Monke Uncategorized

Wimo trumpets and the Monkes of Cologne

Brasspedia has an entry about WIMO trumpets in its section on Ernst Modl [ ]

Wilhelm Monke

Wilhelm Monke (1913–1986), son of brass instrument maker Josef Monke, opened his own independent shop in 1945, which sold a variety of instruments until it closed in 1994. He bought ready-made components and used them to build his instruments. He also bought ready instruments and engraved them with his name. It’s possible that he bought Modl’s instruments, or that he bought the same parts. But I don’t think that Monke made Emo instruments. The ones I found so far have different details but look like more or less like Modl instruments. The serial number 52 would fit in the Modl list, but the number looks a bit weird. And there’s also a Buffet mentioned on with the same serial (but without a picture).

That website shows some photos of a silver WIMO –

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According to the Grove Music Dictionary – from the article on Josef Monke by Edward A. Tarr –

A second firm, run by Monke’s son Wilhelm Monke (b Cologne, 27 Nov 1913; d Cologne, 8 Aug 1986) and later by Wilhelm’s son Friedrich Wilhelm (Friedhelm) Monke (b Cologne, 19 Feb 1943), existed from 1945 to 1994. A third firm, associated with the second, has been run by Friedrich Wilhelm’s wife Brigitte (née Rose, b Flammersfeld, 20 Sept 1943). 

A company by the name Musikhaus Wilhelm Monke GmbH, existed in Köln [Cologne] between about 1980 and 1997. The current Joseph Monke website relates that –

On 1st November 1997 “Josef Monke GmbH” was taken over by Stephan Krahforst (master brass instrument maker) born in 1963 in Cologne.

Beuchel, another brass instrument master [ ] relates a background with Wilhelm Monke-

In 1973 Gottfried Büchel began an professional education as a craftsman specialized for wind instruments at company Wilhelm Monke in Cologne. In 1976 he took his apprenticeship certification exam at the Chamber of Crafts in Cologne. After 4 years working at the company of Wilhelm Monke, he moved to the company Josef Monke GmbH, which he already knew from his education time.

In 1982 he subscribed to his craftsman’s examination in Düsseldorf and finished this exam in 1983 with the annual best performance. His produced masterpiece was a F-Tuba in gold brass with 6 valves.

The WIMO [WIlhelm MOnke] brand was used on other instruments including guitars. The formulation of the name is reminiscent of EMO [for Ernst MOdl ] and may have been triggered by it. Modl did make parts as well as stencils. The sharing of parts by brassmakers – whether in Chicago, Indiana, or Europe – is a practice that has always had much to recommend it.

It seems curious that Wilhelm Monke’s significance to the manufacture of musical instruments has been enveloped by a haze of controversy, exemplified by a discussion on in which various contributors put quite definite but completely contrasting points of view, in a theme titled “Wilhelm Monke really that bad”. I have several Wilhelm Monke trumpets, and for myself, claims by heavyweight commentators that Wilhelm’s trumpets are not excellent instruments are quite preposterous. A sampling of the trompetenforum comments [some of which relate opinions of others] is –

  • * Wilhem Monke was one of the first instrument makers in Germany to recreate the legendary Conn Connstellation, and he is said to have done it quite well …
  • * Unlike his father, Wilhelm Monke did not make any instruments himself. Instead, he has instruments from others …  [completely wrong]
  • * I also have a very nice specimen with a Heckel screw and an “angular” bell bend. Extremely beautiful in sound, very individual. Cannot keep up with modern instruments in terms of intonation and volume. But for me alone it is wonderful to play
  • * I have been playing a Wilhelm Monke B concert trumpet since 1960 . No other player I’ve played in my long wind career comes close to her. …
  • * Ansgar Nake from the Blaeserforum did his training at WiMo, as did Bernd Schramm

Another comment relates that Wilhelm fell out with Josef; another that Wilhelm Monke learned the craft of instrument making in his father’s business, but then went into business for himself, and another Wilhelm was the daughter’s brother (cumbersome but son) and, for reasons unknown to me, did not work in his father’s business and did not take over it.. [to be compared with, or seen in the light of, two trumpetmaster forum contributions: first – As far as I know (I used to be at the shop in Köln-Ehrenfeld a lot) the Monkes never were antagonistic, and Wilhelm’s shop was not far away from Josef’s. Wilhelm just spezialized in selling band instruments, and Josef just made trumpets.; and second [the reply]I have read somewhere that, although Wilhelm wanted to, Josef didn’t let him build complete instruments. Wilhelm started his own business, but most instruments he sold under his own name came from shops in Austria and Czechoslovakia. ]

Yet another comment may hint at the dynamics of paternal/familial approvals or disapprovals occurring :

it may be that Wilhelm Monke had the trumpet from “Papa’s” workshop and then wanted to “adorn himself with strange feathers”, ….

One trumpetmaster forum commentator gave this solemn advice –

When looking for Monke trumpets try to avoid the Wilhelm Monke models. Though nicely looking trumpets, they don’t even come close to “the real thing”. 
As the story goes, Wilhelm was Josef’s son and Liselotte’s brother. He couldn’t get along with his father and left the family business. He then started his own company by ordering complete instruments elsewhere and stamping them with his own name. These trumpets are often cheap Heckel copies. Good looking trumpets, but not very good players…

Precisely what Liselotte did in the business is somewhat obscure: an article by Johanna Imm [Sophie Drinker Institute] might be taken as suggesting that it was probably business administration, management, and sales:

The historian Andreas Schulz confirms that in the 19th and 20th centuries women in handicraft households were often responsible for the sale of goods and, when the husband died, they took over the business as a master widow until they remarried. [3] As the daughter of an instrument maker, Liselotte Monke from Cologne also worked in the business administration area of ​​her father’s company and after the death of her father in 1965 took over the management of sales and operations. [4]

My advice – unless you are either a committed afficionado of the “real thing” stereotype, or you believe father always knows best – is to explore Wilhelm Monke instruments for yourself .

Trumpets built as “Cologne model” are in the tradition of Monke-trumpets. They are heavier and produce a darker sound. Sometimes They require more effort to fill them with air.  These were the big stereotypes of rotary-trumpets yesterday

While it may be difficult by now to pin down whether the Wilhelm/Josef dynamic arose squarely because of Wilhelm’s situation as the son of Joseph Monke’s wife, leading to unusual family dynamics, loyalties and precedences, or whether there was a philosophical difference in approach [it is apparent – for example – that Wilhelm liked Jazz, widely regarded by German authorities as the embodiment of musical and cultural decadence – Wikipedia refers to burgeoning hatred of jazz and its subculture infected the entire Nazi party structure that Hitler and his followers were trying so desperately to erect] but none of that should lead to his talents and contributions being minimized so as to ensure that Joseph Monke is the one who is given the credit for anything and everything iconic about the Monke name.

Wilhelm Monke the author

Unfortunately – as far as I am aware – this work by Wilhelm Monke and Horst Riedel, a textbook on Music Manufacturing in Germany has never been officially translated into English. And as I don’t read or speak German, I have had to scan my own copy and – with some trepidation – get an online automatic translation. It is fair to say that the book is a veritable tour de force of the German Musical Instrument trade.

Textbook of the music trade Issued by Wilhelm Monke and Horst Riedel on behalf of the Gesamtverband Deutscher Musikfachgeschafte e.V.

Wilhelm Monke & Horst Riedel p. 195 – trumpets
p.197 posaunes – jazzposaune
p.198 – waldhorns
p. 199

p. 204

A post war first hand account of a day in the life of the Monke establishment in Cologne

Stretch: Coming of Age in Post-War Germany

In Stretch: Coming of Age in Post-War Germany the author was among those relocated in what may have been the largest forced resettlement of a population in modern history – the expulsion of at least twelve million people from the former German provinces of East Prussia, Silesia, and Pomerania, as well as from German enclaves in Eastern Europe. West Germany’s population swelled with the arrival of millions of refugees. With housing already scarce, jobs hard to come by, and religious differences often setting them apart, the newcomers were not always welcomed with open arms. STRETCH provides a fascinating glimpse into German life during a period when the country was experiencing a transformative economic recovery, but also at times struggling to confront the shadow of its recent Nazi past.

The book [published 2010] gives an illuminating glimpse into what Wilhelm Monke was doing in that period, and into the way he treated these newcomers. These are Gunter Nisch’s words –

Finally, on our fifth day of looking, [[for work]] we took the tramway to the Ehrenfeld Station and walked a few blocks to the shop owned by Josef Monke. Before going inside we stopped to admire the shiny brass saxophones, trombones, and trumpets in the window. Wilhelm Monke, the owner’s son, greeted Hubert cheerfully, as though they were old friends. He needed an additional apprentice to learn musical instrument making and repair and he wasn’t about to be put off by Hubert’s attitude problem. 207 To my astonishment, Hubert looked up and smiled. “Yes, Herr Monke. I’d love to.” “I could be here tomorrow, Herr Monke.” “Why don’t we make it April first since that’s the traditional time to start an apprenticeship? If you come back here tomorrow, I’ll have the contract ready for you to sign.” Then he turned to me. “I’ll need you back here, too, Herr Nitsch, since your parents can’t come. I assume you’ll be willing to sign as Hubert’s guardian?” “Of course, Herr Monke, and thank you!” I replied, trying my best to sound enthusiastic. Being Hubert’s guardian was a bit more than I had bargained for.

He goes on to relate their return next morning to Cologne-Ehrenfeld to sign the paperwork, and that Wilhelm’s talk turned to Jazz:

You don’t happen to like jazz, by any chance?” [p. 208] “That’s my favorite kind of music, Herr Monke. How’d you guess?” “Remember yesterday I told you and Hubert that we do repairs for the Cologne Philharmonic and the Opera? I should have also mentioned that our shop serves world famous jazz musicians. When Louis Armstrong, and Jack Teagarden, and Harry James perform in Cologne or in Dusseldorf, chances are they’ll drop by to see us. The reason I mention it, is that I think you’d make an excellent addition to our front-office sales force. When you’re discharged from the army, keep us in mind. If you decide not to go back to Arminius AG, give me a call or, better yet, stop by.”

Perhaps no comment is necessary: but for my part I find this a fascinating and quite compelling account of the man, one which is far, far, removed from the overbearing negative impressions floated by some.


Another contributor who in 1963 or 1964 went to Monke and shook hands with old Josef himself, relates that “Josef must have worked until his last day, because my teacher told me that he had suddenly fallen behind his lathe to the ground” also relates visiting Wilhelm once, in about 1970 –

to buy a (cheap) alto trombone and to make a zinc mouthpiece. That was in Gutenbergstrasse, very close to his sister Liselotte. I remember Wilhelm as a rather rough man who nevertheless worked very skillfully and with obvious love at the lathe. I stood by myself when he made a good mouthpiece in a very short time. ….

WIMO trumpet in Bb

A beautiful instrument and a fantastic player

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