From 18th to 19th century
The very first horns were made by boilermakers at the end of the 17th century. They also produced trumpets, kettledrums and cymbals, as well as other copper utensils for everyday use. Among the oldest horn makers or manufacturers, special attention is given to the names of Crétien (or Crestien, or Chrétien), Le Brun and most importantly Raoux, where we count four generations until the 19th century.
It’s under the latter, Auguste Raoux, that a young Savoie-born worker is initiated in the profession during the 1820s. The youngster Etienne-François Périnet learns fast: not only is he manually skilled, he has also got an insatiable curiousity and a sharp eye for detail. At Raoux’s, all sorts are being manufactured; however, he is particularly interested in prototypes of valve instruments that have recently appeared in Germany. In 1829, François Périnet, who has chosen to give up his first name, thinks of adding a third valve to the 2-valve cornet, thus giving the instrument a complete scale of notes. In order to truly take advantage of his innovation, he decides to set up shop on his own.
From this point onwards, a series of innovations follow. In 1834, he comes up with a new cornet model, which is none other than the one we use at present. In 1838, he installs a valve with staggered openings, which boosts the performance of the instrument compared to other horns of the era: it’s known as the ” Périnet Sysytem” and it’s still being used today in trumpets and certain types of horn. In the year 1814, the “bass valve” is created; this is a large instrument with four valves, a prelude to the modern tuba…
However, Périnet is faced with a reputable rival: Adolphe Sax, the Belgian instrument manufacturer, inventor of the saxophone and the saxhorn family of instruments (alto, bass, tuba and others). Not only is Sax an imaginative creator, he is also a sensible and strong financier, gifted with an intreaguing talent. In 1845, he becomes the exclusive supplier of wind instruments to the army, the navy as well as to punlic theatres. The market is booming; moreover, Sax’s instruments enjoy the benefits of official recognition which marginalises all others.
Things get rough for Périnet. He formes a committee with his old emplouer Raoux and three other instrument makers in order to denounce this breach of market forces. Nevertheless, the letter addressed to the Ministry of War. Auguste Raoux, on the other hand, engages in long and arduous procedures against Sax; procedures that bear no fruit, and as a result of which he is forced to sell his business in 1857. Despite the fact that he has contributed largely to their development François Périnet gives up the business of valve instruments, and consecrates himself exclusively to the hunting horn. As his continuous inventions demonstrate, he has always tried hard to master the technique; thus he intends to be the best at this, too.
First horn associations
At the end of the 1840s, he ignites the profound metamorphosis of the hunting horn. Since it’s creation, the hunting horn has always been played on its own or coupled with another horn, and the instrument itself is not perceived as a source of powerful sound. Nonetheless, with the appereance of the bass part in 1848, trios or even larger formations get together to play. At the same time, the first horn associations are born, and people start playing in groups. This goes hand in hand with the spirit of the era. As the dominant force in all areas of life for two decades, the wave of Romanticism has introduced a certain taste for the excessive: as in music, so in fashion, as well as an appreciation for powerful sound effects (and even “noisy” sounds, according to the critics of the era). Everything that can highlight this temperanment is highly appreciated, and the horn is no exception.
Credits go to François Périnet for understanding this development even though it is just beginning to unfold, and for his innovative approach to instrument making, which greatly contributes to this process. His understanding of all aspects of the profession is largely due to his research on the cornet and the bass, among others. He knows how to improve the emission of sound, how to work on accuracy, tone or power to succeed in bringing to life an instrument that is perfect as it is accessible. For him, the weak point of the horn (as known at the time) is it’s lack of powerful sound. It suffices to imagine a group with more powerful instruments…
He is aware that the solution lies with the form of the bell. The bell of the hunt at the time, which has barely changed since it’s creation, has a rather flat rim with a narrow bolt (see page 8), one that opens out abruptly. The resonance, Though it’s rather soft, could be brilliant in forte; but it lacks a certain amplitude.
A powerful sound
He is convinced that the sound range needs to be widened, which will in turn modify the general harmonics of the instrument. Therefore he sets about readjusting each detail for manufacturing the horn. It’s a long-drawn-out job requiring lots of patience. It is not until 1855 that François Périnet manages develop a type of bell that offers a powerful sound and a high quality tone that do not detract from the other characteristics of the instrument. But the final piece is a true success, so much so that this new model is reproduced and sold in large numbers, and eventually replaces all previously popular examples. In fact, it is still used as the standard in horn making today.
Even though Périnet patented his earlier inventions, he didn’t deem it necessary to do so when it came to what seemed to him a simple enhancement. From this point on, he stands up to be accounted for, and decides the best way would be to find an associate to expand his business. In 1859, having found the right candidate, he changes the brand name to “François Périnet, Pettex-Muffat & Cie”, and moves his workshop from Paris to a larger spot in Passy. The following year, Pettex-Muffat launches their famous garland trompe in relief designed by Garnier.
In all likelihood, François Périnet seems to have disappeared by 1862 or 1963. His successors bring manufacturing back to Paris; but carefully ensure the high quality for which he became known, and preserve the brand under his name as a means to gauge excellence. Even today, the term “Périnet” immediately conjures up the image of the hunting horn.
What is the secret of Périnet ?
The manufacturing processes are known for their fundamental precision, and stand the test of modern times. This savoir-faire makes all the difference: it resides largely in conception and assembly, for high quality instrument manufacturing cannot stem from an industrial context. The present-day Périnet range reflects a subtle balance of indispensable practical expertise as well as substantial knowledge of the most recent technological innovations. If there is a secret, it lies with this relentless determination to do better forever, which also distinguishes the brand since its beginnings. Every Périnet horn is unique: thus each and every one of them is marked by a specific number.
Yannick Bureau is the successor of the Périnet House
Following in the footsteps of his uncle Michel BUREAU, he is in charge of design as well as the manufacturing process since 1994. He gives concerts with the Périnet Academy, the horn training association that he created, at the House of Hunting and Nature in Paris. Here he has put in place the best horn teaching practices and learning techniques, which in turn enables him to advise each player and huntsman regarding the choice of instrument and mouthpiece.