a brief history of the tarogato - taragot

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Before 1900

The taragot has a Turkish - Persian origin. The Hungarian words 'török síp'  meaning Turkish Pipe. Some believe that is was imported in the Balkans in the 13th century. It was a double reed instrument with six finger holes and it had a sharp and strong sound. The Hungarian armies under Rákóczi  (Racockzy) , during the independence war - 1704 - 1711 - used it to scare off the enemy. When the resistance movement was defeated the instrument, because of the supposed magical features, was forbidden and it lost its place in Hungarian folk music. But at the same time it became a symbol for Hungarian freedom. Up till today thre is still some of the nationalistic symbolism left. Can you imagine: that penetrating loud and shrieking voice in the dark? How scary would be hundreds of such voices at te same time?
An other story sais that the taragot was discovered by West Europeans in 1683, when the Turkish troups were defeated near Vienna. At the same time the Austrians found coffee in the abandoned Turkish luggage.
The taragot of these times was quite different. The modern taragot has other characteristics.
The picture at the left hand side shows a mediaval Turkish/Hungarian taragot. It is taken from "Musical Instruments of the world, 1976, Diagram Visual Information Ltd, Jeff Alger at al.".
It is said that "taragot" is just a generic term for double reed instruments on the Balkans, like the zurla and the zurna.

The taragot player travelled from village to village, to help marriage celebrations and Sunday parties. Most common is the combination of a drum and a wind instrument. The drummer is the leader. After the introduction of sophysticated instruments like the violin, the importance of the taragot diminished.

Gabry, G. (1971). Le tarogato, ancien chalumeau Hongrois. In: S.M., xiii, p. 61

Welsh, H. (1929). The tarogato: its history and details. In: "Leading Note" i/2, 46.

Buchner, A. (1981). "Handboek van de muziekinstrumenten". Praha: Artia

"Tarogato" as a Regional Instrument Zoltan Falvy Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, T. 38, Fasc. 3/4 (1997), pp. 361-370  




After 1900

In the decade of 1890-1900 the Hungarian musicologist Gyula Kaldy developed, in cooperation with the instrument maker V.J. Schunda in Budapest, a new tarogato. This instrument was shown to the world at the Paris World Expo of 1900. It was a single reed instrument with an Albert fingering that also was used for the hobo. The new instrument became soon popular, especially in Hungarian folk music.

Why was the tarogato invented? Was it for the coming celebration of 1000 years Hungarian settlement?


Stowasser, patent 15/9/1897 Budapest No 51545 class IX/d   Schhunda patent 17/9/1897 Budapest No. 13545 class IX/d


Two days difference! It is said that Stowasser was employed by Schunda. Others claim that Stowasser in those days already had a successful musical instrument construction business.

Generally is accepted that Schunda is the inventor of the modern tarogato. Why? Perhaps because of the Gyula Kaldy course book, which he co-wrote? But whiy is the Stowasser patent older? Why did Schunda get his patent, two days after Stowasser? Isn't it the power of the patent system that there are no two differnt patents for a similar object? These questions were asked in writing to the Hungarian Patent Office. No reply was received. It is clear that Stowasser built the superior instrument. It is unclear who was the first. Considering the chain of events the 11thMUSE.com gives the benefit of the doubt to Schunda.

Wagner used the taragot for his "Tristan and Isolde", but it soon was found out that the instrument was too loud for a concert hall.

The Romanian Banat musician Lutsa Iovitsa discovered the instrument in his military service, during world war I, in Szegedin and Budapest. He imported the taragot to Romania and he played it in Bucharest. It made him nation wide famous.
Lutsa Iovitsa was a master of his instrument and an example for many. He passed away in 1954. His major follower is Dumitru Farcas, who played the instrument on all major stages in the world and made the instrument known all over the world.

At present it is hard to find a major Romanian concert folk orchestra without the taragot as a solo instrument. The medodies have become melting doinas, in stead of war cries. The Schunda factory closed down but passed the prescription on to Stowasser. His factory burned down. And so it looked that the instrument was to become extinct. Romanian "Timisoara" taragots lacked sound quality. There are assertions that the Stowassery was copied under license the German factory Karl Hammerschmidt. However, http://www.musikhaus-hammerschmidt.at does not give any indication. Fox in Canada is a producer.
A real V.J. Schunda has become a Stradivarius.

Alexandru, T. (1956). "Instumentele muzicale ale poporului Roman". Bucuresti: Espla

Jansen, H. (1985). "Ansamblul Argesul". Heino: SONO

Sarosi, B. (1977). "Zigeuner Musik". Budapest: Corvina


The spread of knowledge of the taragot in western Europe


Tristan and Isolde

On parle beaucoup en ce moment d'un instrument à vent hongrois appelé « Tárogató », qui, sur l'initiative de M. Hans Richter, a été apporté de Budapest à Bayreuth au mois d'août dernier par le fabricant, M. V. Joseph Schunda. M. Richter a déclaré qu'à Londres, au printemps dernier, dans les exécutions qu'il a dirigées de Tristan et Iseult, il a employé, avec grand succès, le Tárogató pour l'interprétation de la « mélodie gaie ». Le professeur Ign. Henri Hiekisch, du Conservatoire national de Budapest, a fait entendre la « mélodie gaie » sur le Tárogató, et tous les assistants, parmi lesquels se trouvaient plusieurs chefs d'orchestre, ont été d'avis que, de tous les instruments employés jusqu'ici, celui-ci donnait le résultat le plus parfait. Sur la recommandation de M. Richter, l'Opéra de Paris et le théâtre de la Monnaie de Bruxelles se sont fait soumettre ce nouvel instrument. On sait que le thème de la « mélodie gaie » est écrit à trois temps, dans un mouvement très vif. Comme il doit se jouer dans la coulisse, la sonorité du cor anglais est trop faible aussi a-t-il fallu le faire exécuter par un autre instrument et la partie du cor anglais est généralement doublée par une trompette.

Guide Musical n°42 du 16 octobre 1904, p. 76300000 http://perso.orange.fr/alain.cf/musiqueroumaine/tarogato_wagner.htm

There is currently much talk about a Hungarian wind instrument called 'Tarogato', which after an initiative of Mr. Hans Richter, was taken from Budapest to Bayreurh in last August by its manufacturer Mr. V. Joseph Schunda. Mr. Richter made the statement that during last spring, in London, when he conducted Tristan and Isolde it was used with much success for the execution of the "happy melody". Professor Engeneer Hendri Hiekisch from the National Conservatorium in Budapest made us listen to the "happy melody" using the Tarogato and all his assistants, including several orchestra conductors, were of the opinion that from all the instruments that were used until now, this one had the best result. On the recommendation of Mr. Richter the Paris Opera and the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels are going to propese using this new instrument. One knows that the theme of the "happy melody" was written in three-four time in a very vivid movement. Because it has to be played in the wings is the sound of the English Horn to soft and it was impossible to have it performed by another instrument and the part of the English Horn is generally doubled by a trumpet.

(translation H. Jansen, 2007)


The Gyula Kaldy / JV Schunda school (1901) for sale (facsimile)

Cost: about 1500 Hungarian forint

Latest Exchange Rates: 1 United States Dollar = 222.815 Hungarian Forint


Polifon Music trade Bt.
1095 Budapest, Master utca 5 HUNGARY

fax: + 36 23 415 806



note: a very special key system. The wear around the finger holes indicates a possible use of box wood. Probably early 900.


It is clear that there is little relationship between the double reed and single reed tarogatok except for the name. However, there are some remarkable mysterious occurrences. Prince Ferenc Racockzi used the tarogato in his uprising (1703-1711) against the Austrians. The tarogato had a devlish piercing sound that overwhelmed the enemy. The Habsburg emperor forbid the use of the instrument and they were burnt on stakes.

Two hundred years later, the story goes that Luta Iovita, a Romanian maestro from Banat, silenced the soldiers from both sides in the trenches of World War I because of the beautiful mesmorizing sound of the modern taragot. However, some experts claim that after the factory of Stowasser burnt down, including all the taragot stock, the instrument was to become extinct. War, peace and fire. Fortunately Fox, Hammerschmidt, Salenson, Rose Instruments (Toth & Co) and others have started producing tarogatok again.

The Tárogató and Central Eastern Europe
 János Pap
In Musik im Umbruch. Hrsg. Bruno B. Reuer  Verlag Südostdeutsches Kulturwerk, München, 1999, 341-352.

Dr. Janosz Pap <archive.today/Lzl5m>

A small part of the brilliant article of this author. Please go to his website (although my google chrome warns for mal ware = November 2009 - even in the cyber-era the Tarogato blows and burns!).

It was not accidental that on the first modified tárogató, a conical bore was used. In 1861 an oboist by the name of A. Suck and a musical instrument maker called Scripszky designed a simple oboe with a range of two octaves. (If we were to truly reform the ancient tárogaró, we would end up with the classical oboe or the piccolo heckelphone in their most authentic forms.)

Because playing the clarinet is easier than playing the double-reed tárogató – the former uses a simpler blowing technique and more active breathing and has a large dynamic range and pitch range the clarinet gradually took the place of the tárogató in Roma bands during the 19th century. The same process is occurring in the Balkan countries nowadays, where musicians try to produce the traditional sound ideal of zurna on the clarinet and use circular breathing, for example. The ancient zurla can sometimes be heard in Macedonia and Bosnia, the sournas in Greece, the surla in Romania and the surle in Albania. Mainly it is Roma musicians who play these instruments.

In Hungary, the bands that play contemporary folk music (especially Balkan music) and pop-folk musicians often use Turkish pipes, albeit their simplified versions with conical bore and oboe-like reeds. Their pitch range is broader than the earlier version. An acoustic analysis of the sound of a Turkish pipe shows us an oboe­like spectrum (Fig. 6).

From 1894 to 1896 Schunda V. József built a 65- to 70-cm-long, conical instrument made from palisander wood with a clarinet-like mouthpiece, that is, a soprano saxophone with contemporary German oboe keywork (Fig. 7). Schunda called his modified tárogató an "improved" tárogató and designed it for the millennial festivities in Hungary – the thousandth anniversary of Magyar settlement. Musicologists received the instrument critically, but political officials, and in fact all elements of Hungarian cultural life, made a great "hullabaloo" over this instrument. (I should also mention that the name "schundaphone" would have been more accurate for the instrument, since only the bore of this modified tárogató is related to the ancient tárogató.)

    At the time of the Hungarian millennium celebrations, it would have been im­possible to call a new reed instrument something other than tárogató. In looking   back, we only have to recall the 40-year-long musical movement around the ancient    tárogató, the political atmosphere of the millennial festivities, and especially late Kuruc romanticism in Hungarian music. The modified tárogató suited the requirements of Kuruc romanticism perfectly. Schunda tried out different oboe-like instruments in the course of developing his modified instrument, one of which is now in Brussels in the Museum of Musical Instruments (Gábry 1971:64). Only orchestral oboists and some Roma musicians could play this type of tárogató. The clarinet was the most popular woodwind instrument at the end of the last century in Hungary. We can thus understand the application of the clarinet mouthpiece on the modified instrument.  Moreover, it can be supposed that Schunda and János Stowasser wanted to build a German-style wooden saxophone for the musicians of central Europe. (Differences in the timbres of the ancient tárogató and the modified tárogató can be seen in Fig. 6.)

      The "schundaphone" tárogató gained success quickly thanks to its perfect acoustic features (for example, good responsiveness), to its name and its publicity. The tárogató faculty was introduced at the Nemzeti Zenede (National School of Music). We have little information about the instrument's distribution or how many were sold by its makers. However, it can be pointed out that many types under different maker names were produced. The best sign of popularity of an instrument is whether they were copied. Among copies, the model #19865 Stowasser tárogató in Bb was the most popular (Fig. 8).


 Schunda tárogató (patent from 1897) 

There were also simpler instruments with fewer keys, for example, the Wágner tárogatós (produced by A. K. Wágner). Tárogató tutors appeared as well.

Above all, this new instrument was a symbol of Hungarian aristocracy, the favorite woodwind of Governor Miklós Horthy. An old Hungarian tradition of nobility returned: a "real" Hungarian gentleman celebrated with tárogató music. Perhaps this was the main reason that Bartók and Kodály did not compose for this instrument; also, Kodály found its timbre "chocolate-like".

The company Stowasser had offices in Graslitz (today Krašlice), Budapest, Temesvár (today Timişoara), and in Torino. The modified tárogató was adopted as the taragot or torogoată in the Banat area of Romania and Serbia during the early 20th century and spread to other parts of the region. These instruments were produced in Temesvár. Taragot folk music is still very popular in Romania, particularly in Transylvania. The musicians play both tárogatós, though fewer use the ancient surlas and more play on the modified instruments. Today Stowasser copies are made mainly in Romania. Dimitru Farkaš is the most famous taragot musician in the world, having made many recordings. His virtuoso performances are a model for Romanian tárogató players.


This current phenomenon is interesting because after World War II until the 1980s, the modified tárogató had been practically silenced by those governing official musical life in Hungary. It was proclaimed by communist regimes to be a nationalistic musical instrument for irredentists. This was obviously not the fault of the tárogató but rather that of politicians from World War I until now. Under Rákosi's regime it was forbidden to play it publicly, radio recordings disappeared, the instrument making companies were nationalized, etc. Thus, it was not accidental that the instrument's rebellious character survived in the folk music of Hungary.



taragot mouthpiece

From: "The Ethnic Clarinet" http://test.woodwind.org/oboe/BBoard/read.html?f=2&i=1526&t=1119


Author: Marius (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net - ISP in Medinah, IL United States)
Date:   2008-03-23 06:36

Hi Fred,
This post is regarding the Taragot mouthpiece. I have never tried a sopranosax mouthpiece on the Taragot. Usually the Taragot players make their own mouthpieces, and that is why if you listen carefully two taragot players will never have the same tone even though they are playing the same instrument. In Romania there are three major styles of mouthpieces used.
The Banat region uses a type of mouthpiece in which the chamber was filled up ( usually with rubber of the same material of which the mouthpiece was constructed), so the chamber of the mouthpiece is very very small. This will give a very metallic sound. One of the best Taragot player from Banat is Luca Novac. If you go on youtube you will be able o listen some great music played by him.
The Maramures/Grosi region they use a mouthpiece in which the chamber of the mouthpiece is totally empty. This will give a darker woodier tone. Dumitru Farcas is considered the God of taragot. He is playing this kind of mouthpiece, and also Dumitru Dobrican, Ioan Berci (unbelievable beautiful tone) and extremmely woody Nelu Gabor.
The third style will fall in between this two as tone quality and is found in Transilvania, especially in Fagaras region. Gheorghe Trambitas is a virtuoso from Fagaras. He has a new album out called " The Voice of the Taragot." It is a great album and I really recommend it.
Now assuming you do not know how to build your own mouthpiece I can tell you that I've come across a gentlemen that lives in Chicago, USA. His name is Ioan Scaunas. In my opinion he is one of the best taragot mouthpiece builder. He has been making taragot mouthpieces for over 17 years. I found one of his mouthpieces on eBay♠, where he occasionally lists them, and i must say i am thrilled with the mouthpiece. They are relatively not expensive ( around $200) and prior shipping i got in contact with him so that he build mine after my preferences. So, keep an eye on eBay. I have his contact information and i will be willing to give them to you upon his approval.
The taragot is a great instrument to which i am totaly in love with. I am an amator player but i can get enough of it.
Be careful because on eBay I've seen many taragots for sale that are listed as brand and country unknown. Those are usually Romanian taragots, brand Timis, and as you said they are of a poor quality. They do not worth more than $600 ( and that if in good condition). These do not have a serial number printed on the instrument ( nobody knows why:)). Now a Hungarian Stowasser is a difrent story. They worth much more around $ 5000, and they are great instruments. I've read somewhere on the web a great characterization of them: " The Stradivarius of the woodwinds" I like that. There are few ok brands as well, like Magyoroshi and Schunda. This are Hungarian as well and Hammerschmidt from Germany. From what i remember but i could be wrong the last two use a clarinet like mouthpiece ( this is the way it mounts to the instrument).
Enjoy your Taragot!


Michele Gingras (professor of clarinet at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio) wrote an excellent paper about the taragot. "The Tarogato: A forgotten instrument?" "The Clarinet" (International Clarinet Association), December 1999, pp. 45.