Click here for the Haslemere Society Blue Plaque leaflet on Jesses.
ARNOLD & CARL DOLMETSCH BLUE PLAQUE
The Dolmetsch family play a particularly important part in the history of Haslemere. Born in 1858 in Le Mans, Western France, Arnold Dolmetsch came to London in 1883 when he enrolled at the newly opened Royal College of Music. It was during this period that he developed his interest in early music. Over the following 30 years, Arnold became famous as the leading expert in early music, researching and exploring the subject and bringing early music into the international music repertoire.
In the 1890s, his interest extended to the restoration of early musical instruments, which led in due course to him designing and making his own instruments. It was at the suggestion of William Morris that Arnold built the first large harpsichord of modern times for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society's Show at the New Gallery in Regent Street in 1896.
In the early 20th century, Arnold worked in both America and France, extending his manufacturing interest and becoming a fine craftsman. However, with war looming in early 1914, the family returned from France to the UK moving to Jesses in Haslemere to escape German bombing in 1919.
In 1919, after losing his antique treble recorder made by Bressan on a platform at Waterloo station, Arnold successfully produced the first recorder of modern times, after four months of patient experiments.
Thus began the family association with recorders for which they are most famous.
In 1925, Arnold initiated the Haslemere Festival, which still continues to this day.
His son Carl took part in the family music from the age of 4, playing the viol and then violin, and went on to study with Carl Flesch and Antonio Brosa. He made his debut on the recorder during the second Haslemere Festival in 1926, when he took part in a performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 4; He had learned the technique of the recorder in only five weeks. This began his lifelong interest in the recorder, as, following the success of this concert, his father handed over the entire responsibility for recorders production to him even though he was only 15 at the time.
Carl was an accomplished performer, independent designer and craftsmen and his love of the recorder brought the instrument to a worldwide audience.
During the Second World War, the workshop in the grounds of Jesses was used for the manufacture of parts for aircraft guns. Over two and half million components were produced from vulcanised fibre and plastic materials to a high degree of accuracy.
Carl realised that the same technology could be used for recorder production and in 1945 made the drawings for the first Dolmetsch plastic recorders which rolled off the production line in 1946. They shared the same dimensions as the wooden instruments, so the intonation and tone quality was of a high standard. Because of their affordability, these plastic recorders were soon introduced into schools, where they revolutionised musical education for generations of children. By the 1950's and 60's, 'recorder' had become a household word.