Orchestral hand horn
MakerJohn Christopher Hofmaster
Place MadeEngland; London; Europe; United Kingdom
Date MadeCirca 1760
DescriptionTechnical description: 2½ coils excluding crooks; angle between axis of mouthpipe / crook receiver and axis of bell 142°; left-handed; brass; bell painted dark brown inside. Single-seamed bell with garland, width 36. Coils lapped with red flannel strip. One master crook and 4 couplers (all brass, single-coil except (3296e) which is 2-coil). Repair History: The red flannel lapping not original.
Other InformationSpecific usage history: This pair of Hofmaster horns were in the possession of Sir|Samuel Hellier (1736-84) by the time he compiled his A|Catalogue of Musicall Instruments - that is, probably between January|1768 and February|1770. The Catalogue includes `one pair of concert horns wth Crooks &c Complete in painted boxes - by Hofmaster London'. This exactly describes the existing horns and cases.On 11|January|1767 Sir|Samuel wrote from London to his agent at his country house (The Wombourne Wodehouse, Staffordshire) that he had bought a `D:|Horn', `made in Germany'. This was not exactly what he had hoped to buy, but at the time there were `no London ones(.) they have no time to make them as there's an order from the King ... (for) Trumpets ... However this Horn will Do'. Another horn was posted to the Wodehouse on 15|March|1767. However, these German-made french horns did not have the full range of crooks, and on 21|January|1769 he wrote `I have also sent ... crooks + half crooks & shank's(:) one whole crook, one half crook & Three shanks for Each Horn'. He then explained `The whole crook makes the horn in the key of D: the half Crook alone is E.|Flatt. Both used together is C + the shanks help out'. Since they could be used together, clearly couplers were meant rather than master crooks.Shortly afterwards, on 23|February|1769, Hellier set out to dispel any myths: `... I don't want you to play all the Horn Key's upon those Horns you've got(.) it is not so intended. There are 4 Kinds of Horns(:) G|Horns(,) F|Horn's (and) D:Horn's(.) Your's are E. Consequently only safe in D. E. E|flatt & C. they are best for learners + most useful(.) wn. they come to Excell Then I will give out my Horns wch are in G & those safe in all other Key's - if they play as much as their Present Horns are Capable of I will not grumble.' This description of `E|Horns' does not match the surviving Hofmaster horns.Hofmaster died in 1764. It is possible that his name continued to be used by Rodenbostel as his successor, but it is quite possible that Sir Samuel or his father had already purchased these horns in Hofmaster's lifetime. Since the surviving crooks and couplers are all left-handed and fit well, they probably always belonged with the Hofmaster horns. With G|master crooks (now lost) as well as the surviving C|master crooks and with a full set of couplers the Hofmaster horns would have been `safe in all keys'.This suggests that Hellier either already owned the Hofmaster horns but was unwilling to place them in the hands of learners, preferring to give them out when the musicians `came to Excell'. The two horns bought in 1767, not intended for playing `all the Horn Key's', eventually became surplus to requirements and were dispensed with. The Hofmaster horns have continued in the ownership of successive heirs of Sir Samuel Hellier.It is unusual for such a well-matched pair of french horns to be both left-handed. This could be because Sir|Samuel (or other original owner) was content for one or both instruments to be played right-handed with the crook socket lying above the main tubing, or because a mirror pair was not available (at a time when makers were fully occupied with trumpets, perhaps).
Notesp.|lewis, 20.12.96; j. harris, 20.12.95; r.|parks 1.3.93; l. whitehead 26.4.93.
Measurements498; corpus diameter 290; bell diameter 234.
Provenanceon loan to the Collection.
CollectionMIMEd; Shaw-Hellier Collection