Anthony Halstead

Has anyone ever heard of a horn player by the name of Anthony Halstead? I just bought a recording of the Britten Serenade with him playing and some other guy singing. I was just wondering if anyone has heard of him. If so, please tell me what you know. Thanks.

Tony Halstead is now one of the world's foremost players of the early horn, playing with the Hanover Band and other London 'period instrument' groups. He is also diversifying his career into conducting and harpsichord playing.

Originally a pianist, he comes from Salford and studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music where he came under the influence of the great horn player and teacher Sydney Coulston and turned to a career as a horn player. He was successively principal horn in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra before specialising in the early horn. He is well known as a teacher (a Professor at the Guildhall School of Music) and lecturer for British Horn Society events etc. It is a pity that you chose to refer to the tenor as 'some other guy!'

I have been inspired by this sudden chat about Tony Halstead to share a couple of thoughts, as he may have been slightly underrepresented on the list.

There is much more to AH than a hand horn player. Last year, I shared a recording (live) of the Beethoven Sextet with Dennis Brain and Alan Civil with seven or eight members of the list. In my "notes" I stated how Civil was a poor candidate for the notorious second part and it was edited accordingly and he struggled gamely through. There was much more to the story than that, but, that is sufficient background.

I have in my collection a gem, The Beethoven Sextet recorded (live) 19 April 1981 with Michael Thompson and Tony Halstead, horns. Halstead's performance is no less than astounding on the second part. The finest I have ever heard, live or recorded. I can think of two or three commercial recordings of this piece you would throw in the trash if you heard this one, thanks to the artistry of Mr. Halstead.

Also, thank you to Mr. Mason for reminding everyone of Mr. Halsteads participation in the Tuckwell Videotape and, Significa last year. It was a lot of fun. Also, I don't believe that he has been with the Hanover Band (as a principal) for many, many, years. He has conducted though.

As long as we are hearing about this wonderful player, let me relate another amazing story:

Years ago, around 1979, I was working on my Master's at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under Mr. Thomas Holden. Some artist (soprano or flutist, regretfully, I forget her name) was in town for a recital. We found out during the day of the recital that Mr. Halstead was touring with her doing the piano accompaniment.
Mr. Holden talked Mr. Halstead into doing an impromptu Master Class. As I was the graduate assistant in horn, I was asked to play. I brought in the Hindemith Sonata, but I had no accompanist on such short notice. Mr. Halstead said that was no problem as he would play the piano for me. I then stated I would have to go to my locker where the piano part was, but he said not to bother. He played the entire piece on the spot from memory. I heard no mistakes!

We all know by know that Anthony Halstead is an excellent pianist, hand-horn player, intellectual guy and so on. Here are a couple more goodies:

He is also a baroque expert and conductor. I read in yesterday's local newspaper here in Uppsala that his newly released recording of Drottningholms Music of Roman with the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra (Naxos label) is no. 14 on the Swedish top CD lists and is the fastest climber on the list for the past week!
He is also responsible for the page in Farquharson Cousins book where he lists 50 valid fingering combinations on double horn for a 4-note figure in Strauss Don Juan...

People unfamiliar with his playing might want to check out his recordings of the Mozart concerti, the Weber Concertino (Nimbus), or (my personal favorite) Haydn 31 (L'Oiseau-Lyre 430082-2).

As someone has already mentioned, Anthony Halstead is not only a fabulous horn player, he is also a fine pianist. Back when Walter Hecht was in his entrepreneurial mode, he offered us (and I bought) a videotape of Barry Tuckwell playing the Beethoven sonata on hand horn (among other pieces). The piano player is none other than A. Halstead. But Halstead's greatest claim to fame is that he was the answer to one of Walter's Significa questions about a year ago.

BTW, The Horn Call published a lengthy interview with him in one of the 1996 issues. He's clearly a true intellectual, very thoughtful, very well read, and one of those musicians who's as comfortable expressing himself with words as with his instrument.

This performer is one of the absolute BEST players of the Natural Horn. Have a listen to the following: Mozart Horn Concertos and EMajor Fragment; Anthony Halstead & the Hanover Band (all period instruments); NIMBUS Records compact disc, NI 5104. Hear what the Horn was supposed to sound like, Natural Horn mouthpiece and all!
When Halstead was a member of London Symphony, he had also worked with Paxman and developed a series of mouthpieces. Halstead-Chidell Screw-Rim Mouthpiece is made of solid nickel silver(not plated). Original Range: 18.50 mm internal diameter, 5.20mm bore. "A" Range: internal diameter 17.50mm, 4.50mm bore. Each range has four rim widths and four cup depths. It means that there are 64 combinations possible.
In addition to all the accolades already given to Antony Halstead he has also composed for horn. If you want a REAL challenge try his "Suite for Solo Horn".
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Alexandre Horns

A local woodwind shop that is clueless to brass instruments has a horn marked Alexandre (not Alexander) is big letters down the bell throat with each letter on top of the next. At the bottom of this is says "made in italy." Anyone know anything about it? I think it's a double, but I can't remember. It's been a while since I last saw it, and I was just now asked to inquire about it. Thanks for any info!
Michael Hrivnak

This is what's known as a "stencil" instrument. It was made to be sold to an importer who could then have his own brand name "stenciled" onto the bell. Stencil instruments are usually of low quality and are sold into the school market. The confusion with Alexander is intentional.

The business of making and selling stencils continues. Take a look at the current Bach low brass catalog.

Bob Osmun
I believe Alexandre horns are similar to the Panasoanic video cameras that you can buy in so many fine electronic shops on 42 street.
Good Day,
Aleks Ozolins
Perhaps in the class of street corner Rolex watches, also. Reminds me of the enterprising Filipinos in late 1945 of bombed out Manila who ingeniously devised labels for hooch to sell to GIs who were staging for the invasion of Japan. They made rice whiskey and put it in bottles with such labels as: White House, Three Roses, Four Feathers, etc., etc. No trademark infringements there!
Mansur's Answer No. 2 re: Alexandre horns
Do the Alexandre horns still come with Lawsome leadpipes and Finker valves?
I'd say buy it! (j/k) Maybe musical instruments are like stamps or baseball cards, and if a mistake is found, especially a rare one, the value skyrockets! You might become a millionaire.
Keith D. Grush

Sorry to dissapoint, but there is no way that the "Alexandre" horn in question is an engraving error from the "Alexander" factory in Mainz. The description of the vertical printing of the name is all wrong for that. Alexander horns say "Gebr. Alexander" (Alexander brothers) and then "Mainz", not Italy.

For a picture of the design, see (Yes, it's in German, but a typical hornist's vocabulary is enough to navigate the site.)

There was a trumpet by that Alexandre outfit on Ebay a while back which generated similar questions. As with most unknown-name instruments, you have to evaluate it on its own merits (be especially careful in inspecting the valves) and decide if it is worth anything.
That's why I put the (j/k) in. That means joke. I was was being sarcastic. Sorry to dissappoint you.
Keith D. Grush
Alexander horns say "Gebr. Alexander" (Alexander brothers) and then "Mainz", not Italy.
I had been under the impression that "Gebr." was a title or label which is short for "Gebrauchsmuster", meaning industrial/registered design. Does anyone know for sure?
Gebr.=gebruder (the brothers)
p.s. I was warned about those "Alexandre" horns over thirty years junque.

I saw one of those once. I think it is a rip. Simply trying to profit from Alexander's good name and reputation. The one I saw was a dog!

There has been some real junk come out of Italy; but Ceccarossi played a well- built Italian horn during his career. Sorry, but I don't recall the maker's name.

Paul Mansur

Dear Carolyn and bunch,

It's an abreviation and means "Brothers' as far as I know -

And this retirement/older player stuff is hitting very close to home!
Da Bear
"Alexandre" horns have apparently been around for some time. About 20 years ago a horn teacher (Don Hatch in Quincy, Il) warned me away from the Italian version - said they were poor quality and not at all comparable. Since he just happened to sell Alexander (German) horns, he clearly had a vested interest, but I always found his advice to be good.
Steve Godding

I don't understand why Alexandre horns have such a bad rep. The design is copied from a vintage pre World War II Krupse, and the instruments have been used by such outstadning solists as Dennis Brian and Phillip Farksa. I bought mine from Omsun, and it's a great playing hron. In addition, it's just a super instrument for throwing! Just ask Kenny Bestt.

Helpful hint: Unless you are prepared to run the risk that your Alexandre might land on your head, be very careful not to throw up.

Gotta go,
As always, Prof. Cribbage has penetrated to the hart of the matter. BTW, I thought it was Dennis Drain.
Ronald V. Rhodes
...and Phillip Fracas.
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Alexander Horns

Angelika (or Tom?) was asking Alexander 103s, noting that although they are the standard orchestral horn in Germany and very popular in the UK, they are seldom seen in the States, especially in US professional orchestras. She/he wonders why this is so. Let me speak from the point of view of an active amateur.

The problem may be that Alexs vary so much from horn to horn, from the truly sublime to the utterly ridiculous. I've played at least 20 103s since the time I entered music school in 1972. Of those 20, I've only liked three or four. Of those three or four, two were (and are) absolutely superb instruments. I've owned them both. One is a wonderful 70 to 80 year old 103 that I still own and play in chamber settings and the other is excellent 103 built in the late 1960s (I sold it a few years ago to a good friend). I can't say enough good things about these two horns. They speak very easily--effortless pianissimos. Intonation is correct throughout the range. They produce liquid slurs and fluid legatos. They have that inimitable Alexander sound--how can I describe it? Velvety, full, a dark core with hints of brightness around the edges. Brighter as the volume increases, but never losing the velvety, dark center.

Well, that's the two that I've owned, leaving us with at least 18 other horns to consider. Several were OK--not good, not bad, not worth buying. The rest, it pains me to say, were pretty awful, conforming to two, three, four, or more of the negative stereotypes that we on this side of the Atlantic have all heard about Alexs--stuffy, out of tune, lacking a low range, unreliable in the high range, incapable of a true fortissimo, etc. and so on. I suspect that this is the way many Americans think about Alexs because they've never come across one of the good ones. (I have a horn tech friend who claims the Germans keep the good ones for themselves; the British get second choice; the Yanks get the runts of the litter.)

I know that every manufacturer produces horns that are better or worse than others of the same model. Yamaha 667s do not all play exactly alike, or Holton 179s, or Conn 8Ds, or Paxman 25s... Even Lawsons vary. But in my experience other horn makers turn out instruments that are much more consistent from horn to horn than Alexander does. It's odd, but I can honestly say that the best professional quality horn I've ever played and the worst were both Alex 103s.

I'm in the process of buying an old Alex 103 at the moment and as I've already told him, I've kind of fallen in love with it! My first teacher played on an Alex as well, so I learned to play in an 'Alex style'. They are great, with loads of little quirks and characteristics, like the upside down thumb valve, or the gap big enough to fit your leg through (well, almost!) below the third valve! Not only that, but they sound great and the one that I'm getting is bang in tune most of the time, with an equal tone in all of the ranges, which are firm and responsive. What can I say? It's cool!!
Could anybody tell me which model Alexander horn is the most popular in Germany (i.e., used by Berlin Philharmonic members, etc.) I'm looking into buying an Alex but don't know which model is which. Thanks in advance.
Ethan Bearman
I think that model 103 is the most popular in Germany. According to the catalog, Alexander made first instrument of this model in 1907 and patented the device of its rotary valve on 30 May 1909. Model 101 is similar design but has large bell. They also produce Knopf / Geyer wrap horns: models 1103, 1104(with gestopf key), 200(anniversary model) and 503(student horn).
Toru Ikeno
"I think that most British listers would agree that the Alexander 103 is considered THE classic horn over here. I gather that the first one imported into Britain in the early '30s was owned by Francis Bradley (son of Adolf Borsdorf)."

"Three cheers for Alexander!! I have been in love with their horns since my college days in the 1960's, but never had enough money to buy one. When I finally got one in a trade twenty years later (for a Finke Triple), it played well, but not as well as I remembered. A friend had just put a Lawson pipe on her Alexander, so I was able to try and buy her old Alex pipe. The horn now played great."

I studied with Francis Bradley at the London in the early sixties and can confirm that the Alex 103 was THE horn of choice then. It was not considered a classic then even though it has been around for a long time in Germany - (it was patented in 1912, I believe). At that time there was a lot of experimenting with Bb/A and descant horns but this never replaced the trusty old double horn. Bb/A horns with an F extension were favoured by some players. James Diack former principal of the London Mozart Players had a Bb/A Alex with the short quick action valve levers which were very fast.

When I needed to upgrade my instrument Francis got me Patrick Strevens' 103 which was built in the late 40's. It was 12 years old and I paid 100 pounds for it. As Wilbert Kimple found, you can get great value if you are willing to wait for the right instrument and seek a little advice from your hornplaying friends.

I virtually wore out the lead pipe until it was almost paper thin and had to have a new one installed by Paxmans. Lead pipes just as bocals (crooks) in bassoons and cor anglais are very important to the tone and response of an instrument so dont mess with them unless you really have a problem. I have now virtually worn the bell out but it still plays beautifully. I think the hand engraved german silver caps are really what distinguishes the old 103's.

Before you all go rushing off to find old 103's remember that as with all handmade instruments each instrument will have its own characteristics so try them out before you invest. I believe someone on this list said that one of the best and one of the worst horns he had ever played was an Alexander. There are great makers and great horns - in the end its the horn that counts - given that the player is a constant :)

Regards to all

Francis Pau
"I think the hand engraved german silver caps are really what distinguishes the old 103's."

I own an Alex 103 built in the 60's. It has the hand engraved caps. I have a "94 catalog from Alexander which shows the engraved caps on the new models. I agree that it is a very distinguishing characteristic of the Alex horns. COOL!

Bill Ostler
Some years ago a teacher friend of mine brought his 103 to me together with 3 Lawson leadpipes and after a considerable amount of testing decided which one he wanted fitting. He also asked me if I could get a Conn 8D bell for him. It duly arrived from the USA and I cut it to make a screw bell and fitted it to the 103. The over all effect on the instrument was , well to quote the owner, 'Brilliant, just brilliant'. The inonation was great, especially in the upper register and the top Bb and B which were very bad on the original were both sound as a bell. The owner, Irvin Rosenthall, has since passed away but I know there were quite a number of horn players who wanted to get their hands on it. I tried the Alex leadpipe on my Yamaha 664 and found it opened up my top register, so if fitted it and its been there for 20 years. I hope some one finds these comments interesting.
Tony Crosse
(retired brass teacher and brass instrument repairer.)
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Alexander Serial Numbers

There aren't serial numbers on Alexanders. If you need one for insurance purposes, do as I did and have one put on. I used my social security number. I don't know what you have over there, but there's got to be something similar. That has the additional benefit of being a number you can remember.
The serial number should be on the back plate of the second valve. There should be five numbers, Hope you find it.
Someone posted a question about the age of an Alex 103 based on the serial number. You should know that Alexander has not affixed serial numbers to their instruments until just a few years ago... The serial number that was posted in the ad may very well be the last four digits of the previous owners social security number. If this is so- you can either find out the age from the owner, or wait until you can go to Mainz and show it to Herr Alexander, because there will be no way to date it. Sorry, but I hope that helps.
Andy (devoted Alexander player)

Just to muddy the waters concerning Alex serial numbers discussed recently, I have an 1104 that was purchased new from the workshop in Mainz in mid 1988. Not long after having it fitted with a Lawson leadpipe, I noticed a serial number was engraved on the third valve housing. This number is 6026. If it didn't originate in the Alex factory, one wonders from where it came. Perhaps the trick will be to ask the Alex people directly.

If any of the hornlist recipients, in addition to Ethen Bearman, might be interested in acquiring this horn, I'll be happy to provide the particulars via the internet.

Gordon Wileen
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Alan Civil Obituary

21 Mar 1989

Reproduced from The Daily Telegraph without permission


Alan Civil, who has died aged 60, was one of Britain's most distinguished horn players and a splendidly Falstaffian character.

A former Army band-boy, he was a pupil of Aubrey Brain (father of Dennis) and of Willy von Stemm in Hamburg before going on to become principal horn of the BBC Symphony Orchestra for 22 years until retiring in 1988. He had a full and rounded tone, as can be heard in his recordings of Mozart concertos and especially of Britten's Serenade with the tenor Robert Tear and the Northern Sinfonia.

In his orchestral work Civil played on a modern German Alexander double horn, but used a single model for concertos and other solo works and also had a collection of natural horns which he used for early music, in which he had a special interest.

Alan Civil was born at Northampton in 1928 and joined the Army as a band-boy. He used to tell the story of how he changed from his Army uniform into white tie and tails in the train on his way to do his first concert for Sir Thomas Beecham.

The conductor recruited him to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1953 to 1955 as second horn to Dennis Brain and Civil became principal in 1954 when Brain joined the Philharmonia. In 1955, when the Philharmonia toured America under Herbert von Karajan, Civil went with them as third horn and remained with this orchestra after the tour as co-principal with Dennis Brain. In 1957 the Philharmonia gave three concerts at the Edinburgh Festival. Driving back to his home after the final concert on the Saturday, Brain was killed when his car crashed. The orchestra was due to record Strauss's opera Capriccio with Wolfgang Sawallisch in London on the Monday and Civil took over as first horn. It is his fine playing which is heard where the horn has a particularly important and exposed part in the final scene.

When in 1964 Walter Legge suspended the Philharmonia and attempted to disband it, Civil was offered a post with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra by Karajan. He was the first player from outside Germany ever to have been honoured by such an approach and he would have accepted had not the Philharmonia players decided to become self-governing and re-form as the New Philharmonia.

Civil became one of the first members of the governing body of five players and stayed with the orchestra until 1966, when he became first horn of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a professor at the Royal College of Music. Besides his orchestral work Civil was a member of the London Wind Players, the Music Group of London, the London Wind Quintet and even played 'obligato' horn with the Beatles on one occasion. He also formed the Alan Civil horn Trio and from 1979 was president of the BRITISH horn SOCIETY. He had a profound knowledge of the history and development of his instrument. He had most of the major concertos in his repertoire, several of which he recorded, and he toured as a soloist in America, Europe and Asia. Civil was also a composer before his orchestral career began in earnest. Among his works are a symphony for brass and percussion (1950), a wind quintet and wind octet (both 1951) and a horn trio (1952).

He was appointed OBE in 1985. Civil is survived by three sons and three daughters.

It would be unrealistic to gloss over the fact that Alan Civil enjoyed a drink. Apart from the Savage Club in which he felt he could truly relax, he could match anyone's knowledge of pubs and landlords.

If he discovered what he called 'a real pub' - with good beer, no canned music and no gambling machines - he would delight in sharing it. He cared about food and wine and the prospect of a concert tour abroad could either fill him with joy or despondency, depending on the time available to spend in good restaurants.

He played under the greatest conductors and yet had an encyclopaedic knowledge of radio dance-bands and comedy shows. His humour was acerbic, yet he could quote from memory an act of Max Miller's seen in a music hall a couple of decades previously.

It was sometimes difficult to reconcile the eminent international horn-player with the jolly chap playing the piano, leading chorus singing. He was that rare person who enjoyed listening as well as talking. Alan was the retailer and subject of numerous Savage anecdotes, such as the time he arrived fresh from an Underground station where a busker had been playing the French horn accompanied by one of Civil's own recordings. Once on a train bound for Leeds he sat opposite a young girl who was wearing headphones from which hissed a sound unacceptable for a long journey. When asked to turn the volume down she refused, adding that it was a free country. Alan proceeded to take his horn from its case and to play Mozart loudly. The girl then left the carriage to the applause of the other occupants.

Probably ©The Daily Telegraph

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