Kölner Model Horns

(click on photos for larger view)

Horn by F.A. Schmidt, ca 1850
Photos courtesy of Musikinstrumenten-Museum, Leipzig

The term Kölner (Cologne) model horn was coined by Friedrich Adolf Schmidt sometime after 1850. The Kölner design has six sections in the following order: (1) conical leadpipe, (2) valves, (3) cylindrical intermediate piece, (4) tuning slide, (5) conical first branch, (6) bell tail and bell.  The cylindrical portion is about one quarter to one third of the total horn length with the valves are located at one third or slightly less of the total length. This allows for a much longer slow-tapered leadpipe. It is a modification of the model developed by C.A. Mueller in Mainz sometime after 1827. In Cologne F.A. Schmidt built a modified high quality version of Mueller's design from about 1850. By the end of the 19th century and into the first decades of the twentieth  century it was known as the Kölner model. It was often copied by other makers and adapted to local traditions (see other examples, listed below). Until 1890 it was fitted with Altkölner valves or Pointventil (point valves) in which the rotor is supported top and bottom by pointed adjustable screws. Later Schmidt and most others employed the Neukölner valve which is essentially the modern single rotary valve.

According to Walter Lawson: “The first tapered tube of a brass instrument partially controls the ease of register – A short taper provides an easy high register, but the low register lacks power and concentration of sound. A long taper gives strong low notes but is difficult  in the high register in that it requires precise lip control and intense mental concentration.” Long leadpipes from the mouthpiece to the valve section were common on valved horns in the second half of the nineteenth century. By the twentieth century, however, most makers of single horns had shortened the mouthpipe to about half the length found on this horn and moved the tuning slide before the valve set instead of after it.

Another example of the Kölner model horn is by Julius Altrichter, shown top right also in the Leipzig collection, no. 3597.  This horn is very similar if not identical to an anonymous horn in this collection (below right) which is believed to be also by Altrichter. The Altrichter design is built in five sections instead of the six described above, with first branch (5) and bell (6) formed in a single piece.

Other examples in this collection that fit the Kölner typology include the following:

P.E. Schmidt, Copenhagen, 1857

Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory, 1893

Gebr.Alexander, Mainz, ca. 1900

C.E. Doelling, Philadelphia, ca. 1904-1910

Horn by J. Altrichter, ca 1910
Photo courtesy of Musikinstrumenten-Museum, Leipzig

Anonymous German horn probably by J. Altrichter


Special thanks to Marco Rippert for his assistance.



Heyde, Herbert. Das Ventilblasinstrument, Seine Entwicklun im deutschsprachigen Raum von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1987. ISBN 3765102253

Heyde, Herbert. Hörner und Zinken, Musikinstrumenten-Museum Leipzig Katalog Band 5. Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1982

Lawson, Walter. "An Explanation of Tapers and Alloys Used in the Manufacture of French Horns", paper given at a clinic, Lawson Brass Instruments, Inc., 1980

Waterhouse, William, The New Langwill Index of Wind Instrument Makers and Inventors, pub.Tony Bingham, London 1993

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