Natural horns of Distinction

Antique Horns for Sale

Antique horns, technically, those older than 50 years, but probably far older, all come with history of previous repair. As such, we live with the decisions made by previous owners. Most often, natural horns were shortened for higher pitch standards, and had valves added, before being played to death. The current attitude of conservation of antique instruments has replaced earlier attitudes about obsolete junk. The metallurgy of earlier times may enter into the condition of an antique horn. The current recipe for brass uses copper and zinc, but before about 1790, it was common to use calamine or zinc ore, with copper to make the brass alloy. Calamine contained traces of lead and sulphur, both of which hastened the deterioration of the metal. As a result, horns from the baroque era are extremely fragile, and almost never playable today. They do make suitable subjects for copying, however. Horns built after 1800, with solid metal and if not overplayed in past generations, can be quite wonderful to play. Occasionally such instrumnents are found. Please contact us for the availability of such instruments.

Viennese Horn with Replacement Couesnon Bell

This horn probably built circa 1840 in or around Vienna, has a bell replacement. The Couesnon bell is actually an early 20th century bell, but fits the wrap of the horn perfectly. The tone, response, and playability are absolutely first rate. It is equipped with crooks for Bb alto, A, Ab, and G, with a set of (yes, Vienna-style) couplers, allowing crooking in all keys. The close wrap of the horns corpus allows these couplers to be employed without concessions to comfort. The bell interior has been enameled burgundy and gilded with grape leaves around the opening.  $4300.00  SOLD

Current Antique Horns for Sale

Cor-Solo by Kessels, Tilburg, circa 1880

The Cor-Solo had been the darling of horn playing Europe since its introduction by Raoux about 1795. The winner of the Premiere Prix at the Conservatoire de Paris received a Cor-Solo as a prize instrument, so all the notable players had one. But dilitantes were also enchanted by the Cor-Solo, with its ease of playability and refined manufacture.

The Dutch firm of Kessels was preeminent in that area of the world, but the company achieved its greatest successes in providing fine instruments in the field of "Harmonie Muziek" or wind bands. These were an outgrowth of the resident European Court ensembles comprising pairs of Oboes, Clarinets, Bassoons, and Horns. The ubiquitousness of these groups is manifest in the Serenades, Partitas, and Octets of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Krammer, Rosetti, and other Classical composers, and transcriptions of popular Opera arias are plentiful. They were a Parlor Ensemble, par excellence, and Kessels sponsored the development of these groups throughout the Netherlands and Belgium, lasting into the 20th century.

Our Cor-solo could be among the last such horns built in that tradition. The woprkmanship is of the highest order, and the playability easily equals that of the Raoux and Courtois instruments built on this pattern. When regarding the manufacture of this instrument after the valved horn had already achieved universal popularity, one need only recall that St Saens and Ravel were composing for the natural horn into the early 20th century. But the short period of use this horn has seen has allowed its condition to be preserved.

There are extant crooks for G, F, E, and D, and an Eb crook has been replicated to match the others in playing and looks. The original brass mouthpiece is included. The original case of pressed particle sheet succumbed to humidity long ago, but a suitable case of recent manufacture can be provided. All major dents have been removed. The bell interior has a black enamel finish with gilding of laurel wreath and a Fleur-de-Lis. This enamel is not only celebratory and historic, but has the useful function of protecting the bell interior from erosion from the increased level of hand motions, brought about through hand stopping; stunning!

Comparables have sold in Europe for $8,000 to $10,000, as the Cor-Solo is a rare find. We seek $6,000 for this excellent horn. SOLD

Cor-Solo by Dupre/Couesnon/Greer


The firm of Couesnon began in the 18th century and became one of the biggest French manufacturers of musical instruments. Their success seems to have been achieved through contracts with the French Army, rather than through Arts circles such as the Conservatory. They were attuned to the shifts brought on by the inventions of valves, and developed a line of Saxhorns that replaced the older Serpents and Ophecleides. Other firms of a more conservative mindset found themselves in fiscal difficulties when the new instruments became popular and many folded or were bought out by Couesnon or Thibouville-Lamy.

The Belgian firm of Dupre was famous for the older instruments, with many extant Serpents and Ophecleides in collections today. They had also developed a fine playing natural horn by about 1850. The aging owner faced the typical problems of a store with an obsolete stockpile of unwanted instruments. They were absorbed by Couesnon, as were Triebert and Gautrot, and some 10 other makers. The assets of Dupre, according to correspondence between Paul Schonk, a descendant of Dupre/Couesnon employees, and former Boston Symphony first horn, Harold Meeek, were to lay idle for about fifty years.

About 1902 Couesnon had a factory fire that destroyed all records, as well as much of their capability to fulfill the contract they held with the Army. To solve their dilemma, they simply raided the "New Old Stock" of Dupre natural horn and parts, creating "Cors d'Harmonie" for the French Army. A set of valves was needed, with a slight reconfiguration of one pipe, and "Voila!"

By the late 1970s Paul Schonk had contacted a Viennese shop to restore the Dupre-Couesnon Cors d'Harmonie in his family's possession back to original natural horn status. Harold Meek bought these horns for resale and his own use. I had the opportunity to examine the original Dupre as well as the restorations, and took measurements. Through a bell template derived, we can easily establish which Couesnon Cors d'Harmonie are conversions of Dupre, or perhaps horns built on the old Dupre mandrels. (Police forensic work with fingerprints considers as few as seven matching points a match, and I have twenty-six points represented on the template, so a high certainty is achieved!) Although there is a sense of conservation that would dictate leaving any instrument in its original status as found, there is a stronger current today to seek the earliest form the instrument would have had, and to use that as the high water mark for its condition or recondition.

This has been done with a superb Cor-Solo which bears the Couesnon brand, but is clearly of Dupre origins either through place of manufacture or by virtue of the ancient mandrel used to form its tapers. Sterling Silver trim is seen in the ferrule, ornate bell garland, and crook badges. This horn was probably marketed during the 1920s, and has escaped heavy use and damages. It has crooks for G, F, E, Eb, and D, the keys used for horn parts in solo and chamber music. The playing of the horn is light and sonorous. Hand stopping is easily done, even in the most chromatic of passages. The bell interior has been enameled and gilded in the style of the era. $8000.00

Dupre/Couesnon Cor-Solo crooked in F:

Dupre/Couesnon shown with Eb crook:Dupre/Couesnon crooked in D:The ornate garland is made from Sterling silver, as are the Leadpipe finial and the crook badges. The Couesnon stamp is pristine:

French Natural Horn

We have several lovely French natural horns on the compact form (The radius of the horns coil is reduced by lengthening the tuning slide), that have come from a military school in Lyon, France. Some are by known makers; others seem to be "stencil" horns, built by reputable firms and sold without a maker's name, with a brand name added by the vendor. This was a common practice during the 19th century, and makes establishing a pedigree almost impossible. The reduced corpus made these horns playable at different pitch levels, and also made adding a sauterelle or piston set possible.

Orchesterhorn by Leibl, Goerkau, circa 1820

Cors Naturel

Instruments available include models by Couturier, George Schubert (father), Karl Schubert (son), Couesnon, and A Courtois. Some have some original crooks, other have our replica crook sets. All have had all major dents removed and any cracks or thin spots patched. Prices range from $2400 to $3900.

This Viennese style natural horn represents the instrument of Beethoven's era. The dynasty of Liebl had shops in several locations, including Nuremburg, Neukirchen, Adorf, Dresden, and Vienna. The town of Goerkau has changed nationality several times, being located in the region where Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic meet. The tuning slide is at its original length, not having been shortened as the pitch level rose; this is quite rare. Pitch modification seems to have been made by shortening the inlet pipe (now restored to original length). The horn plays at A438 in this setting. To tune up to A440, about two inches would need to be cut. Since most players in historic ensembles tune to pitches below A440, it seems a travesty to alter this instrument to conform to a tuning which is not used in historic performances. Replicas are available which play beautifully at A440.

The horn has four patches; none of them seem to be present to cover a thin spot, but to add strength to the metal where a previous repair was made. There are some small dings left in the horn, to document the instruments history of use. The bell profile is quite wide, making this a Cor-Basse or low horn players preferred horn. The upper partials are easily attained, without any feeling that the instrument was designed to exclude these notes from the gamut. Hand stopping is easily accomplished; one only needs to "think" the notes into place. Highly chromatic music, such as Beethoven 9th Symphony 4th horn part are easily executed. The tone is rich and velvety.

There are 9 original crooks with the horn: Bb alto, A, Ab, G, F, E, Eb, D, C, and a coupler for Bb basso and the other rarely used keys. The mouthpiece is antique and probably original to the horn. It has a smaller shank than modern mouthpieces, and fits the narrow inlet of the crooks. The case is antique, but not original to the horn.

As it stands, corpus, crooks, mouthpiece, and case - $9,000