Daniel Rauch retires.
An email arrived; it hardly inspired confidence. It read, "I got your horn assembled today and had the first blow. I think it will be OK but I usually test them a couple days to be sure." I thought back to the three Rauch horns I had played and considered, if it's "OK" for Mr. Rauch, it's going to be great.
My trip to Oslo from London went like clockwork. Daniel met me at his local station and drove me to his workshop. On the way, he told me how he was looking forward to his retirement, which would start at the end of the year when the lease for his workshop was due for renewal.
I found myself in an old-fashioned, traditional workshop surrounded by all the things required for making horns. Daniel showed me my horn. I screwed the bell on, slotted in my mouthpiece, and blew. Daniel wanted the horn back for a moment. He had a particular way of holding his creation, precise, delicate, and authoritative. He tapped the horn, then the bell. He tightened the bell a fraction more and returned it to me. I had the sense of being with a horn expert but different from being with a great player or teacher. Daniel left me to play but I felt he was listening as I found my way around my new horn. I heard a buzzing sound and asked if Daniel could hear it. He said, "Play it again." There, did you hear that?" He said, "I heard nothing that I don't usually hear in this room." I smiled. It was the lights.
My horn was the 425th horn Daniel had made. Those who have played his instruments might recognize them as horn playing's Holy Grail. I felt sad that Daniel was retiring but, more importantly, wanted to celebrate his contribution to the Horn. I wanted to learn more about how he has achieved such stellar results. Daniel agreed to an email interview. I posed some questions and these are his replies.
Gareth Mollion (GM): Where did you grow up?
Dan Rauch (DR): Born in 1947 and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana.
GM: Did you come from a musical family?
DR: I was the only child and my parents were not musical.
GM: Can you remember the first time you heard a horn or wanted to know what made that sound?
DR: It would have been a school concert given by the Indianapolis Symphony, when I was about 9-10 years old. I don't remember it being a heavy horn program, but the sound of the horn section made an impression.
GM: You studied with Philip Farkas, was that at a University or privately?
DR: I studied with Phillip Farkas at Indiana University, where I received a Bachelor's of Music degree.
GM: Did you have any notable musical contemporaries?
DR: It was a big school, the horn class alone was about 50. There were six full-size orchestras. Many of the students went on to play professionally in the orchestras of US, Canada, and Mexico. Don't think I have heard of any really super stars from my time.
GM: Was this around the time you met Geyer?
DR: I met Geyer while I was a student. My Holton was a little tight and Farkas advised that I go see Geyer. He was about 90 then and still worked every day, but no longer made horns.
GM: What fuelled the decision to make a horn?
DR: After the university I did my military service playing in a band and had access to some tools at the band room's rehearsal hall. There was a small workshop, but no one was using it. I made small repairs on the horns in the group.
GM: So you had a free workshop and instruments to practice on, did anyone teach you how to solder and take dents out? Beyond that, were you improving horns at that time, even if just your own?
DR: My father was a tool and die maker and handy at everything, and I think some of that is in my genes. He had taught me a lot of basic things like soldering, cleaning metal, etc. As far as dent removal, I have pretty much learned on my own, as well as most everything else I do. Of course, I have picked up tips and guidance from other repairpersons over the years. There is always something new to learn in repairing or building music instruments and we must constantly try to improve our technique.
For the first years, before I went to Miraphone, my work was just basic repair work. The only types of improvements were fixing manufacturers' mistakes or trying different mouth-pipes on horns. After I started at Miraphone, the work became more complicated: there was a trend to convert the old tuba valve linkages to a new ball joint system and there was a need to fabricate many new parts. Also started doing valve replating and screw-bell conversions at this time. I owned various Schmidt and Geyer horns and did a good deal of measuring and experimenting with them.
His First Instrument
GM: Did you make any other instruments before you made horns?
DR: After the military I moved to Los Angeles and got a job as a repairperson in a music store. I stayed there for three years before getting a job with Miraphone Corp. (Miraphone of Germany). I had made my first horn (1976) at the music store, it was a natural horn with all the crooks from Bb alto to Bb basso. The manager of Miraphone saw my work and asked me to come work for them. They had a couple horn projects they wanted me to work on. At this point I had only made the one horn. During my six years at Miraphone I made several horns, several bass tubas, a couple of trumpets, a Bb Wagner tuba.
GM: Can you remember the first horn you made?
DR: The first valve horn was at Miraphone and was a special order from James Decker. It was a single high F horn with a fourth valve that gave the open harmonics of the long F horn. It was made with parts from Miraphone, but I had to do all the bending and fitting.
GM: Did you sell it?
DR: It was not mine to sell, but Decker either purchased it or it was given to him. He was quite happy with it.
GM: Did you make your own tools for that horn?
DR: In the beginning I used the tools at Miraphone; it was a well-fitted shop, with facilities for everything, lacquering, metal plating, all types of machinery, etc.
GM: What tools did you make?
DR: While at Miraphone I began to make tools, both for projects there and for my personal use later. One never has enough tools.
GM: You told me the first mandrel you made you still use for your highly successful R1 leadpipe. Was that a stroke of luck or did you know that that "shape" was going to give the results you wanted?
DR: I think some luck was involved. I had measured some older mouthpipes and had made a drawing of a mandrel that combined what I thought were the good qualities of several pipes. It was quite a lot of work to make my first mandrel and was not exactly like the drawing, but it has turned out to be a good pipe. I have made maybe ten mouthpipe mandrels (two or three for natural horn crooks) but only the R1 and the "G" have turned out to work well on my horns. I have also made six first branch mandrels, two for natural horn, and four for valve horn.
GM: You don't advertise; was it always easy to sell the horns you made or did you have to wait for your reputation to grow?
DR: I did a little advertising in the middle years, but nothing works better than having people use your horns in an orchestra. I have always had enough to do, luckily, but there have been periods when it was tough. I seldom made a horn that was not preordered so it was not a problem with stock building up that didn't sell.
GM: When did you decide to be a full time horn maker? Why Norway? Did you make horns in America?
DR: I decided to try horn making as a profession maybe about 1979-80. I was still working at Miraphone but had begun to develop a workshop in my home. Several horn players were asking me to try so I began to look for materials. I got my hands on 20 sets of valves for double horn from the F.E. Olds Co. in Los Angeles. I picked up about five more valve sets from various places and produced about 25 horns in Los Angeles before moving to Norway in 1984. I met my wife, Froydis, in LA and decided to move to Norway. She had jobs in the orchestra and at the university in Oslo, so I was willing to move, and my kind of work can be done anywhere.
GM: Did you experiment with bell profiles?
DR: The horns that were made in Los Angeles were with whatever bell I could get my hands on. I was selective, not every bell I purchased was something I could use, but I managed to get enough bells to build the first 25 horns. When I moved to Norway, I met a couple of people (Anton Alexander and Richard Merewether) who were very helpful with pointing me to the suppliers that made good valves and bells. I have always preferred the C. F. Schmidt size bell (which Geyer used) and almost all of my horns have been made with this size bell. I have tried larger and smaller bell sizes, but they did not give the desired result.
GM: Did you ever make your own bells?
DR: No, I have never made a bell. For a one-person shop you have to be selective with what you use your time doing, I just felt it would be too time consuming to make bells. Plus as long as someone was willing to make a bell I was satisfied with, it was never an issue.
GM: Who makes bells for you now and for how long have you used the present bell profile?
DR: I have been using bells from Ewald Meinl in Geretsried Germany since 1984. I went to meet both Ewald Meinl and Herbert Meinlschmidt (valves) in 1984. I told Meinl what I wanted and he said he could make it, and I have used the same bell ever since. He bends the bells for me as well.
GM: Do you ever add a kranz to the bell?
DR: The only horns that I have used a bell with kranz are the French style natural horns (about ten) that I have made.
GM: Do you prefer spun or hand hammered bells or have no preference?
DR: I have only used spun bells. I am not sure there is such a big difference, all bells involve a good bit of hammering, and spinning.
GM: You are renowned for your Geyer wrap horns, but have you made or experimented with Kruspe, Schmidt, or any other wraps?
DR: Yes, I have made about all the styles. At Miraphone one of my projects was to make a Conn 8D style horn and there were three or four of them. I also made one Kruspe style horn of my own, just because I came across a valve set of that type (one of my LA horns). Another project for Miraphone was to design and make the prototype for a full double B-flat/high f descant.
I always liked the C. F. Schmidt horns, and owned about eight of them. So about 20 years ago I made three Schmidt model horns. It was a lot of work, but a project I really enjoyed. I made the horns in the original bore size of 11.9 mm, duplicating all the braces and details. In the end I decided my Model 1 with the bore size of 12.1 mm was a better overall horn and made no more Schmidt models. Early on I made a few compensating doubles and a few Bb/high f descants. I have also made a good many double horns with a single muting valve on the Bb side.
GM: Did your prototype ever go into production at Miraphone?
DR: I don't think the full double descant ever became a production model. Miraphone made a pretty decent Kruspe model already in brass and gold brass and their hopes were to improve the quality of the nickel silver model to appeal to the hornists of LA, who were loyal Conn 8D players. This project never turned into anything either. Not all design projects make it to the production stage, one has to accept that. The important thing for me was the experience I received from these projects; it was a big help later.
GM: It's interesting about the Schmidt horns with a piston thumb valve. Until trying your horns, I thought the piston valve must be the answer to a really good F side, but you have managed to achieve a balance between the F and Bb sides of your horns. What's the secret to achieving this?
DR: The playing qualities of the Schmidt, or any horn for that matter, is not in the use of the piston valve, or the shape of the tubes (reducing or eliminating sharp bends), etc. A good playing horn is a combination of several factors that all work together.
Most important are the tapered parts--mouthpipe, first branch, and bell. The rate of taper and length of these three parts, and the relation of the lengths to each other, determine the character of the horn. This is a very important factor and one I have spent the most time studying. The next factor is the length of the cylindrical tubing in the middle of the horn; small differences in his length can make big changes, especially with the Bb side of the horn. The F section of cylindrical tubing is just a matter of adding enough tubing to lower the pitch to F. The overall weight of the horn, the thickness of tubing, bore size of the cylindrical tubing--are all factors that play a small role.
GM: Why do you solder together all the tubes that run next to each other? Many manufacturers separate and use braces. Does the soldering have acoustic benefits or is it for structural stability only?
DR: I do believe that soldering as many tubes together as possible, instead of bracing, will give a more stable structure to the horn. It does have a drawback in that when a horn of this type is dropped, more tubing gets damaged, rather than a few braces popping loose. Still I feel one should build the horn with the goal to be playing quality rather than dropping quality. On my LA horns I soldered the mouthpipe to the bell without braces, as did Schmidt and Geyer, but felt that the grip size was a little small so I began to use braces there. I also believe that the playing stability of the horn is better when more tubes are soldered together. This is something I noticed--if I put some tubes into a horn unbraced, for experimental purposes, and play it, the horn will not play as well as when things are all soldered together later. You cannot totally judge a new mouthpipe by just fastening it to the horn with tape.
GM: You used to offer an option of a double horn with thicker tubing. What were these horns like and why did you stop making them?
DR: The Model H was made entirely of brass tubing, no nickel silver tuning slides or ferrules, and the slide tubing was a little thicker than normal. Also the braces were brass and a little heavier. My idea was to make a horn that would be more stable in heavy orchestra playing. The reason I used the brass tuning slides was that I felt the playing characteristics would be more even if there was only one metal. It was a very nice playing horn, but not intended to be a screw-bell. That would have made it too heavy. There were maybe five or six of this model made, but orders for it tapered off and there were always enough orders for the normal Model 1, so I stopped it. The brass slide tubing was a little difficult to get, as well.
GM: Have you worked on other makes of horn to improve them, for example, added your leadpipe etc?
DR: In my Los Angeles days, I worked on all types of horns, and making mouthpipes for other brands was a big part of my work. I did the same after moving to Norway, but as the list of new horn orders increased, it was necessary to stop all the outside work and just concentrate on my production.
GM: In playing the horn you made for me it seems as though you have addressed and resolved all the shortcomings one finds in many horns. Can you describe the inner musings that drive the evolution of your horns?
DR: My goal has always been towards a middle-of-the-road type horn, not too big or too small, and as simple as possible. That is why the Geyer layout is so attractive to me. It is so simple. When one gets it right with all the tubes lying beside each other and the main tuning slides placed in the middle of the body and perpendicular to the valve section, it is beautiful. It is also important to make all the parts of the horn fit together correctly; I just never give up until it all goes together as planned. Every tuning slide parallel and sliding smoothly, every solder joint fitting correctly without crimping--all the bends of the tubes smooth without lumps or bulges.
No two horns are exactly alike in the shape of the bends, making the various parts non-interchangeable with other Rauchs, but each horn as a unique work. Another thing that has always been important for me is that every horn is thoroughly tested before it is shipped out or put into the hands of the player. I have tested all horns myself for several hours when they are completed and also almost all are tested by experienced players who play Rauch, to be sure. You don't put something together and just send it out. Still, even with such precautions, I have had a few horns returned that did not play properly.
GM: You've certainly achieved "a middle-of-the-road type horn," but your horns excel at extremes as well--the top is great without loss to sound at the bottom; the pianissimo is fabulous, which is such a help; and a crescendo to fortissimo is a smooth transition to a robust, burnished, projecting sound. Can you say what governs these things?
DR: Middle-of-the-road can also mean a starting point from where one expands and extends to the extremes. What always made good sense to me was what Farkas said about choosing a mouthpiece, "pick a mouthpiece that is not too easy in the high, or too easy in the low. A rim that is not too wide, or too thin, etc, etc." If one makes a horn with an extremely easy high register it is most likely to be difficult in the low register, and visa-versa. A horn that plays too easily in the low register is likely to be difficult in the high. So the keys are compromise and moderation. You first need to make a horn that works well in the middle register, and then judge how the high and low registers are working in relation to one another. Then you begin to make small adjustments to see what changes. For me it all goes back to getting the correct growth, length, and relationship between the tapered parts. The range of dynamics of the horn can be adjusted with the weight and cylindrical bore size.
GM: I once had a horn that had been damaged yet showed no visible signs. When a repairer put heat to the first lead pipe brace the joint went "bang." The horn was stressed; would you call your horns stress free?
DR: It is very common when a horn gets a good jolt, from a drop for example, the valve section will shift in the body of the horn. Usually the damage is visible, but sometimes not, but the result will be increased stress in the structure of the horn. When a brace is unsoldered it will result in a "bang" as the stress is released. Even a horn that is not damaged can have various degrees of stress as a result of soldering it together when the parts don't quite fit.
I try to get my horns together without any stress, but it is difficult. The parts expand as they are heated to solder and therefore move out of position, even though everything is held in place with binding wire. As they cool they move again, but not always back to where they began. As one is soldering, it is common to hear a creaking sound during heating and cooling. It is not uncommon for me to go back and resolder a brace or joint that has cooled out of position.
GM: What comes first--the desire to improve an aspect of the horn's characteristics, or do you try something then see what difference it makes?
DR: There were some big differences between the Los Angeles horns and the Norway horns, primarily because I began using different materials in Norway. The LA horns were 11.9 bore size and all tuning slides were brass. When I began using Meinlschmidt valves, it was with a bore of 12.1 and nickel slide tubing. Also the switch to Ewald Meinl bells. The larger bore size was an improvement in the blowing characteristics, it suited a wider range of players.
At one point I tried to make a horn with a larger bell size and larger mouthpipe, but it was not my favorite model. From 1984 on evolution has been only small changes to try to improve intonation or construction. At horn #140 I made an adjustment to the length of the mouthpipe and first branch, making the mouthpipe a little shorter and the first branch a little longer. This improved the intonation and also gave the body of the horn a wider diameter, which made the layout less cramped. The sound quality of my horns has always been important, so any changes that affect that I don't do.
GM: Did this adjustment to the mouthpipe and first branch work first time, or did you try various combinations before you were happy?
DR: The adjustment was pretty calculated. My mandrels all have extra length on both ends so it is easy to use the same mandrels in different configurations. I was using the same mouthpipe and first branch but just removed a little from the large end of the mouthpipe and used a longer first branch. I pretty much knew what the result would be from earlier experiments.
GM: You showed me how you have strengthened sections in response to commonly occurring damage to those sections but did you get feelings about how to address other playing/ performance weaknesses in standard horns?
DR: I have not made a lot of changes with regards to damage. The horn is a fragile instrument compared to most others and players need to handle them carefully. The thicker F tube you refer to was something I thought about for a long time, but didn't start doing until about three years ago. As for other brands of horns, it has been at least 20 years since I worked on other brands, so I am only aware of problems I hear about. The mouthpiece weights that I make are used quite a bit for other brands of horns.
GM: Do you keep an eye on what other horn manufacturers are doing?
DR: I follow a little bit, mostly just read the advertisements in the various horn magazines.
GM: When did you develop the G pipe?
DR: The G pipe came about maybe 20 years ago. I mentioned that I made a model with larger bell and mouthpipe, the model was called the "G Model" and had the G mouthpipe. It is not that much different in taper than the R1, it just starts a little bigger and reaches full-bore size sooner. My wife always overblew the R1 pipe, and when we tried the G pipe on her horn, it really helped the overblowing. It turned out the Model 1 with a G mouthpipe was a much better instrument than the G Model horn. I eventually dropped the G model horn and just offered the choice of the R1 or the G pipe on all my models.
GM: What prompted the use of your smaller 25 mm valve option?
DR: I never liked my horns with a screw-bell as well as the uncut version. I designed the horn to play the way I wanted without a cut bell, and cutting the bell just made the horn less responsive. It had gotten to the point where almost every horn order was a screw-bell. When I heard that Meinlschmidt was making the smaller valves I decided to try them on the screw bell horns. It was the ideal combination in my opinion. It is the only valves I have used the last three years.
GM: You use traditional methods and fare rather better than those who have large Research and Development budgets and use Computer Aided Design. Did you ever think about the instrument mathematically?
DR: My research technique has always been put something together and see how it plays, a pretty simple approach. In the beginning I experimented with various tapers of the mouthpipe and first branch, but once I had what I wanted, the only experimenting was with the relationship of the lengths of the tapered parts, as with the change at #140. I cannot see that the development of the horn has been helped much by all the scientific research and computer design. One can go a long way with logic and common sense. Computer programmed machinery has certainly been a help in the mass production of small parts.
GM: Do you have any thoughts on mouthpieces and have you made any? For yourself?
DR: I have not made any mouthpieces, tried a little but never managed to make a back bore cutter that worked. I have modified mouthpieces for myself and others, but mostly enlarging the bore or making screw rims.
GM: While it's sad for horn players that you are retiring, I understand you are rather looking forward to it. What will you be doing with your free time?
DR: After over 45 years of constant employment, and over 30 as a one-person business, with very little vacation time, I just decided it was enough. I have enjoyed fly-fishing and fly-tying for quite some time and hope to do more. The knees are not so good now, so maybe more tying than fishing. Photography is my big hobby these days, and I look forward to more time for that. I am planning a project to make a photo book of all my horn models and include some text, hopefully electronic and paper editions.
GM: How many horns will you have made by the time you retire?
DR: I will stop with horn #432, that is the number of horns that I have made entirely myself and have my name on them. Counting the instruments that I made for Miraphone and several horns that I made with valve sections from other horns would increase the number by about 20.
GM: Will you be teaching horn making to any one?
DR: You met Thomas Elbro at my shop--he will take over all my tools and materials. He has expressed a desire to learn to build horns and has studied a little with me. We are going to start a project with him building a horn soon. At the end of the year all the stuff will be moved to his workshop in Aarhus, Denmark and I will go down there from time to time to continue the training with him.
GM: Who will take on where you left off?
DR: The Rauch horn will end with me, as is the case of other instrument makers. No one will ever do it quite like I do, for better or worse.
GM: Would you like to recommend any particular horn maker to horn players who will no longer be able to buy a horn made by you?
DR: There have never been more horn makers than there are now, so there are a lot of horns to choose from. I haven't tried any of them so it is hard to recommend any specific maker.
My hope is that this interview will shed some light on Daniel's approach and method. I found him to be a humble man, a consummate craftsman--an artist who has developed and refined the tradition that went before him.
Gareth Mollison has been a member of the London Symphony Orchestra since 1986 and is also a writer of International Cue Cards and screenplays.