A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Besson, Gustave

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BESSON, Gustave Auguste, a celebrated manufacturer of musical instruments, born in Paris 1820, died 1875. His father was a colonel of distinction in the French army, and but for his intense love of music and natural genius for mechanics, there is no doubt young Besson would have adopted his father's profession.
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In 1838, when scarcely eighteen years of age, he produced a new model cornet, which met with the greatest success, and is to this day known as the 'Besson Model.' It was recognised at the time as a decided improvement on all previous instruments of the same kind. In 1841 he invented an entirely new system of rotary action, with six valves, the right hand being applied to the top valves, the left to those at the bottom. But he was not satisfied with this advance, as, owing to its internal proportions, it did not allow of a full bore when the valves were down. In 1854 he elaborated an improved system of full bore, by means of which the notes of the first and third valves separately, and those of the first and third together were perfectly in tune—a result which had never before been obtained. The year following he was successful in turning out an instrument with a full bore, the valve and open notes being in all respects perfect.

In 1858 were manufactured a series of instruments known to the profession as the 'Besson Girardin,' the feature of which was that the player was enabled to change from one key to another, without changing mouthpiece, slide, or crook.

In the same year he introduced the circular system. By this method of manufacture the tubing was coiled in a circle round the pistons, the result being that, by doing away with all angles, the instruments obtained a greater volume of tone. This system was found to be remarkably effective with trombones and French horns. His invention of 1859 consisted of instruments having eight independent positions, and giving the entire scale, a note to each valve. But the greatest of all Mr. Besson's inventions, which has won for him upwards of thirty awards from different nations, and with which his name will always be associated, is what is known as the 'Prototype System,' and represents in a condensed form the sum of all the experience he had previously acquired. This system consists in having conical steel mandrils of exact mathematical proportions representing the different parts of the instrument. By this means an unbroken column of air is assured, and the player is enabled to obtain the utmost volume of tone, so that by the inert mechanism of the valves perfect tune is secured throughout the whole register. There is this further advantage in the Prototype System; it dispenses with anything like guesswork in the manufacture of musical instruments, and by its aid any number of instruments exactly alike in every respect and in perfect tune can be turned out. These important inventions, together with others of minor importance, yet in their way useful and deservedly appreciated by acousticians, have placed Besson in the foremost rank of musical instrument makers.

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