Author Topic: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice  (Read 1104 times)

Offline Kentuckienne

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Greetings all ... I finally realized I'm not going to be playing my old clarinet any more. I bought it in 1980 in Boston, and at the time I thought had a wonderful sweet tone and I enjoyed playing it very much. It was the first decent clarinet I owned, so I was no expert (and still am no expert) so my opinion means .. not much. I decided I'd put it up for sale because it deserves to be played, but I'm not sure how I should describe it. I don't want to misrepresent it.

It's in a Leblanc case. The bell is ebonite/hard rubber, marked "Couesnon & Cie A Paris" and "Exposition Universelle de Paris 1900, Hors membre con cours"? Sorry, it's hard to read. The barrel is marked "Brilliante Model, Penzel-Mueller Long Island City NY" and the mouthpiece is unmarked and seems plastic. The other sections are both marked Couesnon & Cie A Paris. The barrel has a lighter color streak in the dark wood, the other sections are deep black wood. Is that ebony, or "grenadilla" wood? The keys have a bright plating that polishes up nice - I shined it just a little bit and oiled the wood. One of the ferrules looks like brass with the silver plating worn off.

I bought it from the owner of a musical instrument store, and he said it was his own personal clarinet, so maybe he put the various bits together himself. What would be the best way to find a new owner? Is it valuable enough to sell on an auction site? If not, is it still a decent enough clarinet to donate to a student?

Offline Windsong

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2018, 08:54:52 PM »
Welcome, and thank you for sharing your clarinet.

What you have is a 17/6 Boehm Couesnon, with a nice (incorrect, yet still valuable) Penzel Mueller barrel and likely a "throw-away" mouthpiece.
If it were me, I would list it as a Couesnon (said, "Kwee-noh") with a PM barrel, and not include, or at least not spend much time mentioning the mouthpiece.  Just because it's not stamped does not mean it's not valuable, but it probably is not, (if it is indeed plastic-- or "resonite") and a good many clarinets are sold without them, anyway.  Should you determine the mouthpiece to be hard rubber, and of similar vint to the clarinet, then you may have a valuable, unstamped piece that deserves further consideration.

The bell does not match the rest of the clarinet, IMO, despite the fact that they are all Couesnon.  While it was not uncommon to mix Grenadilla with ebonite or bakelite, and many manufacturers did it, there are tell-tale key work signs that depict the clarinet being made after the bell was made (circa 1901-1907), though since I cannot see the bridge key mechanism or count the posts for the lower and upper joint trill keys, I cannot tell if it were made after 1940.  The fact that your upper joint has an adjustment screw for G#/A leads me to safely conclude that it was manufactured at least after WWI, as there were very few manufacturers making use of that feature prior to 1920.

Grenadilla is a type of ebony wood;  when you see ebony wood listed in an auction, it is either because it is of unknown construction, or almost black in color--or both.  It's a loose term, and not terribly definitive.  Some Grenadilla is medium brown, but some is almost black.

If you can tell us (or post photos) if the lower joint's LH pinky keys are mounted to a single post or have their own individual (2) posts, and whether the RH index trill keys are mounted on 3 or 4 posts, as well as a photo of the bridge key, we can help you better determine whether the upper and lower joints are pre-or-post WWII.  Also, not that we need it, but the presence or absence of a serial number on the upper/lower joints assists in the evaluation process, as well.

Certainly, this is not a worthless clarinet by a long shot, and while you "could" donate it to a local school, it would be undervalued and underappreciated in the hands of a child for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which would be that the band teacher's appreciation of it would not likely be that of the next "rightful heir".  It would not likely be set up correctly, and suffer from poor playing as a result, and ultimately be relegated to white elephant status.  Some of the best instruments are "Frankensteins", but most people judge books by covers and a lot of good things get overlooked as a result.

If you are intent on getting rid of it, I would suggest that you attempt to sell it on-line, and start the auction low.  Provided you display hi-res photos from multiple angles, those who bid will know what it is, and will ensure a good new home for it, whether you make a fortune on it or not.  

I hope that helps, and post more photos/information as you are able.

Expert bubblegum welder, and Pedler Pedler.

Offline Dibbs

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2018, 06:09:50 AM »
...
Grenadilla is a type of ebony wood; 
...

Grenadilla or African Blackwood as we call it over here, is actually a type of rosewood (dalbergia genus).  It looks very similar to ebony but ebonies are from the  diospyros genus.

Offline Kentuckienne

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2018, 08:04:49 AM »
Interesting! Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm happy to hear old faithful has some value, as I really do want it to go someplace where it will be appreciated  and played. Here are some photos - some overexposed in Photoshop to show shadow details. I looked for serial numbers without much luck. I found what looks like B flat (don't have a flat key on this keyboard) near the top edge of both sections, with something underneath that I can't make out. It's either a larger "ZZ" or a small "97" over a small "12" ... the lower section's stamp looks more like a large "12" or "13" under the B flat sign. I found the letter N stamped under the top post of the lower section, and the word "FRANCE" on the underside of the both sections at the very top.

So it might be rosewood? It's very black, totally black, fine grained wood. The barrel I believe is probably rosewood as it has a lighter brown streak near the base.

Photos of bridge keys (not sure what you need to see) attached. I can only attach four photos per post so will put up a second post with more pics.

Offline Kentuckienne

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2018, 08:23:37 AM »
Additional photos of the keys.

As for the lower joint's LH pinky keys... the upper keys n(E and F#?) pivot on a single post, and the lower key (F?) has a longer rod between two posts.

The RH index trill keys ...do you mean the pinky keys on the lower section? G# and F share three posts, F# and E each have two posts. I completely forget what the keys are, so I had to look up a chart! If I got something wrong, I hope the photos will show the answer. I haven't played the instrument since 1982. I'll never get that first chair back now.

Offline Kentuckienne

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2018, 08:26:04 AM »
Last pics:

Offline Windsong

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2018, 12:52:35 PM »
Thank you for the additional photos.  The RH index trill keys I refer to are actuated with the side of one's index finger.

I see a pre-WWII bridge key and thumb rest.  I also see a most welcome sight--only one post for the LH pinky keys.  I am quite confident in the plausibility that the upper and lower joints were made before 1925.

The 3 index trill posts are not definitive, as most student clarinets are still made this way today, however, accompanied by the single LH pinky post, the fact that Couesnon made predominately professional-level instruments prior to the mid-1920s until their release of the Conservatoire model, and a combination of  accompanying factors, I am more willing to accept the notion that Couesnon was ahead of the curve with the adjustment screw for G#/A, and it is *conceivable* that the bell is original to the UJ and LJ.  There are those here who know Couesnon better than I do, and can confirm this, either way.  In any event, the bell and joints are not separated by more than 2 decades, and things are looking up for your "bitza" clarinet.  Find a period-correct barrel, and you can confidently sell the clarinet as a legitimate, homologated unit.  Your PM Brilliente barrel ought to fetch a comparable price to what you might expect to pay for a Couesnon barrel.

Per your dendrological contribution, Dibbs, you are of course correct.  However, "Rosewood" as most people know it is not "Grenadilla", despite the same genus classification, as they are distinctly different species.  (a photo of what most derive to be typical Rosewood grain is posted for comparison).  The grain on this Couesnon is most certainly Grenadilla, and should be listed as such.

Be sure to examine this link, Kentuckienne, found here, as a matter of fact.  I believe you will find it helpful in further determining model and general age of your clarinet:
http://www.luthiers-mirecourt.com/couesnon_1912_1.htm




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Offline Kentuckienne

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2018, 03:48:07 PM »
Windsong, you know so much about clarinets! I'm very grateful to you for taking time to look at my little lost clarinet. I'm off now to do more Couesnon research. I see the company is still in business, so I will write to them and see if I can get any more information about the historical production. In the meantime, I did get an interesting nugget from their web page. You know how the stamp on the clarinet says "Member of the Jury"? Here's why!

"1900: At the Paris World Fair. Couesnon World Leader can not participate as a competitor, the latter having won all the titles at previous universal exhibitions.It is classified standout.Il will be jury and will nevertheless benefit from the event to propose new models ever more innovative and to support its reputation and its position as world leader."


Offline Windsong

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2018, 08:10:43 PM »
 ;D
This is how it all starts.  Pretty soon, you will not want to part with that Couesnon.  Instead, you'll be shopping for glass display cases, a Couesnon barrel and a 1920s Chedeville mouthpiece.
Regarding my knowledge, you give me entirely too much credit. The truth is, I owe this website and the extremely knowledgeable people here much credit on that account. 

Glad you're enjoying researching your clarinet.  They are most amazing things--anique instruments.  They require no electric power supply, are not outdated by the next, latest and greatest of gadgets and trickery, and with a little creativity, mechanical aptitude and care, can be kept in good sort almost indefinitely.
Expert bubblegum welder, and Pedler Pedler.

Offline Kentuckienne

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2018, 07:44:01 AM »
I already don't want to part with my clarinet, but I believe it's best for both of us. I am short enough of time that I know I won't be playing it any more. At some point I have to accept that I can't live all possible lives. My goal is to learn as much about it as I can so that I can describe it properly, and then let it go.

I searched for a replacement Couesnon barrel, but couldn't find one. The PM Brilliant barrel that I have is a very tight fit for the clarinet so I don't want to put it on again. I'll post in this forum to see if there is one for sale or trade, but are there any other places I could look?

I looked at the 1912 catalog link, and the clarinet on the right in the drawing of four - the 27C, Model BO - is very similar to mine, except that one does not seem to have the metal band on the bell. In the first part of the catalog is a section for Monopole instruments.There is a clarinet on page 43 that looks identical to mine including the metal band on the bell, and Monopole seems to have also been a Model 27 clarinet. But mine doesn't say Monopole on it anywhere.

Does anyone know about historical marks used by Couesnon? Mine has an oval, with what seems to be an anchor inside with a C to either side of the anchor. It has the ribbon "Exposition 1900" mark also, and the oval with "Couesnon & Cie A Paris" inside. I could probably date it better using the marks, if I had more information about when they began and stopped using the various ones.

Offline philpedler

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Re: Marriage of Couesnon & Cie, Penzel-Mueller Brilliante - need advice
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2018, 06:30:31 PM »
Thanks, Windsong, for excellent answers to Kentuckienne!

Actually, that Penzel Mueller barrel would probably be of interest sometime. People still like to buy PM clarinets. They are definitely sought out more than Couesnon clarinets. It can be tweaked to make it fit on the left hand joint better.

Be aware, Kentuckienne, that clarinet auction prices are terrible these days. And it is a big strike against your clarinet that it is a combination horn. Plus Couesnon horns are not considered valuable. But the good news is, you probably have a nice-playing clarinet. To be specific, I would say you might get as high as $50 for your clarinet. So I like Windsong's suggestion that you find a deserving young student and give it to them.

Phil