or handaeoline (bellow on pressure) [sa]
1821 A. Haekl, Vienna physharmonika [sa]
1824 G. A. Reinlein, Vienna privilege for harmonicas called chinesiger
1825 G. A. Reinlein, Vienna aeol-harmonica
1825 first printed scores for Mundharmonika
1828   Hand-, Zug-, Ziehharmonika
1829 C. Demian, Vienna eoline, accordion
1825/9 Ch. Wheatstone symphonium
1829/30 Friedrich Mehwald, AMZ new-sheng [us, da]
1830 privilege, Vienna bellow harmonica
> 1830 Paris first accordion manufacture
1831/3 Ernst Leopold Schmidt Apollo lyra [us, da]
1835 Carl Friedrich Uhlig, Chemnitz Harmonika, later known as German Concertina
1836 Vienna export of chinesiger to Gera and Leipzig
1839 A. Debain, Paris orgues expressives, or harmonium
1839 J. Alexandre, Paris “brevet de 10 ans” concertina, piano-concertina
1839 Leclerc, Paris mélophone [sa]
about 1840 Heinrich Wagner, Gera introduces accordion manufacturing
1841 G. Regondi uses mélophone for a Wheatstone concertina [sa]
1844 Wheatstone proposes a double action concept and calls it concertina
1844 Band, Krefeld uses accordion for a concertina
1846 G. Regondi uses the term “concertina” for a mélophone
1854 Paris mélophonorgue (derivative of accordion)
1856 Joh. Schmitz, Krefeld the term bandonion created
1857 Hofmeister's Handbook scores for bandonion
1861 Quentin de Gromard, Bruxelles Cecilium
187x A. Ferenczy, Carl Burge, Ofenpest (H) Hungarian Mélophone
1890 Max Scheffler, Chemnitz Scheffler's Konzertina 102 or 104 voices [3 rows, bs]
1890 Georg Mirwald, Söllitz (Bavaria) Chromatine
1898 Richard Scheller, Hamburg Symphonetta
1900 distinction: bandonion = rhineisch
    concertina = chemnitzer and karlsfelder
1906 Heinrich Steinfurth, Mühlheim-Broich Piano-Bandonion [us] two paralel piano keyboards as buttons
1910 Richard Winkler, Hannover Bass Bandonion
1912 Kahnt & Uhlmann, Altenburg (Thuringia) Cantulia
1920 Hugo Stark, Rebesgrün (Vogtland) Chromatiphon
1925/6 Charles Péguri, Paris 142 voice Chromatic Bandoneon [us] build by Alfred Arnold
1926 Georg Strobl & Sohn, München Bayrisches Schrammelbandonion
1926 Otto Bergler, Erbendorf (Bavaria) Berga-Bandonion
1926 Karl Mecke, Gniebendorf Chroma-Bandonion
1926 Fritz Micklitz, Altenburg (Thuringia) Harmoniphon
1927 Ernst Kusserow, Berlin Kusserow Bandonion [us]
1928 Adolf Weber, Chemnitz Bandonola
1930 Friedrich Töpel, Tripis-Oberpöllnitz Bando-Piano using Matthey's table