Besson Enharmonic Euphoniums

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Highams, Apr 11, 2008.

  1. Highams

    Highams Member

    I have posted before about my fascination with the ‘Enharmonic’ system that Besson introduced at the turn of the last century, in competition with Boosey’s Compensating System and Highams (and Hawkes too) 5 valve alternatives

    Having two models myself, the 3v Euphoniums/?action=view&current=3venharm1.jpg

    And the 4 valve version; Euphoniums/?action=view&current=enh2a.jpg

    I was thrilled to receive an email from a guy called Romain from France, who has a wonderful collection of instruments;

    telling me of his 4 valve model dating from 1893 with even more tubing than mine; Euphoniums/?action=view&current=romain5.jpg

    On my two models, the leadpipe goes directly into the 3rd. valve, which determines which set of slides are used (see the explanation below). Thus the system only operates on 3 valves, leaving the 4th. to it’s own (sometimes sharp of course) devices.

    On closer inspection, his model has the leadpipe going directly into the 4th. valve which again, directs the airflow one way or another if depressed, so every valve is in the system.

    What a wonderful thing to produce & market to brass bands of that era!


    Enharmonic System, Brief Description;

    Besson came up with the idea of adapting the system used on the full double French Horns, that of offering two sets of slides for different parts of the range, and my very rare Besson ‘Enharmonic’ Euphonium is the latest addition to the collection.

    The 3 tuning slides for the middle and upper register notes are at the back of the instrument, and a longer set (for lower notes) is then placed on the front.

    Now here’s the complicated part, the mouth-pipe leads directly into the 3rd.valve instead of the 1st. If the 3rd. valve is not used, the wind-way goes through into the 1st. & 2nd. valves in the normal way, and back through the 3rd. to the bell, having used the short set of slides.
    If the 3rd. is operated, the wind-way goes through the 1st. & 2nd. valves by a different route, including a tuning slide, and is directed through separate longer loops of tubing (having used the front set).

    The whole range of valve instruments (except the Soprano Cornet) was available in enharmonic form, however, the obvious weight problems when you get to the tubas must have been enormous, which is probably why only 3 valve models were made of the monster double B flat tubas. The range was eventually discontinued.
  2. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    Impressive piece of engineering ;)
  3. Highams

    Highams Member

    From the owner of the instrument;

    I received some news from A. Myers (organologyst from University of Edinburg) :

    this euphonium is the "Victory" model which came before the "enharmonic" system. It was numbered no later than 31 May 1893 when the firm was based in both London and Paris. The Enharmonic system was patented 21 May 1904 by the then separated British branch.

    There is not very much difference: the Enharmonic is just a little simpler than the Victory. The "victory" is very rare, only few examples survive.

    Thanks for your help, Romain.
  4. iancwilx

    iancwilx Active Member

    When I was at school in the 1960's we had a 5 valve euphonium in the school band, 3 on top, two down the side.
    We never did take time to find out what the 5th valve did.
    I remember it eventually being so dinted and battered that it was scrapped and binned.
    I wish I'd had the sense to save it, but, of course, "Hindsight is a perfect science"
    - Wilkie
  5. Highams

    Highams Member

    Ah yes, me too, with some great old Solbron Euphs that were probably given away!

    The 5th. valve just added another semitone, as the instrument wasn't compensated, so 4th. valve notes were still quite sharp.

    The beauty of that system was that valves 4 & 5 were much bigger in bore (with the conical taper of the instrument) than the first 3 and you can get great sounds from them.

  6. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    Wonderful things were built or even thrown together in the past to try to improve on the basic concept. Some worked some didn't and always involved what appeared to be miles of extra tubing. Nice to see them though and thanks for the photo's.
    For a small fee, once you have stopped playing them, I can plumb it into your central heating as a radiator:biggrin:

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