Tucked in an old copy of the Oscar Franz Method that I was given years ago was a full page advertisement for King horns. Featuring photos and signed testimonials by horn players of the early 1920s, the featured photo was this one, showing Xavier Reiter visiting the King factory. Standing from left to right in coats we have Alphonse Pelletier, Xavier Reiter, and the president of King, H. N. White. Of the three, Reiter is the most impressive character.
Xavier [Xaver] Reiter (1856-1938) is not exactly a household name today, but he was one of the biggest name horn players of his time. There is a great bio with great photos of Reiter on the Richard Martz website. He towers over his contemporaries in many ways, check out the full bio, but from it I would glean these facts to catch your interest
- Was a student of Franz Strauss
- Followed his lead on equipment, and performed on the single B-flat horn
- Performed co-principal horn on the premiere of Parsifal in 1882
- Joined the Boston Symphony as Principal Horn in 1886
- Ultimately performed Principal Horn in the New York Philharmonic and in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
- In the press was called “the greatest French horn player in the world”
- In the off season had a large farm at Valhalla, New York
And he was clearly a colorful character with long hair and a sense of style! See the Martz article for much more, and for a larger version of the image above click here.
As to Alphonse J. Pelletier, he was also visiting the King factory. Details on his career are harder to locate, but besides being “former Detroit Symphony” a quick Google search shows that he also was a member of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1920s. And to his endorsement, who would not want a horn that plays easily with a wonderful tone and even scale?
Thirteen other players from orchestras and theater companies are quoted with testimonials and portraits in this ad, and I may feature more of them in a future article. The best known today of the artists probably being Louis Dufrasne, the teacher of Philip Farkas, listed as being with the Chicago Opera Co. “Allow me to express my sincere appreciation of your King Horns.” More on Dufrasne and his warm-up routine may be found here.
I framed the full advertisement years ago, but it was not a good frame and I had never hung it in my office. Now it is reframed and in a prominent location, a neat collection of photos of American horn players active 100 years ago.
UPDATE: The careers of Xaver Reiter and his brother Josef are highlighted in a recent book by Norman Schweikert, Horns of Valhalla – Saga of the Reiter Brothers. For more on this book see the product listing here, and thank you again to Richard Martz for the link.
UPDATE II: My review of the Schweikert book is here.