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The company founder Franz Küng

Franz Küng was born on 11.11.1906 in Schaffhausen. In 1927 he successfully completes an apprenticeship as a piano maker before spending his years of travel in Germany and the Netherlands. In 1933 he returns to Schaffhausen and buys a villa at the Grabenstrasse 3 in Schaffhausen with money that he has borrowed from friends and family. There he establishes a music store and earns some money as a piano tuner and repairman. In 1938 he takes first attempts with recorders upon request due to a ban on imports of these instruments from Germany. Obviously these attempts based on old German fipple flutes filled him with enthusiasm and he applies himself to the development of well tuned and melodiously sounding recorders. 

Küng Recorders Manufaktur - History
Historic pictures
Franz Küng in fitting the block
Franz Küng in fitting the block

The continued development of the recorders

In the 1940s Franz Küng progressively gives up tuning pianos and turns away from the music house. Instead he focuses on the further development of the recorders. By the end of the 1940s he already builds school flutes in 415 Hz (soprano and alto) upon request of Ina Lohr of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (year of establishment also 1933).

In 1951 he wins his first awards for his alto and bass recorders. This is followed by further development of present models right up to the great bass. 

He creates the model masterpiece, instruments in all sizes, which are manufactured in exotic kinds of wood such as palisander (rosewood), grenadilla and tulipwood, often elaborately decorated with ivory.  A good connection into the USA provides an enormous amount of sales with the years. In the 1960s the annual units of quantity are as high as 70,000.

Strong commitment

Despite his 18 employees Franz Küng does the crucial steps in production such as fitting the fiddle into the mouthpiece and manually tuning each instrument by himself. In addition he leads and controls the manufactory, develops machines, performs the maintenance and repairs all alone. This all sums up to 16- to 18-hour workdays throughout the years. 

A change in production

A radical cut changes the situation: The school flutes with the particular German fingering are taken out of the program. That’s about half of the manufactory’s production. This is a courageous decision taken by the end of the 1960s.

Rebuilding phase in the company

The 1960s are defined by a big upheaval. Fanz Küng’s youngest son Thomas starts his apprenticeship as a precision mechanic and flute maker at his father’s company. The elder son Andreas studies old music and the recorder at the Schola Cantorum Basilensis after graduating from high school.

At the same time, the company is changing and rebuilding itself in many areas. The old villa gets a whole new floor and expands to two sides.

Even without the huge amount of flutes with the German fingering the manufactory’s production takes up such a great deal of time that there is only little time left for the development and improvement of existing models. A number of deficiencies in testing and tuning remain in place too long - the quality and the good name suffer.

First recorders after Denner

During Andreas’ studies at Hans Martin Linde’s, the first copies as referred to Denner arise: The alto flute after J.C. Denner, the sopranino after I. Denner and a flûte de voix are newly produced.

After the first participation at the festival in Brügge in 1974 (Franz Küng in the role of the exhibitor and Andreas Küng as a competition participant) the subbass CLASSICA is developed and comes on to the market in 1975/76. Various sizes of historically inspired models, all in 415 and 440 Hz, sopranino, sixthflute, soprano (after Haka), flûte du quatre, alto and flûte de voix are developing as a result.

The 1980s

In 1980 there is another big renovation and addition to the factory to follow.

1983 Franz Küng dies at the age of 77 in the factory. He has never retired and worked day in day out even long after his two sons had already been fully integrated in his manufactory.

Andreas and Thomas Küng

Now the two brothers are responsible for the operation. It is clear that an entirely new appearance to improve somewhat as a result of circumstances tarnished name of the company again. This begins with the redesign of the corporate identity, via new developments of different models and machines to more intensive contacts to the outside, except for musicians or amateurs, and of course even more intensively to the music trade.

History - Thomas Küng
Thomas Küng
History - Andreas Küng
Andreas Küng

A streamlined product range with new model names and a new price structure

The new company appearance demands a streamlined product range with new model names and a new price structure. The new names such as STUDIO, SUPERIO, CLASSICA and HISTORICA arise. The school flute program is redesigned. SUPERIO is developed, inspired by the baroque design of the Rippert alto flute in G (390 Hz). The CLASSICA-model is Franz Küng’s well-tried classical model, which is still very popular and available in all sizes from the Garklein to the sub bass.

With the expansion of the SUPERIO-series, the wider product range and the appearance to the outside, the company’s image improves continuously. Especially the development of the SUPERIO-bass by Geri Bollinger is an important step in the right direction.

The market shares in Germany and the USA are rising. Thomas Küng continues tirelessly to improve the production bases and the company invests in new machines. Advanced and precise computer-controlled equipment are elaborated in collaboration with a clever mechanical engineer in Switzerland. The aim is to fit the wind channel and labium in the STUDIO soprano and alto so precisely that there is only a manual final process in production needed.

Many new machines are added with the aim to improve and specify the production.

75th anniversary

In 2008 the Küng recorder manufactory celebrates its 75th anniversary. Now the groundwork was laid for the future. The signs are good, new markets complete existing markets and the popularity of the recorder is unbridled particularly amongst adult players.

The enormous success of the SUPERIO bass leads to the decision to also renew the great bass and the sub bass. Geri Bollinger devotes himself to this work, knowing about the enormous amount of time needed for the development. Thanks to the trend to play music in big ensembles and recorder orchestras, the supply of recorders with deep sounds comes at the right moment.

Large numbers of orders come in and the company is confronted with long delivery times. Especially the fabrication of the keys is problematic and the aim is to be able to eradicate these in the course of the year 2008.

The newly developed sub bass conquers the market in the very same year. 

The Eagle recorder

The highly promising Eagle project together with Adriana Breukink from the Netherlands and Geri Bollinger starts in 2008. Step by step new instruments arise, which fit modern instruments with their strong sounds.

K4 - The powerful alto recorder for demanding players

In 2012 a new project starts with the development of a new alto recorder in collaboration with external specialists. The new, unique instrument for demanding players is later named K4. This stands for:

  • P.I. Bressan, for the drilling profile of the recorder and the luxurious design
  • Ernst Meyer, Maître Flutier, for the extra wide diapason and the unique voicing
  • Maurice Steger, the masterly soloist and conductor
  • Kung, the manufacturer who combines high quality with traditional handcraft

Originated from this cooperation, the K4 alto recorder convinces with its space-filling sound with a strong sonority in high and deep pitch. It is an ideal instrument for players who love an open, free sound. This extraordinary alto recorder has been developed in a long-lasting collaboration with Ernst Meyer.

Since 2015 the K4 is available through the trade. It clearly stands out compared with the recorders built so far.

New executive director Thomas Küng

In 2013 Andreas Küng sells his shares of the company to his brother Thomas and leaves the company. Thomas conducts the company on his own.

Thomas Küng’s son Stefan becomes CEO

In spring 2015 Thomas Küng’s son Stefan steps into the family manufactory as the new CEO. The business engineer with a background as a precision mechanic enriches the company with a lot of new know how.

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