Natural horns of Distinction

Classical Horns

 

Natural Horn, after Nicodemus Pechert,

circa 1800, Vienna

Horace Fitzpatrick, in his excellent book, The Horn and Hornplaying (Oxford), shows plates of, and discusses in loftiest terms, two different horns built by Viennese maker Nicodemus Pechert. These superb horns fall into the mainstream of Viennese horns of the early 19th century, which followed the developments of the second half of the 18th century (tuning slides, terminal crooks, etc.). While lightly more resistant and less easily blown than the Stohr models, they nonetheless offer an authentic experience for those seeking a truly Viennese horn for Mozart, M and J Haydn, Beethoven,  Weber, Stamitz, Rosetti, and other composers of the Classical era. The sound, in particular, is truly lustrous, and demarks the classic Viennese sonic tradition. The eveness of response is without equal. The dedicated crooks for F and Eb each contain two branches of tapered tubing. While labor intensive to construct, they offer outstanding evenness through the harmonics and greater sonority on the notes obtained through hand stopping. We also offer alternate crooks for F and Eb which follow the dimensions of the later Pechert crooks, offering a broader, brighter tone.

There is more tapered tubing in the corpuses (100%) of these horns, as well as in the crooks (the original crooks with the horn - 100% tapered), than in almost any other natural horn we have seen.  This makes them more costly to build, but the results more than validate the effort. The horns bell measures at 11" in diameter, is a one piece bell, with the solid bead rim and garland added. The bore on the narrower leg of the tuning slide is .429". The original we copied had four extant crooks - Bb and A alto, F, and Eb, with couplers used with these dedicated crooks for all the other keys; an ingenious system. (The crook shown above, oddly enough, is an experimental G crook, used for the photograph.)

The response of the player-owners of this natural horn has been overwhelming. They have uniformly declared our Pechert replica to be the equal or better all other natural horns in their possession,  whether antique or replica. One Pechert player, the owner of a substantial collection of antique and modern horns, has enthusiastically declared it to be the "Rolls-Royce of natural horns". We are, understandibly, extremely proud of this new offering, and of the excitement it has created in the world of natural horn playing.

$6600.00 - Corpus with ornate garland, Bb, A, F, Eb crooks, and two couplers.

Natural Horn, after Franz Stohr, circa

1820, Prague

 

 

The horns of Franz Stohr, Prague, are some of the finest early 19th century horns extant. As they were typical instruments used by important players in a major musical center, they are quite worthy of consideration for historical performances. These horns were popular at the onset of the 19th century and used for performances of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven in the city which was very significant for all three composers. Several modern makers have copied different horns by Stohr. Because of this, and observing that Stohr's design was modified over his career, the layouts of the different archtypes will look different, even though the instruments are musically compatible with each other. The model we copy is in a private collection in New York State. It comes equipped with C alto and G crooks along with 5 couplers that together comprise every key, chromatically, from C alto to Ab basso. The bell profile is ample, with a small bore (.439"), and long slow tapers in the master crooks, all of which make this model one of the most "user friendly" replica horns available. Hand stopping is easily accomplished, with good blendability of tone, accurate pitch, robust tone, quick response, and an exciting character of sound. Even though the voicing is quieter than modern horns, our modern "hollywood ears" will enjoy the broad tonal colors of this engaging natural horn. The crook inlet best receives a reduced shank mouthpiece. Bell diameter is 11 7/8 inches and bore through the slide is .439 inches.

Price: 4,300.00 - Corpus with ornate garland, G master crook and three couplers giving keys G through C. Additional couplers for extreme keys: $900

 

 

Cor-Solo after Raoux, circa 1818

 

This is an accurate replica of the original Raoux Cor-Solo horn, the rage of both 19th century France and the continent, and the prefered model of both the soloist and the dilletante. The annual first prize winner at the Conservatoire received one of these horns, and they were truly a prestigeous instrument. Construction was very svelte, and abundant sterling silver was manifest in the trim and badges. Playing was relatively easy, as compared to the sometimes "squirrelly" French orchestral models (many compromises in the need to crook in all keys caused some anomalies in the overtone series). The tone, while colorful, is somewhat "tamer" than German, Austrian, and Bohemian models of that period, leading to a more evenly matched palette of tonal colors, with regard to open and stopped sounds.

Crooks for G, F, E, Eb, and D accompany this horn. The cost and amount of sterling silver trim will be quoted at market price, due to recent fluctuation. The bell may be enameled, at your request, once again, at market cost.

As these are authentic in every detail possible, the entry inlet will not accept a modern mouthpiece shank to an adequate depth for correct playing. You may have a duplicate mouthpiece shank turned down on a lathe, or better, you can procure a Moosewood historic mouthpiece. These have the historic cup, the proper shank, and the screw rim of your prefered modern dimension. Get them directly from Moosewood for around $100 in silver plate. They have both LGC (Courtois) and LGR (Raoux) models. Bell diameter is 11 inches, and the bore is .440 inches.

Price: currently $7,000.00 with Sterling silver trim

 

Virtuoso Frederic Duvernoy was Napoleon Bonaparte's favorite instrumental soloist. He is shown with an elegantly decorated Cor-Solo.

About Nodal Venting on Baroque Horns

Commencing with the Baroque Music Revival of the 1960s and the Early Music Movement, hornplayers were confronted with the disparity of the intonation of the harmonic series with various temperments, particularly on the 11th and 13th partials. Traditional hand stopping was, and still is, resorted to by most players. But, as the majority of 18th century paintings and sketches of concerts with horns show the horns being played with the bells pointing skywards, it is a certainty that hand stopping could not have been used by those players using that tenure of the instrument. Indeed, there exist some articles and reviews that indicate disappointment in the tone quality of those forward looking players who did use the hand in the bell. Clearly the preferred aesthetic remained for a long time with a preference for an open bell freely emitting sound. Beginning with some modern German and British players in the 1960s, whose replica baroque horns were retro-fitted with vent holes, intonation could be, for practical purposes, tamed, and the tonal values of the Baroque experienced. No one claims true authenticity, even though the vent hole technology was well known during the baroque; it is a purely modern way of having the brighter sound of the old horn, with acceptable modern intonation. Many British conductors, prominent in the Early Music field, seem to prefer this mode of playing.

Usually, four holes are provided, one each for the crookings of G, F, Eb, and D, which vent will correct the intonation of both the 11th and 13th partials. The other keys share those vents, with some experimentation required as to which vent best corrects which partial. While a greater number of vents is possible, the nature of the instrument is risked; a "clarinet da caccia". When not being used, the vents can be stoppered, and normal hand stopping used.

Baroque Horns

 

Baroque horn after Hoffmaster, London,

circa 1720

 

The horns made by John Christopher Hoffmaster are among the most important instrumental examples available. They are abundant, they follow the Teutonic precepts (it is presumed that Hoffmaster was an imigrant who followed G F Handel to London, and that his original name was lkikely Johann Christopf Hoffmeister), and, as crookable horns, they are the most economical model to duplicate, eliminating the need for expensive duplications of fixed pitch horns in different keys.

The bell profile is ample by Baroque standards, with a narrow and slowly tapered master crook (G is standard, and C alto is available). Couplers fit between the master crook and the corpus, singly or in pairs, to cover all the usual keys of baroque music. Singly, they offer, F, E, Eb, and D. Used in pairs, D, C, Bb basso can be obtained. Bell diameter is 10 inches, and bore is .439 inches. Tuning of these horns was, originally, carried out by adding "tuning bits" or spacers between the mouthpiece and the master crook; these were less-than-convenient, and introduced the possibility of "wobble" to the crook stack. We've added a tuning device to the master crook, which allows tuning without complications. These horns are available with or without garland, and with optional silver trim, as pictured above. The bell interiors are enamelled black, or a rusty red, upon request.

It is thought (see Fitzpatrick's book), and indeed very likely, that the reknown Mr Winch (Herr Wuenschermann?) played a Hoffmaster horn in Handel's operas produced in London. This model of horn continued in production by various makers until about 1850, when the machinehorn arrived. Mr Cornelius Bryant played this same design, but made by another, later, builder, in the Covent Garden orchestra; at least his horn is so engraved.

Some consider the Hoffmaster model to be the ideal natural horn for those desiring to own a single historic instrument, as this horn and variants of it were in unbroken use in England for about 150 years, from 1700 to 1850. This would validate its use on all horn repertoire for valveless instruments.

Price: $3.800.00 for corpus and G master crook; $4500.00 with four coupler crooks; $5300.00 as shown above with ornate garland and trim. Add nodal vents - $500.00

Buchschwinder Baroque horn, Elfang, circa

1810

 

 

 

 

 

These are spectacular adaptations of the pairs of hunting horns made by Buchschwinder in the collection of instruments in Coethen, where J S Bach worked. The originals were of the fixed pitch hunting horn variety, but ours are modified to conform to a pattern developed by London maker J C Hoffmaster which makes them crookable; original tapers in a more usable crookable pattern. Smaller in bell profile than the Hoffmaster Baroque horns, they are similar in layout, and come with a tunable, two coiled, G master crook (A415), using couplers to complete the crooking in the various keys. The couplers which accompany the Stohr orchestral horn are compatrible in length and bore compatible to obtain the same keys, so those players already possessing such couplers will enjoy some savings.

Buchschwinder was the first known builder to make a screw belled horn. The Coethen records also include "horns in hats", pitched in A (alto). Buchschwinder placed the screw rings on the inside of the bell, rather than on the outside of the bell, as is customary today. Mattheson was, doubtless, thinking of these horns, in reference to "gentlemen's hats in which could be hidden hunting horns". This utilitarian ideal follows the same Baroque aesthetic as the walking stick flute and the pochette, a tiny narrow violin that "fit in one's pocket". You just never know when the creative muse to perform will strike, do you now?

The bell profile (8") of these horns is small, giving them a bright but colorful sound, which moves through contrapuntal lines with clarity. The high range is superb, as the music of Bach, Hasse, Heinichen, and other Baroque composers presupposes. Indeed, the experience of playing this model helps one make sense of high baroque writing. One may order this model with or without nodal vents, as local custom determines. (See the above article on nodal venting for more information.) Available with or without garland, and silver trim is also an option. The bell interior is abvailable in any color, as long as it is painted black, as were the originals (and the Model T Ford).

Price: $6,000.00 for Corpus and G master crook; $6,800.00 with four couplers; and $7300.00 as above with ornate sterling silver garland and trim. Add nodal vents - $500.00

 

 

 

Valvectomy Horns

 

These are our lowest priced natural horns, for several reasons. They are converted from modern single F horns, and retain modern playing characteristics. They accept mouthpieces with modern shanks, allowing the use of one's customary mouthpiece model. These factors allow those commencing study to concentrate on the developement of the hand technique without the distractions of a different bore, taper, foreign mouthpiece, etc. They are not copied after any historic example, but are offered as entry level horns at a very low cost.

The original Cor-Solo natural horns were a development of the Maison Raoux, in conjunction with virtuoso Karl Turrschmidt, circa 1795. They immediately became the darling horn of both the concert artist and the dilletante. Raoux built three Cor-Solo horns completely of sterling silver, which they presented to famed duetists Turrschmidt and Palsa, and to the legendary soloist Giovanni Punto, in exchange for their valuable endorsements (Nike, Yamaha....?). Most of the Cor-Solo horns were made from brass, but manifested sterling silver trim. They almost never had crooks for keys other than (G) F, E, Eb, and D, the best keys for hand stopping, and therefore for solo work, although one rare example is known with a complete set of orchestral crooks.

The "valvectomy" Cor-Solo, is a hybrid instrument of dramatically low cost, perfectly suitable for fanfare choirs, overtone demonstrations during school concerts, a natural horn for passages in the Villanelle of Dukas or the Britten Serenade, and some may find a valvectomy preferable to the more sophisticated and authentic models within these contexts. It is made by converting a single F horn to valveless formation, and equipping it with sufficient crooks to avail the player of, at least, the keys of F, E, Eb, and D. As the donor instrument is a single F horn, all of it, excluding the valve section, is retained, and cost is thereby reduced. Some of the preexisting conditions of the used donor instrument will remain, and while the worst dents will be removed, some will remain, as a part of the instruments history. To totally refurbish or overhaul the donor horn would increase the cost well beyond the value of the instrument. The crooking can be a real test for the maker, however, as retrofitting the horn can be difficult. All crooks must fit in terms of length, bore, and the spread of the slide; it is very common to obtain crooks that do not fit the horn in one or more details, making that crook unusable. There is also a premium price placed on less often ordered parts like an Eb crook, so it is common for the crook to cost more than the donor horn to which it is to be fitted. Ours are generally built upon Italian imported horns, whose design follows more closely the classical form, enabling crooking in G, F, and Eb, with a minor-third coupler allowing E, D, and C. Crooking in other keys can only be done at a rate which increases geometrically, and it is guaranteed to be about the most expensive custom work anywhere. When a player outgrows this type of horn, it is generally better to abandon it in favor of a good orchestral horn or Cor-Solo replica, as that could end up being less costly, in the long run. Some who invest in one of our replicas find it expedient to retain their valvectomy for a second player to use in duets

Prices upon request, generally in the range of $600

 

The Horn Group at the Hot Springs Music Festival with Valvectomies.

Bell Decoration

The bells of 18th and 19th century horns were usually decorated with enamelling and gilding with classical motifs. While this might seem like a mere frivolity, it, in fact, serves a valuable function of protecting the bell's brass surface from erosion brought about by the frictions created by the increased level of movement of the hand in the bell. You may select from Red, Burgundy, Black, Blue, and Green. Burgundy and Black are most commonly seen on antique horns. This mode of decoration is most authentic on Classical instruments; baroque horns are usually enameled black or a rusty or dull red color without any gilding or other decorations, a carry over from the Trompe de Chasse, where the convex shape of a polished bell interior could collect and amplify the sunlight, blinding and startling the horses and causing them to rear up, throwing the riders.