Besson Eb Flugelhorn
This is another instrument from Boyde Hood's collection. Until he mentioned it recently, I had forgotten that I had sold it to him about 10 years ago. Boyde tries to use as many of his (many) instruments in performance as he can. While in the Los Angeles Philharmonic trumpet section, he wouldn't have opportunities to play interesting antiques such as this, but in his capacity as trumpet teacher at USC, he enjoys sharing such things with his students. He has used this soprano flugelhorn in recitals there.
This instrument was made in about 1885 and Besson had probably been making similar Eb flugelhorns since the 1860s and continued at least into the first quarter of the twentieth century. It is 12 9/16" long with the mouthpiece removed (11 9/16" from bell rim to curve), the bell rim diameter is 4 9/16" and the bore measures .397".
It is well known that the French style flugelhorn, so popular in jazz music since the 1960s, is a direct descendant of the Bb contralto Saxhorn as made by Adolphe Sax and most other French makers. Early Bb Saxhorns with bells front are very similar in dimensions to modern flugelhorns that continue to be made by most makers today. Interestingly, the Eb soprano flugelhorns are entirely a different breed from the original Eb soprano Saxhorns. The latter were about the same bore measurement through the valves, but were much wider through the bell flare.
The photo to the right shows an original "Petit Saxhorn" made in the 1840s by Sax himself. American makers continued making sopranos of similar proportions into the 1870s when they were replaced by Eb cornets. The effect of this instrument is more cornet like, without the shrill sound often associated with the Eb soprano cornet.
Standard French military band arrangements from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries called for "petit bugle Mib" along with two Bb flugelhorns and two Bb cornets. The last illustration to the right shows the flugelhorns that were available from Besson in 1910. The Eb soprano had not changed in more than 25 years.