2014 Germany Trip Part 1 - Engelbert Schmid April 08 2014, 3 Comments
Many of you who follow our Facebook business page already know, but we just recently returned from a 1 1/2 week trip to Germany. Bavaria to be more precise.... Once my wife Andrea and I landed we picked out our rental car, fumbled with the German navigation a bit, and headed towards Mindelzell, to meet up with Engelbert Schmid and see his workshop in action. The trip was a bit tiring after the flight, but we endured and arrived midday to the sounds of horns being played in every corner a player could find. You see, it was the horn days at the workshop, where Mr. Schmid has organized a 4 day event for up to 20 or so horn players to stay in the area and take one on one lessons from horn virtuoso and professors Phil Myers, Bruno Schneider, and Jorg Bruckner. We arrived with a little time to spare between lessons and preparations for the evening concert, so we headed out to enjoy our first Weissbier and a Wurstsalat of our trip...
The students who were lucky enough to sign up in advance had the great opportunity to take multiple one on one lessons with these great hornists. The result is an intense schedule for the teachers, who also played a recital Friday night March 21st in the concert hall. Did I mention that the concert hall, with cathedral ceilings reaching maybe 35-45 feet from the floor, is directly above the workshop? The lighting is hung with iron clad framing and delicately positioned french horn bell flares acting as shades for the light bulbs. In the hall there is a baby grand Steinway on a humble stage with room enough for most chamber music situations. Positioned in the gable end of the hall, which provides great lighting as there are many windows, and even a door to step out onto a balcony overlooking a 400 seat capacity outdoor amphitheater... yes... left and right you have performers prep rooms and so is the performance arena.... Left of the general seating are some tables set up for the students/attendees to gather for meals, and to the right is a wine stand featuring Engelbert Schmid's wines among others. This functioned well for the 100 plus people from around town who ventured out to hear the concert.
We came back the following day and met with Engelbert Schmid for well over an hour. He discussed with us the features of his horns, as well as the great advantages his horns have over others. We shared ground in regards to appreciation for high quality, adherence to a top standard, and further discussed maintenance and care for his horns. We took a tour of the shop, and although I didn't take any pictures, I can say that this shop is unlike any I have seen. E. Schmid horns are born in this shop from tubing and sheet metal. The entire process is controlled in house, ie: valve making, slides and crooks, bell making (both flares, bell tails, and complete bells including both parts in one piece), small parts, braces, ferrules, stopping arms.. etc.... you get the picture... (no pun intended) After witnessing the shop, and discussing with him his thoughts on horn making, we are happy to announce that Siegfried's Call will be selling Engelbert Schmid horns in the near future. I personally plan to revisit and work with him side by side to learn the exact way that he prefers to refit his clients valves so that we can do this "in house" here in Beacon. Both my wife and I are very excited to start working with Engelbert, and to meet our future clients for his incredible, beautiful instruments.
On another note.... 25 to 30 Japanese horn students stopped by this Saturday afternoon and took part in a blind sound test between 3 different horns... a Schmid prototype, an Alexander 103, and an E. Schmid double medium bell. All were brass horns.
They structured the test as administered by Bruno Schneider as such: 3 different players playing 3 different excerpts on each of the 3 horns in the same excerpt order, but you don't know who the player is or which order they are playing the horns. You can't see them behind the screen. Choose, on a point scale 1-10 a point rating for overall sound preference (subjective as it is very personal). I only used 3 numbers knowing there were 3 horns to choose from.... 1 (not as interested) 5 (ok, not bad, not great though) and 10 (interesting and robust). The points were tallied and the Engelbert Schmid double horn won by a wide margin, next was the Alexander 103, and sadly, the prototype needs a bit more work.... This test has inspired me to rig a blind up for our stage at Siegfried's Call to administer similar tests for our clients.