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History of the Bassoon

Development and Makers  (19th - 20th Century)

(1820 - 1843)
Karl (also Carl) Almenrader (1786 -1843) was a versatile musician starting his career in 1812 as bassoonist in Frankfurt, 1815 bandmaster, and 1816 bassoonist in Mainz. In Mainz he began the direction of making woodwind instruments with B. Schott. During this time he started work improving the bassoon in accordance with the recent acoustic researches of his friend G. Weber. In 1831 he established a company with then 18 year old J. A. Heckel in Biebrich. In 1838, the partnership dissolved after a quarrel and in 1842, Almenrader retired from the orchestra because of ill-health. After his death in 1843, his son and successor moved the workshop to Darmstadt.

Almenrader was called the "Boehm of the bassoon" by Sachs. He successfully reformed the Dresden model bassoon including the opening and re-sitting of certain tone-holes, the adding of keys, the principle of "double-holes" debouching into both butt-bores etc. His model, from which the modern "Heckelfagott" directly derives, was built at the time, not only by Schott and J.A. Heckel, but also by A Jehring and by F.G. Adler who unsuccessfully atttempted to introduce it in Paris.

In addition to composing concertos for bassoon, horn and valved trumpet, he published an important teaching tool and an interesting article on bassoon reeds, the manufacture of which he was famous. Max Bruch, the composer, was his nephew.

Heckel Biebrich, originally called "Almenrader und Heckel", is founded in 1831 in Wiesbaden, Germany and is one of the oldest surviving workshops for constructing musical instruments. The founder of the company, Johann Adam Heckel, joined with the musician and composer of the Court of the Dukes of Nassau in Biebrich, Karl Almenrader, to start the company.

(1808 - 1854)
Frederic Guillaume Adler (died 1854), according to Fetis, improved the bassoon by adding keys. He showed his improved bassoon models at all the Paris exhibitions. In 1939 he was accused by Neukirchner of plagiarizing his bassoon model. Among the instruments he constructed are an Almenrader- model bassoon (1827), a "bassoon militaire" (1839), and a bassoon with a metal bell ( 1844).

It was not until late in the 19th century that interest in the contrabassoon was heightened and makers in Europe began to work to improve and develop the instrument. In 1880, Wilhelm Heckel built what is considered by many to be the first modern full-scale contrabassoon. His design corrected many of the pitch problems typical in the earlier instruments and stabilized the scale.

(1885 - 1922)
Oscar Adler (1862-1922), employing over 20 people in 1902, became the largest producer of woodwinds in Germany and Austria. Under the company name, Oscar Adler and Company, he made saxophones and used "ebonite" for clarinet and bassoon linings. Oscar Adler received patents for a new model of clarinet (1893), new bassoon mechanisms (first in 1906 and then in 1907) and a Berninger-Adler oboe with a saxophone system, single-reed mouthpiece (1928).

Vinzenz Puchner established his woodwind instrument company in August of 1897 in Graslitz, Czech Republic. After nearly 50 years in business and just after World War II in 1947, a government commission from Prague under the so-called "Benes decree" appropriated and liquidated the Puchner business into the Czech State Enterprise, "AMATI". Vinzenz died shortly after being exiled to Nauheim, Hess in 1948.

In September, 1945, a Cooperative of musical instrument manufacturers was established in Kraslice, Czech Republic, and because the production of both wind and stringed instruments was anticipated, the Cooperative was given the name "AMATI". In 1948, the Cooperative was nationalized and Kraslice gradually became a center for wind and percussion instrument manufacture.

Vinzenz Puchner's son and grandson, Josef and Walter, begin the construction of a new location for the family business in Nauheim where they estabish the firm of "Josef Puchner formerly Vinzenz Puchner, Graslitz". The structure was completed in 1955 on Beethovenstrabe where it still stands today.

Fox Products Corporation is founded in South Whitely, Indiana, by Hugo Fox in 1949 following his retirement from the Chicago Symphony (1922 - 1949). During the 1960's the company under management by Hugo's son, Alan, began hiring competent, technically skilled people to make the instruments along with training other employees in reed making. The company continued to grow with the introduction of the Fox contrabassoon in 1970, and the "Renard" line of bassoons in 1971.

Peter de Koningh of the Netherlands begins making reconstructions of baroque bassoons. He has developed models of the some of the 18th and early 19th century bassoons including bassoons by Prudent Thierriot, Paris (c. 1770), Heinrich Grenser (Dresden c. 1810) and a contrabassoon after A. Eichentopf (Germany, 1714).

Ben H. Bell, whose workshop is located in Stoney Lake, Ontario, Canada, begins building bassoons. Bell feels that the bore of the bassoon was the fundamental weakness of the instrument and he worked to improve it in his own design. The new bore is based on research and measurements from hundreds of instruments. He has also studied the effect that the wood type plays in instrument sound and he is applying what he has learned to the instruments that he builds.