Apr 24, 2020 Serial numbers can be used to identify supposedly “better” instruments. It is sometimes (possible erroneously) supposed that five digit MKVIs are the best. Or you want to play a horn with a number that is close to your idol’s saxophone. For the latest generation of saxophones Amati used a similar system as Yamaha to designate the various models and this has lead to some confusion in the marketplace. For example the initial entry line Alto was AAS 21 while Yamaha offered a YAS21. Some people jumped to the incorrect conclusion that the Amati saxophones were Japanese copies. In September 1945, a Cooperative of musical instrument manufacturers was established in Kraslice. And because the production of both wind and stringed instruments was anticipated, the Cooperative was given the name 'AMATI'. In 1948 the entire production had been nationalized.
This 2008 article has been reprinted in whole with the permission of its author, Dennis Gazarek. The opinions in this article are the author’s and I reprint it here without any edits. -Matt
A Short History by Dennis Gazarek
The history of saxophones and other instruments produced by the predecessors of Amati-Denak is complex, confusing and convoluted. The instrument makers were directly impacted by European wars of the Twentieth Century, Nazi and Soviet expansionism and the Cold War. My goal is to provide some insight in the evolution and revolutions that have taken place to result in the Amati-Denak company of today. I will leave it to some scholar in the future to write the definitive history, with names, details and facts that I have not included in this short summary. I admit my Czech-Canadian heritage and that I am a bit of a ‘shill’ for the Amati brand. I do believe that Amati’s line of saxophones and instruments deserve a fair consideration from Canadian and American consumers.
I especially want to thank Klaus Dapper (www.saxophon-service.de) and Klaus Schneider (www.klaus-a-schneider.de); as their websites provided the basis for this article. I used the online Google translation service for the translation from German to English.
Finally, I take full responsibility for the content of this article, and I invite corrections and improvements where they are required.
One of the most important areas for the production of musical instruments in the world is the area in and around Kraslice in the now Czech Republic. A violin maker’s guild was established there in 1669, and was the start of over 300 years of musical instrument making tradition in Kraslice. From that date on, production of musical instruments of all types flourished in the area.
Prior to Czechoslovakian independence in 1919, the region was a German speaking area of North West Bohemia. From 1526, Bohemia was a province of the Hapsburg Empire, (also known after 1867 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire).
The Empire had 50,000,000 citizens with its capital Vienna and a vibrant musical tradition. Composers who were active in the Empire were, Gluck, Hayden, Mozart, Salieri, Beethoven, Dvorak, Smetana, Fucik, Janacek, Schubert, Weber, Liszt, Brahms and Mahler. There was as well a corresponding great number of symphony orchestras, concert bands, military bands, ensembles, all requiring quality instruments. These three towns supplied the vast majority of violins, violas, cellos and other string instruments as well as percussion, brasswind and woodwind instruments for the Empire and all of Europe.
Amati Kraslice Saxophone Serial Numbers
Graslitz was the German name of this small town located in the border region of what is referred to the Sudetenland. This area always had very close ties with the German province of Saxony just over the border. In fact the Kingdom of Saxony was a military ally of the Austro- Hungarian Empire prior to the unification of the German states in 1871.
Just across the border in Saxony, 10 kilometres by foot, is the town of Klingenthal. Klingenthal is also noted for musical instrument production. Yearly in May, there is an International Accordion Competition held in Klingenthal.
About 20 kilometres east of Klingenthal is the town of Markneukirchen which was the original home of the VEB Brass Instruments which produced the B&S line of Saxophones. As well Oscar Adler began operations in Markneukirchen in 1885. The Kohler brand saxophone was also produced here from 1933. It is the home to the Museum of Musical Instruments founded in 1883 and it hosts an annual International Instrumental Competition and master classes
Kraslice, Klingenthal and Markneukirchen had very close business and economic interrelations between all the instrument makers. There was positive interaction between designers, production facilities, suppliers, contractors and workers.
The Sax Makers of Kraslice
Saxophone production initially began in Kraslice in 1900 by the firm V Kolhert and Sons. Kolhert produced the entire saxophone family from Sopranino to Bass. Kolhert tooling and manufacturing had an excellent reputation and by 1939 had earned 23 major prizes at international fairs and exhibitions.
The second major saxophone producer in Graslitz between 1920 and 1938 was the company F X. Hüller Co. Third major producer in Kraslice was Julius Keilwerth family.
With numerous Saxophone makers in the three towns, there were business relationships between the companies. One supplied components to another. Another firm would do stencils for another’s customers. Remember there were B&S, Adler, Kohler, Kolhert, Huller, Keilwerth, Monnig, Schuster and likely several others, all operating in the area between 1919 and 1939. It is not inconceivable a sax could have parts and components from a number of different makers in the area, and even be sold under an English or American name. This partially explains why Saxophone historians have such difficulty determining the lineage of specific saxophones from this region.
Freedom and Growth in the 1920’s
There was some grumbling by a few ethnic Germans with the founding of the country of Czechoslovakia in 1919. Prior to this time the German speaking residents in the Sudetenland were members of the German speaking Austrian Empire, and the Czech speakers were a minority in the Empire. However with the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the ethnic Germans in the Kraslice area and other parts of the Sudetenland became a minority in the new Czech speaking Republic.
Amendments enshrined in the Czech constitution guaranteed the German speakers the rights and privileges they always had enjoyed. Under this tolerant policy the Instrument makers of Kraslice prospered and developed between 1920 and 1938.
(There was a conscious effort by the National Government in Prague to encourage the use of the Czech Language, Education, and Culture into the Sudetenland areas. As well ethnic Czechs were encouraged to settle in these predominately German speaking areas.)
Unfortunately in 1933 Hitler came to power in Germany. One of his goals was the expansion of German territory, and to justify his territorial demands he began protesting about the ‘Oppressed German minorities’ in other countries. The European powers in October 1938 allowed Hitler to take the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. Sudetenland was the mountainous border region and it was heavily fortified by Czechoslovak Army with forts and other defensive measures to protect the country from military invasion. With the Nazi occupation, the Czech army was forced to withdraw to the un-defensible central plain. Then in March 1939 Hitler made an offer to the Czechoslovakian government, ‘surrender the rest of the country or I will destroy it’. Since the country was militarily indefensible, the Czechs reluctantly surrendered.
From a military point of view the Nazis had a superior air force and navy compared to the Czechs. However with the seizure of the Sudetenland defensive lines, and the military assets of the Czech army, the Nazis vaulted into first place as having the most advance mechanised weapons of war.
Nazis seized from Czechoslovakia thousands of tanks, wheeled vehicles, trucks and artillery pieces which were used very prominently and effectively in the conquest of Poland and France during the next 12 months. They also seized the Czech Gold reserves from the National treasury which allowed the Nazi’s to finance further foreign conquests
In the Kraslice area, all musical instrument factories were forced to switch over to Nazi war production, primarily making components for aircraft. As a side note, no ethnic Czech men served in the Nazi Armies, (they were forced to work in German industries) yet a significant number of young men from the Kraslice area who were ethnic Germans were conscripted by the Nazis and died in the hostilities.
End of the War and Re-Organization in Kraslice
As one can imagine there was extensive political and economic turmoil in the Kraslice and all Europe by 1945. The Red Army had effectively destroyed the Nazi Empire in the east. Patton’s Fifth Army had stopped just kilometres away west at Karlovy Vary.
The economic infrastructure was in dis-array. It only made sense that Keilwerth, Kolhert and Huller should merge into a manufacturing co-operative in 1945.
The production of the Amati saxophones began in 1945 in the former building of the company Julius Keilwerth employing the Czech staff from the companies Kolhert, Huller, and Keilwerth.
Initial saxophone production was of Keilwerth models with the brand name Keilwerth, (trademarked ‘JKG’ until 1955). Of course this made sense as Keilwerth was a founding member of the Co-operative. These instruments were stencilled for several companies including the Austrian firm Musica as ‘Musica Steyr’. Amati operated as a privately owned co-operative until 1947. The Communists seized the Czech government, banned all democratic activities and nationalized all industry including the Amati co-operative.
The Allied Powers allowed Czechoslovakia in 1945 to expel ethnic Germans who supported or collaborated with the Nazis. None of the leaders of the music industry appear to have been in this category. However when the Communists came to power in 1947, they began to expel all German businessmen and landowners and anybody they felt was a threat to the Communist ‘utopia’. It was under the Communist regime that many of the management of the Musical Instrument companies left.
In 1947 after nationalization, a number of the old Kolhert management and workers left Kraslice and established a new saxophone manufacturing company (Kolhert & Co) in Winnenden near Stuttgart in West Germany. Unfortunately there products never reached the previous acclaim and success.
Julius Keilwerth and other family members also went to West Germany in 1947 and established the Julius Keilwerth Company of today. Max Keilwerth left Kraslice in 1949 and produced saxophones for the Hohner Company, and Richard Keilwerth left in 1951 also for the West Germany and produced woodwinds under the name Richard Keilwerth.
Even though Amati was now operated as a nationalized state controlled enterprise its products were much better than one would expect from a typical communist industrial firm. There were three reasons for this.
• First, there was the long tradition of innovation and quality instrument making in Kraslice. The workers knew how to build great instruments they had the skills, tools, facilities and the infra-structure.
• Second, music is an intrinsic part of the Czech culture. One third of all Czech homes today have a musical instrument of some type. To produce sub-par instruments would be a national disgrace.
• Finally the State Central Planning understood that musical instrument sales would be an important source of foreign currency and the Amati co-operative members had experience in overseas sales.
From the 1950’s through to 1990 there had been few major design changes in the saxophones produced by Amati. They were in fact the basically the same saxophones produced in the 1930s. Amati instruments in most cases were of very good quality and very economical to buy with western currency.
During this period Amati produced stencils for numerous other brands sold on both sides of the Iron Curtain. It is believed that models of King Lemaire, Corton, Boosey and Hawkes, Crescent, and Keilwerth were all produced by Amati) as well as producing the Amati Classic and Classic Deluxe saxophones under their own name.
On November 16, 1989 the ‘Velvet Revolution’ began in Czechoslovakia, and by December 29, 1989 the Communist Party was out of power and today the Czech Republic, (Slovakia separated peacefully in 1993) is an independent country, a full democracy, member of NATO and the European Union.
The fall of Communism meant the end of State owned enterprises. Amati evolved into a modern corporation called Amati-Denak. With this change came an influx of fresh investment capital, which was used to purchase new and improved manufacturing technology. The saxophone line was thoroughly reviewed and new products were designed and produced.
For the latest generation of saxophones Amati used a similar system as Yamaha to designate the various models and this has lead to some confusion in the marketplace. For example the initial entry line Alto was AAS 21 while Yamaha offered a YAS21. Some people jumped to the incorrect conclusion that the Amati saxophones were Japanese copies. Amati had no reason to copy Yamaha or any other brand as Amati and its predecessor companies had been designing and producing award winning state of the art saxophones for 90 years at this point!
The Amati brand of instruments and saxophones particularly, do not have the brand awareness and respect in the West they likely deserve. This is due to four factors.
• The Iron Curtain isolated Czechoslovakia and its products from the West from 1947 to 1989.
• Amati saxophones that were sold in the West were marketed based on low price, so they developed unfairly, the related stigma of low quality.
• Dealers in the West tended to only carry the entry level models, and as a result Amati was considered a ‘student’ level instrument.
• Some ‘experts’ who make negative comments about Amati saxophones never owned one that was properly set up, and have biases about Central Europe carried over from the Cold War period. Dsc w50 drivers for macbook air.
In reflection it is amazing that there is Amati instruments being made today. Considering the wars, the economic upheavals and the political turmoil that has impacted on this little community in North East Czech Republic one could understand if the company would have gone defunct.
The fact Amati today is the largest Musical Instrument maker in Europe and one of the largest in the world validates the years of tradition in producing high quality musical instruments and the dedication and loyalty of the craftsmen of Kraslice.
Should you buy an Amati Saxophone?
I think there are many positives about Amati saxophones, and their whole line of musical instruments.
1. Amati saxophones have an outstanding reputation for intonation and ability to stay in tune.
2. They are really undervalued in the used instrument market. I was able to purchase a mint ASS62 for $270.00 on eBay recently! What would you have to pay for the equivalent Keilwerth EX90?
3. Even brand new they are priced competitively with the quality Taiwanese horns, while maintaining the feel and tone of a fine European horn.
4. They have an improving North American Sales and Service network with Headquarters in New Jersey.
5. Amati design teams target their top of the line models to compete with Selmer Paris and Keilwerth in Europe.
6. Politically and economically the Czech Republic is aligned with us in the west and has a history of buying many American and Canadian goods. For example the latest Czech Nuclear Power Plant used Westinghouse systems and components. The Czech market is open to our Western goods unlike some Asian countries.
|Type||Limited liability (GmbH)|
|Genre||Musical instrument manufacturers|
|Founded||1925 (Julius Keilwerth)|
The Julius Keilwerth company is a German saxophone manufacturer, established in 1925.
Julius Keilwerth first apprenticed for the Kohlert company in Graslitz, Czechoslovakia. After this apprenticeship, Julius Keilwerth and his brother, Max, established a workshop in their home around 1925 or 1926. They primarily manufactured saxophones for Adler and FX Hüller. The Julius Keilwerth company became one of the largest saxophone manufacturers in Europe by the start of WWII, with approximately 150 workers. After World War II, the company relocated to its present headquarters at Nauheim, Germany.
In 1948, the old Julius Keilwerth production facilities in Graslitz, now Kraslice, became part of the Czech Amati collective, however the first saxophones that Amati sold were still stamped with the 'JGK - Best in the World' trademark, had the model name 'Toneking' and had Julius Keilwerth serial numbers.
Changes in ownership
Boosey & Hawkes purchased Keilwerth in 1989 and merged the company with Schreiber in 1996. The combined company was sold to The Music Group in 2003. In 2006 The Music Group was broken up and Schreiber & Keilwerth became an independent company. In March 2010, Schreiber & Keilwerth filed for bankruptcy. On 1 August 2010 they were acquired by Buffet Crampon.
Pre-1990 saxophone models
Historical models include:
- Soloist (early)
- King (early)
- Champion (early student)
- The New King (late prewar and postwar, informally grouped into Series I, II, III, IV, and V, base for stencils)
- Toneking (deluxe models produced concurrently with New King)
Most of these historical models were also available with different 'packages,' such as 'EX' ('Exklusiv') with more elaborate engraving, additional keywork, additional mother-of-pearl inlay, or drawn and rolled tone holes.
Julius Keilwerth also produced a limited quantity of a trumpet called the 'Toneking 3000.' There may have been other brief forays into making other woodwinds or brasswinds, but no records are available as of this writing (February 2012).
In 1986 the company hired jazz saxophonist Peter Ponzol as a consultant to refine and redesign Keilwerth saxophones for the jazz market. This resulted in the 'Modell Peter Ponzol' alto and tenor saxophones. The modern lineup of Keilwerth saxophones is derived from the Modell Peter Ponzol.
A 'stencil' saxophone is a saxophone made by a manufacturer that is then sold to another company that literally takes a stencil and engraves their own name/information on the horn. The Julius Keilwerth company not only provided entire saxophones to other companies as stencils, but provided saxophone bodies for other companies to affix their own keywork to. As a general rule, Keilwerth stencil saxophones are stamped 'Made in Germany.' Some Keilwerth stencils have rolled tone-holes, and other have conventional straight tone-holes.
Some of the best known of the Keilwerth stencils are those made for the W. T. Armstrong Company:-
- Some H. Couf Royalist saxophones, named for Herbert Couf, the vice president of the W. T. Armstrong Company (1965-1980s).
- H. Couf Superba I and II saxophones (1965-1980s)
- Conn DJH Modified after the 1981 acquisition of Armstrong by C. G. Conn, named after Daniel J. Henkin, owner of Conn (1981-1986).
- Armstrong Heritage saxophones.
Note: later H. Couf models, like the 3200 and Royalist II were made by the United Musical Instruments, not the Julius Keilwerth company.
Other significant entire horn Keilwerth stencils include:-
- H&A Selmer Bundy Special (1950s-1960s)
- Buffet Expression
- Calvert Deluxe, Champion, Crestone
- Jazz King, Jubilee
- King Tempo saxophones (1960s)
- Major, Manhattan, Martelle, Marco, Miraphone
- PIA, Prelude (made for Hakkert)
- Ravoy, Reynolds, Richard Gareis, Roger, Royalist
- Silvertone, Star
- TAM, Troubadour
- US Admiral
- Vincent Albert
- Wikina, Winsall
Note: some saxophones (e.g., Voss, Roxy, Senator, and De Villiers etc.) that appear to have been made by Keilwerth were in fact manufactured by another German company called Dörfler & Jörka (also based in Nauheim) between 1949 and 1968. The design and location of the neck screw (which is completely different to the type used by Keilwerth) is a simple but accurate method of identifying Dörfler & Jörka instruments.
Keilwerth stopped supplying stencil instruments after introduction of the Modell Peter Ponzol in the mid-to-late 1980s.
By the end of the 1980s, Keilwerth had introduced its SX90R series saxophones and gained endorsements from jazz musicians such as Branford Marsalis, Courtney Pine, Ernie Watts, Don Wise, James Moody, Ron Holloway, Mike Smith and David Liebman.
Julius Keilwerth markets a range of student/intermediate and professional saxophones, from the soprano to bass saxophones. As of 2009 Keilwerth produced ST90 student range, the EX90 intermediate range and the SX90, CX90, SX90R professional range, with the SX90R featuring soldered-on tonehole rings (distinct from rolled tonehole rims formed from the drawn chimneys). After 2010 the product line was consolidated to SX90 and SX90R professional instruments and ST series student/intermediate instruments. In 2013 Keilwerth introduced the MKX professional alto and tenor saxophones with a smaller bore for a more focused sound.
Amati Sax Serial Numbers
- SX90R: made in Germany by Keilwerth
- SX90: made in Germany by Keilwerth
- MKX: made in Germany by Keilwerth
- CX90: made in Germany by Keilwerth (discontinued after 2010)
- EX90 series I: made in Germany by Keilwerth
- EX90 series II: made in Germany by Keilwerth until 2003
- EX90 series III: Parts made in Germany by Keilwerth. Assembly and finishing by Amati in the Czech Republic (discontinued after 2010)
- ST90 series I: made in Germany by Keilwerth
- ST90 series II: Parts made in Germany by Keilwerth. Assembly and finishing by Amati in the Czech Republic until 2003
- ST90 series III: Made in Taiwan. Assembled in Taiwan
- ST90 series IV: made in Taiwan by KHS (continued as ST series after 2010)
External links and references
- Official Schreiber & Keilwerth history[permanent dead link]
- Saxpics' Keilwerth history (further sources referenced there) (Note that the Selmer Pennsylvania, mentioned there, was made by Kohlert. The website was sold before the edit could be applied.)
- NAMM Oral History Interview with Gerhard Keilwerth March 16, 2008
- ^ abcHales, Peter. 'Keilwerth History'. saxpics.com. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
- ^Hales, Peter. 'The Keilwerth New King & Tone King'. saxpics.com. Retrieved 8 January 2019.