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French Horn/vintage 103 copy unknown maker


I  have an Alex 103 copy branded "Sonora." I'm guessing it is 1960s or so vintage, but have no good evidence other than its considerably corroded condition (unlacquered) when I acquired it in 1977. It was frozen but essentially undinged, and after I cleaned it up to playable condition, I decided it was worth restoring, which I had done professionally. I played it for years before acquiring a modern 107 which is my primary instrument now. I owned an authentic 103 back in the 1950s and 60s, and I know the instrument in question to be an exact copy except for lack of engraved valve caps, and it plays nearly as well.

My question: I have been unable to find who made this instrument. Could it have been built as a stencil by the Lidl factory, which I understand built 103 copies for Boosey & Hawes back in the day?

Thanks for any light you can shed on my mystery horn.

Hi, copying 103s seems to have been a popular sport in the 1960s. As you say, there is the Boosey & Hawkes Imperial, and also the "Gerhard Schneider master model" which B&H sold and I think was made in East Germany. The Sonora brand name is a known one, normally found on compensators from the same makers as Hoyer, the VEB Musikinstrumentenfabrik originally based in Klingenthal.

The whole business of who made which brand name here is a bit hazy though, I think production of the cheaper horns was sometimes shared between factories (VEB, Lidl and Amati in Kraslice the main ones) rather like the Chinese do now. In the UK 103 copies generally bore the Weltklang brand, labelled "made in DDR", and as you say they were good horns, although a bit heavier (thicker bell particularly) than the original. Looking at the details, stays, slide ends, valve linkages etc is usually the best guide to who made a horn, so if you want to take some close-ups and e-mail me direct at jonesthehorn "at" btinternet "dot" com  (replace the bits in quotes with the usual symbols...) then I can perhaps guess more accurately...


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Alan Jones


Can answer just about anything on playing the horn, repertoire, buying instruments, repairs, care and maintenance


25 years of professional playing and teaching in the UK


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