The Keilwerth company
is probably the most challenging manufacturer to write about for two
• 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.
• 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!
That being said, I’m doing a bit
of a different format for these pages and I’m going to try to
present as complete as possible history – but it’s by no
means complete. The links will take you to pages with more information
Keilwerth has only had essentially three 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)
an intermediate model, that was stripped and used as the template for
a couple Boosey
& Hawkes and Amati
* 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.
Johann Keilwerth had three sons Max (1898 – 1968), Richard and Julius (1894
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).
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:
• Julius Keilwerth stenciled
some saxophones for Kohlert – and each borrowed heavily from each others' designs.
• 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 the below chart:
The Toneking model name was co-opted
by Amati when they nationalized the Keilwerth plant in Graslitz, Czechoslovakia
(1946). These horns are shockingly similar to Keilwerth-made Tonekings
of a couple years earlier. Here's some parallels and contrasts:
Best in theWorld"
Rolled tone holes
Altissimo F# key
chromatic Bb/C and altissimo E vent keys
MAY HAVE JK serial #
G# trill key
MAY HAVE G# trill key
I think that you can forward the argument -- especially
because of the late serial numbers on some Amati horns (which go into
the Series III serials) -- that the Amati Toneking was made with Keilwerth
equipment for the most part, with some minor tooling changes for the
Keilwerth Toneking Series I
I think that you can forward the argument -- especially because of the
late serial numbers on some Amati horns (which go into the Series III
serials) -- that the Amati Toneking was made with Keilwerth tooling
and parts -- with some minor changes for the neck. (Please note that
ALL Amati-made Tonekings are engraved "Amati".)
We're Movin' On Up
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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".
Galleries (clicking on a link or picture will take you to a
feature page on that model or a gallery of pics)