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Thread: Besson 956 4v Baritone vís Wessex BR144 4v

  1. Besson 956 4v Baritone vís Wessex BR144 4v

    Hi. Can anyone share experiences of playing a Besson 956 4v Baritone - quirks and idiosyncrasies. Same question for Wessex BR144 4v Baritone.
    Even better if you have also played a BR144 4v Wessex back to back against it. Which is the winner based on intonation, ease of playing, slotting, stuffiness and all the other related stuff.
    Thoughts, comments and recommendations all welcome.
    Before you say it, yes I am fixed on 4v....... 😊

  2. I have not played the Wessex but have played the Besson 956 and the York 3056 (same tooling but built later). I am NOT a fan and now play a 3 valve Sterling Virtuoso. The only 4 valve baritone I would play (if I had to) would be the Besson Prestige 2056. My favorites these days are the 3 valve NEO and my heavy bell Sterling Virtuoso.

    That said, here are the issues with the 956/York 3056:

    1. Intonation - The horn is pitchy. Speaking in treble clef, middle A (1-2) is sharp. Use 3rd valve. Middle Bb (1st valve) is flat-ish. 6th partial (F, F#, G) is a bit sharp. High B (2nd valve) is FLAT. Use 1-2 or 1-3 to bring it up. D below the staff (4th valve) is spot on but Db (2-4) is flat. The low F (2nd partial) in the 4th valve range is ok using (1-4), but as you go further into the 4th valve range you have to start using alternate fingerings. There is no low Db (just above pedal C), even with all 4 valves down you just get a D.
    2. Design - The 4th valve compensating design on this horn was an afterthought. It was a bare minimum redesign of the 3 valve 955 Sovereign with an "F attachment" crammed in. The 3rd valve is borrowed directly from the 955s 1st valve to complete the compensating loops. It has just the little 3 valve compensating "nubbins" on the back of the horn. This is why pitch is so poor in the 4th valve ranges. The Prestige 2056 has a full set of proper length compensating loops and solves this particular problem.
    3. Ergonomics. To squeeze in the extra tubing for the 4th valve, Besson had to make the horn MUCH deeper fron to back. Therefore the grip around the outer brance/3rd valve slide normally used for the left hand is larger than most 4 valve euphoniums. The angle of the 4th valve is such that it is easier to play with the middle finger than the index finger of the left hand. The horn is heavier (much) than the 955 Sovereign and you cannot rest it on your lap to carry the weight. Like all baritones, it requires spinning the horn to complete water removal. Further, there is an awkward loopback tubing section in the 4th valve loop that makes water removal difficult unless you pull it and the 4th valve slide. Putting the mess back together is hard to do if you are mid-song.

    So, it has a 4th valve which makes fingering a bit easier for euphonium players. BUT, it is heavy, awkward to hold, has very marginal pitch, and is really a bollixed together design. The Prestige 2056 solves most of these issues except for grip depth and weight. OTOH, I know that Helen Harrelson plays one of these (at least she used to).

    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  3. I just want to add, that the Wessex BR144 is a "clone" of the Besson 2056 in that it uses a similar wrap and has "theoretically" full length compensating loops. I have no idea how it plays as I have never played one. I think maybe Barry Bocaner has, so he might chime in.
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  4. Ah - Mr Ruby, I was hoping you would have an input on this as Iíve been a lurker for ages and knew you had 956 experience !
    Thanks so much for your thoughts and comments - very much appreciated.
    So - where Iím at: I play a 956 at the moment. Uk grade 7, so a reasonable standard, but have only ever played a 956, so have nothing to compare it against. I have funds if required to purchase a Ďrealí 2056, but am not certain if I really can justify spending such a huge amount of money on (what for me will be) a brass band only instrument. Iím 50. I intend to complete ABRSM grade 8. I have an old imperial euph that I like to dabble with - hence the 4v
    I hope to play for another 20 years - but realistically only brass banding.
    So, lots of options. Although I have the money for a 2056, should I spend it on that or some other make and have the difference in cost for something else.
    All thoughts welcomed....

  5. OR to put it another way, IS a new Wessex BR144 a better option than the 25 year old 956 that I currently use!.....

  6. Quote Originally Posted by Howellsimon View Post
    OR to put it another way, IS a new Wessex BR144 a better option than the 25 year old 956 that I currently use!.....
    Unfortunately, I have no experience with the BR144. I would think that getting an opportunity to try one there in the Great Blighty may be easier than it is for us here. In theory, it COULD be better than the 956 since it has full length compensating loops and appears to mimic some aspects of the 2056, but baritones are such a variable lot! I doubt that an average BR144 would play better (overall) than a really good 956. If your current horn is in good shape, I would believe that unless you can actually try the BR144 and compare it A/B to your 956, I would stay put.

    A Charley Brighton overhaul of your 956 (really thorough clean, shine, all new guides and felts, etc.) combined with a copy of Dave Werden's alternate fingering chart to address the intonation quirks may be the best investment! Maybe get Charley to process the Imperial too and end up with two fine old instruments in great nick!

    I might add, that I have had relatively poor experiences with some of the 3 valve Chinese Sovereign clone baritones. Pitch not great and response and sound not wonderful. My Sterling uses the same valveset as the John Packer JP273/JP373, however the rest of the horn is different. With the heavy bell it has a wonderful sound and intonation is adequate even though the valveset isn't my favorite. So...not sure what else I can tell you.

    Best regards,
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  7. #7
    Hi, yeah - I have tried out the BR144 on 3 separate occasions. I really dislike the Besson 956. The 2056 Prestige is worlds better but still has some maddening tuning quirks. I believe the BR144 is indeed a copy of the 2056 but they did change the fourth valve wrap significantly. The first BR144 I tried, which may have been the prototype, felt like it had something wrong with it. A leak or something stuck in it. It was bordering on unplayable. I'm not sure why Wessex would have brought it to a trade show (I believe it was the American Trombone Workshop) in that condition, but it wasn't just as simple as a water key leaking or something because I did check all the simple things. The second and third time I tried it, it was OK. Same intonation problems as the 2056. Not particularly responsive or fun to play. I really like Wessex's 3-valve baritone, but the 4-valve compensating instrument just hasn't done it for me.

    But is it better than a 956? Probably...

  8. Thanks Doug and Barry for your thoughts and comments - all very much appreciated.
    I think my next plan must be to have a play on a BR144 and I guess a 2056; both back to back with 956.
    One further question - speaking Treble clef and an ĎAí one line above the top line. Absolute sod to hit nicely. With my preferred mouthpiece - this needs to be played on valve 3, as it either splits or seems to require exceptional control when using 1 and 2.
    Same applies with the ĎBí above it.
    Is this a 956-ism or a player-ism?
    What do you think?

  9. Using 3rd valve as an alternate to 1-2 on A's and E's (in staff or above) is not uncommon. E above high C is often 2nd valve or open depending on pitch and response. The B above staff was not a great note on my 3056 (flat as noted earlier) and I had to use 1-2 or 1-3 combination to play in tune (I can't quite remember which).

    Barry and I have often talked about the 956/York 3056 (even before he had his 2056). We both do not particularly care for them. I think the best way to think about a 956 is to treat it as a non-comp 3 valve with an slightly enhanced F attachment that you pay for with a lot of ergonomic penalties and few of the compensating advantages.

    My suggestion to you about perhaps considering just having the 956 brought up to full nick is based on the fact that you already have it. If you are looking at a clean slate and didn't own the 956, I would be looking at the cost/performance tradeoff between the 2056 and the BR144 only.

    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  10. Hi Doug. The 956 has been long term borrowed but at no cost to me, so I have nothing invested in it.
    Itís in decent nick and Iíve had the usual works done - clean, felts, guides etc, so I think itís about as good as itís ever gonna get.
    So as I donít own the 956, and given your thoughts and Barryís comments, I wonít be looking to purchase one !!
    I agree with you - itís a straight fight of the 144 against the 2056 and cost / performance comparison as you mentioned.
    Appreciate all thoughts and comments.

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