For generations of young musicians (and often to the chagrin of neighbours and family), Bärenreiter recorders were constant companions or highly sought-after instruments, beautifully made in high-quality wood in descant, treble or tenor sizes.
After a long period of neglect the recorder came into vogue again during the course of the “youth movement”. As a beginner’s instrument which was easy to carry, it earned itself a firm place in music teaching and domestic music-making.
The instrument maker Peter Harlan (1898–1966), the “father of the recorder”, played a major role in the recorder renaissance. Harlan, himself a former member of the Wandervogel, saw the perfect means to realize the ideal of a return to nature and truth in the instruments of the sixteenth century, particularly with regard to recorders, fiddles, gambas and clavichords. In 1921 this idea led to the first reproduction of a recorder with “German fingering”: instead of using cross-fingering, the right index finger simply covers a finger-hole.
In the mid-1920s Bärenreiter, probably through an introduction by Willibald Gurlitt, made contact with Harlan. In the following years he produced the range of Bärenreiter recorders of different sizes which sold for about 4 Reichsmarks in his workshop.
Bärenreiter recognised the recorder as an important instrument in music education and published tutors and literature at a time when no publisher, except for Georg Kallmeyer and Nagels who were closely associated with the youth movement, took the recorder seriously. The rediscovery of early music published in new editions also led to a revival in recorder playing. Bärenreiter met the demands of both areas of development – the recorder as a serious artistic instrument on the one hand and as a school and domestic instrument on the other – with new editions of early music, easy newly-composed pieces and Baroque suites of movements for playing at home or at school.
Following the general trend, Bärenreiter also produced plastic recorders made of cellulose acetate after the war. These were particularly popular as beginner instruments because they were sturdy and easy to clean.
After Harlan’s death in 1966, Kruspe in Erfurt took over the building of Bärenreiter recorders, followed by Mollenhauer in Fulda. In 1987 a decision was taken to stop selling instruments and thus a long and now almost forgotten chapter of Bärenreiter history ended.