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
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
Aelodion, Aeolodikon, Elodikon, Aeol-harmonika, Clav-aeoline or
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
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
This name was previously used
for the Maultrommel, a single reed instrument using the mouth as
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
to describe a reed instrument with bellow, specially after the
Wiener Privilegienverzeichnis (sort of patent) of 1830
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
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
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
, Zimmermann, C. F.
, 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
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
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
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
the inventor of the German Concertina was there a member
This confirms that concertinas were called there bandonions.
Wünsch himself describes in 1890:
(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
(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
This fact simplified the manufacture of instruments
suitable for musette players.
did not become as popular.
The following abbreviations may occur:
||sounds only on opening (draw)
or (mostly) closing (pressure)
||sounds on opening and closing
||same note on opening and closing
||different note on opening and closing
||permits air pumping
||sheng or tshiang [sa]
(first use of the term
||organ like harmonica
|| Abbé Vogler's orchestrion (transportable concert organ)
||Bernhard Eschenbach & Kaspar Schlimbach,
||handaeoline (until 1840) [sa]
||(first reed instrument without tubes)
||aura, mundaeoline (mouth organ) [sa]
||E. F. Chladni, AMZ
||publishes a detailed description
of the sheng
||handharmonika or handaeoline
(bellow on pressure) [sa]
||A. Haekl, Vienna
||G. A. Reinlein, Vienna
||privilege for harmonicas
||G. A. Reinlein, Vienna
||first printed scores
||Hand-, Zug-, Ziehharmonika
||C. Demian, Vienna
||Friedrich Mehwald, AMZ
||new-sheng [us, da]
||first accordion manufacture
||Ernst Leopold Schmidt
||Apollo lyra [us, da]
||Carl Friedrich Uhlig, Chemnitz
||Harmonika, later known as
||export of chinesiger to Gera and Leipzig
||A. Debain, Paris
||orgues expressives, or harmonium
||J. Alexandre, Paris
||“brevet de 10 ans” concertina,
||Heinrich Wagner, Gera
||introduces accordion manufacturing
||uses mélophone for a
Wheatstone concertina [sa]
||proposes a double action concept and calls it
||uses accordion for a concertina
||uses the term “concertina” for
||mélophonorgue (derivative of accordion)
||Joh. Schmitz, Krefeld
||the term bandonion
||scores for bandonion
||Quentin de Gromard, Bruxelles
||A. Ferenczy, Carl Burge, Ofenpest (H)
|| Hungarian Mélophone
||Max Scheffler, Chemnitz
|| Scheffler's Konzertina
102 or 104 voices [3 rows, bs]
||Georg Mirwald, Söllitz (Bavaria)
||Richard Scheller, Hamburg
||bandonion = rhineisch
||concertina = chemnitzer and karlsfelder
||Heinrich Steinfurth, Mühlheim-Broich
|| Piano-Bandonion [us] two paralel piano keyboards as buttons
||Richard Winkler, Hannover
|| Bass Bandonion
||Kahnt & Uhlmann, Altenburg (Thuringia)
||Hugo Stark, Rebesgrün (Vogtland)
||Charles Péguri, Paris
|| 142 voice Chromatic
Bandoneon [us] build by Alfred Arnold
||Georg Strobl & Sohn, München
|| Bayrisches Schrammelbandonion
||Otto Bergler, Erbendorf (Bavaria)
||Karl Mecke, Gniebendorf
||Fritz Micklitz, Altenburg (Thuringia)
||Ernst Kusserow, Berlin
|| Kusserow Bandonion [us]
||Adolf Weber, Chemnitz
||Friedrich Töpel, Tripis-Oberpöllnitz
|| Bando-Piano using Matthey's table