I recently purchased an old Kohlert bassoon, and I've been doing some research on the company trying to date my bassoon. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find anything published online regarding serial numbers (the main method of dating a bassoon). From the articles and bits that I've found online and from the IDRS, I've been able to get an approximent age for the bassoon (from the place of production, Graslitz, and the distinctive tenor joint, with the flat ledge for the keywork) - but what I'd really like is to learn the production year!
If anyone could point me in the direction of a list of Kohlert serial numbers or give some insights into their pre-WW2 production, I'd really appreciate it.
The pre-war Kohlerts were state of the art bassoons by dedicated craftsmen who unfortunately were all relocated after World War II and their factory was taken over and run by the government, at which time the workmanship started to decline. You can find out what is known by googling Kohlert. I have forgotten the specific website, but there is one which documents the history of this great company, and you will also see there that all their records were destroyed during this move and takeover, so you will not be able to find specific information about your serial number's "date of birth." Good bassoon repairmen will be able to document it within a decade or two, probably.
As an afterthought, a Chinese company (I believe) has recently bought the Kohlert name and is making bassoons using this label, so any brand new Kohlerts will not be the same.
"As an afterthought, a Chinese company (I believe) has recently bought the Kohlert name and is making bassoons using this label, so any brand new Kohlerts will not be the same."
Really? I was under the impression that the Kohlert name was dead - having been bought out by Moosman when the company tanked in the early 70's. I can confidently say that my bassoon is pre-WW2, however.
"i play a kohlert bassoon as my main horn in my school band. all i know about them is that a good one on ebay will go for about 50k but i'd like to know how old it is. is there a way to tell"
50k? Is that in dollars, or cents? From what I've read, it seems that there are a couple of (relatively) reliable ways to tell the age of the bassoon (approximently. As Drew pointed out, it seems the original list of serial numbers was destroyed). I guess the most distinctive is the tenor joint. Does it have a flat "strip" where most of the keywork is placed on? This is supposed to be a copy of the Heckel #3000 series, and was made predominantly before the war (although after the company was nationalized, this was the only model that was produced). The second is to look at the stamp on the bell. What does it say? Mine says "Kohlert and Sohne", and under it "Graslitz" - this is important, as Graslitz was the place where Kohlert (and I believe Puchner also) made their bassoons before the Second World War. The Kohlert company was evacuated along with many others from this particular area of Germany to what was then West Germany. I can't remember the name of the town where Kohlert produced instruments after the move, but it may be where Moosman currently has their workshop (this is a guess, I don't really know).
Another good way is to look at the keywork itself. Is it obviously old? Mine has no rollers, no high D, no trill keys or anything fancy like that - just as my last bassoon, also a pre-WW2 (a Penzil-Mueller). Finally, the best way to date a bassoon (other than Kohlert, apparently) is by it's serial number. These are sometimes stamped on the instrument itself (the bell, maybe the boot) but generally are stamped on the piping of the boot joint underneath the boot cap, usually next to the batch number.
I actually have an old Kohlert. There are two ways that the town where they were made was spelled - Graslitz and Kraslice. My bell joint says "V. Kohlerts Sons, Kraslice, Made in Czechoslovakia," with a fat 5-pointed star underneath. Mine has been casually dated as from the 30's, but I wouldn't put a lot of credence on that unless it had been verified by a couple other people as well. Also, on old instruments like these, there's no assurance all the parts are from the same horn...........
Mine is not in very good condition but is playable, so they do last a long time, even when they are just sitting in the cases and moldering.
All Kohlert instruments are numbered sequentially, starting in 1901, when old man Kohlert went to his reward, and the three sons succeeded. The bassoons do not have a separate series. Often you can tell if the joints match by looking for the identifying numbers scratched on the underside of the keys. Often, the bells are odd, because they were turned so thin to save weight, that even a minor fall would crack them. I find that this lightness of the upper joints makes them a pleasure to play.
Very early ones have no whisper key, or one obviously added later. Later ones have the vent between finger holes IV and V. Instruments made after 1938 are stamped "Sudetengau". Before then, it is "Czecho Slovakia", and - presumably before 1919 - "Bohemia"
Post-WWII Czech specimens are all flat-backs without the Kohlert stamp, and by repute, dreadful (I haven't tried one). The firm then relocated in Winnenden, W. Germany, and the serial numbers started again. Early instruments from Winnenden are copies of later Heckel models, with the three holes under the b-flat pad on the back of the butt joint, etc., and were high-quality, but they declined as they went on.
I have an instrument of unknown number (mismatched with a 227xxx bell) and a 230xxx flat-back model, which are probably both from the late-20's, but I am not sure.
If you find a chart of serial numbers you will deserve your forum name, because I believe all records were lost during the war. We'll be anxious to hear! Many people have tried, and even those who have written histories of this company have been able to pin the numbers down only generally.