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Conn A Soprano


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
First, a comment: in the late 1920's, Conn changed the design of their straight soprano (18M), making it an awful lot slimmer -- and, therefore, a little longer -- than their older horn. A lot of folks have used modern mouthpieces on these horns and said something to the effect of, "Lo! An A soprano! It only plays out of tune on these dozen and a half notes ...."

Additionally, I've seen an article in the Saxophone Journal regarding a collection of instruments in NY (IIRC) where there was a straight "A soprano." The only reason I remember that is because it was in the same issue in which Paul Cohen wrote one of his "Vintage Saxophones Revisited" columns about how people confuse the newer 18M with an A soprano.

However, this horn is a little more interesting. Linky from GetASax.com. It's a 1910 Conn Wonder horn. Allow me to quote the page:

Here's something fun, and quite possibly one-of-a-kind. Back in the early 1900's, Conn had a plan to offer saxophones in a whole variety of keys, and the story goes that they made these experimental saxophones in batches of 6, with the cases labeled accordingly. (This story was passed on to me via a long-time Conn collector.) They made 6 of these curved sopranos in the key of A, but 4 of those were destroyed in the Conn factory fire the same year this horn was made (1910). See here for more info: http://www.saxophone.org/museum/factoryTour/id/26.
The fire is a well-known fact. Further, I can say that Conn came out with the "New Invention" line of horns in 1911 to celebrate the opening of their new plant. I can't independently corroborate the rest of that story, though.

More about this horn:

This would certainly appear to be one of the two A-sopranos that survived the fire, and was sold as such to me by a life-long collector of rare horns. The case is labeled with an experimental number 6; it was made just before the factory fire; and it does play in the key of A, not in Bb. This horn is in line for a fresh overhaul by Matt Stohrer. I'm looking forward to playing it when it's done! Whether it sells or not honestly makes no difference to me. That said, the price is flexible. I admittedly pulled it out of the air. What a cool horn!
As mentioned elsewhere, Matt has contributed a bunch of pictures to my calendar projects and he's got a talent for finding interesting things, like this "pink gold" Conn New Wonder and this brand spankin' new 85-year-old Buescher True Tone sopranino.

Now, this A soprano is obviously lacquered. That's not original, but not a big deal, as it was common to get bare-brass horns lacquered. It's also got the standard Conn stamp of "S" (for soprano) and "L" (for low pitch). It also looks like other Conn curved sopranos (like this one or this one) of approximately the same age. I think the neck on the A horn, however, looks like it isn't angled quite as much as the other curved Bb sopranos. I'd hate to find out that the reason it "plays in A" is because it's a curved soprano neck from a different horn.

At the very least, I'm intrigued. I think I'll have to ask Matt what his opinion is. If it's really an A soprano, I wonder if a $10K price is warranted. Hey, F mezzos go for $6K+ in great shape and there were (comparatively) a lot of those.
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