Orchestral Trumpet in F by W. Brown & Sons
William Brown got his start in the musical instrument business apprenticing to a flute maker. He was able to start making cornets by the mid-1830s, just as these instruments were first gaining popularity. He established his own shop by 1851, repairing as well as making brass instruments. He was soon joined by three of his sons. He continued a speciality with cornets but also gained a reputation building valve French horns and valve sections to be used in earlier hand horns. By the time of Brown's death in 1893, the firm was making orchestral trumpets like this one. In an interview with Algernon Rose for his book "Talks With Bandsmen" he mentions the trumpets that he makes. This trumpet was made some time before 1911 at which time the shop moved to a new address. The history above comes from an excellent article: "W. Brown & Sons: A Nearly Forgotten Name in British Brass Making" by John Humphries in the Historic Brass Society Journal, Volume18. From the 1860s and 1870s in England and France, trumpets such as this were the most common choice for use in symphony and opera orchestras for playing much of the modern repertoire as well as the classical literature. The timbre was very similar to the older slide and keyed trumpets and even older models with no mechanism. They could still be crooked to a variety of keys for ease of fingering, although the longer the air column, the harder it was for the player to avoid "clams". This was the primary reason that by 1900, Bb, C and higher pitched trumpets were taking the place of these lovely sounding instruments.
This trumpet was recently listed in an online auction, not surprisingly with an inaccurate description that was in my favor. As usual in these auctions, I was taking a risk in the actual condition, original finish, parts etc. I was more that a little happy when it arrived and the original silver plating is almost perfect and the mouthpiece and shank are original to the instrument. Original mouthpipe shanks are often missing from antique instruments and it is very rare to find a 19th century trumpet with original mouthpiece. This is important in understanding the sound that was expected at the time since the mouthpiece is extremely important to the character of the sound. The mouthpiece shows signs of slight modification (enlarging the cup) indicating the original owner was a serious player. It almost certainly would have had crooks for Eb, D and C originally, but those were probably lost with the original case many years ago. It required some dent removal and two solder joints were loose.In his article, John Humphries discusses theikelihood that Brown purchased parts from other makers for use in his production. This is typical of smaller makers today as it was then. The first Brown instrument that I owned was a more modern Bb trumpet that was likely made after WWI. I remember that at the time I made the assumption that Brown imported it from Europe to sell in London. This was a very common practice in all countries where the demand was great and the sellers often claimed to be makers. The evidence it pretty strong that Brown made instruments early on, but it is certainly possible that later examples were bought for resale. All the tubing in this F trumpet are of metric sizes that were and are used in Germany. Where Brown claims that the bore of his trumpets were 7/16" (.438") this actually measures .433" which is exactly 11mm, the closest metric equivalent. The outside diameter of the tubing and crooks is 12mm. It seems likely that the tubing was made in Germany. Other parts on this trumpet, such as valve casings and waterkey pin, don't seem to be of metric measurements. The way that other parts are made, typically don't leave such obvious measurement evidence so it would only be speculation to guess what other parts might have been sourced from Germany, or indeed the entire instrument. The overall length with mouthpiece removed is 22 1/2"(571.7mm) and the bell diameter is 4 5/8"(127.5mm).
This is a very good playing trumpet; the intonation and response are very even throughout in spite of a relatively small bore. The more famous Courtois orchestral trumpets were 11.5mm(.453") in the bore and I don't remember being as impressed with the playability, but of course, I didn't have an original mouthpiece to try it with. I used the Courtois as a model for the replica that I built several years ago and its playing characteristics were very similar. Other examples of F trumpets on this site are a Heckel in the German style, my reconstruction of the Boston F trumpet and English slide trumpets, including a replica English slide trumpet. I also feature an example of a German band trumpet in G.