The Schnellars have landed!

I’m very excited to have acquired a set of three Schnellar timpani by Wolfgang Schuster.  There is lots of information about the history of Hans Schnellar and his timpani on Schuster’s website

Other makers of Schnellar timpani include;

Wiener Pauken Werkstatt

Anton Mittermayr



Hawkes / Potter’s timpani

Many of my period-style timpani are refurbished drums made in the early or middle part of the 20th Cenutury that started out being much deeper.  Hawkes are most commonly found, but there are many other makes such as Parsons, Besson, Boosey, Hards and Ajax.  If you go to the Information page you can see the step-by-step process undertaken by Pete Woods of Henry Potter’s.  The result is an ‘as new’ timpani with a conventional ‘half-round’ classical shape, or a more straight-sided baroque shape.  They vary in sizes from 22″ and 24″ as a pair with thick English calf heads for baroque music, up to a set of 4 (normally 22″, 24″, 26″, 27.5″) for classical repertoire.  I usually use goat heads on the classical drums.


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After (baroque shape)

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After (classical shape)

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Although there are limits on how much the shape of a bowl can be transformed, the photo below shows some of the different shapes that we are able to produce.  The classical shape is on the left, and the baroque on the right.  The baroque drum has straighter sides to increase the volume of the kettle.  This is important when you consider that sometimes you will need to play a G at baroque pitch of A=415 (effectively a ‘modern’ F#) on a 24″ drum.

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I use these classical timpani both in period-instrument groups and modern chamber orchestras.

You can see and hear them in performances of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, 4th Symphony and 7th Symphony with OAE, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.  And you can hear them in the same two symphonies with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields directed by Joshua Bell.

vlad beet better   Joshua-Bell-CD-cover

On the Archive page there are links to a television broadcast of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique with OAE/Norrington using these same timpani.

18th Century timpani

These timpani are believed to date from around 1720.  At only 18″ and 19″ in diameter, they are only able to play in D & A (at A=415).

18 19 pair

You can hear them in the Gabrieli Consort and Players recording of Bach’s Easter Oratorio and Magnificat.

gabs easter

Hawkes original timpani

These deep-bowled Hawkes timpani have been restored to their “as new” condition as they were played in British orchestras in the first half of the 20th Century.  Below you can see Tony Bedewi with two of my drums as he plays the part of 1912 LSO timpanist Charles Turner in the short film “The Show Must Go On”.  You can see the film on the below.  I have two pairs of these drums; 22″ & 24″ and 25″ & 28″ making a set of 4 and they are currently fitted with English calf-skin heads.



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German-style timpani

Pete Woods (of Potter’s) and I wanted to design a timpani that was mellower in character and less punchy than a shallow, English, half-round military timpani.  After much research and thought we came up with this design.  Suitable for Bach, Mozart and Haydn, these timpani with “mini-Dresden” bowls work well with thick goat-skin heads which give them a warm sound that blends very well.  We deliberately made the diameters of the drums very close to each other at 20″ and 22″.  This meant that both drums could have exactly the same shape and we would not need to compromise the volume of the larger drum in order that it wasn’t out of proportion with the small drum.





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