After years of refurbishing Penzel Mueller clarinets, I'm still amazed at the obscurity in which they linger! From a buying point of view, great: from a selling point of view, not so good. So, here's a little info to pique your interest in this unjustly forgotten brand.
The company was started by 2 German immigrants, Penzel and Mueller, in the early 1890's in Long Island City NY. They offered a variety of clarinets and flutes, as well as some saxes and brass which I suspect were made by someone else and stencilled with the PM logo. If someone can shed more light, please do! The company operated through the late 1950's (as best I can determine), before ceasing production.
Their clarinets (especially the Artist, Studio Recording, and Super Brilliante models) were top of the line horns, easily comparable to anything coming out of Europe during the period. Woody Herman played an Artist model, in fact. The tone was more 'American' than 'French' in concept - think Conn rather than Buffet - great for Jazz as well as concert music, freeblowing, more direct than sweet. Intonation is very good on most of the horns I've tried, and the keywork is comfortable unless you have very small hands: there's a bit of a spread, which is welcome for us large fingered folk!
A customer in Texas was kind enough to forward a model/price list from their 1955 catalog:
Super Brilliante $340
Artist, new model $265
Bel Canto $185
American Professional $165
Standard Model $129.50
The only one I've worked on that I don't see here is the 'Studio Recording' model, which was a pro horn that came with 3 barrels. Perhaps it had been discontinued by 1955? Anyway, I hope this is enough to get you to keep an eye out for one of the better PM's in good playing condition. Regardless of the style you play, I believe you'd enjoy it.
11/27/2012 02:42:19 pm
I agree! Penzel-Muellers are just terrific horns. Great tone, fun to play, and available for far less than other high quality brands like Selmer, Leblanc, and Buffet. I own 2 now and I'm always on the lookout for another!
11/28/2012 01:38:53 am
I think I can help you with that, Al :)
Joseph M Steinman
7/17/2016 06:48:23 pm
my friend has a metal Penzel Mueller Brillante Bb clarinet. What can you tell me about these. Never saw another like it.
11/16/2017 10:49:53 am
We found this in a box of items donated from an estate. I can send pictures of your like. It's an old clarinet.
4/13/2013 08:04:03 am
Also still looking for a Brlliante. Can do light repair if necessary, no cracks.
4/14/2013 04:49:23 am
Please keep and eye here, they come through from time to time, but would be fully overhauled.
5/4/2013 03:13:44 am
I have one but don't know much about it. looks to have number 11471 at base of 1 section. At top it says pat applied for LP above eagle has letter B. Needs pads. Almost looks like hardware is made out of silver but do not see a marking.
7/21/2013 01:28:05 pm
When I can, I'm headed downstate to look at a Super Brilliante that seems to be available for a reasonable price. I understand these are outstanding big-bore horns.
2/4/2014 03:12:13 pm
Can you give a rough estimate on the value of a Penzel Mueller Artist clarinet. New pads about 4 years ago. I collect vintage saxes and have been offered this horn, but he wants me to make an offer.
2/4/2014 03:17:43 pm
Hi Laurin, Yes, I do valuations for $10 per clarinet. Please contact me by email through the site and I'll walk you through the process....
2/5/2014 10:31:50 am
Laurin - I sold a Penzel Mueller Artist clarinet for $250 via a craigslist ad. My dad had gotten new pads about 8 years ago. I didn't get many offers at all. One clarinet professional who said he had many customers offered to sell it for me, saying he could get $700. After a month, he gave up and returned it to me. Another shop in Jersey City said they had sold one, they believed for $695 but they recalled having to overhall it to get that price. I brought it to a sax/clarinet shop in NYC who said he could sell it for me. After a few months with no nibbles, I got it back from him. A clarinet professional who is also an instructor saw my craigslist ad and bought it. He told me he would be investing in an overhaul, including removing the metal parts and bathing the wood in oil.
First of all condition must be considered. If there are cracks..loose posts...seized rods etc. I'd be reluctant.
Thanks for the great info! In the 1950s, my dad played a "MODEL" (Standard Model?) for high school band in Kansas City, Kansas. I have to agree, they're great clarinets - I've only been playing for 2 days and I can already play the low G - sounds really nice too ♫ =)
7/31/2014 10:11:16 am
I love Penzel Mueller instruments. I have a Brilliante clarinet model that is suberb. I think it predates the Super Brilliante model. I use an older Empire model (script logo, not later Empire State) a for back-up and it plays great as well. I recently acquired a Bel Canto flute #3839 (must be ancient!) that I thought would need a complete rebuild and it plays wonderfully just as it is!
10/9/2014 10:29:42 am
I have a "script" Empire P-M clarinet my parents gave for Chirstmas in 1952. I played it in College Football and Symphonic Band, and then sporadically (grad school and then marriage and family and career prevented any really regular playing). Now that I'm retired I've started playing again. I bought an R-13 A Buffet clarinet for Orchestral playing, and liked it so much that I bought
7/15/2015 07:07:36 am
8/4/2014 09:47:15 pm
I have a Penzel Mueller clarinet. It has been handed down several times from many relatives & finally to me. It was my understanding from my grandfather (from Italy) & was told that it was made out of ebony with silver keys, & with 7 extra keys. My grandfather started & was the director of the Cheyenne Municipal Band in Cheyenne, Wyo. I played clarinet from the 4th grade thru 12th grade so I loved to say there was something wrong with my $88 clarinet just so I could use my dad's Penzel Mueller clarinet. It was always such a dream to play with a true, sweet tone. I'm curious to see if any of this rings a bell.
10/26/2015 03:20:41 pm
Artist Penzel-Muellet, from my mother who played around the late 30's I'm guessing. It's been it's original case since she quit playing in high school or college and no one has used it since then. I can see no cracks, keys work good.
7/20/2016 05:11:10 pm
I saw a metal Artist Penzel Mueller clarinet in an antique store. Can't find any info on the metal clarinet...help?!?!
12/6/2016 06:08:09 pm
I have a 7 ring wood Penzel Mueller circa 1940's. Recently rebuilt. Plays like a dream. Repaired tenon joint but solid. Has the letter "B" above the PM name on the top joint. Serial number hard to read but looks like 17283. For insurance purposes, I'd like to get a value for this instrument. Pictures on request.
12/6/2016 06:37:01 pm
Fred, I'm happy to do valuations for $10 per instrument. Please contact me if you'd like to move ahead with that...thanks, Jeremy
1/16/2017 08:58:15 pm
1/21/2017 03:05:33 pm
Picked up a hard rubber Penzel-Mueller. No Model. No Serial. Just marked Penzel-Mueller New York. Mouthpiece has a crude X3 mark but don't know if its original to the clarinet. Any ideas what I may have here? Odd that it has no serial number although I heard early ones had no model name marked.
4/11/2017 11:12:13 am
I’m a bass trombone player who just came into possession of a Penzel-Mueller Artist clarinet, model M2713B. The instrument is in decent shape except that a few of the pads are missing and the barrel corks are loose. All the keys seem to work, but as a brass player, my opinion is questionable.
4/29/2017 11:24:55 am
I have a penzel-mueller bel canto clarinet serial number R-826-B. No cracks. Lower joint still seals well, upper joint leaks.
5/7/2017 02:35:48 am
I have a clarinet with an oval with GL Penzel written at the top and New York at the bottom of oval. Above the oval is an eagle and above that is an A. Two of the pieces have LP stamped on them. I could not find any other markings. I am not sure how to go about getting more information about this instrument. Can you help?
6/29/2017 06:48:27 am
I got a metal Penzel Mueller Artist serial # 5212. It had no receiver or barrel and I put ones on it from a wrecked Conn American Standard.
11/26/2017 02:20:10 pm
So...we have just found one of these in my husband’s grandfathers things. It is in the original case, so has probably been protected, but doesn’t look good at all. No one in the family plays, so we have no idea. Would like to know if/how to go about refurbishing, or if we should just scrap it. Suggestions?
11/26/2017 06:11:38 pm
be happy to take a look at some pics and talk about the instrument's restorability, if you'd like. Feel free to contact me!
2/19/2018 12:15:23 pm
I have a 1940's era brass Bb clarinet which had a really great tone when I played it in it's day. Is it of any value today?
3/4/2018 11:25:01 am
Just had my Brillante PM refurbished aerial #M6530-B it sounds and
A Joyce carter
7/16/2019 02:43:39 am
Just a question: I see by previous comments that the Artist model is being considered a big bore clarinet. What is the bore size of it? There is a Richard Hawkings Leblanc mouthpiece in the case also—is it a good one? I am not familiar with it. I generally play on an L7 Leblanc (bought it new). And I use a Clarke Fobes 10k mouthpiece. It is a great clarinet. I just acquired the Artist Penzel Mueller clarinet and it seems to be a great clarinet too but haven’t played it much yet. Thanks for your help.
7/17/2019 12:30:47 pm
The bore size is generally .585-.595", depending on age. They play quite open, regardless. Richard Hawkings makes nice mpcs, although closed for my taste. If the PM clarinet needs any attention, please keep me in mind - I probably work on more of them than anyone!
A Joyce carter
7/17/2019 01:10:22 pm
What mouthpiece do you generally play? Reed?
8/6/2019 01:25:24 pm
I am going through packing to move and have found a Penzel Mueller & Co CLARI-MET S141. It looks rough. Would it be good for parts?
7/23/2019 04:13:49 pm
I use a Bernard Portnoy BP03, which is fairly open (as I'm more of a sax doubler than a real clarinetist) with a Fibracell 3.5 reed, which is the synthetic equivalent of about a 2.5 Vandoren. I get a big, open sound and don't have to worry about the reed drying when it sits - i love Fibracell!
A Joyce carter
8/29/2019 02:33:46 pm
Thanks Jeremy. I think I’ll try that mouthpiece. Thanks for the recommendation.
11/21/2019 05:11:21 am
An interesting and valuable history.I would like to comment on the fact that you say 'there's a bit of a spread'.I have had a PM for many years[don't know which model] but I have been playing a Buffet R13 more recently.Some years ago I had a little finger RH injury leaving the finger crooked,which makes reaching the bottom B really awkward,however on switching back to the PM I have found that I can reach the B,it sounds well and the stretch is easily manageable.I am also left wondering if this PM model is unusual amongst clarinets generally in this respect.I may add that I am getting on a bit in years,don't have the fluency I once had,and playing the PM is a revelation.
11/22/2019 05:28:33 pm
Jim, yes, the difference in spread and ergos between brands is something that isn't much talked about, but a Buffet, a Selmer, a PM, a Leblanc etc. can all feel markedly different! Sometimes to the good, and sometimes distinctly not. I wish that more clarinetists had the chance to try a variety of makes and models, rather than just settling for an R13 and hoping it works for their physiognomy...
11/24/2019 11:11:50 am
Jeremy thanks for reply.On closer inspection of PM and R13 I notice that the posts on the B seem to be positioned roughly the same,but the PM keys are slanted slightly upwards,thus narrowing the stretch.[There are also other noteable differences in keywork].
Rev. John J. d'Esterhazy, Sr.
12/3/2019 04:44:39 pm
Back in High School, Circa 1957 I purchased a Paul Rene (Paris) used clarinet through my band leader for $110.00. About 35 Yrs ago I had new pads and cork replaced and a new case and my daughter played it in her High School. Several years ago my granddaughter played it in grammar school. It is in good condition. Any idea of what the value would be today?
Heather L Pierce
4/3/2020 06:48:41 pm
jeremy h soule
4/7/2020 10:32:52 am
Hi Heather, well, as this is my website, I can recommend me! I have 15 years of experience restoring Penzel Mueller clarinets, both Boehm and Albert system. The key-work is most likely solid nickel alloy and will need to be buffed - I haven't found a product with which to polish it that works as well. Overhauls start at $385, which includes soaking the body in oil, swedging and countersinking to tighten the mechanism, buffing of body, keys, and posts, all new leather Pisoni pads, all new cork, seating and adjustment of pads. Give a shout if I can help!
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The Licorice Shtick Blog is the creation of the Vintage Clarinet Doctor, a Winston Salem, NC based woodwind instrument repair shop specializing in vintage and antique clarinets, saxophones, and the occasional flute.