|OBOE MAKERS & COMMENTARY|
20th and 21st Centuries ENGLISH HORNS
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Preamble / Disclaimer
The opinions expressed below represent only my experience with various makes and models of oboe family instruments so far. Please keep in mind that how an oboe “takes the air” is different, often vastly different, from player to player. “Your air” is not “my air,” “your scale” is not likely to be “my scale,” your compensations will differ from my compensations, your reed will not be my reed, and your own “personal resonance” will be different from anyone else's “personal resonance” when playing an oboe instrument.
For many years past, collecting and trading oboe instruments, I have had opportunity to take on various makers to represent. I have declined all such opportunities. However, at the 2011 IDRS convention, I came across a make English horn that is in a league of its own, far superior to any other English horn by any other present day maker. The English horn I felt was (by far) the “best in show” at IRDS 2011 is by Puchner, and I have contracted to represent Puchner oboes, oboes d'amore, and English horns in North America. However, please know that my reviews of Puchner instruments below reflect my genuine assessments.
A note about tuners – I will offer the advice of my late friend Wally Bhosys, oboist with the Metropolitan Opera in the 1950s–1970s. It is not possible to separate the observer from the observed when playing to an electronic tuner. Simply put, playing to a tuner will produce completely arbitrary results. The only use possible good use for a tuner would be to test the length of a reed or bocal to establish a comfortable A. Beyond this, trust your own ears.
Subject to change!
AMATI - AVOID !
BARRE' - Stencil by Malerne. Voiced by Al Laubin. Rare. Worth pursuing.
BHOSYS - Mostly Malerne. Wally Bhosys reamed the bore to become a "large bore" instrument, reminiscent of the Heckel English horns. Worth a look.
BUFFET - Most of the "Buffet" English horns I have come across will be stencil instruments by either Malerne / Marigaux or Bulgheroni. A new model Buffet English horn (made BY Buffet, I believe) has just come available as of 2011, model 4713. EXCELLENT English horn! Easily on a par with Loree.
BULGHERONI - Excellent, beautifully made, beautifully voiced. However, some seem to "sing" while other seem far too "stuffy." Well worth a look in comparison to Loree. Bulgheroni bocals- useless! Excellent value for money if you can find one with a BIG sound.
CABART - Some of the ring system Cabart English horns made post WWII have amazing sound. Some few of the plateau Cabart English horns made pre-WWII may only be suitable for use as "fire pokes." I am fond of some of the post WWII Cabart English horns- a haunting, penetrating, "BIG" sound. In my opinion, one of the best instruments for use in musical theatre, film recording. Excellent value if you can find an example free from voicing anomalies.
CHAUVET - First class maker.
"BW" series voiced by Ben Storch. Some worthy
of the label "Rolls-Royce." Often will command
premium prices. Comparable to the magnificent post
1992 Laubin English horns. Rarely come up for sale.
CHUDNOW - "Sierra" Very good - Excellent.
DUPIN, ROLAND - Reputed to be excellent. Be sure to pay for and pick up your instrument in person at the atelier...
DUPIN, CHRISTOPHE - No information available.
FOSSATI - Good, though often tend to be "stuffy." Worthy of comparison to Bulgheroni. Use Hiniker bocals.
GORDET - "GERMAN MODEL" - by Kreul/Storch. Excellent. See: Kreul below
GORDET - "ITALIAN MODEL" - by Bulgheroni often good, some excellent, many "so-so."
GRAESSEL - no information avaialble.
GUASTI - some "stuffy"...
HECKEL - A scant few Conservatory system Heckel English horns, were made from c. 1933 to 1964. The "Holy Grail" of English horns. Much more difficult to find than a Heckelphone. However, the "antique" ("simple system"/ "German system") English horns seem to be fairly common. Many of the "antique" "simple system" Heckel English horns play exquisitely, though a complete pain for an oboist accustomed to playing Conservatory system. Many of the antique Heckel English horns will be old "high pitch" or "old low pitch" and can not be played in modern ensemble & A=440.
HINIKER - English horn not yet in production, though a l-o-n-g waiting list already exists.
HOWARTH - Excellent maker in every respect Try with Hiniker bocals though...
HULLER - no information available.
JARDE' - Reputed to be excellent. Likely by Orsi.
JOSEF - The Josef English horn exhibited at the 2008 IDRS convention was (like the oboe) a complete dud. I recently sold a Josef English horn that was outstanding- fairly evenly voiced (though not "perfect"), and possessed of a big, effusive, sumptuous sound. You may have to "kiss a few frogs" before you find "just the one."
KOHLERT - Best to avoid.
KREUL, KREUL / MIRAFONE - Excellent. Most all have A "BIG" sound and "HUGE" resonance. Some seem to have a "cold" sound, others a "warmer" sound. Very well crafted, though often the key fitting accomplished at the factory was not perfectly "just so"... The keywork of the Kreul, Kreul/Mirafone, and "German model" Gordet can stand well to decades of institutional use. Well worth a look.
LAUBIN - Legendary maker. Pre 1976 Laubin English horns were made by Malerne, either the "stock" standard bore Malerne or Malerne instruments made to Laubin's ("large bore") specifications. Laubin accomplished all of the final voicing. Some of the Laubin/Malerne English horns can only be described as "magnificent." In 1976, Laubin began making English horns completely from scratch. I find the most appealing post 1976 Laubin English horns to be the ones made from about 1990 to present. They seem to be much like the classic Chauvet BW English horns- sublime in every respect. The post c. 1990 Laubin English horns can command HUGE prices, often 50% higher than (say) a new Loree English horn. Even the Laubin/Malerne English horns will command amazing prices. The Laubin English horns made from scratch between 1976 and c. 1990 usually will not realize premium prices in comparison to the pre 1976 and post 1990 instruments.
LOREE - Legendary maker. My favorites: my own personal English horn, ("thin wall") #Z60 from 1910, other "thin wall" pre-war Loree horns. The "thin wall" Loree English horns resonate "like crazy." The sound of the "thin wall" horns is decidedly NOT "bright" though. I also very much like post war "A" series instruments circa 1950s, many of the "B" and "C" series, the "H" "I" & "J" "L"and "M" series. I would perhaps avoid the Loree English horns from the "D" series up say the late "G" series- many English horns from this era will be unbearably "stuffy," "resistant," and lacking in resonance. I would advise taking great care when assessing the Loree English horns from the E series up to the late G series. Some good English horns were made during this time, though many flawed instruments were also made
MALERNE - Some excellent, some very good, a scant few indifferent. The good ones compare favorably to the Laubin/Malerne English horns (pre-1976) and the Chauvet: "dark, chocolate, velvety" sound. Some standard bore, some "large bore." I tend to prefer the "large bore" Malerne English horns. Malerne English horns will often be a best value for money. The "Buick" of the English horn realm.
MARIGAUX - Excellent. Marigaux bought out Malerne in 1976 and has continued to make the fine Malerne design English horn with only minor ergonomic adjustments to the key touches to this day. The Marigaux bocals- excellent, though the Marigaux will often play best with a Hiniker bocal.
T. MARKHARDT - Reputed to be very good, outstanding Most have full automatic octaves.
MOENNIG - Pre-2008 - some will be "good," or "OK" The new "Platinum" model is sensational, one of the very best English horns ever. Pedro Diaz (Met Opera) played a Moenning "Platinum" model English horn. Extremely lyrical, warm, dark. Moenning also makes a "Diamond" model English horn, though this "Diamond" seems "stodgy" ("just the facts, ma'am") in comparison to the "Platinum" model The "Platinum" model would be a 5 star recommendation.
MOLLENHAUER - Excellent maker, though the sound is almost too mellow...
ORSI - Many Orsi English horns will be found stamped as "stencil" instruments, such as "Royal," or "V. Barcone," etcetera. Often first class instruments. Heaps of resonance, personality.
PATRICOLA - AVOID
T. POPPE - no information available.
PUCHNER - THE BEST in show at IDRS 2011 NO CONTEST. The Puchner English horn even "edged out" the Moenning "Platinum" model. SENSATIONAL
RIGOUTAT - very good -excellent maker, though some (not all) of the older instruments (say pre-1980) will have voicing anomalies. The most recent horns reputed to be excellent.
A. ROBERT - OK maker. Some later "Robert" horns stamped "Robert" were made by Malerne.
SCHULLER - "OK" maker, inconsistent. Some "stuffy".
THIBAUD - stencil instruments by Bulgheroni. Some will be found not having had the voicing completed.
TRIEBERT - I have a "Triebert" (Cousenon) English horn made c. 1920. It is "first class" ("Rolls-Royce") in every respect, and very much like my own personal Z60 Loree with respect to playing characteristics.
UEBEL - Good maker. Keywork is "clunky" and not ergonomically comfortable.
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