Reeds & Reedmaking for the Modern Bassoon

Rick Yoder, Proprietor


Famous bassoon reedmaker Knochenhauer with his wind quintet
Knochenhauer with his wind quintet

Here is a bit of information about famous makers of the 20th century:

Wilhelm Knochenhauer (Emmersleben 1872 – Dresden 1940) was a member of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden from 1898 to 1937, a period during which the music directors included Fritz Reiner (1914-21), Fritz Busch (1922-33), and Karl Böhm (1934-43). Heckel built serial number 5000 for Knochenhauer in 1911; the bell of the instrument has a unique design that shows the serial number between branches of ivy. Knochenhauer’s reeds were favored by Walter Guetter and his colleagues in the Philadelphia Orchestra. More information about Knochenhauer is available here.

Karl Mechler (Würzburg 1873 – Darmstadt 1945) became a member of the orchestra at the Darmstadt opera at age 18, in 1891, and remained there for 42 years, until March 1933, when he and 18 other personnel (including the general manager and 20-year-old actress Lilli Palmer) were fired because they were Jewish or “Jewish-sympathetizers.” According to a plaque that was placed in the lobby of the Darmstadt Staatstheater in 2011 commemorating these artists, some were sent to concentration camps where they were killed; some emigrated; and others, like Mechler, apparently remained in Darmstadt. The opera house itself was destroyed by Allied bombs in September, 1944. Mechler’s reeds were used by Simon Kovar and Bejamin Kohon of the New York Philharmonic. Lou Skinner told the story that during the 1920’s, Kovar and Kohon became dissatisfied with the way their Mechler reeds were functioning on Heckel’s new 6000 series bassoons (the reeds had worked well on the 5000 series instruments). They asked Mechler to go to Heckel with the problem. The result was Franz Groffy’s engineering of the 7000 series at the end of the 1920’s. Mechler’s reeds were constructed to produce a sound with great “presence,” in contrast to the reeds made by Ludwig and others in Munich, which had a much deeper sound.

Famous bassoon reedmaker Karl Ludwig
Kurt Ludwig

Hans Bär, principal bassoonist of the Bamberg (Germany) Symphony from 1946-1978. Herr Bär supplied reeds in the 1970’s and 80’s to several prominent bassoonists in Europe and the US.

Kurt Ludwig (Munich, active mid-20th century), whose reeds were very popular in England. Ludwig’s reeds were often “brevis” models; the distance from the butt to the collar is shorter than on other models. I am currently engaged in a project on Ludwig and his reeds, including an analysis of a number of surviving originals, and will make the results available when complete.

Walter Urbach (still active;, who played in the Berlin Philharmonic and Nuremberg Philharmonic. I studied with Herr Urbach while I was playing in a German orchestra. His reeds were built to produce a deep sound and with very dampened low partials.