Jerry Greenfield

My Horns


My first horn, when I was a freshman in high school, was a well-used pre-War (WW2), small-bore, light weight, nickel-silver Kruspe double. Although cosmetically challenged, including a large bell patch, it played like a dream and was a wonderful instrument, ideally suited to chamber music playing. A music store in Portland had loaned it to me in unplayable condition (its valves corroded and immovable and its surface black with oxidation), with an option to buy if I could make it playable. The engraved name was at first illegible through the tarnish, but cleaning revealed the instrument to be a vintage Kruspe--one of the big three classic German horn marks (with Schmidt and Alexander), and I knew I had a neglected gem in my hands. I respectfully brought it back to life, and it was a powerful motivator for a novice just getting serious about playing horn. The next year I replaced it with a nearly new Alexander Model 103, also nickel-silver, that a friend had brought back from Europe.

Alexanders, especially the 103, have long been the choice of many symphony horn players worldwide. Notably, Dennis Brain played an Alexander single Bb Model 90. Fond as I had been of the old Kruspe, the 103, which I christened Wolfgang, immediately became my horn in the profoundest sense. I played it until 1967, when, finding that surgery had made it impossible for me to form an embouchre, I sold the instrument to my teacher Charles Dietz. I came to regret having done that, even before finding a few years later that I had recovered my ability to play. I made that discovery after happening upon a Cold War era East German exact copy of the Model 103 in a Pennsylvania pawn shop. Not wanting to reveal my excitement to the proprietor, I made only a cursory examination of the frozen and encrusted instrument and didn’t know until I had got it home and cleaned it up that it didn’t bear the Alexander crest but rather a Sonora brand, with which I was unfamiliar.

I have since determined to a fair certainty that my 103 copy is what is referred to as a stencil instrument hand-made in the latter 1950s by the Blechblas- und Signalinstrumentfabrik (B&S) factory in Markneukirchen, DDR, using then-recently available specifications from Alexander and possibly even original machine tools from the Alexander factory in Mainz--the 50-year patent on the 103 having expired around 1955. After WW2 and through the cold war, the Markneukirchen factory also produced Kruspe, Walther Moennig, and Hans Hoyer horns, Kruspe separating off to its own factory after German reunification. During the 1950s and 1960s making copies of the 103 became a favorite sport of instrument factories on both sides of the iron curtain, but those made in the Markneukirchen factory are the most highly regarded for their craftsmanship and were marketed under a variety of brand names, including most famously Gerhard Schneider and, in Great Britain, Boosey and Hawkes. It is likely that my horn is one of a small batch that may have been imported to the USA briefly with the Sonora brand either as a special order or as a marketing trial during the period. In any case, the Sonora brand is extremely rare on a horn and required some detective work to determine its real provenance. But not to appreciate its playing quality, which I discovered after rehabilitating the instrument and finding that I could indeed play again, which I did with that horn on and off for the next fifteen years. In 1997 I got it professionally reconditioned and lacquered in preparation for taking it with me to Japan. Eventually I sidelined it as my primary instrument in favor of an Alexander Model 107 Bb/F-descant double after trying one at the factory in Mainz. From time to time I still play the 103 clone, whose sound in the middle register I prefer to the 107's, although my high register predictably benefits from the descant side of the 107.


A Piece of Mainz in Wilsonville

Alexander Model 103


Pre-WW2 Kruspe


Alexander Model 107