Bassoon Makers in Spain and Mexico
The Augustinian friar Bartolomé de Selma y Salaverde, a bassoonist and the son of Bartolomé de Selma, one of the most important bassoon makers in mid-seventeenth century Spain, had two aunts who were nuns in the choir at the Monasterio de San Blas in Lerma. Bartolomé (the father) supplied this convent with three bajonçillos. De Selma y Salaverde (the son) published an important collection of musical works in Venice in 1638, containing several canzoni designated “per Fagotto solo” with basso continuo. With so many connections within the Spanish and Venetian musical establishments, it is not much of a stretch to assume that some of the instruments made by the de Selma family, as well as the music of Brother Bartolomé himself, might have crossed the Atlantic to Mexico with other monks and were heard in performance in the churches, in homes, and wherever music was being made.
By the mid-17th century, bassoons were not only being played in Mexico, but were also being manufactured there, specifically in Puebla. Between 1641 and 1649, the composer Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, who was also an instrument maker and chapelmaster of the Puebla cathedral, delivered to the cathedral 30 bajones grandes and 20 bajones tenores, along with several others instruments.
After the passage of several decades, there was no longer a need to import bajóns from Spain, as native craftsman had become highly skilled at instrument manufacture. By 1723, Juan de Torquemada, writing in Madrid about Mexico, described the situation in this way:
“The first instruments of music manufactured here were flutes, then oboes, and afterwards viols and bassoons and cornets. After a while there was no single instrument used in churches which Indians in the larger towns had not learned to make and play. It became unnecessary to import any of these from Spain. One thing can be asserted without fear of contradiction; in all Christendom there is nowhere a greater abundance of flutes, sackbuts, trumpets, and drums, than here in New Spain.”