The double horn in F and B-flat designed by C.F. Schmidt of Berlin and Weimar was very popular among professional players in the first half of the twentieth century and continues to be used in several major U.S. Orchestras. The player pictured above is believed to be Luigi (Louis) Ricci , who was a member of the New York Philharmonic from 1917 to 1962. He is playing a C.F. Schmidt double horn in F and B-flat which was imported to the United States and Canada exclusively by Carl Fischer, Inc. New York, NY. The photo is from a Carl Fischer instrument catalog. C.F. Schmidt introduced his double horn in 1900 with its peculiar piston thumb valve for the change from F to B-flat.1
Among the early proponents of this horn was Willem A. Valkenier, principal horn of the Boston Symphony from 1923 to 1953. Mr. Valkenier was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 1887 and studied horn with Adolph Preus. In his biography of Mr. Valkenier, Milan Yancich states:
It was through Preus that he became connected with C.F. Schmidt, the Berlin horn maker. During his Berlin years, Valkenier became professionally and socially with Scmidt. Schmidt could play the horn, but he did not play professionally. He loved the horn. He was a man of who knew his metals. Valkenier said "He was a man of iron will and his first love was the horn." When I asked him whether the piston B-flat valve was his invention he thought that it was, but he was not sure. Once he asked Schmidt to change something in his model and Schmidt refused. He declared "My model is the best." 2Yancich continues with an anecdote about the great Chicago horn maker, Carl Geyer:
Geyer told me that he believed the Schmidt horn to be the best designed horn ever made. This statement from a master horn maker, surprised me. He felt that the curve of the lead pipe through the B-flat valve was part of the reason for the Schmidt horn's success. He also believed the Schmidt bells to be superior to all other bells. In fact, every horn that Geyer built for me had a Schmidt bell. While we were on the subject of horns Mr. Valkenier told me that for many years he played either a Schmidt or Kruspe double horn; especially when he needed volume.3
Richard ("Dick") Mackey, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's fourth horn player from 1973 to 2005, is another proponent of the Schmidt double horn. Dick studied with Mr. Valkenier at the New England Conservatory and for a several years played in the Los Angeles studios with studio legend, Vincent DeRosa. When the audition for the Boston Symphony came up in 1972, "Vince advised Dick that his Conn 8D would not fit in the BSO section, and offered to sell Dick his mint-condition silver Schmidt. The Schmidt has a smaller sound than the Conn, but a sound that blends with the BSO section. Vince considered the horn 'a treasure that I loved, but it went to the right hands.'"4
The firm of C.F. Schmidt was established in Berlin ca. 1880. In that year it was issued German patent #12814 for "improvements to brass instruments." By 1888 a second workshop was opened in Weimar at Brennerstrasse 2c, and was later appointed Court maker to the Grand Duchy of Weimar. In 1899 this workshop merged with the main workshop in Berlin.5 Two different locations in Berlin are indicated by the engraved labels found on the bells of the horns. The earlier location (based on U.S. importer Carl Fischer's serial numbers) was in the south-western Berlin postal district served by Post Office number 19 (S.W. 19). This is described as the "old city post office I" (alte Stadtpost-Expedition I) located at Sparwaldsbrücke, Krausenstrasse, Beuthstrasse (probably near the intersection of the latter two) in the Kreuzberg section of the city. The second location was in the adjacent Schöneberg section in the western district served by "district post office" (Bestell-Postamt) W. 57 located on Bülowstrasse. Both labels indicate the previous location in Weimar. Clearly the Weimar shop was re-opened later following the First World War since many extant examples are engraved with Weimar as the place of manufacture with no reference to Berlin. (See table, below).
In a letter to Reginald Morley-Pegge dated August 18, 1970, Dr. Dieter Krickeberg of the Musikinstrumentenmuseum at the Staatlicches Institute für Musicforschung, Berlin writes the following chronology of the C.F. Schmidt locations: "Schmidt resided 1880 at Berlin, before 1888 at Badfriedrichroda, since 1888 at Weimar, 1912 at Berlin, 1926 at Weimar." This information is very helpful in establishing the timeline of the census of known C.F. Schmidt horns listed below.
As an aside, another firm by the name of C.F. Schmidt was located in Heilbronn am Neckar, Germany. The SIBMAS International Directory of Performing Arts Collections and Institutions gives the founding date of 1851 for C.F. Schmidt-Verlag. References to the Antiquarisches Verzeichniss ausgegeben von der J. D. Classischen Buchhandlung published by C. F. Schmidt in Heilbronn in 1858 and 1862 are found in Neuer Anzeiger für Bibliographie und Bibliothekwissenschaft by Dr. Julius Petzholdt. Heilbronn city archives indicate that C. F. Schmidt flourished as a music publisher (Musikalien) from 1870 to 1993. Indeed it was a very prolific publisher of sheet music at the same time the Weimer/Berlin brass instrument maker was producing the horns described here. C.F. Schmidt Verlag (Heilbronn) published music for all instruments including horn. Of particular interest to horn players it included editions of the Kopprasch etudes and the Hornschule of Josef Schantl. No relationship between the two firms has been established, however.
The Schmidt wrap was copied by several makers including Rampone-Cazzani, August Knopf, Richard Wunderlich, Carl Geyer, Lorenzo Sansone, Boston Musical Instruments, and the original C.G. Conn 6-D. One perhaps unique example of a model by Gebr. Alexander is also known. It is said that components for these, especially the valve assemblies, were often made by C.F. Schmidt and imported to the U.S. as parts to avoid import duties on completed instruments. More recently the design has been used in horns made by S.W. Lewis, Karl Hill (Kortesmaki), George McCracken, and Yamaha model 863.
For further information see also Carl Friedrich Schmidt (wikipedia Germany) courtesy of Marco Rippert.
Morely-Pegge,The French HornSecond Edition,
(London: Ernest Benn Limited, New York: W.W. Norton
& Company Inc. 1973), 51 Mr. Morely-Pegge adds:
"This model also had a measure of poplularity and
was fairly widely used in the United States, but to
some hands, including that of the writer, the piston
proved awkward to manage."[back]
Additions and corrections are always welcome.