The History of the Tárogató
The history of the tárogató can be followed very well from
the targeted publications and studies. There is no vast difference among them,
only perhaps based on the emotional ties of the writer to the instrument. You
will find the essay of a musical historian different from that of an engineer or
a musician playing the tárogató. The history of the tárogató can be best
understood in the light of the historical events and circumstances.
There are two different types of the tárogató shawm:
a. Historical Tárogató
b. Reformed Tárogató
The Historical Tárogató
( Picture of the historical tárogató )
This instrument is known by two names, it is referred
to as the Turkish pipe or the tárogató shawm. Both names indicate an
instrument belonging to the same family.
Its history dates back to ancient times. Reference to some pipers as early
as the period a millennium ago in the history of the Hungarians can be
found, however, there is no clear evidence how much those pipes can be
related to the tárogató shawms we call by that name. ’Piper’ as a family
name was also known in the chronicles.
The first written records are found in the 15th – 16th century, where the
expressions ’pipers’ and ’ shawm’ can often be seen in the documents. One
thing is clear, that during the Turkish occupation of Hungary (1526 –
1686) the Turkish pipe is a military instrument. Its shrill, piercing
voice made it ideal for the purpose, otherwise it was used in the everyday
life. Corresponding descriptions disclose that it was popular among
Hungarians at that time. The wedding ceremony of György Rákóczi II and
Zsófia Báthory was accompanied by Polish and Turkish pipers at the
reception of the bride. Peter Apor reported that the nuptial procession
consisted of the ’pipers, trumpetiers and drummers, followed by wedding
300 years ago a most outstanding event in the Hungarian
struggle for independence and freedom took place under the leadership of
Ferenc Rákóczi II. (1703 – 1711). This was peculiarly accompanied by the
tárogató shawm. During battles it was used as an aid giving the various
signals on the field, whereas the ’kuruc’ people (soldiers) used it for
entertainment in the war-camps to accompany singing and dancing.
Pictures: ’kuruc’ rider playing the tárogató shawm, sword-dance and a
tárogató shawm player.
Following the defeat of that war of independence tárogató shawms became hardly
audible. The more time passes since the event, the more the tárogató shawm
became the symbol of that period. Descriptions deriving from the 18th century
make it clear that at events or celebrations where the national ideas were
stressed, tárogató shawms could be heard more and more often. In 1790 in Buda,
on the occasion of a parliamentary session the cavalry troops of Tolna, Zala and
Szabolcs Counties were led by shawmplayers.
In Bratislava (historicly the city of Pozsony) at the coronation of Leopold I,
when the Sacred Crown was carried on the bridge, the music of the tárogató shawm
could be heard. In 1848, during the uprising and war of independence of that
century, soldiers were fired with enthusiasm again with the sound of the
The deliberate collection of the still existing items started in the 1850-ies,
when the need for them to once again be the musical instrument of everyday
entertainment became apparent. There were also several attempts for the renewal
and modernisation of the tarogató shawm. Finally, by the end of the 19th
century, two tárogató-making companies named Schunda and Stowasser, reformed the
instrument and by this, the tárogató of our times was born.
The Reformed Tárogató
( Pictures: a tárogató by Schunda and one by Stowasser )
Vencel József Schunda and János Stowasser handed in their patent descriptions as
for the renewal of the tárogató shawm to the National Patent Office nearly in
parallel. The attempts used the original, ancient form as a basis for the
process. The makers found it essential to lengthen the corpus of the instrument
as a start, and in the interest to achieve an easier play, a few keys were
installed. The original tárogató shawms were double reed instruments, and it was
only at a later stage when they decided to implement the single reed
clarinet-like mouthpiece to it. However, these changes brought along the change
in the tone of the voice of the tárogató. The sounding changed to softer and
gentler, more mellow than before.
|The innovations are describe by Vencel
József Schunda himself like this:
„…. In 1894-96 I reformed the tárogató shawm. The traditional
tárogató was blown with a reed like that of the oboe and there were very few
stops on it; I applied a mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet and
applied as many keys as to make it easy to play all the chromatic sounds
with ease. The instrument itself became larger and bulgier than before. Now
it is almost like a combination of three instruments: oboe ,clarinet and
József Vencel Schunda
However, making the tárogató more perfect and improving the intonation
security is attached by the Stowasser company.
There are three major types of the
1. There are two rings at the right hand and there are none at the left.
2. There are two rings at the right hand and also two at the left.
3. Automatic, shift-system, with 4-5 rings in general.
The most wide-spread instruments are pitched B-flat, also there are C, A and
bass tárogató-s. Besides Schunda and Stowasser there were some 4-5 other
companies making tárogató-s at that time.
As from 1895 tárogató-s were made until the end of the 2nd World War, when all
companies were closed down and apart from some experienced individuals (Ferenc
Péczi and János Eisenhoffer) who were able to make new instruments, there were
some others in Transylvania, Temesvár made, but then it all came to an end. In
Germany, Burgau several tárogatós have been made by the Hammerscmidt Instrument
New tárogató-s: Currentlynew tárogató-s are made by five individuals/ companies in Hungary, and there are two mouthpiece maker experts. Their references are to be found in the Tárogató maker’section.