UC Berkeley Alum Donates Rare Instruments to Department

When David E. Fastovsky was a graduate student studying Paleontology at UC Berkeley in the 1970’s he was presented with the opportunity to play numerous rare instruments, including a prized Vuillaume viola in the Music Department’s rare instrument collection.

“I told my current string quartet about the Vuillaume, and they were astounded – asking, ‘Did you know what it was?’ I definitely knew what it was.”

Almost four decades later, he is adding to the Department’s collection of rare instruments by donating a rare Louis Lot flute and a wooden Buffet piccolo.

The two instruments’ journey to Berkeley had many twists and turns. Louis Lot was a French flute maker who rose to prominence by pioneering new methods of flute manufacturing during the nineteenth century. By 1860, Lot became the official supplier of flutes to the Paris Conservatoire and gained further international notoriety. The flute (Serial number 6846) was manufactured around 1900. The Buffet piccolo was built roughly the same time by Buffet Crampon, a noted Parisian manufacturer of woodwinds.

Fastovsky’s father Ashley was given the instruments as part of a Philharmonic scholarship while in high school in New York City playing with the All-City High School Orchestra in the late 1930’s. Ashley Fastovsky played it regularly again in the late 1970’s, during which time he had the flute restored. The Lot flute is not only notable because of its high-quality craftsmanship, but the purity of sound not found in modern instruments.

The instruments join Music’s impressive collection which spans from rare Baroque-period woodwinds to thousands of choral pieces from various centuries. Of course, the Vuillaume Fastovsky played as a student still resides as part of the prized Salz collection of antique violins, violas and bows donated in 1964.

“I cannot tell you how inspiring it was for my playing to be able to play on such an instrument,” said Fastovsky. “Perhaps somebody can love the Louis Lot the way I loved that Vuillaume.”

Fastovsky serves as Chair of the Department of Geosciences at the University of Rhode Island. He is the co-author of “Dinosaurs: A Concise History” (Cambridge University Press).

-Alex Coughlin