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Contrabassoon by Franz Hell, Brünn, Moravia, ca. 1830

NMM 3073.  Contrabassoon by Franz Hell, Brünn (Brno), Moravia (The Czech Republic), then part of the Austrian Empire, ca. 1830. Stamped on butt, long, and wing joints: [eagle] / F. HELL / BRUNN / [star]. Thumb-hole bushing, possibly of horn. SATK. Wing joint 590 mm (in two sections); butt joint 763 mm; long joint 600 mm; bell joint 323 mm; height; 1686 mm.

Bell of Hell contrabassoon

Dark-stained maple body with seven brass keys, brass crook, and a typical brass bell of the time. This example may well have spent many years hanging on the wall of a tavern; when it first came to the Museum, it reeked of tobacco smoke, which took several years to dissipate. Contrabassoons, like this one, were the primary bass wind instrument used in Prague and Vienna at the time of Beethoven (for example, in the finales of his Symphony No. 5 and No. 9). In Paris, where the ophicleide was more often used, Berlioz wrote parts for the contrabassoon only twice. Even then, the instrument may not actually have been used. Board of Trustees, 1982.

Contrabassoon by Franz Hell, Brno, ca. 1830

Details of the Keys

Keys on contrabassoon

Go to Checklist of Bassoons

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