For the last few weeks I have been working a lot on developing the Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) section of my website. Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) is what VEB Blechblas- und Signal-Instrumenten-Fabrik (B&S) evolved into post-1989. In other words, VMI is what B&S became after Germany’s reunification.
Confused by all the long, German words yet? I don’t blame you. If you want, you can try to remember it this way: VEB & VMI. VEB came before VMI, since “E” comes before “M” in the alphabet.
Now that we have that bit of housekeeping cleared up, here’s an overview of what I’ve been working on, and what I’ve still got left to do.
Although my website is known as a primary source for vintage sax info, believe it or not, I am interested in some modern instruments. Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) is one of those modern companies that has caught my attention, since not only are they an evolution of a vintage brand, but because they produced some top-of-the-line, cutting-edge saxophones.
Sadly, VMI ceased saxophone production in 2005, but their legacy is one of fascinating and unique saxophones. Unfortunately, some of their lines were so poorly marketed through places like WWBW, that they were seen as budget horns, rather than the high-end, pro horns that they were. This did not help their cause.
What also didn’t help their cause, were stories of some quality control issues regarding tone hole heights and bell to bow tightness1. The company seemed to crank out so many horns, that sometimes things slipped through. For example, my Medusa bari had to have some of its tone holes filed when I first got it.
Given that there really are no English, and very few German, sources of Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) saxophone info, I decided that it would be in keeping with my website’s current tracking to research and write some pages about this company’s now-defunct sax production. Besides, in a few years, these horns will be vintage anyway.
Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI): Its history in condensed form
The Reader’s Digest version of the company’s history can be summed up as follows:
After the fall of the Berlin wall, VEB Blechblas- und Signal-Instrumenten-Fabrik (B&S) transitioned into the Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI). Some sections of the national corporation that had been appropriated by the government were liberated once more, while others—such as Hüller—were closed down. After this point in time, VMI only produced standard brass instruments such as horns, trombones, tubas, trumpets, and saxophones.
Despite the company’s return to private ownership, VMI continued producing both Weltklang and B&S blue label horns for a few more years—some of which I have called transitional. It wasn’t until 1991, when they introduced the 2001 series, that it truly stepped onto the world stage as a saxophone maker.
The new Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI) section that I am currently working on for my website, explores all the horns that were sold under the B&S label after VMI was created. So far I have researched and written about the Series 2001 and Codera model horns. Next up are the Guardala, Medusa, and 1000 Series horns.
In addition to the written pages, I have uploaded hundreds of new photos to the Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH gallery of Bassic Sax Pix. Currently I am in the process of inserting all the data related to the photos.
To help you get a better idea of how the old VEB’s horns morphed into the new VMI’s, I’ve created some graphics for the various categories of saxophones.
B&S AKA “Blue Label” Evolution
B&S Pro Horns
Prior to the 1989, B&S did not make what they consider professional model saxophones. After their evolution into VMI, the following were their pro lines, and production dates
If you have a modern B&S saxophone that you would like to see included in the gallery, please send me an email. Thanks!
I also want to give a big shout out to Dave Kessler from Kessler & Sons. He generously sent me all the photos he took over the years when his store was an authorized B&S dealer.
If you’re in the market for a new horn, check out his shop. I have played a few Selmers that he sold, and I know that if I’m ever in the market for a new horn, Dave will be my go-to guy.
1 June 3, 2003 comment from Wolf Codera on SOTW regarding the Codera Model saxophones sold by WWBW.