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Johann Adam Heckel

14 July 1812 in Adorf
13 April 1877 in Biebrich

Johann Adam Heckel was born on 14 July 1812 in Adorf in Vogtland, as the sixth child of his father of the same name.

The Heckel family is an old patrician family from Eger, whose history goes back to the early Middle Ages. In the 15th century the family settled in Adorf in Vogtland, Saxony.

From a young age Johann Adam learned the trade of instrument-making in Adorf. After his apprenticeship he went on a journey. In 1829, his travels led him to Mainz and to the instrument maker workshop of Schott Music Publishing, where his uncle, August Jehring, worked at that time.

When at Schott, Johann Adam Heckel came in contact with Carl Almenräder who built bassoons there according to his own ideas. Right from the start, Carl Almenräder was enthusiastic about Johann Adam’s craftsmanship and his understanding of acoustics, and soon founded his own company with Johann Adam, who was only 18 years old at the time. Thus, on 11 March 1831, the J. A. Heckel and Carl Almenräder bassoon factory.

In 1837, Johann Adam married his future wife, Lisette, and they moved to Biebrich’s Mosbach district, where he began building a new workshop. Together with Lisette, Johann Adam had 11 children during his lifetime. Of these, however, only four girls, Lina, Elisabeth, Emilie and Auguste, and a boy, Wilhelm, reached adulthood.

Lisette Heckel
Johann Adam Heckel

After Carl Almenräder 1838 left the joint company, Johann Adam was left sole owner. The bassoons that had previously sold under the name Almenräder bassoons were now produced as Heckel bassoons and marketed worldwide. In 1845, Johann Adam Heckel finally acquired a plot of land on what is now Stettiner Straße in Biebrich, where Heckel’s headquarter is still located today. The same year he was appointed instrument maker to the court of the Duke of Nassau.

Johann Adam Heckel undertook countless business trips abroad. In 1845, he travelled to St. Petersburg to present his instruments to the influential greats of the music world. This was the start of a large number of bassoon orders from the Russian Empire.

In 1851, he undertook another journey, this time to the Great Exhibition, in London where Johann Adam made important business contacts and received his first diploma. Only one year later, he participated in the exhibiton at the Académie Nationale de Musique in Paris, where he was awarded another diploma.

In 1862, Johann Adam Heckel first met the composer Richard Wagner. Wagner was in Biebrich at the time to work on his opera Die Meistersinger. Above all, the main reason for him to settle in Biebrich was the proximity to his then publisher, Schott, in Mainz. Johann Adam Heckel took advantage of this opportunity to introduce Wagner to his instruments. That was the beginning of a close connection between the Heckel family and Wagner.

On 13 April 1877 Johann Adam Heckel died in Biebrich after a life fulfilled. After the death of Johann Adam, his son, Wilhelm, took over the management of the company.

August Jehring

27 January 1798 in Adorf
26 February 1887 in Mainz

Carl Friedrich August Jehring was born on 27 January 1798 in Adorf. He was the first child of Johann Nikolaus and Christiana Friedericke Jehring née Heckel. According to the church register, his grandfather, Johannes Jehring, was the first musical instrument maker in the entire area.

August Jehring learned his craft in his hometown Adorf. In 1822 he moved to Mainz, where he worked for the music publisher Schott and had his own workshop. There, among other things, he taught his nephew, Johann Adam Heckel.

August Jehring died on 26 February 1887 in Mainz.

Carl Almenräder

3 October 1786 in Ronsdorf
14 September 1843 in Biebrich

Carl Almenräder was born on 3 October 1786 in Ronsdorf as the son of a teacher. At the age of 13, the musically talented Carl received a bassoon eaten by the worm as a present and taught himself to play auto-didactically. Before long he was able to take over the bassoon part, and later the solo part, at his father’s concerts.

In 1810, Carl Almenräder became a bassoon teacher in Cologne and even then was concerned with making improvements to the instrument. Two years later he was hired by the Frankfurt Theatre Orchestra. After participating in the campaign in France, in 1816 he was transferred to Mainz as a military musician and one year later he took a position at the Mainz Municipal Theatre and in the main management at the wind instrument office of Mainz music publisher Schott.

When he returned to Cologne in 1820, Carl Almenräder found that there were few instruments there that met his requirements. Therefore, he opened his own workshop to build high-quality flutes and clarinets. In 1822, he left Cologne again to accept the position of the first bassoonist in the court orchestra of the Duke of Nassau. Again he took over the management of the bassoon factory at Schott in Mainz, where he had built bassoons according to his own ideas and concepts.

At Schott, Carl Almenräder met Johann Adam Heckel for the first time. He was enthusiastic about his craftsman potential and his understanding of acoustics. So it came, in 1831, to the foundation of the joint company J. A. Heckel and Carl Almenräder bassoon factory. In 1838, Carl Almenräder left the joint company.

He died on 14 September 1843 in Biebrich.

Lisette Heckel

16 July 1815 in Biebrich
18 December 1872 in Biebrich

Lisette Heckel was born on 16 July 1815 in the Biebrich’s district Mosbach. In December 1837, she married Johann Adam Heckel, and she lived with him in Mosbach.

Together with Johann Adam she had 11 children, however, only four girls and one boy reached adulthood. On 8 March 1840, the first daughter Lina Heckel was born. This was followed in September 1848 by daughter Elisabeth and five years later by daughter Emilie. In January 1856 her only surviving son, Wilhelm, was born, and two years later daughter Auguste.

On 18 December 1872 Lisette Heckel died at her home Biebrich.

Lina Heckel

8 March 1840
Date of death unknown

Elisabeth Caroline Dorothea Heckel (known as Lina) was born on 8 March 1840 as the daughter of Johann Adam and Lisette Heckel. She moved to Dresden early on in her life, from where she took care of the business of the Heckel company in the Saxony area. She was assisted by her cousin, the son of the brass instrument maker Alvin Heckel. Lina Heckel was married to the well-known Dresden portrait painter W. Casper Georg Wimmer, with whom she had three children.

Elisabeth Heckel

19 September 1849 in Biebrich
7 December 1925 in Biebrich

Elisabeth Margarethe Katherine Heckel was born on 19 September 1849 in Biebrich as the second surviving daughter of Johann Adam and Lisette Heckel. She was married to the court locksmith Fritz Baumart, with whom she had five children.

Elisabeth died in Biebrich on 7 December 1925.

Emilie Heckel

27 March 1853 in Biebrich
Date of death unknown

Susanne Elisabeth Emilie Heckel was born on 27 March 1853 as the daughter of Johann Adam and Lisette Heckel. She lived with her family in Wiesbaden and worked in the Heckel company making customised pads for the instruments. Emilie had one son.

Wilhelm Heckel

25 January 1856 in Biebrich
13 January 1909 in Biebrich

Ludwig Wilhelm Georg Otto Heckel was born on 25 January 1856 in Biebrich as the only surviving son of Johann Adam and Lisette Heckel. It was his job to learn the craft in order to take over his father’s company.

After completing his apprenticeship, Wilhelm went to Dresden, where he lived with his sister Lina and learned the craft of brass instrument making from his uncle who lived there. In 1875, at the age of 19, his father sent him to Brussels, where he worked for a well-known clarinet maker. In the same year he moved to Hanover to learn the craft of flute making from the famous instrument maker, Meyer.

Following Johann Adam Heckel’s death in 1877, there was an inheritance dispute between his son, Wilhelm Heckel, and his brother, Fritz Baumart. This was followed by a public auction of the company property, which was acquired by Wilhelm Heckel. Thus, at the age of just 21, he took over the management of the company and continued to run it under the name of Wilhelm Heckel Biebrich. From this point on, Wilhelm Heckel began numbering all the instruments produced by Heckel for the first time.

In October 1878, Wilhelm married Emma, the daughter of a wealthy Wiesbaden Huguenot family. On 16 July 1879, their first son, Wilhelm Hermann Heckel, was born.

In October 1879, Wilhelm Heckel was appointed to Bayreuth at the instigation of the Viennese Court Chapel Master, Wilhelm Jahn. There he met Richard Wagner, who was thrilled with the wonderful sound of the new Heckel bassoon. In addition, Wilhelm Heckel used this opportunity to introduce Wagner to the contrabassoon for the first time after he had made a number of significant changes to the instrument.

Richard Wagner was now missing one last instrument with a double reed. He longed for an instrument whose tone lay one octave lower than the oboe and at the same time had the soft and powerful sound of the Alpenhorn. Wilhelm Heckel then began the development of the heckelphone, which was not presented to the public until 1904.

On 4 October 1880, the second son, August Heckel, was born.

In 1881 Wilhelm Heckel was appointed instrument maker to the royal Prussian court. He distinguished himself by his innovations and inventions in the field of musical instruments. Wilhelm developed numerous new flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bassoon and contrabassoon models.

Their first daughter, Elsa Heckel, was born in August 1890.

On 1 April 1899, Wilhelm Heckel joined the Infantry Regiment Vogel von Falkenstein for one year as a volunteer and four years later was appointed Royal Lieutenant of the Reserve.

Wilhelm Heckel always maintained good relations with the important musicians and composers of his time. Especially, the close cooperation with the composer Richard Strauss led to the development of some new Heckel instruments around 1900.

Even in distant foreign countries, interest in the instruments from Biebrich grew more and more and the first major order from Japan was received by Heckel. The order was by no means only for woodwind instruments. At that time Wilhelm Heckel had already started the production of brass instruments, which were very popular in Japan.

In September 1904 Wilhelm undertook his last major promotional tour. The reason for this tour was the first release of the heckelphone. Unfortunately, Richard Wagner was not allowed to witness the introduction of this instrument, whose development was inspired by him.

Auguste Heckel

31. August 1858 in Biebrich
14. Februar 1919 in Biebrich

Auguste Elisabeth Heckel was born on 31 August 1858 in Biebrich, and was the daughter of Johann Adam and Lisette Heckel. She worked actively in the office and the workshop of the company Heckel and was in charge temporarily, during her father’s illness. Auguste was married to Wiesbaden carpenter Fritz Müller, with whom she had five children. Auguste Heckel died on 14 February 1919.

Emma Heckel

née du Fais

5 April 1859 in Schierstein
11 November 1921 in Biebrich

Emma Heckel was born on 5 April 1859 in Schierstein. She came from a wealthy Huguenot family from Wiesbaden. In October 1871 she married Wilhelm Heckel, with whom she had three children. In 1879 their first son Wilhelm Hermann Heckel was born, followed by a second son, August, in October 1880. In 1890 their daughter, Elsa, came into the world.

On 11 November 1921 Emma Heckel died in Biebrich.

Wilhelm Hermann Heckel

16 July 1879 in Biebrich
12 January 1952 in Biebrich

Wilhelm Hermann Heckel was born on 16 July 1879 in Biebrich and was the son of Wilhelm and Emma Heckel. He was their first child, his brother August Heckel and his sister Elsa followed later. He joined the family company in 1894. Four years later, he made his first trip to England and France, where he gained insights into various instrument makers’ workshops.

In 1905 Wilhelm Hermann married Auguste Heckel, whom he had met in Biebrich where she was attending a girls’ boarding school. Only one year later, on 13 May 1906, their first daughter Elsa was born. The year 1906 was generally very eventful for Wilhelm Hermann and the entire Heckel family. In addition to the birth of little Elsa, the 75th anniversary of the company was celebrated, which took place in the Taunus brewery in Biebrich and which was accompanied by a large music programme.

After the death of his father, Wilhelm Hermann Heckel took over the management of the Heckel company in August 1909, together with his brother August. In the same year, they were both awarded the title of Royal Prussian Court Instrument Manufacturers. Two years later, in 1911, under the direction of the two brothers, the bassoon #5000 was made.

After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Wilhelm Hermann was retired from the military because of a foot injury, which he had suffered during a previous military exercise. When he received the news of the death of his brother, August, who had died in the war, he began a difficult time. Wilhelm Hermann was involved in a voluntary medical convoy, which brought the war wounded to surrounding hospitals and therefore he had little time for the company.

Without his father and brother, Wilhelm Hermann had to continue the business alone and recapture the market. After the death of August, Wilhelm Hermann bought back the company shares, which his mother had inherited from August meanwhile. After the war he slowly began rebuilding the workshop and the old employees, many of whom had died in the war, returned to the company. Nevertheless, production was only very slow, because it was difficult to come by materials from suppliers at that time.

Like his grandfather Johann Adam Heckel, Wilhelm Hermann Heckel was also very interested in exhibitions and trade shows. Therefore, it was a matter of course for him to present his Heckel instruments at the large craft and trade show, which took place only a few metres away from the company in 1926 in Biebrich Palace. In the following year, Wilhelm Hermann Heckel was honoured with the highest award for musical instrument makers at that time. At the International Exhibition Music in the Life of Nations, which took place in Frankfurt am Main in 1927, he was awarded the Golden State Medal.

Despite the most difficult circumstances during the two world wars, Wilhelm Hermann Heckel continued his endeavours to perfect the Heckel bassoon further. In the book The Bassoon, written in 1899 by Wilhelm Heckel and supplemented by Wilhelm Hermann Heckel in 1931 to mark the 100th company anniversary, the latter wrote:

I managed to solve all these practical and technical questions and give MY HECKEL BASSOON the ultimate in what an artist instrument can do, and that is the happiest composition of overtones. I this gave my instrument the most noble tone colour, I let it singing the notes, and therefore I CREATED LIFE!

– Wilhelm Hermann Heckel in ‘Der Fagott’ in 1931

Wilhelm Hermann Heckel died on 12 January 1952 in Biebrich.

August Heckel

4 October 1880 in Biebrich
19 September 1914 in Cernay, France

August Heckel was born on 4 October 1880 in Biebrich, and was the son of Wilhelm and Emma Heckel. He was the younger brother of Wilhelm Hermann Heckel and the older brother of Elsa Heckel. August joined the company in 1885.

In 1898, like his brother before, he took a trip to England and France, where he gained an insight into the various practises of other instrument making workshops with whom he cooperated.

Around 1900, he was separated from his fiancée and lover, Frieda Böttger, whom he mourned until his death. After the outbreak of World War I In 1914, August was immediately called up for military service. With a premonition that he would never return home, he went to war.

Shortly after his convocation, August Heckel was killed on 19 September 1914 in France. His body is buried near the city of Cernay in northeastern France.

Grave of August Heckel in Cernay, France
Grave of August Heckel in Cernay, France

Elsa Heckel

4 August 1890 in Biebrich
Date of death unknown

Elsa Heckel was born on 4 August 1890 in Biebrich, and was the youngest child of Wilhelm and Emma Heckel. She was her parents only daughter, who had two other children, Wilhelm Hermann and August Heckel. During the First World War Elsa Heckel worked as a Red Cross helper in a military hospital.

At the turn of the year 1918/1919 she became engaged to Karl Hartmann, a bank employee, whom she married in 1919. Shortly afterwards, they moved to Berlin and Magdeburg, and later to Munich.

Auguste Heckel

née Born

16 December 1884 in Erbenheim
1977 in Biebrich

Auguste Heckel was born on 16 December 1884 and was the daughter of a farmer from Erbenheim. She lived at a girls’ boarding school in Biebrich, where young women were prepared for their future responsibilities in the family household. She later met Wilhelm Hermann Heckel, whom she married in 1905. On 13 May 1906, their daughter Elsa came into the world.

Auguste Heckel died in 1977.

Elsa Groffy

née Heckel

13 May 1906 in Biebrich
March 1970 in Biebrich

Elsa Groffy was born on 13 May 1906 in Biebrich as the daughter of Wilhelm Hermann and Auguste Heckel. In 1924 she became engaged to engineer Franz Groffy, who had joined Heckel in the same year and whom she married on 12 March 1925.

On 15 March 1926, their first daughter, Gisela, was born. This was followed by the birth of their second daughter, Edith, on 12 November 1937.

Elsa Groffy was an active member of the company, taking care of bookkeeping and customer service. At the same time, she was always there for the family and helped wherever she could. She gave the family great support, especially during the two world wars.

In March 1970, Elsa Groffy died suddenly in Biebrich.

Franz Groffy

3 March 1896 in Boppard
13 October 1972 in Biebrich

Franz Groffy, the son of a rector, was born on 3 March 1896 in Boppard. In 1912 he finished high school with a middle stage of maturity. After he completed his community service, he began an internship as a landscape gardener. At the beginning of the First World War Franz Groffy was drafted for military service. After the war, he undertook an apprenticeship at a machine factory in Mainz, but then moved to the Technical University Darmstadt to study building construction, to which he was more suited.

In the early 1920s, Franz Groffy met Elsa Groffy, to whom he became engaged in 1924. In the same year, Franz decided to join the Heckel company. He was married to Elsa on 12 March 1925. In March 1926 their first daughter, Gisela, was born, and in November 1937 their second daughter Edith came into the world.

Franz Groffy had many talents. He was an avid painter and very creative, so he developed many useful mechanisms that were published in a catalogue for the Heckel company’s 100th anniversary in 1931.

After Wilhelm Hermann Heckel died in January 1952, Franz Groffy became responsible for the workshop management.

He died on 13 October 1972 in Biebrich.

Gisela Gebhard

née Groffy

25 March 1926 in Biebrich
19 December 1990 in Biebrich

Gisela Gebhard was born on 25 March 1926 in Biebrich, and was the daughter of Elsa and Franz Groffy. She was born 11 years earlier than her younger sister, Edith.

In 1947 she married the retail merchant Adolf Gebhard, who was the son of a member of the same singing club as her grandfather Wilhelm Hermann Heckel. After successfully completing a commercial apprenticeship at Heckel, Gisela worked in the company’s office from 1950. She was admitted to the company as a limited partner in 1966.

In December 1990 Gisela Gebhard died suddenly and unexpectedly.

Edith Reiter

née Groffy

12 November 1937 in Wiesbaden

Edith Reiter was born on 12 November 1937 as the daughter of Elsa and Franz Groffy. After attending high school and finishing second education, Edith started an apprenticeship as a woodwind instrument maker at the Heckel company on 1 September 1953. After successfully completing her training, she received her specialist certificate from the Wiesbaden Chamber of Industry and Commerce on 31 March 1956. In the beginning it was not easy for Edith to find recognition in a patriarchal enterprise, especially when she wanted to take measures to modernise old work techniques.

She met her future husband Karlheinz Reiter, whom she married in February 1960, while he was in charge of the construction of a new residential building next to the company building in 1954. Five years later, on 26 December 1965, their daughter Angelika was born. One year later, in 1966, Edith and her sister Gisela became limited partners at Heckel, where they were responsible for the workshop management and training of the apprentices. On 15 December 1971, finally, the second child, Ralf, was born.

In 1997, Edith Reiter retired and since then has supported the company only temporarily.

Karlheinz Reiter

6 June 1929 in Wiesbaden
28 July 2000 in Walluf

Karlheinz was born on 6 June 1929 in Wiesbaden.

In 1954 he met Edith Reiter in Biebrich, where he was in charge of the construction of a new residential building next to the company building. In 1960 the wedding of
Edith and Karlheinz took place in Wiesbaden. On 26 December 1965, their first daughter, Angelika, was born, followed by Ralf, who was born on 15 December 1971.

On 28 July 2000 Karlheinz Reiter died in Walluf.

Adolf Gebhard

2 October 1919 in Biebrich
11 March 2012 in Erbach, Rheingau

Adolf Gebhard was born on 2 October 1919 in Biebrich. He was the son of a member of the same singing club as Wilhelm Hermann Heckel.

In 1947, Adolf Gebhard married Gisela Groffy. He took over the office management of the Heckel company in 1954 and was made a general partner in 1966. In 1995 he retired from the company and only returned in an advisory capacity.

Adolf Gebhard died on 11 March 2012.

Angelika Lucchetta

née Reiter

26 December 1965 in Wiesbaden

Angelika Lucchetta was born on 26 December 1965 in Wiesbaden as the daughter of Edith and Karlheinz Reiter.

After completing an apprenticeship as a tax clerk, she completed a degree in business administration in 1991. In the same year Angelika Lucchetta married Moris Lucchetta and their son Maxim was born on 26 March 1992.

Already while undertaking her studies, Angelika worked in the family business and in February 1995, together with her brother Ralf Reiter, took over the company management. While Angelika mainly looks after the office management and customer care, her brother is responsible for the management of the workshop.

Under the leadership of Angelika and Ralf there were serious changes in the family business. Not only the employee structure has been streamlined and qualitatively optimised, but
particularly the quality of the products has been significantly improved. As a result, the presence abroad as well as the excellent reputation of the entire company gained in importance.

Ralf Reiter

15 December 1971 in Wiesbaden

Ralf Reiter was born on 15 December 1971 in Wiesbaden as the son of Edith and Karlheinz Reiter.

In 1988, Ralf started his apprenticeship as a woodwind instrument maker at Heckel and in 1995 became authorised officer. After his mother Edith gradually retired from the active business life of the company, he took over the company in the same year, together with his sister Angelika. While his main area is the management of the workshop, Angelika mainly looks after the office management and customer service.

On 7 May 2004, Ralf Reiter successfully passed the master’s examination in woodwind instrument making.

A special event for Ralf and his sister Angelika was the political visit of the former Federal President and the Hessian Prime Minister in autumn 2008.

Maxim Lucchetta

26. März 1992 in Wiesbaden

Maxim Lucchetta was born on 26 March 1992 in Wiesbaden as the son of Angelika Lucchetta and Moris Lucchetta. Even as a small boy, Maxim always came to the company with his mother during school holidays and, as he grew older, gradually began working in the workshop and office.

After graduating from high school in 2011, he started studying Business Administration at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Idstein. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, he moved to Berlin in 2015 and completed his Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship. Here, he gained first insights into the foundation and management of young, internationally operating companies.

Since June 2018 Maxim is a member of the Heckel management team.