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Saxophones Borgani Vintage Oddballs (have a smile)

zannad

Member
Messages
410
It started after buying a Borgani tenor which was probably manufactured back in the 70's...when I received I was puzzled by the fact that the side F# was missing (let alone the top F#) - worst still, the bis key and relative link wasn't there too! It wasn't a mistake, apparently it was a conscious design decision from the manufacturer to cut down costs as much as possible - a poor man sax - after all these saxes were made for marching bands (that "um-pah-pah" Italian's festive processions stuff - if you get the idea).
Frustratingly, I loved that graspy punchy sound - this old sax is so fun to play - only my fingers get in the void sometimes looking aimlessly to those missing keys...ok, never mind (I thought), I'm going to use it for slow ballads or not very technical pieces (suits me as I'm definitely not a sax virtuoso).
For a moment I thought about paying a pro to put the missing keys in place...but then I can find these old Borgani cheaply too...

So, I bought another cheap tenor with a great coffee coloured patina - this time I'm gonna get a proper sax (I thought) and I checked the blurred picture carefully to make sure there were no surprises...the bis key was there - although the actual small motherpearl bit wasn't - ok, the Bb is operable somehow and at that price what could have gone wrong?
Well, this time I was shocked....the actual Bb Bis key (the cup + pad) in the front was operated by the right side palm key; just the cup was on the opposite side!! :w00t: I felt amused and a bit cheated too - bordering hysterical - how on earth!
I must confess that I'm partial to surprises - being these positive or not too negative are all welcome as long as there is something different and unusual - boy these old Borgani are really odd...

I waited, and then landed only last week another cheap Borgani (by now I could have probably saved enough for half a pro-Borgani but that would be too boring) - this time the sax looked brand new - in fact from the 70's it has never been played because it got damaged during the transport...it was badly bent and adjusted somehow by the owner but some top keys were not in place and the sax had never been put in playing conditions for decades. I was hoping to get this one for repair/spare so I could at least get some keys to add to the other 2 Borgani tenors I already have.
Well, this time I was pleased to see everything was there...side F# (tick), Bb Bis key and cup (tick, tick) and the top F# was there too! (alleluia!)....but hang on, I couldn't see the usual top F# key we operate with the right hand and from the picture it appeared like a normal sax - the F# tone hole was there with no key cup on top because the damaging bent had knocked the key off - to my surprise (once more) the key was stored inside the case and it was another left palm key to be aligned alongside the other traditional 3 left hand palm keys!! :welldone Borgani did it again! It seems that back in the 70's and 80's this manufacturer were prone to experimenting a lot with all sort of odd ideas - lol, I love them.
Of course, as it stands right now, it seems I'm kind of specializing in old Borgani oddballs that no one wants...but I bet there are similar stories from other brands - pity that Borgani is now specializing in serious pro stuff...
 

griff136

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,048
There were a few manufacturers that fitted a fourth left hand palm key for high F#
Dolnet being one of them.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,488
several brands had this feature some place else. Indeed Leblanc, Dolnet, Hammerschmidt (among others) all had the key somewhere else. We are, nowadays, thinking that the most common layout of the keywork for a saxophone is the one that Selmer gave them but at the time this was happening there was hardly any standard.

Most modern saxophones are, one way or other, all influenced by Selmers and players grew to think that this is a standard but that wasn't the case in the past.

By the way , many Italian (but not only Italian ) saxophones were made with a reduced amount of keys, typically no side F#, no front F or Bis key and sometimes only keyed to Eb. These saxophones (there were clarinets made alongside the same lines) were called " Modello Ministeriale" as a general name in the Italian trade referring to some ministerial norms ( I have long looked for them but never found them on line) which defined a cheap marching band instrument to be used, supposedly, in a ordinary marching band when Italy had an Army and Navy mostly made out of conscripts which at the very most stayed two to three years (in the olden days) and possibly took the instruments with them when leaving the army. Of course lots of small marching bands (Italy had many in the past, unfortunately this is no longer the case) used the same instruments for a similar, simplified, repertoire.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
There were a few manufacturers that fitted a fourth left hand palm key for high F#
Dolnet being one of them.

what was wrong with that extra palm key? To me it seems more natural to position - right on top next to the other 3 palm keys - less leverage involved too.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
"Modello Ministeriale" - that's intriguing...so it was an "austerity" imposition from the Italian Government (LOL, something Berlusconi should had done months ago).
I've found out that these cut down saxes were very common...but I bet most of them have been recycled by now - to me these sounds great and well tuned too...maybe having less holes in the body give that extra resonance?
I'm tempted to give Borgani a ring to find out a bit more about these oddball saxes...I wonder how many variants were made.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,488
I don't know about this being an austerity measure of any kind rather than probably a ministry having established the minimum requirements for a wind instrument to be used in a (military?) band.

These somewhat Spartan instruments are not too difficult to be found and recently I have bought ( and sold locally after trying to sell it , unsuccessfully, here )a Grassi Soprano keyed to high to Eb (with alternative F#).

In my youth in Italy it was quite common to see them among the cheaper instruments.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
I don't know about this being an austerity measure of any kind rather than probably a ministry having established the minimum requirements for a wind instrument to be used in a (military?) band.

These somewhat Spartan instruments are not too difficult to be found and recently I have bought ( and sold locally after trying to sell it , unsuccessfully, here )a Grassi Soprano keyed to high to Eb (with alternative F#).

In my youth in Italy it was quite common to see them among the cheaper instruments.

it WAS common...but now?
Anyhow, I got 3 of them now (all different in their oddities) - come across 5 Borgani in my life and only 2 are "normal". Fact is that if one is on a budget, then is more likely to bump into these "wonky" saxes as vendors online aren't that keen to highlight them missing keywork...
Personally, I'm not complaining - in face of boring globalization, I think I got a bit of history and I believe these oddballs will become more rarer and desirable in due time - just because they are different...time will tell ;}
 

MMM

Senior Member
Messages
947
Still, sounds much better than my first tenor: it was a Borgani which went only down to B (instead of Bb), which also resulted in a shorter bell: it looked a lot like a silver plated bass clarinet! It also had no front F key, let alone the F#.

As mentioned before, these "simplified" models were made mostly for the italian marching bands (modello "da banda", I think that during the 50s/60s/70s the local village bands must have been the main market for all the italian woodwind/brass manufacturers), equivalent to "student" models elsewhere in the world.

Trevor James has cottoned onto the idea recently (with the Alphasax) to encourage younger players: reduced keywork = reduced complexity for smaller hands and lighter weight.

Cheers,
M.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,488
well, the academy series from Buescher were also targeted to the school marching bands and had simplified keywork, Martin had some too.
 
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