The Promotors

NOTE: Biographic data listed here are only for orientation and not a reference. They were taken from different sources of uncertain origin.

Michael Praetorius (organist, composer) 15/2/1571(2?) Creuzburg (Thuringia) - 15/2/1621 Wolfenbüttel
Bernhard Eschenbach (kgl. bayerischer Rentamtmann) Königshofen 1769 - 1852
Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann (pasamantero) armnca de boca 17.6.1805 - 1.10.1864 Berlin
Giulio Regondi classical guitarist, concertinist and composer 1823 (Geneva) - May 6th, 1872
Cyrill H. Demian (organ maker) Viena 1772 - 1847
Anton y Rudolph Reinlein (music clock maker) Viena
Leclerc (clock maker) Mélophone
J. D. Wünsch (music dealer, son in law of Uhlig) Chemnitz 1814 - 1895
Alexandre Françoise Debain harmonium Paris 1807 - 1877
Wilhelm Rodolph Glier fpunder of harmonium industry Klingenthal 1793 - 1873
Christian y Johannes Meßner founder of harmonium industry Trossingen
Ignaz Hotz founder of harmonium industry Kittlingen
Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni acoustic physisist 30/11/1756 Wittenberg - 3/4/1827 Bratislava

Carl F. Uhlig

Carl Friedrich Uhlig (1789 - 1874) knitwear maker, and member of the famous Gewandhausorchester Leipzig became known of the free reed invention in Vienna. Johann David Wünsch, his son-in-law and bassist, was dealing with music instruments in an own store and exports to England and Russia, and shows twice a year his products on exhibitions. C.F. Uhlig establishes in 1834 the manufacture and in 1836 he presents his 40 voice concertina with 2 rows.

Heinrich Band

Heinrich Band was born on April 4th 1821 in Krefeld / Rhineland (Germany) as the second of 16 brothers. His life was short, he died on December 2nd 1860, also in Krefeld. His father is owner of a music store and amateur violinist for popular music. Heinrich is cellist in the orchestra of Heinrich Geul and he gives music lessons. In 1843 he founds an own store for musical instruments in the Königstrasse of his birth town. He sells also written music with a cypher system which enables to play the instrument he sells with labeled buttons, without the need to read musical notes. He must have had much success with his business, since he was able to by his house for 4400 Thaler (German Dollars) which was a fortune at that time.

In 1856 he publishes a musical edition showing a 130 voice instrument with the main valve saying in large letters BANDONION. For the first time this name is published and helps promote his instrument. The merchant net becomes even larger, when his brother Johann opens a store in Cologne:

Johann Band & Comp. - Musikalische Instrumentenhandlung und Bandonion-Fabrik.

In spite of the suggesting name, there is no evidence of a bandoneon factory. But Heinrich dies in 1860. His widow and the company officer Jacques Dupont continue the business. However, at this point changes possibly the provider or manufacturer of instruments. At the same time Friedrich Zimmermann sells his instrument factory in Carlsfeld to Ernst Louis Arnold But the business continues and the brothers Ullrich and Johann Band sell in 1863 instruments in Mainz. In 1889, Alfred Band establishes a store in Krefeld. Again, nobody knows who is the manufacturer. An article published by Prof. Karl Rembert 1940 in Krefeld suggests they were produced in Waldheim /Saxony by Gebr. Seifert Bandonion- und Konzertina-Fabrik. established in 1870. the boxes of their instruments are nearly squares.

when he organized the production and commercialized it together with a specially ciphered written music. In 1882 appeared the name "Bandonion" derived from his name. It was supposed to be used as a substitute for the organ in small church communities. May be it was the very special sound which maintain the demand, but the very complex disposition of the buttons, prevented a greater diffusion. The idea was to have an instrument for polyphonic music rather than for melody one and the buttons where placed in a way to facilitate forming of chords. In contrast to the accordion, already quite popular in many countries, this instrument does not provide predefined chords. In addition, most of the buttons have a different tone whether the bellow is opened or closed, this wrongly denominated as "diatonic". The upcoming popularity of the tango in the 20ties forced the french musette players to play also the bandoneon. Because of the difficulty of learning it, they asked for so called chromatic instruments with equal tone for opening and closing. Until today there rests a certain tradition in the French speaking Switzerland speaking of the "French" chromatic model. In Geneva e.g. there existed an orchestra with 10 bandoneons but only 2 of them were diatonic.

Carl Friedrich Zimmermann

C. F. Zimmermann (August 1817 (Morgenröthe) - October, 20th 1898 (Philadelphia) bellow instrument maker in Carlsfeld (Saxony). [Kauert] Learned the piano as a child. In 1830 his parents moved to Carlsfeld and he took violin lessons crossing the border to Bohemia. With 16 he learned iron casting in Chemnitz and where he learned the concertina maker Uhlig. Giving concerts with an Uhlig instrument, he payed his 3 year stay in Chemnitz. Back in Carlsfeld his younger brother convinced him to deal with knitwear and they toured until Danzig. There a laudatory honoring his lovely instrument changed his mind and decided to construct a larger instrument. Uhlig provided the reed boards and in 1848 or 49 he started with a harmonica production, probably Uhlig concertinas but with an extended range. Also a modified model was produced and were he i introduced the button 0 and eliminated the en-harmonics a-flat and g-flat. From the Carlsfeld clock factory he hired personnel and during the best time he occupied up to 76 workers. In 1851 he showed several of his chromatic concert harmonicas at the World Exhibition in London. In the same year he got a patent upon an improvement of his 3-row double action concertina where only one special button shifted all the notes one octave higher. but, no success, there was no understanding for that, and anyhow the concertina was low appreciated. In 1854 he presents 15 different types of harmonicas at the General German Industry Exhibition in Munich. However, he saw no future for his instruments since competitors in the near neighborhood flushed the market with cheep products. He made attempts with a glass-blower manufacture, again without success. He decided to sell all the stuff to one of his fore workers and migrated to the US in 1864.

constructs in 1849 a double action instrument with 3 rows. It differs from that of Uhlig in Chemnitz by one additional button nr 0 and the elimination of the en-harmonics thus approximating it to a chromatic instrument. This represents a new concept and the base for an own system and conforms one of the three fundamental layout systems. It is known as the Carlsfelder Konzertina. and reached a significant diffusion.

From 1854 on he produced instruments as a professional while the metalworker Friedrich Dietz of Cologne took over the commercial part.

It is not known who was the provider of Heinrich Band o Krefeld, but it could well have been Zimmermann. After Heinrich Band died, Zimmermann did not see any future for his instruments and sold the manufacture to his foreman, Ernst Louis Arnold, and who was Zimmermann's apprentice from 1854 to 1858. Zimmermann left for Philadelphia, as suggested his brother Rolando where he established a music store. Rolando in returned to German while Carl Friedrich attended his brothers business. According to the Carl Friedrich he had to work very hard repairing French accordions. But after 2 or three years he managed a patent for a Union accordion, not only for the US, but France, Belgium, England, Saxony. Possibly this Union Accordion is the one which was offered by a music dealer of Krefeld in 1857. The most time he invested however in the development of an new music writing system by cipher. In spite of high investments and trying to convince musicians to use his coding, he did not succeed. However, he got a patent on his system in 1871. Accepting the difficult situation, he stopped the manufacture of harmonicas and dedicated exclusively to develop a new cord instrument, autoharp, which required to use his coding system and for which he got a patent in 1882. This instrument turn t to be very popular and during the first 3 years more then 50.000 units were sold. In 1892 he sold the factory to Alfred Dolgeville and continued improving his coding system. He died October 20th, 1898 in an traffic accident in Philadelphia.

Ernst Louis Arnold

Ernst Louis Arnold (1828 - 31.8.1910), who had learned the secrets of harmonica building as an apprentice of C. F. Zimmermann in Carlsfeld during 1854 to 1858, acquired the manufacture of Zimmermann in 1864, who had given up upon the uncertain future given the death of Heinrich Band. Ernst Louis Arnold was by far not the only manufacturer and had to compete with many others. He decided to modernize his machine shop by acquiring modern petrol driven engines. The production started the same year.

The Arnold Family

The Alfred Arnold manufacture (AA) was founded in 1911 with the aim to produce bandoneons for the south American market only, after his father Ernst Luis disregarded Alfred as a successor of the ELA factory.

The AA factory operated from 1911 until 1948 in Carlsfeld. After WW II, the East German Government decided to centralize the reed instrument production in Klingenthal, the unit in Carlsfeld was closed.

Arno Arnold leaves East Germany to Obertshausen (Offenbach) in 1949 where he establishes a new factory in 1950. His instruments are not sold to south America. one year after Arno dies in 1970, the bandoneon factory is closed.

However, a factory of a new branch exists today: Instead of bellow folds the make folded metal covers. Arnold - The Company's History.

The popularity changed rapidly when about in 1890 the original instrument manufactured by Ernst Louis Arnold (ELA) reached the region of the River Plate where it was found to match perfectly well with the coming up tango. From then on the popular accordion was completely displaced and in 1911 the most famous producer, Alfred Arnold in Carlsfeld (AA), began manufacturing bandoneons exclusively for the market in Argentina and Uruguay. The design was gradually modified and the number of tones increased up to 142, some models 152, with 5 button rows in left hand and 6 rows in the right. Only in one year (1930) there where exported 25,000 units to Argentina. If you consider the price comparable with that of a piano, it was of great commercial importance. Here the name was "translated" from the German Bandonion to Spanish: BANDONEON. Unfortunately the production ceased during World War II. A few units left the factory after the war, but for quality reasons and changes of the market of the target countries, the factory closed in December 1956.

In Germany itself, as I mentioned, there was no great development of the playing techniques, and even in Argentina professionals began to develop first methods in the twenties, but mainly based on piano methods. No European conservatory included this instrument in its teaching program giving the instrument a low social position. Many people believe it is something for poor street musicians. But the fact that it takes very long, like a violin, to achieve a certain level and also considering the cost of an instrument, demonstrates the contrary. Today things changed in Europe, and first Paris, later Rotterdam and recently many other French conservatories are offering lessons for bandoneon.

The tonal range is the same as for the harpsichord, and baroque music sounds specially pleasant. The highest level was probably reached by Alejandro Barletta (1925 - 2008) in Buenos Aires.

René Marino Rivero (1935 - 2010) in Uruguay, a pupil of Barletta, made very many transcriptions of Bach, Frescobaldi and other composers of the baroque and he is perhaps actually the most advantaged player for classical and contemporary music on this instrument. In the US it was perhaps Astor Piazzolla (who lived there for 17 years) which made it later known with recordings together with Gerry Mulligan and Gary Burton. There are very few musicians experimenting with jazz and I believe the future lies in this. Similar to the saxophone it allows forming the sound but in a polyphonic manner and which gives a strong melancholy feeling.

Technical Aspects

Whereas the accordion is usually build up using trapezium shaped tongues mounted on individual plates which are easy to replace with commercially pre-tuned ones, the bandoneon (now historical instruments) has up to 7 bi-bisonoric tones, or 14 rectangular shaped tongues (reeds) on one zinc or aluminum plate (high steady mass). Each tone has a fundamental and an octave mounted on an separate reed plate and which is tuned exactly even. This results in a dry sound. So you have to achieve the tuning on the old plate taking the maximum care not to destroy the tongues. It requires special equipment to restore damaged tongues, since you can't buy them.

There are nearly no good instruments left on the market today, but the increasing demand (interest), not only in Argentina and Europe, but in Japan, possibly help to reinitialize production. Here in Switzerland, Brazil, the Netherlands and Berlin there are people (mainly organ builders) working to acquire the needed know how.

If you are interested in more details about the bandoneon in general, I can recommend you a compact disc which is also available in the US, and specially because of the 80 page booklet coming with. The recording is done by the mentioned Marino Rivero but here he plays folk dances of Uruguay, may be it is not too representative for the instrument.

Smithsonian Folkways - Traditional Music of the World 5
Bandoneon Pure: Dances of Uruguay
Smithsonian/ Folkways Recording CD SF 4031 Office of Folklife Programs
955 L'Enfant Plaza, Suite 2600
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560

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last update: 2018-08-07
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