|The Studio > Areas of Study > Clarinet > W. Hans Moennig (1903-1988)|
"The following information was originally posted on the website of the International Double Reed Society. I have tried numerous times to contact them for permission to re-post this material, but all queries have gone unanswered. In the interest of providing information on this genius craftsman -- my teacher -- I hope that the IDRS will pardon this indiscretion in this effort to preserve the memory of W. Hans Moennig." -- Charles Stier
W. Hans Moennig, Clarinets and Flutes, 15 South 21st Street, Philadelphia, PA
|W. Hans Moennig
(photo credit unknown)
|W. Hans Moennig and Casimir Luczycki
(photo credit unknown)
W. HANS MOENNIG, CLARINETS AND FLUTES by Delight Lewis Immonen, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island. Originally posted by the International Double Reed Society.
Coming back from Philadelphia to Providence over the past six years I have written page after page about Hans Moennig. During the times when I drove the seven hours each way instead of taking the train, I made notes during the lunch break and at his shop while he worked on my instruments, an oboe, an oboe d'amore, and an English horn.
Through everyone's life run threads of encounters with special people who seem to teach infinite lessons, both by what they do and how they approach the world. Hans Moennig has been such an inspiration to many; and his craft has been shared. The first article, written by Dr. Walter Stein for the Philadelphia Record in the 1930's, has been followed by other illustrious authors for the Philadelphia Enquirer, the Washington Post, and of course, the Journal of the International Double Reed Society, of which he was elected the first honorary member.
What I have written has always been a combination of technical details of woodwind repair and comments on Hans Moennig's view of the world; a jumble of psychological and practical wisdom. But no matter how many revisions I made, my attempts always seemed to start like a story of Charles Dickens:
On Twenty-first Street in Philadelphia, in an entryway shared by the door to an electrical repair shop, is a group of mailboxes and doorbells. On the small rectangular window in the door facing the street is a small orange tape label with the white printing, "Moennig Ring Bell. " The right end of the tape has been cut to form the point of an arrow.
One rings the bell, peeks through the small window, and waits. It seems certain for a long time that the trip to this anonymous spot may have been for nothing, and that surely Mr. Moennig must not have been able to come in today.
Now, having just dialed direct to a city over three hundred miles away, a luxury that Dickens may or may not have appreciated had it been within the realm of communication in his time, I have been told that the number of the dusty old workshop has been disconnected and there is no further information available.
The loss hits me like a punch in the stomach, even though there is nothing seriously wrong with any of my instruments. Even if there were, Alan Williams in Boston is most gracious, and has done fine repairs for me, often at personal inconvenience to his own busy schedule.
Once Mr. Moennig gave me his home phone number when I needed to go to his small house in the suburbs of Philadelphia to leave an instrument; but I had never used the number, feeling it was more appropriate to call him in the workshop. However, with the tenacity that is, for better or worse, an integral part of many professional musicians, I immediately try him at home.
Mrs. Gertrude Moennig, whom I know best by her phone calls to the workshop, usually around seven o'clock in the evening, as she called to see if he might possibly be finishing up and whether or not to start the potatoes, answered. Yes, he is there, and of course he is well enough to come to the telephone.
W. Hans Moennig will be eighty years old in December. This small, strong man with thin grey hair and wire glasses, has always told his patrons that he will retire then, even as he continued to answer the door of his workshop, striped apron over shirt and patched grey pants, and then return up the long flight of stairs two at a time.
I am honored that he remembers me, and more so that he will perhaps be able to see me soon. He has given up his workshop and is in the process of arranging his small tools in a room in the upstairs of his house.
So the man who has become almost a legend in the world of woodwind players will not stop. After an operation earlier this year he answered, when I questioned whether or not he was driving into the city in his Volkswagen Bug any later in the mornings, leaving earlier, or perhaps skipping Saturdays, he replied, "No, I do my duty. "
Early September, 1983
So I return to my notes on his workshop and mentally climb to the top of the stairs, passing through a plywood door with double locks, to an older, heavier door that had engraved on the opaque glass, "Hans Moennig, Clarinets and Flutes. "
In 1923 Mr. Moennig arrived in New York from Germany, and traveled by train to Providence, Rhode Island, after a visit to his relatives in Philadelphia. A few years later he came to work near his uncle at 221 North Fifteenth Street in Philadelphia. Then, he says, the numbers reversed themselves and he moved to his shop at fifteen South Twenty-first Street.
Woodwind players from all over the United States, from New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Sweden, and England came up those stairs and through the door with the old-fashioned formal lettering. They entered the dusty office filled with pictures, a glass cabinet of old instruments, and another case containing reeds and other musical supplies for sale. They passed the desk, piled high with announcements of musical events and programs of grateful customers, dozens of empty packing boxes, and a few heavy old chairs, to the workshop beyond.
Almost all of the photographs on the walls were of musicians who had opened the cases of their precious instruments to place them in the hands of this musical surgeon as he asked, "Now what do you have here?" Many, photographed holding those same instruments, have inscribed their gratitude: "With great admiration for your work. " "With great admiration to Hans Moennig and sincere appreciation for your wonderful artistry." "To the artist who helped make the artists . . . " "To Hans -- Whose magic is a legend. "
Near the door into the workshop was a framed postcard of the house in Bonn where Beethoven was born, and beside it hung an old brown photograph of three men who performed at the Beethoven Fest in Bonn in the early 1900's. One was the composer and pianist, Carl Reinecke, and another the bassoonist, Adolf Guetter.
There was a large portrait of Marcel Tabuteau, the French oboist who played in the Philadelphia Orchestra and taught at Curtis; and another of the teacher with a group of his students, among whom were John Mack, now principal oboe in the Cleveland Orchestra, and Laila Storch in a long wool coat with shoulder pads. My favorite was always a picture of the handsome young oboist, Robert Bloom, in concert attire.
In the large workshop, past the old Hartford clock and the A440 tuning bar on the wall, one was motioned to a battered swivel chair, to sit behind Mr. Moennig at his long thick maple workbench which ran the length of the room. The room had windows on two sides that looked out on other city buildings; the torn window shades on the western wall were lowered in the summer afternoon to keep the heat out and later raised to give more light for the work. In the winter all the radiators around the room were lined with empty tobacco cans filled with water each morning to add moisture for the instruments stored there.
On the wall behind the desk were more shelves, filing cabinets, and an oil painting of the room itself--a craftsman bending over his work with a green conical lamp hanging on a chord from the ceiling. The wall with the clock had a sink and more shelves, on which were stacks of old cigar boxes, each containing a single kind of screw or wire, or pieces of litter, in all dimensions.
Under a case of tools and equipment, behind another pile of shipping boxes, were a series of old wooden boxes, filled with rough cylinders and rectangles; never completed rough shapes of the barrel joints and bells of oboes and clarinets. These were of grenadilla, the most dense of woods, which was shipped from the southeastern coast of Africa, or from Madagascar to Germany as pieces of tree trunk three feet long. As a boy Hans Moennig remembers the long hours he spent sawing the difficult wood, avoiding the knot holes to shape the pieces that were then rounded and reamed to become instruments.
He also has a collection of early woodwind instruments, one a particularly fine antique oboe of a softer wood, boxwood, on which long ago, he had replaced a missing band of ivory around the top of the instrument. The name of his village was printed on it: "Neukirchen."
This village, later renamed Markneukirchen, to indicate it had attained the population of a market town, is now in East Germany, near Marienbad and another Bohemian village where Rudolf Serkin was born in 1903.
In the same year, William Hans was born, named after his father and his uncle Willy. His family had been in the musical instrument trade for generations, as had most of the other families in the town. In the 1860's his grandfather had worked in Hanover where the Meyer system flutes were made, and then traveled to Nurnberg to work on the Boehm system flute.
When Hans was a boy, he saw residents of another nearby town, Schoenbach, walk into Neukirchen with large wicker baskets strapped to their backs. The baskets were filled with the sides, backs, necks and scrolls of violins that had been made in Schoenbach to be assembled in Neukirchen.
In a special corner of a large box in the outer office, Mr. Moennig always kept a map to show these towns that are part of his musical heritage. On the map he also pointed out that Robert Schumann was born in nearby Zwickau and that Wagner's Bayreuth was not far away.
During the Mexican American War, Gus Pruefer, a clarinetist whose family was connected with the jewelry business in Providence, Rhode Island, decided music might help further his career; and, after the war, he joined the West Point Band. There he found that his skill with the mechanical aspects of the instrument were much appreciated by his fellow musicians, and later, in the early nineteen twenties, he traveled to Markneukirchen to oversee the construction of a woodwind factory, planning to make use of the local craftsmen skilled in the manufacture of musical instruments. He showed them the "American way" of mass production and then made them finish the instruments by hand.
Both the flutes and the key work of the clarinets he imported were of very fine metal; and the Pruefer firm did well, becoming the official purveyors of those instruments to the musicians of the United States Army. Gus Preufer returned to Rhode Island after spending several months in Germany, where Hans Moennig's father was his host. When he left, satisfied that the factory was running smoothly, he invited the young man, Hans, then nineteen, to come to work for him in America.
Hans stayed first with the Pruefer family in Providence, and later at the YMCA on Broad Street. His work was to add the silver keys to the imported clarinets and adjust the instruments. He remembers that a trolley car ran through the downtown area and some good restaurants near the Y, an area that is now adjacent to Interstate 95.
The fact that I came from Providence was, I think, one of the reasons that Mr. Moennig has remembered who I am, of his many customers. He does not remember much more about the city, and has never been back; but he did travel to Newport and Jamestown Island. He also remembers visiting the University of Rhode Island in North Kingston.
Two years ago I visited the Pruefer firm, which no longer specializes in musical instruments. The clarinet factory burned down in 1976 and was relocated out of town in nearby Johnston, but some of the men there still remember Hans Moennig's working in the original building.
Later he moved to Boston, working first for Cundy-Bettony and then William Haynes making flutes; then he went to New York to work for George Haynes when a branch was opened there. His final move to Philadelphia was a logical one. Hans Moennig had two uncles, William and Julius, already in the instrumental repair business there.
Before the Philadelphia Orchestra was founded, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1881, came to town three times a year. When that orchestra came, the musicians got together, as Hans says, and it was learned that Adolf Guetter, a bassoonist with the BSO had a brother in Germany who might be willing and able to come to Philadelphia; and when that Orchestra was begun, Hans' uncle by marriage, Julius Guetter, relocated there. Julius later shared the business with William when his father sent him over to help the lonely couple who spoke practically no English, to "give him a little company, and have a little bit of family life yet. "
Before they came to the States, when Julius' son Walter was eight years old, he heard his uncle Adolf play the Mozart Bassoon Concerto when the orchestra visited from Berlin. Later, Walter Guetter was sent back to the Conservatory in Berlin to learn the violin and then join his father in the repair business. A teacher at the Conservatory suggested that he also spend some time with the bassoon and he soon changed his major. When he returned to this country just before the war, Walter Guetter asked to audition for Stokowski, but the maestro thought Walter, then nineteen, was too young to be considered, so the young man, having heard the Chicago Orchestra at Willow Grove, traveled farther west and got a job as principal under Frederick Stock. Later he returned, on his own terms, to become principal bassoon under Stokowski.
When an instrumentalist performs in a orchestra, he must cope not only with the music, his colleagues, and the conductor; but also with the technical difficulties of the instrument itself. It seems, according to Hans Moennig, that many of the predecessors of Walter Guetter had much difficulty because their bassoon gurgled on particular notes when water got in the keys.
Walter wanted to keep his new job, so he asked his cousin Hans to help him. At that time Hans was working three days a week only for Cundy-Bettony, so he asked Mr. Bettony for permission to come into the shop on the other days and try, using the reamers and special piccolo tubing available, to develop a better system for the bassoon. There he was able to insert the tubes into five of the tone holes of the instrument, as there is one in the bore of the clarinet, so that the water would run harmlessly around the tone holes and not plug the keys. Later, when Walter Guetter was complimented on a performance, he always thanked Hans Moennig for allowing it to go smoothly.
Virgil Thompson, in an article entitled "Music Does Not Flow, " in the New York Review of Books (December 17, 1981) ventures the following: "In the arts, certainly, the creating, elaborating, and transmitting of techniques are basic procedures, but among these there are few long-term growths. They are more like inventions--say the fish net, the wheelbarrow, or pie crust--which once they have come miraculously into being stay on."
I have begun to think that much of the work of the finest repairmen today might be traced, either directly or indirectly, to the work of Hans Moennig. Sitting at the workbench sculpted by years of use, with his Bunsen burner, the perpetual flame to melt resin or relight his pipe, he has often mentioned that he had been asked to make a certain adjustment for M. Tabuteau, or later, Robert Bloom; and since then he had always tried to do the same when he could.
When he was just beginning in Philadelphia, he suggested to Tabuteau that cork pads, instead of skin-covered pads, could be used on the lower joint of the oboe, that it might make a better seal. At first Tabuteau rejected the idea, continuing to test the skin ones by putting saliva around them and sucking in to see if bubbles occurred. Later, after having again had them changed in New York, he returned to Moennig and asked to have them changed immediately.
"When it was done, he put saliva all around it. He was sitting down and he got right up, raised his arm in the air: 'FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE!' But there were still three skin pads on it, and again he didn't want to change it. And just by accident he got a little saliva (on his left hand third finger)--they put saliva to help that big stretch there, and I said 'There's one thing I can do, as it bubbled' . . . A couple of months later I happened to run into Mme. Tabuteau, and she thanked me and said, 'It's so nice to live with him now . . . That I did away with the leaks on his oboe. "
Many oboists never were able to visit Moennig's workshop; so, at the risk of sounding naive at best, and unmechanical, as I have always been, I have attempted to organize the notes that I have made over the past years and offer them for whatever help they might be.
There are also some fine new books, with pictures and diagrams of the instrument, that explain just how the cross-relationships between the closing pressure of the various keys must be established and then maintained. One I have used is by Pat McFarland, and another by Carl Swacki. Similarly, Moennig's magic has always seemed to be the exacting attention to minute detail that he pays each instrument, and the interest he shows for each problem as it becomes clear to him.
I have grouped the work that I have observed, and been able to describe, into Simple Adjustments, More Complicated Adjustments, Pitch, Resonance, and Maintenance.
Moennig believes that one should make the adjustments as light as possible. He has also always advocated viewing the set screws as if they were the face of a clock. One should turn only one screw at a time, and only about three minutes--or in some cases only one minute. If the adjustment does not effect a change, the screw should be turned back.
One must play low D and move the G# key, hearing no change in pitch. If there is a change, the screw above the G# must be adjusted so the key will remain closed. The next adjustment involves playing D-flat and moving the E-flat key. The screw should be moved if a change is heard, not seen. Similarly, play low B-flat and the C key, then switch to C#. The oboe should still play.
On the left hand, the second and third keys should only just grip the cigarette paper as it is pulled out, and this as equally as possible. The first finger should also have equal pressure, although it is a single key.
On the right hand, the pressure on the three keys must also be equal, and as light as possible, as should the regular F and the low C key, because it affects the pitch of the high D. There should be some play in the first finger of the right hand and also play in the right hand D trill key.
Many adjustments a repairman makes cannot be done at home, and the basis of Mr. Moennig's work seems to always have been in realizing and then approaching the source of the problem.
If the top joint leaks in any way, the bottom notes will not come out as well. An instrument with good seal will hang, if moistened, from the lower lip. The oboe, he says, is not like a piano, with each note working independently. A small crack, or a leak in the metal insert of the octave key will result in low notes that do not speak easily.
I have a notation that on my CO series Lorée that Mr. Moennig put a small piece of cane, jamming it in the hinge so that the spring would be farther away from the upper trill keys, so that it would act like a lever; the further away the more strength. He also changes or bends springs that are too light so that all the keys will require equal finger pressure, and not be "namby-pamby. " Once I showed him a different instrument and he commented, "you didn't get this oboe from me, because I always reverse the spring on the left hand F immediately. "
If one is having trouble having the high notes speak easily, it is his recommendation to undercut the first finger tone hole. He developed his own procedure for pinning cracks. The crack, marked with a pencil, must first be completely closed before the work is done. This may take at least three weeks. He inserts the pin at an angle so that the closure is more solid; "if you put the pin straight across, the wood can pull away." In an emergency, when pinning is not possible, he suggests using the strong packing tape that has strands of thread in it, rather than wax, as it is easier to clean off later.
He also, as he works, makes changes in many instruments so that further adjustments will be more effective. He changes the end of the pins so they will hold better, and regrinds the ends of screws if they do not grip.
He has invented many tools that have, in turn, helped make his work more precise. One was a shape clamp which helped to make all the oboe shapes that he sold exactly the same. When I once admired the effectiveness of the device, he replied that it had taken him an entire day to make it.
My inclination on testing an instrument was to slur the scale. No, each note must be tongued in order to ascertain the true pitch with no adjustments. Often it is possible to take an instrument a student is playing out of tune and make it better through variation of breath, embouchure, or fingering; but when one is actually playing a phrase, these more or less minute adjustments mar the legato line and one spends more embouchure energy on changing pitch than on coloring tone and shaping phrases.
Moennig first tests the instrument for fourths and fifths in various keys, beginning with G major. If the interval is not true, he adjusts the pitch. A small piece of black cloth tape placed inside the tone hole will lower a sharp note, and is easily removed. The raising of a pitch involves cutting, and is more complicated, but he will do that if necessary.
It has happened more than once that I have returned from Philadelphia with an instrument feeling wonderful and playing perfectly in tune with itself--based on the A440 tuning bar on his wall, after hours of checking the fourths and fifths, then later thirds, in all keys. The oboe sounds fine with a good piano, but the same instrument, with the same tape adjustments, gives problems if the pitch at an orchestra rehearsal goes too high.
If one must remove a key from the oboe, in order to temporarily remove the tape, it is helpful to push a brass rod through as the long pin is removed, in order to keep the keys in order. Then merely pull the rod back as far as is necessary, and leave the pin in the other side; reversing the procedure to replace the tape when it is again possible.
Moennig has always felt that the third space C of the oboe was sharp, and bright, on most instruments. He usually adds a piece of cork on the underside of the bar to lower the pitch, lessening the amount that the C key will open, saying that the key needs to be open only 1/32nd of an inch in order to speak. Adding sealing wax inside the tone hole will not lessen the brightness of the note as effectively, because the vibrating length of the oboe is so short on that note.
To have even more control of the C, Bloom had a special adjustment screw added so he could change the opening of the key as humidity changed in summer and winter. More economically, I have had some luck, on Moennig's suggestion, by adding paper under the cork when it is cold and dry, then removing it with two pairs of tweezers, one to hold the cork in place, when the C becomes stuffy.
Mr. Moennig has drilled a hole for resonance in the bell of my English horn, and another on the oboe d'amore. He says the most noticeable note difference will be on the low B, but it seems to make the entire horn play better. Once, when talking about oboe bells, he said that if the pitch seemed low generally, to try a different bell.
It is possible for anyone to keep his or her instrument in better repair with regular oiling. One should use clock oil, applying it with a straightened paperclip or large pin. Mr. Moennig always pours a little oil into the cap and dips from there, just in case there is a spill, so that the entire bottle isn't lost. Put a drop on every crevice in the key work; and, on the short side pins on the upper joint; unscrew the pins just a little and then retighten. He suggests doing this oiling twice a year, in January and July.
Another piece of general advice, particularly good for students, is to keep the case closed when playing the oboe. It will stay free from lint that can get under pads, as well as bits of feather--which should not be kept in the case.
Never play a wooden oboe in air conditioning or any other time when the temperature is under 65 degrees. Even older instruments may crack. He has also developed a method of breaking in woodwind instruments that has just been reprinted in an article, "Care and repair" by Robert Schmidt appearing in the Winter, 1983 issue of The Clarinet, beginning on page 12. It is well worth the attention of all double reed players.
He also suggests that people keep a piece of cigarette paper under the lower octave key in order to keep the cork in better condition and keep the dirt out; if high A is a problem, take a pin and clean the octave key hole, then keep paper under that key as well. One should also keep the paper under the G# key if it has a tendency to stick.
I opened my outer case cover after a rehearsal one day, and a friend said it looked as if a seagull had flown by--all feathers and orange peel. But a piece of orange peel on top of the screw above the lower octave key, with a drop of clock oil on top of the key for protection, is a good humidifier. The peel should be exposed to the air for a couple of hours, so it will develop a slight skin first.
Particularly with an instrument that is not played often, the peel will help keep much needed moisture in the wood, so it will not have to be rebroken in again so slowly, and it will help to humidify the pads. It is necessary to change the peels as they dry out, and, conversely, to remove them if it is too humid. A dampit will do much the same thing, but orange peel is particularly effective on top of a repaired crack. Years ago Mr. Moennig saw that a piece of apple in a can of tobacco helped retain moisture, and he has always suggested this to his customers.
He also once made an interesting comment on the tone quality of different oboes. The outside of the grenadilla tree, where the rings are closer together, is harder wood. The wider inside rings are softer and lighter. The best, he says, is the middle part, but the choice of wood for a particular instrument is purely luck, because the man who prepares the wood doesn't know or care.
Late September, 1983
I have just made another trip to Philadelphia, and have visited Mr. Moennig in his home, which is literally covered with the contents of his office and workshop. I am more impressed than ever by the accomplishments of this man.
His wife was there, as well as his daughter, and his granddaughter Heidi, who plays a clarinet her grandfather keeps in adjustment for her, and the dog named "Watch," who comes to Hans Moennig and expects a walk as soon as anyone arrives for a visit. All the family enjoys nature, and takes long walks together in the park near their home. This huge park was one of the main reasons for his original move to Philadelphia.
The garden, in the lot purchased years ago beside the house, thrives. Beside it are three years supply of plant compost, neatly piled and weighted down with cinder blocks. In showing the organization of this system, as with the many objects of nature in his home, Mr. Moennig shows his calm interest in perfection. Again I am overwhelmed by the results he achieves as he stays patiently in one place and continues to work at his craft as he enjoys the life he has made for himself here.
Mrs. Moennig makes bread and plum cake with the same attention that her husband spends on his repairs, and although rather overwhelmed by all the recent additions to her household, she has the house in clean and cheerful condition. When they showed me the various articles that have been written on his work, it became clear that the same organization has gone on for years; the articles have been filed in the appropriate places in either the shop or the home dictionary of English or German.
The physical ability of this man is truly amazing. Sally Bloom tells of being in his workshop once and having seen him demonstrate some gymnastic feat that no one else could even attempt; and he has mentioned that a few years ago, during a summer holiday walk in the mountains, he had to help a young college student who had twisted his ankle climb back down the mountain.
He used to run ten miles every Sunday in the park, and he still begins each day with a battery of exercises that could stand up against any offered by the Canadian Air Force, or, more currently, a New York break dance crew.
He begins with a series of pushups, then does a complete workout of twists, stretches, and bends--breathing very deeply and moving energetically. When he does sit ups, he bends all the way over and touches his head to his knees, without lifting them off the floor, while he keeps his hands behind his head. He finishes by running in place eighty steps, lifting his knees at each step to chest level. No wonder he is still, as I see as we adjourn to the new upstairs workroom, taking the steps two at a time.
There I recognize what is actually only half of the large workbench that I admired so much in Philadelphia. His largest cabinet is still in the garage; he is waiting for his son to come for another visit from Washington to move it upstairs for him. But again I see the familiar piles of boxes, as well as a collection of unclaimed instruments, mostly clarinets, as well as many tools and some familiar pictures. We never did locate Reinecke at the Bonn Fest, but Tabuteau and Kincaid are there, as well as the oil painting, with Moennig working under the green lamp.
When I mention the absence of such light here, he says that he will only work by daylight now. The sound of the radio is also missing, even though it is on the floor beside him; the work is "too ticklish," he says, and he must concentrate on what he is doing.
He has not yet located the high D undercutter, and some of his other tools, as he works, are missing. But the biggest change is the absence of his Bunsen burner. He is not about to run a gas line to the second floor of his home as there was in the shop, so he must take the time to find a match whenever he stops to light his pipe. Here, though, he pauses to show the interesting musical matchbox he has rediscovered.
When my son was five, I took him into the workshop for part of the visit, and he drew a picture of the drill wheel, the long workbench, and on the bench a pipe with lots of smoke. Mr. Moennig told me then that he gave up smoking cigarettes in the 1930's, when returning from a visit to Germany by ship, because he did not like the fact that all the women were sitting in lounge chairs smoking on the deck.
All his work of changing the size and shape of tone holes, reseating pads, cutting corks, checking adjustments, changing springs, drilling holes, has always been accompanied by stops to relight his pipe.
When I called last summer, he said that the owner of the building in which he had worked for so many years had decided to raise his rent a thousand dollars a year because of the insurance necessary to carry this Bunsen burner.
On questioning him further about various aspects of technical adjustments, it seems clear that I had not always asked the right questions. Nor did I, this time, receive exactly the same answers, but now I have come to realize how much of his work is art, and not merely craft.
My instruments are now playing more beautifully then ever, and again I must return to the word magic. I watched each step, and took notes, but the sum is more than the total of its parts, a bent key here, a loosened set screw there.
After the repairs were finished, and three student instruments were also put to rights, we drove the short distance to the place where a highway bridge crosses the river and footpath of the nearby park. As we stopped, Hans Moennig moved quickly out of the car, crossed over a guardrail and sidewalk, and stood far up on the side of the stone fence to look down at the beautiful ravine. No, he said, there is nothing in Germany quite like this!
His life has been dedicated to appreciation and creation of beauty, and Hans Moennig will always continue to be a part of this difficult endeavor of coaxing the most fluent music from these most complicated woodwind instruments. His work will be enjoyed not only by the people who continue to visit him, but also remain in the work he has done, as imitated and further refined and developed by musicians and their students throughout the world.
He will celebrate his eightieth birthday on December 14 of this year, just two days before Beethoven's birthday. But it seems that retirement is no longer an issue. Can one retire from a calm, step-by-step approach to a craft so necessary to the art of music that it is an art itself?
W. Hans Moennig has come to the annual meetings of the International Double Reed Society, and I am sure that all of its members, the many who have visited his workshop, as well as those whose playing has been touched in some indirect way by his work, will join in wishing him a most Happy Birthday, and Many Happy Returns!
... also from the International Double Reed Society
No name is more legendary in the present American woodwind world than that of Hans Moennig of Philadelphia cousin of the late solo bassoonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, J. Walter Guetter, master repairer, and a friend and consultant to thousands of players from many countries. Professional clarinetists, oboists, bassoonists and flutists cross oceans and continents to reach him, and also beginning woodwind students walk into Moennig's small workshop in Philadelphia for their instrument's adjustment or, perhaps, a new reed.
Repair is an insufficient word for the work of Hans Moennig. He is a wood and metal-working artisan with few equals in any field of art. He has continually designed and constructed perfectly-fitting keys and mechanisms for the woodwinds and is a master at improving clarinet mouthpieces and barrels. He has been consulted on many occasions over the years by well-known players and instrument makers for advice and help on design and acoustical improvements. Constructing complete woodwind instruments would present him with no problems because he commands such complete technical and artistic knowledge of all the necessary factors.
An appointment for a few hours at Moennig's is very difficult to arrange and may require months of delay because of the legions on his waiting list and because he and his excellent colleague, Casimir Luczycki, work-carefully and painstakingly on each instrument, giving full respect and attention to every important detail. But once there, the wait is repaid by the very beautiful workmanship, accompanied by good orchestral music from the FM radio and by much stimulating talk about the music world which has been so long a central part of Hans Moennig's life.
Perhaps the most desired of all his services is that of having Moennig give your instrument his full "treatment". This includes a minute adjustment of each moving part, attention to all inner and outer surfaces for appearance and condition, a complete airtight sealing, careful tuning and voicing of the instrument's complete range (construction and fitting of sterling silver tone hole liners for left hand l-2-3 and right hand l, if not already present), and a final balancing or "articulation" of the key mechanism followed by a careful playing test. This leaves your instrument feeling as if it plays by itself! I have literally kicked up my heels with joy at the astonishing improvement Hans Moennig has brought about in my instruments.
Mr. Moennig's prices are eminently fair and reasonable; he is really a true friend to the woodwind performers.
Thank you again, W. Hans Moennig!