Italian Tenor Cornetto - Zink, late 1500s, front view
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The Cornetto

The name derives from the Italian for "little horn" ("corno" - horn, plus the suffix "etto" - small); it is also nowadays often referred to as "cornett" (with two t's to give a distinction from the modern brass instrument, with which it has no connection). Cornetto (French and Italian), Cornett (British), and Zink (German) all refer to the same instrument. The Cornetto was developed around the beginning of the 14th century, making it a contemporary of the early slide trumpets. It remained in common use well into the 17th Century.

Its heyday was the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, when it was the most highly regarded wind instrument. It was prized for the resemblance of its sound to that of the human voice, considered to be the perfect instrument, and for its suitability for performing elaborate musical ornamentation. Always considered a difficult instrument, it spawned a select group of highly regarded, and highly paid, virtuoso players such as Giovanni Bassano and Girolamo Dalla Casa, both of whom worked at the Basilica di San Marco in Venice.

The Tenor Cornetto

The tenor of the zink or cornetto family (also known as lizard or lysarden) has the peculiar curved shape of a flattened letter S. Besides giving the in- strument its name, this shape helps the player cover the finger holes on this longer zink.
The lysard's tone is pleasing, yet rather foggy. It blends well with voices and plays on one of the inner voices of an ensemble.

Italian Tenor Cornetto - Zink, late 1500s, back view
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copyright by
Andrea Bruderlin
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