F. Arthur Uebel

Key construction workers of the company F. Arthur Uebel, Markneukirchen, undated.

An important chapter in German clarinet making


he woodwind instrument maker Friedrich Gustav Uebel (1855-1915) learned his trade in Erlbach and with the renowned clarinet manufacturer Kruspe in Erfurt. In 1878, he founded his own company, which from 1880 on was located in Wohlhausen nearby Markneukirchen. Especially because of his long and intensive cooperation with the Berlin ‘old master’ Oskar Oehler he became a nationwide known manufacturer. From 1888 Uebel and Oehler had a lively exchange and cooperation. Friedrich Gustav was responsible for the production of semi-finished clarinets and for the preparation of keys. Furthermore, around 1900 Friedrich Gustav Uebel was involved in the invention of Oehler’s prominent forked-f2-mechanism and further instrument specific improvements.
Friedrich Arthur Uebel (1888-1963) was the second son of Friedrich Gustav and founded his own workshop in Markneukirchen on 2 September 1936, after he had worked directly with Oskar Oehler in Berlin as a volunteer in 1911. The master apprentice of Oehler, who died in 1936, took over his customer base in the same year, in order to guarantee the continuation of the first-class production of clarinets in the Oehler system and to implement numerous improvements and inventions concerning the key system. Uebel himself notes in his 1936 catalogue:

“For more than 30 years I have paid special attention to the construction of Oehler clarinets. Before the war I myself was a student of the deceased old master Oehler and in the long years of my professional practice I have been able to put my acquired knowledge to best practical use. Clarinets System Oehler are produced in my workshops with love and care under my personal guidance and thoroughly checked before shipping. Naturally, the highest value is placed on pure tuning, easy response and impeccable functioning of the mechanism”.

First class clarinets from Markneukirchen

An event which was of particular motivating importance for the early years of the company is the participation in the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris, where Uebel’s clarinets and bass clarinets were awarded the ‘diplôme d’honneur’. In Markneukirchen, the company continued the production of first-class clarinets under the signum F.A.U. and – despite the politically critical circumstances of the Third Reich, the Second World War and socialism – was considered the most important German clarinet-making workshop with a first-class team of skilled technicians and specialists in the second third of the 20th century. Clarinettists and university professors such as Karl Schütte, Willy Schreinicke, Ewald Koch or Oskar Michallik are among the more famous F. Arthur Uebel artists of this period.

The adjacent portrait shows Friedrich Arthur Uebel. (Source: Betriebsführer aus der Musikinstrumentenindustrie, in: Die Unterhaltungsmusik No. 2658 of 26.11. 1936, p. 1519)

Craftsmanship perfection

One of the members of the company’s staff deserves special mention: Max Schnabel (1893-1979), from Wohlhausen deserves a special mention, as he was ultimately responsible for the artistic perfection of the instruments as a tuner, which made him the contact person for individual cooperation with artists and thus the primary guarantor of quality at the Uebel company. The clarinets created in the Vogtland region have set international standards and inspiration, so that the company F. Arthur Uebel, together with the achievements of Oskar Oehler, can rightly be regarded as the foundation of modern German clarinet making.

We would like to thank Dr. Enrico Weller, who has made an important contribution to the history of music with his extensive articles and research on Uebel, for the information and images presented here. We are happy to refer to his article published in ‘rohrblatt:

Weller, Enrico: Erste Adresse des deutschen Klarinettenbaus – Geschichte Bedeutung und Entwicklungsleistungen der Markneukirchener Holzblasinstrumentenwerkstätte F. Arthur Uebel, in: rohrblatt 8 (1993), pp. 142-146; 9th (1994), pp. 52-60.

Between tradition and innovation – F. Arthur Uebel today

Part of the staff of F. Arthur Uebel GmbH, 2018