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Keilwerth Instrument Models

ModelStart #End #
Early Horns unknown unknown
New King & Tone King unknown unknown
H-Couf & Armstrong unknown unknown
Peter Ponzol unknown (1986) unknown

Keilwerth History

The Keilwerth company is probably the most challenging manufacturer to write about for two reasons:

  1. Julius Keilwerth and his brothers were involved with most of the German AND Czech saxophone market, so much so that it's impossible to just talk about Julius Keilwerth divorced from these other companies.
  2. While there is a lot of information about Julius Keilwerth out there, a lot of it is in German (which I can't read) and it's also partial: no one seems to know the full story of the Keilwerth company and its association with Boosey and Hawkes (before and after they purchased the Keilwerth company), Selmer, Kohlert, Amati and several other smaller manufacturers. The Keilwerth company itself doesn't know its full history: they've even insisted on their forum that all Keilwerth horns are engraved "Made in Germany". That's obviously not the case: Keilwerth was founded in Czechoslovakia!

Keilwerth has only had essentially a few professional models:

  • Early Horns (King, Soloist, Deluxe and Exklusiv models; stencilled as the Selmer Pennsylvania -- and each are slight variations on each other)
  • New King and Toneking (three to four variations of each; stencilled as the H-Couf horns, Conn DJH Modified models, Selmer Bundy/Bundy Special and dozens of others)
  • Champion, an intermediate model, that was stripped and used as the template for a couple Boosey & Hawkes and Amati horns
  • The Modell Peter Ponzol, a limited edition professional horn available for just a few years
  • Modern Horns, the SX-90R and EX-90 -- and are essentially evolutions of the Toneking and New King models. The ST90 is a student horn produced in the R.O.C. -- Taiwan and the EX90 is assembled with parts produced by Amati.

Company Foundations

Johann Keilwerth had three sons: Max (1898 - 1968), Richard and Julius (1894 - 1962).

Julius Keilwerth first worked for the Kohlert company in Graslitz, Czechoslovakia (A.K.A. the "Czech/Slovak Republic" or "CSR"). After this apprenticeship, Julius and Max established a workshop in their home around 1925 or 1926. They primarily manufactured saxophones for Adler (a small German manufacturer that disappeared after World War II) and FX Hüller (another small German manufacturer, the saxophone department of which Max helped "develop" from 1923 to 1925).

Brief geography lesson: Adler and Hüller were located in Markneukirchen, Germany. That's about 20 or so miles from Graslitz, Czechoslovakia.

At this point, an aside: these first horns (see the "Early Models") borrowed much from the overall design of the Conn "Virtuoso Deluxe" model New Wonder horns: additional inlaid pearl keytouches, microtuner necks, rolled toneholes, etc. However, there are quite a few other German-made horns I've seen that also have one or more of these features and it's been suggested many times that Conn actually borrowed from the Germans. Considering the patent dates I've seen from Conn and lack of any saxophone patent by any Keilwerth, it's more probable that the German manufacturers borrowed these features from the Americans, rather than vice versa.

Somewhat amusingly, around 1920 - 1930, most German saxophones, regardless of manufacturer, started to look almost identical. There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. Julius Keilwerth stenciled some saxophones for Kohlert - and each borrowed heavily from each others' designs.
  2. Julius Keilwerth started providing saxophone bodies for a variety of German companies that would then add their own keywork and other finishing touches. It's a bit uncertain if this process started before or after World War II, though.

Julius Keilwerth fast became the largest saxophone manufacturer in Germany with appx. 150 workers (Kohlert was still the largest instrument manufacturer, with over 600 employees). Then World War II happened.

There's no information that I could find about Keilwerth DURING WWII. It's known that the Nazi regime initially considered the saxophone a "Western menace" and frowned on its use, but there were definitely a few companies that flourished and these horns occasionally do appear on eBay and are engraved with full Nazi regalia.

Anyhow, in 1948, the Keilwerth company was "nationalized" and the workshops in Graslitz were taken over by the Czech collective combine, Amati (founded in 1946, according to Amati's website. The second of Amati's names, "Kraslice", is the Czech spelling of Graslitz). Amati's workers were recruited predominantly from former resident instrument companies, such as F.X. Hüller, Kohlert and Keilwerth. Richard Keilwerth worked with the Amati company until 1949 and Max worked with them until 1951.

Amati saxophones built after the war and into the 50's retained the name Toneking (see below), which Julius Keilwerth had originally used as the name of his top professional-model horns.

This obviously creates a great deal of confusion, especially when you look at this chart.

We're Movin On Up

Julius Keilwerth fled to Nauheim, Germany in 1947 and moved into a new, larger facility. This company was handed over in 1962 to Julius' son, Josef Keilwerth, and was then sold in 1989 to the French company Buffet (from the group of firms formerly owned by Boosey & Hawkes). The instrument division of the Boosey & Hawkes company was then sold to the Musicgroup company in 2003.

Max Keilwerth left the Amati company for Trossingen, Germany and began building saxophones for the Hohner company (the "Hohner President") until about 1967.

Richard Keilwerth left the Amati company for Markneukirchen, Germany and founded another large woodwind company - primarily concerned with clarinets. However, he also has stenciled a few horns for other companies, most notably the baritone saxophones for the Weltklang company (the former FX Hüller company and now called the B&S company -- a division of JA Musik).

Stencils

It seems that the move from Czechoslovakia to Germany made Julius Keilwerth more interested in promoting his products throughout the world. To this end, Keilwerth designed new versions of his Toneking and New King horns and stenciled this design to a bunch of different companies in a move that compares very favorably to the stencil craze of the American saxophone market from 1915 to 1929. However, in addition to just stenciling these horns, Keilwerth also sent out saxophone bodies to a variety of manufacturers who would add their own keywork. This means that you can find horns produced by smaller German companies that you've never heard of that look astonishingly like a Keilwerth, but aren't, such as the horns made by Dorfler and Jurka (a company Keilwerth summarily purchased).

In addition to this in-country stenciling, Keilwerth maintained his relationship with Selmer throughout the 1950's and produced the wonderful Bundy and Bundy Special horns for them - horns that were not produced as professional models, but are very highly regarded by most people that have played these horns - as they're variations on the New King design (Series IV). Finally, Keilwerth developed at least one model student/intermediate saxophone for the Boosey and Hawkes company. New research indicates that these horns were produced in very low quantities and Keilwerth themselves don't know how many horns were produced -- or during what years.

In 1962, the Keilwerth company management was turned over to Julius' son, Josef.

From 1965 to 1986, Herbert Couf, the president of the WT Armstrong company, had three Keilwerth models stenciled for him under the model name "H-Couf": the "Superba I", "Superba II" and "Royalist". These instruments were built in Germany and corresponded (to a large extent) to the Toneking Special (Superba I) and Toneking (Superba II) - the latter two were pro models and featured a high F# key. The Royalist was the intermediate model, without high F# key, and roughly corresponded to the Keilwerth New King model.

In a parallel move, Daniel J. Henkin started importing horns for the Conn company under the banner name of "DJH Modified" - not exactly "modified", more like "custom engraved".

King also imported at least one model model from Keilwerth, the Tempo and added this import to their other available stencil lines: the King Lemaire (produced by Amati -- a stencil of their Super Classic model) and the King Marigaux (produced by SML -- a stencil of their Gold Medal "II" model).

Allegedly, Keilwerth also supplied saxophone bodies to Armstrong. Armstrong then added their own keywork to these bodies - similarly to what other German manufacturers did with Keilwerth sax bodies decades before. The result of this is NOT the H-Couf Royalist II, 3100 and 3200 horns, according to Keilwerth, but they're unsure which horns they were.

Modern Production

In 1986, Keilwerth started producing a brand new pro model, the Peter Ponzol, and then the company was acquired by Boosey and Hawkes in 1989. This may have actually been a good thing: the model line was reinvigorated with the introduction of the ST, SX and EX90 models, rolled tone rings - and the opportunity to build horns for and borrow techniques from Buffet.

What's next for Keilwerth? While typing this in Feburary 2003, Boosey and Hawkes sold their musical instrument division to Musicgroup. I'm hoping this bodes well for the former B&H saxophone lines, the beautiful Buffet S3 Prestige and the Keilwerth models. Time will tell, but almost immediately after this acquisition, Keilwerth did come out with the EX90 series III, so things are looking up!

Keilwerth Feature Pages

No Keilwerth feature pages were found in the database.

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Footnotes & References

  1. http://home.t-online.de/home/mike.duchstein/da9707x5.htm
  2. http://www.keilwerth.de/index2.htm
  3. http://idrs.colorado.edu/Publications/DR/DR13.1/DR13.1.Lein.Kohlert.html
  4. http://www.klaus-a-schneider.de/facharbeit/seiten/deutschland.htm
  5. http://members.tripod.de/GemeindeNauheim/musik.htm
  6. http://www.keilwerth.com (and forums)
  7. http://www.amati.cz
  8. http://www.unitedmusical.com
  9. http://www.musicgroup.com
  10. http://www.oldtime-saxophone.de/hauptteil_keilwerth.html
  11. http://www.vogtlaendische-musik.de/saxophon
  12. http://forum.saxontheweb.net and forum archives at http://www.saxpics.com/SOTW_Archive/keilwerth/test.htm
  13. And special thanks to Sarge from www.worldwidesax.com for pictures and information
  14. Thanks to Markus Spies for info on the B&S horns.
  15. I have been told that, after WWI and during WWII, it is correct to say that what's now the Czech republic was essentially part of Germany. Distinction so noted. However, it is important to keep in mind that Kohlert, Keilwerth and (vintage) Amati-produced Keilwerth horns saxophones are engraved or stamped differently based on where they were produced. SO, the assertion that Keilwerth occasionally makes, "We always made saxophones in Germany. No where else!" is technically correct, but you will find early Keilwerth horns engraved with "CSR" or "Czechoslovakia".

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