Besson Anniversary Sovereign Euphonium BE967T-2M-08th May 2018
Something a little bit special has arrived on the brass scene, and you’ll want to be quick! Besson turns 180 years old this year and to celebrate, they have very aptly produced a limited edition set of 180 brass instruments. Out of those 180 are 50 euphoniums in a special finish with various unique aesthetic and physical characteristics.
The finish is really quite remarkable as you can see from these pictures, but they really don’t do it justice. We asked our brass specialist, Matt, to give it a whirl. Was it really all it’s cracked up to be? Is it really as fancy as it looks? Is it worth £7480?!
Besson have reintroduced the old navy blue cases for this line of instruments, which looks smart and professional. It stands out straight away from the standard black or brown cases usually provided with most modern instruments. Also, the new “Besson London” logo is embossed cleanly into the side.
Open the case and you are presented with a truly stunning looking instrument. The frosted silver plate covering most of the euphonium catches the light in really interesting ways appearing to sparkle. The bright silver plate on the slides and details gives a subtle contrast; the plating has a mirror-like depth to it.
The new logo is engraved in to the bell and has a pleasing 3D appearance from a distance. Along the side of the bell is the Anniversary model engraving, which is clean and well finished.
Tone quality and intonation
The sound is warm and round, blending nicely in to the band sound at the mid dynamics. It also offes a definite zing and brightness to it when pushed. The upper register, in particular, is lovely – treble clef C’s and D’s above the stave really sing out making it very easy to project at the top. The “super” register wasn’t as responsive but this is to be expected on an instrument fresh out of the box.
In the middle and lower registers the sound is sweet and rich. What is interesting is, is how the instrument responds to vibrato, requiring much less input to get the desired effect.
Intonation on this anniversary euphonium is excellent, particularly in the lower register. Sometimes players may find low C and below to play a little sharp on their instruments. Often to the extent that low C sounds more in tune on 4th and 1st valves. On this it was bang in tune. Below low C the compensating system does its job well and the pedal register requires very little correction. Through the stave, top Es and Ds are well in tune, though F, F# and G above the stave all need some correction. The now ubiquitous main tuning side trigger comes in handy here and it corrects these issues easily. With Besson’s tried and proven screw adjustment system, tuning the whole instrument is quick and easy. Very few revolutions are needed to move the main slide a good distance.
Feel and playability
The instrument feels light to hold, and the reduced distance between the third slide and the 1st branch makes for an easy hand grip, not requiring too much stretch of the left hand. The right hand sits comfortably on a repositioned false piece, though some players with larger hands may find that their right thumb is at a slightly awkward angle against the valve casing!
The left thumb rests comfortably against the trigger which is easy to operate smoothly and with precision.
The valves feel absolutely fantastic out of the box, moving smoothly and quickly. The large bore and the floating lead pipe design combine to create a very free blowing instrument with very little resistance, particularly when compared to older models. Again this comes down to a matter of personal preference and, when filled properly and with good air support, the instrument is sonorous and rich in tone.
Since production of the modern Besson euphoniums was moved to Germany, the build quality has been exceptional. The instrument feels solid and robust in the hands. Several small design changes such as the repositioned third slide and the floating leadpipe design encourage the player to “hug” the instrument closer to the body. It feels secure in the hands which is a good thing because the frosted finish is naturally more slippery than a bright silver finish.
Only time will tell how well the finish holds up against daily practice routines, water spots will unfortunately show up against the frosted plating and the instrument will require careful cleaning to keep it looking immaculate.
This Besson 180 Sovereign Euphonium not only looks stunning, but that plays incredibly well too. The strikingly beautiful looks of the instrument are matched by its warm, rounded and full sound, with a touch of brightness. Only 50 of these gorgeous euphoniums have been made so you will need to snatch one up quickly before they are all gone!
- Matt Sanders
Well you’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth: it really is worth it. Matt didn’t think this euphonium would stand up against his 1979 Besson “Round Stamp” but it really did!’ There you have it, cynics can eat their hats – it might look fancy and fluffy around the edges, but the fact of the matter is, Besson clearly doesn’t mess around. Don’t let the price tag scare you too much – this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so if you’re serious about your euphoniums, grab one while you can!
About the Author
Matt has been the playing the euphonium since the age of 9. He has held positions with the Wantage and Aldbourne bands and is now principal euphonium with Cold Ash Brass. He has been the Brass Specialist with Dawkes Music since 2008.