Reply To: Wooden Keyless Tenor Impressions

Ken In Dallas

Well here’s the ending: After months of waiting, the keyed Mollenhauer I had on order to try failed to appear. I know there’s been a ban on some Japanese goods. Perhaps there’s one on European goods as well. Things didn’t go well with the vendor on the phone when I mentioned my continued interest in a keyless instrument. We parted ways with my canceling the order. I did learn in a subsequent phone call to a different shop that there are new keyless tenors out there for sale. For some reason though I didn’t just say ‘send it to me’ and continued to mull over just what I wanted in updating my worn and outdated collection of recorders.

A day or two later while browsing eBay with thoughts to a used wooden bass, I stumbled on a pristine Rosewood tenor originally purchased in the 70s. Today, they’re just under $1000. The asking was half that. I was checking out the seller when I found they had a Maple soprano for sale as well – also new looking. I’m of the belief that today’s factory instruments receive less skilled handwork. Both instruments were Moeck Rottenburghs. I requested additional photos with views of things I wanted to check out. Those too showed both instruments looked unplayed, in the box, and with receipts from a music store in Germany. I offered the seller $500 for both – tenor and soprano. The seller accepted and shipped them “2 day.” They’re with me here now as I’m writing having arrived about a week ago.

I’m re-breaking them in as they haven’t been played for so long. The voices even now are way, way clearer than my nine-month old Mollenhauer Pearwood alto, which has been ‘raspy’ from the start. The turnings on the Moecks are sharper too. The tenor is more than I expected. It’s smaller than my keyless Aulos Robin that got me started about keyless tenors. It’s also much lighter and very fast to finger. I just love it. The voice is more of a soloist’s voice, but it’s just warm enough that I’m thinking I’ll be able to blend in with an ensemble post pandemic. Even without bundling in the soprano, I’m comfortable with the price I paid.

The little soprano though is delightful. I don’t play much soprano, but I’ve never owned a wooden one before. Back in the 50s the schools started me off on a black-plastic instrument that’s likely now floating in some non-biodegradable hell of coke-bottle flotsam in the Pacific. My first year of High School (Music & Art, NYC) I went directly to tenor – the keyed one I still have. As such, there was always an ensemble where I was needed – with my plastic bass even more so.

While investigating re-voicing my alto, I did learn something. Von Huene up in Boston will re-voice my Mollenhaure at no charge during the first two years from time of purchase despite my buying it from a different vendor. I’m responsible for to-and-fro postage and must furnish an original receipt of purchase. I’m going to send it out soon – likely at the one-year mark.

Hey, thanks to you respondents above for all the in-depth and excellent info and observations on keyless tenors. I’m a convert. They may be a bit softer on the low end then a (longer) keyed instrument, but the aesthetic and play-ability are all I could ask for. All sweetness with no plumbing – whoo hoo! — k