Three Members of the Horn Section of the
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
1936 - 1937 Season

The above photo of three horn players in concert is dated on the back April 7, 1937. Also written on the back are the words "horn section Detroit Symphony". The horns shown are H.F. Knopf (left) and two model 103 Alexanders.

The horn section of the DSO for the 1936-37 season comprised Francis Hellstein, Sune Johnson, George Stimm, Heinrich Hilmer, and Ernst Huebner listed in that order in the printed programs. According to the performance database, the only Detroit Symphony Orchestra concerts that took place in April 1937 were Ford Sunday Evening Hour concerts. Although for these programs, the orchestra was listed as the Ford Symphony Orchestra, all the musicians were members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Judging from the background, this photo was not taken in Orchestra Hall. This is consistent with the Ford Sunday Evening Hour Concert series, since starting in early 1937 these concerts were held in the Masonic Temple to accommodate a larger audience during the radio broadcast. At 5000 seats the Masonic Auditorium is well over twice the capacity of Orchestra Hall. These concerts were broadcast coast to coast on the CBS radio on Sunday evenings at 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. The purpose of the photo might have been to show the orchestra in this new environment.

The concert date nearest to the April 7, 1937 date stamped on the back of this photo was the Ford Sunday Evening Concert on April 4th (See program at the bottom of the page). On that occasion the program included "Siegfried's Rhine Journey", the concert version of the Prologue to Richard Wagner's opera, Götterdammerung. This piece features the off-stage horn solo known as Siegfried's "Short Call". The reason that only three players appear in the photo is that it was taken while the principal horn (either Hellstein or Johnson) is still off stage. (Note: the "Ford Symphony Orchestra" was a reduced complement of the DSO and only used four of the five DSO horn players.) For some reason the second horn (right) is not playing his note in the sudden chord that immediately follows the Short Call.

Francis Hellstein, ca. 1950 and Sune Johnson, ca. 1938
Francis Joseph Hellstein (1910 - 1988) first appears in DSO printed programs for the 1935-36 season as co-principal horn with Albert Stagliano. Mr. Stagliano left the DSO the following season when this photo was taken to become principal horn of the Cleveland Symphony. Mr. Hellstein would have been only twenty-six years old, however, clearly younger than any of the men pictured. The 1936-37 season was the first that twenty-eight-year-old Sune Johnson (1908 - 1987) appeared in the DSO. He too was much younger than the men in the photo, and neither he nor Mr. Hellstein resembles any of them anyway (see photos above). The remaining three members of the section, George Stimm (58), Heinrich Hilmer (49) and Ernst Huebner (58), were all of ages consistent with the men in the photo. Both Mr. Stimm and Mr. Hilmer left the DSO following the 1936-37 season, the time of the photo.

George Anthony Stimm (1878 - 19??) was born in Varjas, Deimas, Hungary on December 16, 1878. He immigrated to the U.S. February 12, 1905 and lived in Detroit until August, 1909. He with his wife and three daughters then moved to Toronto, Canada where he joined Frank Welsman's Toronto Symphony Orchestra (not the current TSO). He returned to the U.S. in May of 1914 and 1916 to take part in the Biennial Music Festivals at Cincinnati. For the 1917-18 season Mr. Stimm returned to Detroit to become principal horn of the DSO. The following season he moved to third horn with the arrival of Bruno Jaenicke and Albert Stagliano. He was also a member of the J.L. Hudson Brass Octet. In 1921 he petitioned for U.S. Citizenship. He departed from the DSO section after the 1926-27 season to work in the Detroit theaters, but returned to the DSO at the age of 58 for the 1936-37 season (above photo). Following that season he retired to become a florist.

Heinrich Hilmer (1888 - 1961) was born February 16, 1888. In the 1925 he was employed in the Hamburg Stadttheater. The following year he came to the U.S. arriving in New York on August 6, 1926. He joined the DSO horn section for the 1928-29 season and remained in the section through the 1936-37 season (the time of the above photo). In 1932 Mr. Hilmer petitioned for U.S. citizenship. He died in January, 1961.

Ernst Richard Reinhold Huebner (Hübner) (1879 - 1970) was born in Hennickendorf, Germany on March 21, 1879. In 1909 he was third horn in Hamburg State Philharmonic, and then until 1912 he was with the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, (Cologne). He arrived in New York on September 26, 1912 at the invitation of conductor, Carl Muck, to be the new fourth horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Boston Journal announced his arrival as follows: "...a brilliant young horn player from Cologne, Ernst Huebner, will succeed Carl Schumann, who was one of the original members of the the Symphony Orchestra." Mr. Huebner was a member of the BSO from 1912 until 1919, when he was fired because of his participation in the ill-fated strike that year. The following season he joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with his colleagues, Bruno Janicke and Edwin Miersch as a result of the mass defection from the BSO over unionization. The Detroit Free Press crowed "The Detroit symphony is given a horn choir this season, which will be noteworthy. It will include besides Jaenicke, Huebner and Miersch from Boston, J.A. Stagliano of Chicago, and George Stimm, the latter a member of the local orchestra last season." Initially, Mr. Huebner with his wife Elizabeth and her two children resided with the George Stimm family at 252 Midland Avenue. Mr. Huebner remained with the DSO at least through 1945-46 season (aged 67). Ernst Huebner died in February, 1970.

Ernst Huebner, 1913

Program of the Ford Sunday Evening Hour, April 4, 1937
Courtesy of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
(Click to enlarge)


Special thanks to Peter Hirsch at the New York Public Library for searching the library's holdings of Detroit Symphony Orchestra programs. Thanks also to Ms. Cynthia Korolov, archivist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, for providing information from the orchestra's performance data base and the scan of the program from April 4, 1937.


Encyclopedia of Music in Canada

Fifth Census of Canada, 1911

Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920

Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930

Polk's Detroit City Directory, 1938-1939

Programs of the 21st (1914) and 22nd (1916) Biennial Music Festivals at Cincinnati, Dr. Ernst Kunwald, Musical Director

"Among the Musicians, Boston Musicians Now in Detroit", Detroit Free Press, September 28, 1919.

"Hudson Brass Octet Offers Free Concerts", Detroit Free Press,

Pizka, Hans. Hornisten-Lexikon / Dictionary for Hornists. Kirchheim b. München: Hans Pizka Edition, 1986. ISBN 3922409040

Yeo, Douglas, "Horn Players of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1881-1988",The Horn Call, v.XVIII, No. 2, p.47, The International Horn Society, April, 1988
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