France loses its last brass instrument maker

France loses its last brass instrument maker


norman lebrecht

October 30, 2014

The instrument maker Courtois, founded in 1789, will shut in December.

The company specialised in trombones. Courtois are the only kind played at the Met.


The Courtois brand will be maintained in Germany by the Buffet Crampon group.

Small craft makers are being driven out of France by a nose-dive economy and crippling social legislation. The piano makers Pleyel went out of business this time last year.



  • william osborne says:

    I don’t think it was crippling social legislation that caused Courtois to go out of business. They made expensive, professional level trombones that were never very popular with professionals. They are good horns, but they just never caught on. Even the Met trombone section’s endorsement did little to gain them acceptance.

    • william osborne says:

      Germany has similar social legislation and its instrument makers are doing quite well. So does the UK, and yet Rath trombones are much esteemed.

  • Paul W says:

    Good build quality and decent playability but the bass trombone was the weight of a small elephant and you needed a deformed left hand to operate the triggers!!!

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I am told that instrument maker (including brass) Couesnon is still in business in a small way.

  • Weston Sprott says:

    I would like to address some of the things that are mentioned in this posting and the comments that followed.

    The language in the post would lead one to believe that Courtois Trombones is going out of business. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since members of the Met Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago began playing the instruments, demand has outpaced supply, especially in the American market. The fact is, in order to keep up with the larger demand for the instruments, the company needed to move to a factory space that would allow them to produce a larger volume of instruments while still maintaining quality control. The current factory in Ambroise, France, is simply too small to keep up with the current demand for instruments.

    The parent company is called Buffet Group. The name Buffet Crampon was abandoned awhile back to take into account that the company owns several different professional brands of wind and brass instruments. See if you’re interested.

    It should be noted that three members of the Metropolitan Opera trombone section play Courtois Trombones. However, there are other members of the trombone section that play instruments by different makers.

    It should also be noted that we play Courtois instruments because of the excellent quality, and many others do as well. As members of such a great and visible orchestra, we have all been approached by different instrument companies that would like us to play their instruments. We choose what instruments we play based on quality alone. A quick look at the Courtois artist roster shows that Courtois Trombones are currently played by members of the Lyric Opera of Chicago trombone section, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Paris Opera, National Orchestra of France,Teatro Regio Turin, leading soloists and professors all around the world, and many others. Those are just some of the ones I know off the top of my head. There are too many to even make an attempt at listing half of them. Many of the world’s most prominent trombonists are Courtois artists. Courtois’ business model, name recognition, and presence in great orchestras is very strong. To say that they never caught on with professionals is simply misinformed.

    Perhaps, it would be more accurate to state that production of Courtois Trombones will be moving to a different location. To say that “The instrument maker Courtois, founded in 1789, will shut in December” will lead some to the false conclusions.

    To Paul W,
    I would suggest that you try out the Courtois bass trombone that has been redesigned and in production over the last few years. It is currently played by Paul Pollard (Met Orch), Stefan Schulz (Berlin Phil) and John Schwalm (Lyric Opera of Chicago). These guys all sound amazing, and it’s a GREAT instrument.

    Weston Sprott
    Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

    • norman lebrecht says:

      The language specifically says Courtois is going out of business in France. Production has been transferred to Germany.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    We’re going to lay off the people who made this successful product, close the factory where it is made and move production to a different country, all in the interest of quality, of course.

    Is there any other business in which that premise would be accepted with a straight face?

    • william osborne says:

      Na, you miss the point. They couldn’t find a building in France big enough for their rapidly expanding business… Anyway, we see how instrument endorsements work…

  • helsinki says:

    Well, Mr. Lebrecht. That’s another misleading headline. What is the cause for this type of journalism?