It’s rare that I start an article with a summary, but this is a long article. A summary is called for in this particular case. So:
- Were there Italian copies of the Buffet Dynaction and SuperDynaction? Yes. They’re good copies, too, but they’re definitely not identical. Additionally, the newer the copy, the better the copy.
- Did Ditta Giglio (“The Lily Company”), headed by Alfredo Santoni, Fabio Somaini and Luigi Bulgheroni, produce these horns? Yes, I believe so.
- Is the Buffet-made Evette Schaeffer Master Model a direct copy of the Buffet SuperDynaction? No. The bow, C# key and (probably) the bell are different and may be from the Dynaction.
- Can I recommend that you buy a Buffet-made Evette Schaeffer Master Model or one of the Ditta Giglio horns? Yes, but please keep in mind that a) many companies made horns for Buffet under the title of “Evette Schaeffer Master Model” and b) I’m specifically talking about the copies of the Buffet SuperDynaction and Dynaction from Ditta Giglio. Ditta Giglio made a lot of horns for a lot of folks, so you have to bew specific.
Please note that in the below article I will use the following abbreviations:
- DA: This is the Buffet Dynaction saxophone.
- SDA: This is the Buffet SuperDynaction saxophone.
I will also try to keep “A. Santoni” and “Ditta Giglio” separated.
How Did We Get into this Mess?
A few years back, I stumbled onto a very pretty horn that was labeled “Selmer” but was obviously NOT a Selmer. It looked like a relatively distinctive-looking horn I used to own, a Buffet Dynaction. I essentially looked at the “Selmer” and thought, “Well, Selmer has had stencils built for them before — that’s what the Selmer New York, Selmer Pennsylvania, Selmer Pennsylvania Special, Selmer Manhattan and Karl Meyer horns are. I’m just a bit impressed that they went to Buffet, a direct competitor, for horns. Look, it’s even got an ‘S’ on the neck. Nice touch.” I then proceeded to forget about it until I saw another horn a couple weeks ago, which was followed up by post from a member of the Woodwind Forum, kevgermany, who mentioned that the “Emperor” I had seen looked a little Evette-ish. He even had a horn engraved, “A. Santoni.” I responded that I had heard that Santoni was supposed to have made a lot of the Evette-Schaeffer horns that are stamped “Made in Italy,” but I didn’t think that this was one of them.
I then remembered the “S” on the neck ….
Ditta Giglio Company History
Alfredo Santoni, Fabio Somaini and Luigi Bulgheroni were the principals in the Ditta Giglio (“Lily Company”) in the city of Parè, in the province of Como, in the Lombardy region of Italy (you can get a brief on the area at http://en.db-city.com). The company was founded in 1947, closed in 1974 and passed into receivership in 1976.
Bulgheroni’s portion of the business was passed on to his sons, Giacomo and Sergio, and they formed F.lli Bulgheroni S.n.c in 1974. A company in Fabio Somaini’s name still exists, but it’s essentially an instrument repair shop. It does look like the Santoni nameplate survived the 1976 receivership and/or Santoni or one of his family continued with some woodwind manufacture for a few years, but data on this is a tad sketchy.
Ditta Giglio started with only three workers in 1947 and increased to 70 in the 1970s. At that time, they were producing 1200 instruments per month, primarily because they were one of the few companies to have automated equipment that could make woodwind instruments, as opposed to 100% handmade.
Most of the Ditta Giglio production was for Mogar, Evette-Schaeffer (Buffet), Boosey & Hawkes and others, rather than under the Santoni or Ditta Giglio name.
All of this boils down to, “Ditta Giglio mostly made stencils.” The simplest definition of a “stencil” is, “A horn made by one company for another company or storefront that doesn’t have a horn line. That second company or storefront would literally pull out a stencil, put it on the bell and start engraving.”
Before I continue with Santoni, I want to talk about the Evette-Schaeffer and Malerne horns for a bit.
The Evette Schaeffer Master Model
You can consider Selmer’s Karl Meyer and Pennsylvania as just a “line” of horns. There was no company named “Pennsylvania” and there probably wasn’t a “Karl Meyer.” Selmer just bought horns from some random company, slapped a stencil on the horn, and sold it as a “Selmer Student/Intermediate” horn. That’s kind of what Buffet did with their Evette-Schaeffer models from around the 1950s to around the early 1970s. So, there are a lot of Evette-Schaeffers out there built during that time frame that were made by:
- Dörfler & Jörka (stamped “Made in West[ern] Germany,” except for baritones and sopranos)
- Juilius Keilwerth (stamped “Made in West[ern] Germany,” but baritones and sopranos, only)
- Malerne (one of possibly several Evette-Schaeffer horns stamped “Made in France,” but I’ve only seen Malerne stencils)
… and a lot of Italian manufacturers and all stamped “Made in Italy:”
- Alfonso Rampone (almost definitely)
- Rampone & Cazzani (possibly)
… and at least one US company, Conn. The one I saw was one that looked like the Nogales-sourced student models.
I ran across a couple of quotes in my research that said something along the lines of, “Germany, Czechoslovakia and Italy, post-WWII, were kind of like the Taiwan and China saxophone markets of today: sometimes very good horns at a very low price, but also very bad horns at a very low price and it’s often very hard to tell who made what.”
There was also a series of instruments called the “Evette-Schaeffer Master Model.” For clarinets, this was either an extremely well put-together advanced intermediate horn or an R13 that had some flaw and couldn’t be sold as a “true” R13. In either case, the Master Model was supposed to be Buffet-made. When I started searching for Master Model saxophones, though, the first hit I came across was a Dörfler & Jörka stencil, so the idea that Master Model = Buffet-made flew out the window. I searched more did find a few Master Model saxophones that did look Buffet-made — I’ll talk about those in a bit — but those were fairly uncommon.
So, when I get to talking about ANY Evette Schaeffer from 1940ish or newer, I will absolutely, positively include a picture of the exact horn I’m talking about.
Malerne Made by Ditta Giglio?
I’ve seen a couple posts regarding a comment that Ditta Giglio may have provided some stencils to Malerne. That’s quite probable and there is a lot of precedent. For instance, when SML couldn’t fulfill all their saxophone orders, they would purchase instruments from folks as varied as Beaugnier (Leblanc) and Dörfler & Jörka. So, it’s possible that Malerne (which was actually bought by SML around 1975) did have Ditta Giglio or another firm produce a horn or two for their direct sale, every now and then. However, where the reasoning takes a deep plunge into darkness is to assume that all Malernes were made by Ditta Giglio and/or that Ditta Giglio built a horn for Malerne and Malerne re-sold it to Buffet as an Evette-Schaeffer. If that were the case, why are there horns specifically stamped, “Made in France,” “Made in Italy,” etc.? Buffet obviously didn’t have a problem with telling their buyers where the horn was from.
I’ve also seen maybe two horns in my 15ish years of research stamped “Made in $Place” that were actually not made in $Place. As an example, a horn might have “P. Mauriat, Paris” engraved on the bell, but you won’t find a stamp that says, “Made in France.” (In P. Mauriat’s case, it’ll probably say “R.O.C.” or “Taiwan.”)
You may have noticed that I also glossed past the comment I made about Malerne being bought by SML in 1975. If you consider that with the fact that Ditta Giglio essentially dissolved in 1974, I think you can draw the conclusion that, in the early 1970s, Buffet stopped buying stencils. That’s probably the main thing that contributed to the end of Ditta Giglio.
Buffet came out with a new professional horn, the S1, in 1975 and produced an S1/SDA transitional model around 1973. At the time the S1 was finalized, Buffet decided to focus on the professional classical saxophonist market, which could be why Buffet stopped buying stencils. I think this is a logical conclusion from the data, but I don’t have any documentation to prove it. Buffet did go back into the intermediate market a few years later with the S2, so YMMV.
How Can I Tell if it’s a Ditta Giglio Horn?
Because I like life to be easy, I’ll give you a bit of a logical rule-of-thumb to determine if the horn you’re holding is a Ditta Giglio-made horn:
Here’s a picture of an Italian lily. (You can also take a look at a lily-of-the-valley, if you prefer.)
Here’s a picture of the body-to-bell brace on a random “Made in Italy” Evette Schaeffer. It’s a flower.
All you have to do is combine the above with the point that the horns that look like DAs have the letter “S” stamped on the neck, and you can conclude that the Italian maker, Santoni, from the Lily Company, a company that is known to have produced horns for Evette Schaeffer, made the horns.
If that’s not enough to convince you, here’s a webpage I created. What’s on it is a bunch of comparison shots of the …
- Buffet Dynaction
- Olds Opera (the best known Buffet stencil)
- Two DA look-alike horns
- Buffet SDA
- Buffet-made Evette Schaeffer Master Model
- Two SDA look-alike horns
All of the above are Bb tenors, except for the Master Model. Sorry: it’s actually kind of hard to find any Master Model saxophone that’s made by Buffet.
A Final Note before Comparing
Before I begin on talking about points of comparison, let me make obvious something: all I’ve “proven” with these pictures is that the horns that I say are from Ditta Giglio are not the same as the Buffets they’re copies of. If you want to, you can argue that …
- A different company made the horns I consider Santonis
- The company that made the horns with the “S” on their necks and the ones that look like SDAs were different.
I’ve got no real problem with you going with either scenario. I just think that it’s highly likely that it was Santoni. I again refer you to the logical point I made in the last section about the Italian maker, Lily Company, etc.
The other thing is that I don’t see any major points of departure from the DA to the Olds Opera, so I don’t think you have to “worry” about your Opera being made by someone other than Buffet. I do, however, see the major difference between the Buffet-made* Evette Schaeffer Master Model and SuperDynaction: the low C# is in a different place on the bow. The most common theory I’ve read is that the Buffet-made Evette Schaeffer Master Model is a SDA body (and bell), but the bow and C# key come from a DA. That does make sense, as I’ve heard that all the parts are interchangeable with an SDA, except for those two. However, I do wonder about the bell, itself, and if the Master Model is just a DA with a different bell-to-body brace or if the Buffet-made Evette Schaeffer Master Model or Olds Opera were made with less quality control.
Finally, I’ll point out that SML, a Buffet competitor in the French market, did sell their older professional horns as their Standard model, so there is precedent for a company selling their older professional model with a fancy new name engraved. In any event, folks that own Buffet-made Evette Schaeffer Master Models like their horns a lot. Personally, if I could pay considerably less for a Buffet-made Evette Schaeffer Master Model than I’d have to fork out for a DA or SDA, I’d definitely buy one. The DA alto I owned was excellent and I know the SDA is supposed to be better. A horn that’s got a good percentage of DA or SDA should be fine with me.
* You’ll notice I threw “Buffet-made” in the above section. Again, remember that not all Master Model saxophones were built by Buffet. The last time I wasn’t specific enough, I got e-mails for weeks ….
The DA Copies
So, let’s get to some differences between the DA and the Ditta Giglio DA copies. You can view the entire comparison page I created here.
- Bell-to-body brace. Here’s the Emperor, here’s the “Selmer” and here’s the DA. It’s the same shape. The pattern that’s stamped or engraved is a little different.
- Keyguards. Here’s the Emperor and here’s the DA. As mentioned before, the keyguards on the “Selmer” were replaced, so I can’t compare that. Anyhow, the Emperor and DA look original to me and they’re a different shape. Very similar, but still different.
- More keyguards. The DA and Emperor have identical shape keyguards for the left-hand rods, but the “feet” that secure the keyguard to the body are very different.
- D/Eb/F altissimo keywork. Here’s the Emperor and here’s the DA. No pic available for the “Selmer.” They’re very close, but I think the Emperor might be a little “chunkier” and “stubbier.”
- Necks. Here’s the Emperor, here’s the “Selmer” and here’s the DA. The Emperor and “Selmer” look fairly similar, but note that the stylized “S” is a tad different. I’m not really worried about the “S” as much as how the shape of the key, itself, compares to the DA. They’re markedly different.
- Bow. This one’s a bit difficult. The SOTW thread mentioned wanting to measure the bow lengths. I obviously can’t do that without the horns. However, I can say something like, “The body-to-bow clamp is about parallel to the middle of the C# key and the bow-to-bell clamp is immediately parallel to the body-to-bow clamp.” Or some such. Easier: the Emperor and DA are significantly different. The DA’s got a shorter bow and different clamps.
- C/Eb keys. They’re both positioned differently — the DA’s C is a bit “lower” than the Eb, while the Emperor and “Selmer” are sitting at the same height. Additionally, the DA has one post for the assembly on the body and one on the bow. It looks like the Emperor has two on the body and probably one on the bow.
At this point, I stopped doing any more comparing. It’s pretty obvious that the DA and the Santoni horns are fairly different. If you looked into it, you’ll also see differences in the octave key mechanism and other things. I obviously can’t confirm that the bores are different dimensions or anything like that without actually having measurements. It’s also possible that some of the keys are slightly different sized.
The bottom line is always, “How good does it play?” The simple answer is … “I don’t know.” The gentleman that sent me pictures of the “Selmer” many years ago was satisfied with my (incorrect) answer of, “It looks like a DA stencil,” and I haven’t seen the horn on eBay, so my assumption is that it was a decent horn. I can definitely say that the Santoni SDA copy is a much more exact copy, so the rule of thumb might be, “The newer the Santoni copy, the better the copy it is.”
The SDA Copies
So, let’s get to some differences between the SDA and the Santoni SDA copies. You can view the entire comparison page I created here.
- Bell-to-body brace. Here’s the Couesnon, here’s the A. Santoni and here’s the SDA. It’s the same shape. The pattern that’s stamped or engraved is a little different.
- Keyguards. Here’s the Couesnon, here’s the A. Santoni and here’s the SDA. The SDA is similar, but still different. Additionally, if you look closely — and here’s a better shot of the SDA for this — you can see that the “feet” of the keyguard — i.e. the things that connect the keyguard to the bell — are identically styled, EXCEPT for the “middle” foot, which is markedly different on the SDA — and the foot on both the Couesnon and Santoni look like the one on the Emperor (see above post)
- Necks. Here’s the Couesnon, here’s the A. Santoni and here’s the SDA. The Santoni and Couesnon actually match the look of the DSantoni DA copies. However, I’m told that they do not have a stylized “S” on the neck. Just a pattern of dots.
- Lyre holder. Here’s the Couesnon, here’s the A. Santoni and here’s the SDA. The style and placement on the Santoni and Couesnon do not match that of the SDA. They do match the Santoni DA copies, though.
- Bow. Check out the comparison pic page I made. It looks like — and it may be just optical illusion — I think the Santoni and Couesnon bows look a little longer than the SDA. Additionally, the C# key is in a different location. Like the Buffet-made Master Model, the C# is “tucked back” a bit on the bow. The C# on the SDA is inline.
- Octave mechanism.Here’s the Couesnon, here’s the A. Santoni and here’s the SDA. While they look very similar, the one on the Santoni actually looks a bit more complex than the one on the SDA.
There’s a bit more that kevgermany, the owner of the A. Santoni horn, wanted to point out:
- [The] C#/G#/B/Bb cluster on the SDA [doesn’t] quite look the same to me. The curved arm of the B key sits differently in relation to the Bb (closer to the roller on mine) and the taper of the B is different — as is the aspect ratio of the G#.
- [The] C/Eb [keys on the] SDA look narrower [than on my horn] and seem to have a narrower gap between the arms to the finger touches.
So, I’ll say again that the obvious conclusion is that the Couesnon and A. Santoni horns are not the same as the SDA. My opinion, based on these points of comparison, is that A. Santoni made these horns.
The bottom line is always, “How good does it play?” The simple answer is, “Good.” Here’s a comment from kevgermany on the A. Santoni horn:
Plays well, but I can’t really compare it to much. Keys are well positioned. It has the wonderful bottom end that the SOTW guy liked so much. Higher notes are nice, without getting thin or nasal. Not as much of a roarer as the Conns, but not too thin/orchestral. Sings is how I’d describe it. Intonation is good, but needs a little work. To my ear it sounds better than a MkVI – heresy, but it’s a lot less harsh and fuller, with just as much power. Really needs a much better and more experienced player than me to test it out. (Anyone reading in the Munich area?)
Here’s a comment from soybean on the Couesnon horn:
I compared it to my [Selmer Mark VI] and [Yamaha] 82Z. Most of the review was done while playing the horn with a Barone copper neck as recommended by bfoster64. This definitely opened up the horn, allowing me to put more air into it and making the high notes (palm keys) louder and fatter. Using the stock neck was okay too, but softer toned. For some reason, the cork on the original neck is very long.
The intonation is good. About the same as other French tenors from the same period. The mid D and E are a bit sharp as they are on many saxes. It’s pretty easy to adjust while playing.
The low end ( G and lower) is simply exceptional! A warm and singing sound with some beautiful buzz at the same time. This is the nicest low end of any tenor I’ve ever played, including [the Mark] VI — and these notes are easy to play.
Ergos: pretty good. Typical of the era. I would move the strap ring lower for better balance.
Projection: good with Barone neck. Not quite as loud as the [Mark] VI, but similar to other Couesnon and Buffet saxes.
Tone: wonderfully expressive! It’s a lot of fun to play.
As with everything in life, “Your mileage may vary.” However, the review is very close to the reviews I’ve heard people make with my Buffet Dynaction and Mark VIs: the Buffet is at least on-par, if not a bit better. However, the tone is more diffuse — which is how I transliterate the “softer” comment. In other words, the Santoni copy seems to be really, really close to the horns they’re copies of, not just in appearance, but in how they play.
- Sax-on-the-Web Thread: Buffet SDA Tenor Stenciled as Couesnon
- Sax-on-the-Web Thread: Malerne Saxes are Stencils?
- Sax-on-the-Web Thread: Buffet “Master Model” Alto? Identical to Buffet SDA?
- Sax-on-the-Web Thread: Trash or Treasure? Evette & Schaeffer
- Woodwind Forum Thread: Emperor and “Selmer”
- Bulgheroni.it: Bulgheroni company history
- Saxpics.com: Buffet S Series Model Breakdown
- Saxpics.com: SML Company History
- Bassic Sax Pix: Dorfler & Jurka, Orsi, and Malerne horn pictures, used as references for comparing
- GetASax.com: Beautiful, large pics of Buffet SDA and DA horns. Used to compare features.
- kevgermany, from Sax-on-the-Web and the Woodwind Forum: Pics of the A. Santoni Buffet SDA copy.
- soybean, from Sax-on-the-Web: Pics of the Couesnon A. Santoni Buffet SDA copy.
- Saxpics.com: Pics of the Selmer Buffet DA copy.