Faà di Bruno, Giovanni Matteo [Horatio, Orazio] 83

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A word varying in meaning from one authority to another, associated with some part of the sound mechanism of the Duct flute. To Schlesinger and Galpin it was the sharp edge of the lip. To Marcuse and others it represented the whole head of the instrument. To Hunt and Blom it was the block. To Sachs it was the origin of the word ‘pipe’, deriving from Latin fibula and thus referred to the whole instrument. The earliest English usage, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was by Bacon: ‘Let there be a Recorder made with two Fipples, at each end one’. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the fipple as the flue (i.e. the windway). Since nobody can agree what the term means, to avoid further confusion its use should be abandoned.


Grove (E.H. Hunt)

F. Bacon: Sylva Sylvarum, or A Naturall Historie (London, 1626)

F.W. Galpin: Old English Instruments of Music (London, 1910, rev. 4/1965/R by T. Dart)

K. Schlesinger: ‘Recorder’, Encyclopaedia Britannica (Cambridge, 11/1911)

C. Welch: Six Lectures on the Recorder (London, 1911)

C. Sachs: Real-Lexikon der Musikinstrumente (Berlin, 1913/R)

E. Blom: Everyman's Dictionary of Music (London, 1946, rev. 6/1988 by D. Cumings)

S. Marcuse: Musical Instruments: a Comprehensive Dictionary (New York, 1964/R)




See Florence.

Fires of London.

English chamber ensemble first formed in 1967 as the Pierrot Players under the joint direction of the composers Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle. It was originally constituted on the basis of the singer (the soprano Mary Thomas) and five instrumentalists required for Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, which enabled a varied classical and contemporary repertory to be performed, with extra players added as required. Birtwistle withdrew in 1970, when the new name was adopted, and Davies became sole director. A staged version of Pierrot lunaire remained in the ensemble’s repertory, which included music-theatre works involving a dramatic and scenic or mixed-media presentation, often with electronic elements. Notably successful examples of these include Davies’s own Vesalii icones, Eight Songs for a Mad King, Revelation and Fall and Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot, of which the ensemble gave the premières, as it did of the chamber operas The Martyrdom of St Magnus (1977) and The Lighthouse (1980). There also was a high proportion of specially written works by other composers, and the ensemble appeared at festivals in Britain and abroad as well as giving regular London concerts. An adventurous repertory scrupulously rehearsed significantly enlarged its audiences’ range of musical experience. In spite of financial problems and changes in personnel (among whom only Mary Thomas and the pianist Stephen Pruslin remained constant throughout), the Fires of London sustained its missionery zeal; it was disbanded by Davies after its 20th anniversary concert in 1987. Among the ensemble’s recordings are Eight Songs for a Mad King, Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot and instrumental works by Davies, in addition to the Triple Duo by Elliott Carter, which it also commissioned and first performed (1983, New York).


M. Seabrook: Max: the Life and Music of Peter Maxwell Davies (London, 1994), 123–89, 220–21



A lively and capricious English dance of the 17th century. Its name presumably derives from ‘firk’, meaning a freak, prank or caprice. Davenant's usage (Man's the Master, 1668, Act 3 scene ii) – ‘Firk your fiddles’ – has been taken to mean simply ‘play your fiddles’, but it is more likely to imply playing them in a frisky and capricious manner. Two firks by Matthew Locke are among the few extant examples of the form (they are in a group of four suites by him; ed., New York, 1947); they are in quick triple time with strongly contrasted iambic and trochaic rhythms. A ‘Cuntery Firk’, possibly by John Coleman, also survives (in GB-Cfm 24.E.15).


Firkušný, Rudolf

(b Napajedla, Moravia, 11 Feb 1912; d Staatsburg, New York, 19 July 1994). American pianist of Czech birth. He had piano and composition lessons with Janáček (from 1919), and studied at the Brno Conservatory with Růzena Kurzová (1920–27) and the Prague Conservatory with Vilém Kurz and Rudolf Karel. He studied privately with Kurz until 1931 and composition with Suk (1929–30). Firkušný’s own compositions include a piano concerto, first performed in 1930, a string quartet, and several piano pieces and songs. He made his début in Prague in 1922 and pursued an active concert career in central Europe while continuing his training and studies at Brno University. He first played in England in 1933, in North America in 1938, visited South America five years later, and Australia in 1959.

Although best known for his playing of the standard repertory from Mozart to Brahms, Firkušný gave the premières of concertos and other works by, among others, Barber, Ginastera, Hanson, Martinů and Menotti. He was a champion of Dvořák’s neglected Piano Concerto, and, not surprisingly, involved himself with the work of his teacher, Janáček, whose complete piano music he recorded. Firkušný was more active in chamber music than many of his colleagues, and recorded sonatas with Pierre Fournier, Erica Morini, Gregor Piatigorsky and William Primrose. He taught at the Juilliard and Aspen schools of music. With an easy command of the instrument, producing a soft-edged sound of pleasing quality, he was a cultivated musician who made an impression less by the force than through the charm and grace of his playing. After many years’ absence from his native Czechoslovakia, he returned there for a triumphant series of concerts in 1990.

His brother Leoš (b Napajedla, 16 July 1905; d Buenos Aires, 9 July 1950) was a musicologist and critic, and was one of the main initiators of the Prague Spring Festival after World War II. Apart from his studies of the composers Vilém Petrželka and Karel Weis, he wrote mainly about Janáček, particularly his operas and his relationship to Czech folk music.


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