• 1930′s Besson Trumpet

    Posted on November 18, 2012 by alasdair in Besson & Co, on topic, Trumpet, Vintage Brass.

    This 1930′s Besson trumpet was the first vintage instrument I bought, a purchase made purely for it’s similarity to the vintage instruments that were being used by the Leadhills Silver Band.  There were no band trumpets and I wanted something that fit in aesthetically . . . at that point aesthetics was about all we had!

    The bell is especially nicely engraved including the text:

    CLASS A
    NEW CREATION
    50 MEDALS OF HONOUR

    BESSON & CO
    “Prototype”
    198 EUSTON ROAD
    LONDON
    ENGLAND

    besson trumpet bellThe only addition that the band instruments had over-and-above this is an inscription to the effect, “Leadhills Silver Band”, also those instruments are dated back to the early 1900′s . . . the similarities though are uncanny.

    I should probably make a note on the dating of this Besson trumpet.  It’s serial number is 122324, which according to horn-u-copia places it’s date of manufacture anywhere between 1921 (last serial no. 111500) and 1934 (last serial no. 124350).  Using these serial numbers I reached the conclusion that Besson were producing somewhere in the region of 988 horns a year (assuming levels of manufacture were fairly stable – a big assumption I know), and on that basis this would mean that my trumpet was completed at some point during the early 1930′s . . . if anybody has any other notions as to dating I’d be delighted to hear them!

    As you can see from the pictures the horn isn’t exactly in ‘as new’ condition, in fact someone had attempted to cover up some of the wear on the valve block with silver paint at some point, the problems didn’t stop at the cosmetic either.  The valves were blowing out, the lower register in particular sounded just dreadful . . . I mean really bad!  The valve caps were also replaced as one of the original ones was cracked.

    besson trumpet valve block

    More recently I had the collars on the main tuning slide removed to assist with tuning, actually I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the tech I use, a guy by the name of Bryce Ferguson who’s based in Edinburgh.  He’s also responsible for all the work done on the band instruments too.

    In the end I spent substantially more having the horn serviced and the valves repaired than I originally spent on the trumpet itself and whilst it’s not to everyone’s taste I actually rather like the tone of the instrument.

    It’s probably worth noting that the choice of mouthpiece had a huge impact on the sound of the trumpet, I had been playing it with a modern Denis Wick with extremely poor results and it wasn’t until I stuck a Schlike in that I really started to get things to work for me.  Interestingly I’ve since heard other vintage Besson trumpets struggle to sound at all good with a Denis Wick mouth piece, a problem easily overcome by substituting for another brand.

    The key change valve allows the trumpet to be played in either the Kay of Bb or A.

    besson trumpet key change

    Ideally, at some point in the future, I’d like to have the silver-plating redone.  That, however, is for another day!

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