Klingenthal-era Hess Saxophones

Post-WWII era vs. Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones: is there a difference?

vintage catalogue, Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones, Ernst Hess, 1940 musical instrument catalogue, Graslitz

Almost a year ago to the day I published my first article on Hess saxophones. At the time I focused on the horns that come from West Germany, after the company’s owners were driven out of their homeland in Klingenthal—a town directly across the border from the Czech city of Graslitz.

Recently the topic of Hess saxophones came up again on the Woodwind Forum, when Pete happened across a Klingenthal-era Hess saxophone that carried the Otto Riedl name.

It is worth noting that at the time Hess did not make their own saxophones, but rather bought them from “reliable manufacturers”. Ernst Hess stood behind the horns that he had stencilled for his company, since he offered an 8 day trial period, as well as a 5 year guarantee on all his saxophones.

Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones

The following is a page from a circa 1940 catalogue, which explains the three versions of Hess saxophones: the “Schlager”, vollkommene, and Solisten models. BTW, the illustration is of the alto intermediate version—the vollkommene, or complete model—which is Nr. 80.

Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones, Ernst Hess, vintage musical instrument catalogue, 1940,  Graslitz, Klingenthal, Hess saxophone

Since the majority of you who frequent my site don’t read German, I’ve translated the features that each of the Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones had. You will find the information in the chart below.

1940 Hess Saxophone Features

Modell “Schlager” Aimed At Features Available In Finishes
orchestras & dance bands none provided Eb sopranino – straight, Bb soprano – straight, Eb alto, Bb tenor, Eb baritone shiny silver nickel plating with gold plated bell
silver plated with gold plated bell
Das vollkommene Modell Aimed At Features Available In Finishes
demanding players keyed from low Bb to high F Eb alto nickel plated with inside of bell gold plated
automatic octave key satin silver plated, with inside of bell gold plated
B&C trill keys satin silver plated, with inside of bell gold plated, and keys highly polished
chromatic F# key Bb Tenor nickel plated
2nd B key satin silver plated
plate for a new B, combined with G# key – presumably articulated G# satin silver plated
easy operation of low B to G#, low Bb to G#, and low C# to G#
easy connection to all other tones, and easy A flat key operation
Bb can be played with either left or right index fingers
4 rollers
key guard on chromatic F# key
10 MOP key touches
right-sided bell keys
microtuner
modern engraving
protective capsule for the automatic octave key lever
tone holes are drawn & rolled
all pads have metal rings and are moisture resistant
Solisten Modell Aimed At Features Available In Finishes***
none provided keyed from low Bb to high F Bb soprano, Eb alto, Bb tenor, Eb baritone
nickel plated with gold plated bell
automatic octave key satin silver plated with gold plated bell
front F key** satin silver plated, with bell gold plated, and keys highly polished
B&C trill keys satin gold plated, connecting rings, keys, and engraving highly polished
Bb can be played with either left or right index fingers
chromatic F# key
easy operation of low B to G#, low Bb to G#, and low C# to G#
easy connection to all other tones, and easy A flat key operation
plate for a new B, combined with G# key – presumably articulated G#
F# – G# & G – G# trill keys**
automatic C-D trill key and automatic connection of D with all other notes**
7 rollers**
13 MOP key touches**
key guard for the chromatic F# key, and for the pillar of the connected, right sided bell keys-C#, B, & Bb**
microtuner
modern, rich engraving**
protective capsule for the automatic octave key lever
tone holes are drawn & rolled
all pads have metal rings and are moisture resistant

**Specific to the Solisten model
***Finishes are different in the Solisten model because they are available across all voices of horns.

Based on these descriptions, the Otto Riedl alto saxophone shown above is a version of Das vollkommene Modell, with an added G# trill key.

A year ago I originally published the following catalogue page from Hess. The company had moved to West Germany—specifically Munich. It is there that they operated a massive mail-order business, and sold their saxophones.

We know that ten years earlier in Klingenthal the company bought stencil horns, but did Hess manufacture their own saxophones after their forced relocation to West Germany? That’s a bit unclear, since the 1950 catalogue page I have describes the following, and doesn’t specifically mention saxophones:

…their musical instruments were made by Sudeten German refugees—those who had been expelled from the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia after 1945—in their home shops. Hess Musik however, assumed all guarantees for quality and clean workmanship.

As I mentioned last year, although this saxophone pictured here shares similarities with a number of German saxophone makes (JK, Kohlert, and Hohner), it doesn’t look like any one of them. Unfortunately over the last year I haven’t come across any photos of West German Hess saxophones, which makes it harder to draw any conclusions.

vintage musical instrument catalogue, Ernst Hess, Hess saxophones, 1950, West German saxophone, I’ve translated the features that each of the post-WWII era Hess saxophones for you below.

1950 Hess Saxophone Features

Modell I Features Available In Finishes
keyed to low Bb Eb alto & Bb tenor nickel plated
automatic octave key lacquered
B&C trill keys quadruple silver plated
Bb can be played with either left or right index fingers
plate for a new B, combined G# key – presumably articulated G# key
F#-G# trill key
chromatic F# key
easily move from G# to all other notes
with rollers and MOP key touches
massive tone holes
rust-free screws
strengthened bow guard
patented pads with moisture resistance
Bb and B like on Modell II on right side of bell
Modell II Features Available In Finishes
guaranteed lightest and most comfortable grip through improved key layout Eb alto & Bb tenor nickel plated
keyed to low Bb lacquered
automatic octave key quadruple silver plated
special high F key
B&C trill keys
Bb can be played with either left or right index fingers
plate for a new B, combined G# key – presumably articulated G# key
F#-G# trill key
G-G# trill key
chromatic F# key
easily move from G# to all other notes
7 rollers & 12 MOP key touches
massive tone holes
rust-free screws
strengthened bow guard
patented pads with moisture resistance
right-sided Bb and B keys ensures smooth key operation

Post-WWII era vs. Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones: What are the differences?

If you compare/contrast the Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones, to those sold by the company after their move to Munich, you’ll notice that many of the features are indeed the same. What they did however, is add a few new features.

  • The West Germany-made horns had “massive” tone holes.
  • These horns also had an improved bow guard.
  • They sported rust-free screws.
  • And the Modell II (the more expensive model) had an improved key layout.

Where the post-WWII era horns differed substantially from the Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones was in their voices. Prior to their move from Klingenthal, Hess had saxophones available in sopranino through to baritone. After WWII the company sold only altos and tenors.

Finishes were also different after WWII, in that only three basic finishes (lacquer, as well as nickel and silver plate) were available on the Hess alto and tenor saxophones. On the Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones, finishes varied from nickel or silver plated with a gold plated bell, all the way to gold plated. Lacquered saxophones were not even an option in the company’s Klingenthal-era.

I will keep an eye open for more Hess horns—both Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones, as well as post-WWII era ones—in hopes of finding out more about this unusual brand. If you happen to have a Hess-engraved saxophone and would care to contribute it to my research, please get in touch with me. Thank you!

vintage catalogue, Klingenthal-era Hess saxophones, Ernst Hess, 1940 musical instrument catalogue, back cover, snow covered mountains, Graslitz

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2015, Helen. All rights reserved.

Helen

Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.

10 Comments:

  1. The 1940 catalogue mentions an adjustable mouthpiece for alto and tenor (article 110).
    Is that not a bit early for a Strathon ajustotone?

    • If I am not mistaken, it is the lay of the m-piece (die Bahn) that can be customized to order, not changed on the fly as with chamber inserts.

    • I’m not sure if this helps, but here is a page that illustrates what the Bahn is.

      I’m actually rather baffled—pardon the pun ;) —about the “verstellbarer Bahn”, and exactly what Hess meant by that.

      Did you notice the pads Theo? I thought you might find them interesting. It might be interesting to try and track down the patent they got for them between 1940 & 1950, to see what they’re all about. The ones they describe in the earlier catalogue sound a bit like what you described in the Pierret.

      • The 1940 catalogue makes a distinction between metal moutpieces with “fester Bahn” and metal mouthpieces with “verstelbarer Bahn”. This is not a Strathon ajustotone, which has an adjustable chamber.

        We have not seen many mouthpieces with adjustable tip opening or rails, so the did not become very popupular, or they did not exist at all. There are patents for such gizmo’s:

        https://www.google.nl/patents/US2496749dq=saxophone+mouthpiece+adjustable&hl=en&sa=X&ei=9vEmVaKiEtCKaN2rgZgF&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAA

        Possible to make, but as unknown as the construction of the Hess patentpad.
        The patent for the patentpad could not be found among all woodwind pad patents.
        The polyethylene foil in the Pierret pads does not have a patent either.
        So when the term patentpad is taken loosely, it could also be a ringed pad with a metal foil as found in a Max Keilwerth President or another solution to keep the moisture out of the pad.

      • Helen,

        Bestimmt!

        I would need to see a clear photograph (at least), or even better, have an example to hand, yet what I understand as “eine verstellbare Bahn” would be an adjustable table that could change the angle of the reed and thus alter the working tip opening.

        I have seen prototypes of such mouthpieces with flexible tables, yet for obvious reasons such pieces are not very popular: It’s an expensive complication with little benefit.

        Peace,

        paul

        • I see one use for a mouthpiece with an adjustable table: letting a buyer try out various tip openings while all other variables remain the same. Once they figure out what they like, it would be measured, and they could start picking through mouthpieces with similar tip openings (accounting for the “higher baffles need wider tips” effect and all). Thus, this might be an attractive thing for a music store to have on hand, but not particularly useful in the outside world.

          One player wouldn’t find it terribly useful when it requires changing reed to properly accommodate a new tip opening. They might as well change the whole thing out as a unit. Multiple players time-sharing an instrument wouldn’t find it terribly useful either — it would be like having to adjust the seat of your car every time you drive it, only worse.

          • I can imagine people inventing something like the variable table, to overcome natural tolerances in reeds.
            But from the look of the drawings, and their general unsuccessful performance, I guess they give more trouble than they solve. The design has too many points with narrow tolerances.

            It is just like the microtuner, a good idea, but most of them are annoying to play when they wear and the mouthpiece can move slightly in relation to the neck.
            The exception is the Pierret like microtuner with only one moving part.
            Often only the simple solutions work.

            :top: :top: :top:

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