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Wieprecht, Wilhelm (Friedrich)

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Wieprecht, Wilhelm (Friedrich)

(b Aschersleben, 10 Aug 1802; d Berlin, 4 Aug 1872). German musician and instrument designer. He was the most important member of a prominent German musical family. After receiving instruction in wind instruments from his father, Wilhelm studied in Dresden and Leipzig and in 1824 took up a professional appointment as a royal chamber musician in Berlin. In 1825 he reorganized a military band, introducing some valved instruments. From 1828 to 1843 he accepted various positions of leadership, ranging from the regimental band of the Royal Life Guards to the entire Prussian military musical establishment, with Wieprecht all the while remaining a civilian. At the founding of the German Empire in 1871, Wieprecht's musical organization was introduced in all the other German states.

His interest in wind instruments brought him into contact in 1828 with the firm of Griesling & Schlott, the makers of the first really practical piston valves. Soon after, he entered into a long-lasting association with J.G. and C.W. Moritz. Wieprecht's name has been associated since Kalkbrenner's time with the plump looking Berlin valve (Ger. pl. ‘Berliner Pumpen’), for which he was refused a Prussian patent in 1833. Heyde has shown, however, that there were actually two types of Berlin valve. Wieprecht's (which he called a ‘Stecherbüchsen-Ventil’) is distinguished by its valve loops, the inlets and outlets of which are on opposite sides of the valve casing, while a model devised by Stölzel (called by him a ‘Röhrenventil’) and for which a patent had also been refused in 1827 has slides, their inlets and outlets being on the same side of the casing. Patent or not, the Berlin valves were so successful that Adolphe Sax fitted out many of his instruments with them, calling them ‘cylinders’. (These are not to be confused with rotary valves, collectively called ‘Zylinder-Maschine’ in German.) A meeting between Sax and Wieprecht in Koblenz in 1845 was inconclusive.

In 1835, with J.G. Moritz, Wieprecht was granted a Prussian patent for a revolutionary new instrument, the wide-bore chromatic Bass-Tuba with five valves (later expanded to six; seeTuba (i)). His preoccupation with the problems of intonation presented by the combination of two or three valves led to his invention in 1838 of the ‘piangendo’, a device allowing valved brass instruments to play portamento.

Wieprecht’s enthusiasm for military music was not confined to brass; in 1839 he devised the Bathyphon, a military-style contrabass clarinet, made by the firm of Skorra. He also invented the ‘16füssiger Orgelbass’ (1845), a wide-bore brass contrabassoon with a novel mechanism; it was played by one hand on a one-octave keyboard. This led to C.W. Moritz's development of the ‘Claviatur-Contrafagott’, patented in 1856.

Wieprecht’s letters to various German musical papers (c1845) give the most complete near contemporary account of early valve mechanisms.

See alsoSaxhorn.



A. Kalkbrenner: Wilhelm Wieprecht, Direktor: sein Leben und Wirken nebst einem Auszug seiner Schriften (Berlin, 1882)

H. Heyde: Das Ventilblasinstrument (Leipzig, 1987)

H. Heyde: ‘The Early Berlin Valve and an Unsigned Tuba at the Shrine to Music Museum’, JAMIS, xx (1994), 54–64


Wier [Weyer].

German crumhorn makers active from the late 15th or early 16th century to the mid-16th century in Memmingen. Their instruments are marked with a single, double or triple reverse ‘f’ (see illustration); this symbol corresponds to an ‘I’ or ‘J’ in contemporary script. There appear to have been two or three crumhorn makers of this name: Jörg (i) (d ?before 1530), Jörg (ii) (b c1485–90; d ?1549) and Jörg (iii) (fl ?1557–65). References occur to a ‘Jörg Weyer’ in Memmingen records of 1513, 1518 and the 1520s, sometimes describing him as a town musician; these could concern Jörg (i) or Jörg (ii) or both of them. The listing of voters for the referendum in 1530 on the proposals of the Augsburg Reichstag includes only one Jörg Weyer (he was one of the small minority of voters who rejected the Reformation proposals); it seems therefore that Jörg (i) had died before 1530. References to the name after that date must be to Jörg (ii), as are probably those to an unnamed Memmingen crumhorn maker. In 1549 the records of Nuremberg, which had bought crumhorns from Memmingen in 1539, mention the death of ‘the crumhorn maker’, believed to be Jörg (ii). However, a great bass crumhorn marked with the double reverse ‘f’ (Prague) survives from the Rožmberk (Rosenberg) court band, which was established in 1552; this suggests that crumhorns were still being made with the Weir mark after the death of Jörg (ii). The maker may have been the ‘Jörg Weyer’ mentioned in the Memmingen records in 1557 and 1565, probably a son of Jörg (ii). No other crumhorn makers are known to have been active in Memmingen or Nuremberg.

The assertion that there was more than one maker with the same name rests largely on the evidence provided by the makers’ marks on surviving Wier instruments. Two crumhorns of type III (see Crumhorn, §2), with decorated key covers dated 1522 and 1524 (now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and the Museo di Strumenti Musicali, Rome), carry the name ‘Ioerg Wier’ and a double reverse ‘f’ mark (the instrument in Rome is marked with a triple reverse ‘f’, the only known occurrence of this form). The double mark is found only on instruments of type III. Other crumhorns, mainly of type II, bear a single version of the mark. The fact that the Schnitzer family of wind-instrument makers, active at the same period in Nuremberg and Munich, used a similar system of single and double marks, together with the presence of the single mark on a type II crumhorn and its absence from larger sizes of crumhorns with keys, suggests that the single mark belonged to an earlier maker than the double one; it seems reasonable to infer, therefore, that the different versions of the reverse ‘f’ mark represented several generations of the Wier family.

29 Wier crumhorns are known (more than half of all surviving crumhorns), most of which were made by Jörg (ii); all sizes, from soprano (‘Exilent’) to great bass are represented. The instrument dated 1522, an extended tenor, is the earliest dated crumhorn with extension keys, and the Wiers may have been responsible for developing the classic type III crumhorn. Wier crumhorns were greatly sought after; the courts at Dresden, Ambras (near Innsbruck), Rožmberk and Trent (the prince-bishop’s court) are all known to have owned sets, as did the city of Nuremberg and probably Augsburg. A set in the old cathedral in Salamanca is thought to have been there since the 16th century.


Vander StraetenMPB, vii

Young HI

B.R. Boydell: ‘Ioerg Wier: an Early Sixteenth-Century Crumhorn Maker’, EMc, vii (1979), 511–18

B.R. Boydell: The Crumhorn and other Renaissance Windcap Instruments (Buren, 1982), chap.5

K.T. Meyer: The Crumhorn: its History, Design, Repertory, and Technique (Ann Arbor, 1983), 52–71

L. Cervelli: Antichi strumenti in un moderno museo: Museo nazionale degli strumenti musicali, Roma (Rome, 2/1986, ed. R. Meucci)

J. Hanchet and R.Schlenker: ‘Bedeutender Fund in Salamanca, Spanien: Entdeckung und Untersuchung der Pommern und Krummhörner in der mittelalterlichen Kathedrale in November 1983’, Tibia, xi (1986), 125–30


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