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Author Topic: trombone in the orchestra  (Read 10595 times)
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Edward_Solomon
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« Reply #20 on: Feb 17, 2002, 04:26PM »

quote:
Originally posted by svenlarsson:
I think that Ed solomon can give the right answer to questions like that.

It would really be very strange if the trombone did not develop anything over that period, (as the rest of the instruments did?).

OK, here goes...

The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries did not see much in terms of technological advancement in the world of the trombone. This is largely due to the fact that the trombone had fallen from favour in most parts of Europe. In fact there are many recorded instances of the trombone being completely unavailable for performances well into the 19th century.

However, there is some light which can be shed on this. The sackbut changed very little in the transitions from Renaissance to Baroque to Classical. The bore size remained fairly constant, though the bell began to gain some of its characteristic modern flare by the 18th century. It would seem that this was too little too late, though, for the trombone had largely become obsolete by then in most parts of Europe. It died out in France (and the tenor was later reintroduced in Paris in the late 18th century).

The problem was that the trombone itself had begun to be viewed as a very old fashioned instrument and was not popular among composers. In fact this very swing from cornetts and sackbuts to bowed stringed instruments like violins and viols can be seen in the music of the Venetian composers, who at one time wrote for as many as twelve sackbuts. Gradually, the large numbers of sackbuts dwindled and only three or four were used at the very most, and even then not with the frequency that they once were used to.

By the end of the first quarter of the 18th century, the Imperial Kapellmeister in Vienna had even rejected the bass trombone, so there were only alto and tenor left there, though they both enjoyed continued popularity, and it seems very likely that if a third trombone were required, a second tenor player was co-opted to play the part on a Bb trombone.

In France, the tenor was reintroduced in Paris in the last part of the 18th century, and even in the German-speaking states, trombonists were very hard to find at times - well into the first half of the 19th century, requiring such standard repertoire as the Mozart Requiem to be modified to be playable with no trombones.

All of this has a direct effect on the development of the instrument, which lagged far behind other orchestral instruments. Furthermore, it took a long time to shed its old fashioned ecclesiastical associations and join the orchestra as a full-fledged secular member.

The only important developments in its early history were the abandonment of flat stays, which were replaced by tubular ones, and the adoption of soldered stays, instead of the older design, held in place by leather packing. The mouthpiece altered little, retaining its sharp inner edge, which prevented the forcing of the tone and the ability of the player to sustain very loud dynamics, as on the modern instrument.

The French used a mouthpiece that was largely modelled on the French horn mouthpiece, being funnel-shaped, rather than cup-shaped. That remained true until well into the 20th century.

The only really important changes that occurred by the turn of the 20th century were the use of stockings on the inner slide, the widening of the bore and the use of the large bell flare, particularly in German-speaking states. The invention of the F attachment by Sattler in 1839 meant that the disappearance of the older F and Eb bass trombones could be rectified by building a Bb trombone with the bore and bell flare of the longer instruments, but incorporating the valve attachment, which provided the "missing" notes on the Bb trombone - Eb, D, Db, C and B.

The contrabass trombone, reinvented for Wagner's Ring cycle, used the Gottfried Weber double slide construction, which was also applied to the F bass trombone, though neither instrument really gained in popularity.

And so it comes to the 20th century for years of neglect to be addressed by players and manufacturers alike, though we have been able to observe the gradual disappearance of the more individual styles of trombone and their replacement with mass-produced American-style trombones, which meet the demand, but due to their more general adoption around the world, result in a "sameness" which is perhaps less prevalent in some other instruments.
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« Reply #21 on: Feb 17, 2002, 05:18PM »

Well Edward,that was a whistle-stop tour.It worries me that hindsight tends to render the complex simple,by way of generalisation,and I think the history of the trombone in the orchestra is one such example.You have given in the past ,some valuable insights into trombone usage in Vienna in the 18th & 19th centuries,whereas that area has previously lain largly unexamined.I've yet to find a way of playing the likes of 'The Magic Flute 'bass trombone part on a Bb trombone,but as we travel into the 19thC there are times when a case can be made.What about,though,the growth of military bands in the late 18th& early 19thC and their effects on the development of the trombone? This was the first time in history that a REALLY large market existed for the trombone manufacturer,and the demands of the military gave a big push to trombone development,so that the trombone that established itself in the orchestra in the first quarter of the 19thC was a rapidly developing instrument.Just one point. There really is a huge area to explore-and more and more information is surfacing in this internet age-it just needs the Edward Solomons of the trombone world to put it all together.
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Edward_Solomon
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« Reply #22 on: Feb 18, 2002, 12:02AM »

Indeed, Blast is quite correct in stating that the trombone really underwent development in the 19th century due to its adoption in military and brass bands.

In Central Europe it soon becomes apparent by the 1840s that the trombone has acquired a much larger bell profile and bore sizes have increased to cope with the demand for more volume in the military band.

The trombone was simply adapting to changing circumstances, for its ancient use in the Church and the waits had largely been abandoned and it was now being seen as fair game by the secular musicians. The net result of this was a more widespread use of the trombone in classical and light music, as well as brass and military bands, though players were soon noted to have taken advantage of the increase in instrument proportions, to the detriment of the orchestra. Brahms in particular can be noted to take draconian measures to keep the large German trombones of his day in check. They rarely have much to do and what there is, he measures out very carefully.

Conversely, there are those who wholeheartedly embraced the reborn trombone and its contribution to the orchestral palette. Wagner and his successors - Bruckner, Strauss, Mahler, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg and so on - wrote liberally for the instrument, thus ensuring its more general adoption by players. The same can be said of the French composers - Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Offenbach, Saint Saens, Debussy, Ravel etc.

Still, the old adage about the trombone, of all the orchestral instruments, having changed the least in its history, is quite true, for the basic format of the instrument have remained constant over the centuries, though new types of music - brass/military bands, jazz, avant garde - have helped it to evolve and gain in popularity. There has never been a time when the trombone has enjoyed as much popularity as it does now!
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svenlarsson

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« Reply #23 on: Feb 18, 2002, 02:04PM »

Quote Blast:
Well Edward,that was a whistle-stop tour.It worries me that hindsight tends to render the complex simple,by way of generalisation,and I think the history of the trombone in the orchestra is one such example.You have given in the past ,some valuable insights into trombone usage in Vienna in the 18th & 19th centuries,whereas that area has previously lain largly unexamined.I've yet to find a way of playing the likes of 'The Magic Flute' bass trombone part on a Bb trombone,but as we-----
==============================================
Hi Chris, I´m going to to play the bass part of "the Magic Flute" in the Drottningholms
Theatra Museum on a Bb trombone this summer.
I´m practising on it now.
The horn is very cylindrical, no leadpipe, no
bell expantion until after the "tuning bow".
The "fakenotes" (falsetstimme)are very easy!
They get more easy on cylindrica pipes.
(It could be exciting even though)
The tuning is 430. The bellrim is at the 4:th
position. Mpc is a killer.
Wish me good luck!
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Kanstul 1662. Bach 45B. Kanstul 1555. Besson Euphonium. Kanstul 66-S Tuba. Sackbuts in F/E/Eb Bb/A
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blast

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« Reply #24 on: Feb 18, 2002, 03:52PM »

Svenne,I do indeed wish you luck with that one!Working up to a Creation? Watch out though,the Nick Eastop 'F' bass camp will be after you!      
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Edward_Solomon
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« Reply #25 on: Feb 20, 2002, 02:32PM »

Having examined the score of "Die Zauberflöte", I have managed to find only one instance of a low D, all other notes being well within the range of a Bb trombone. The passage in question is in Sarastro's aria, No. 10 "O Isis und Osiris" and doubles the choral basses at the lower octave. I would have thought it quite possible to produce a quiet, unobtrusive falset low D.

For the most part, the score to "Die Zauberflöte" doesn't place any extraordinary demands on a Bb trombonist, though playing the part on a low Eb or F bass trombone would be taxing, to say the very least, as the part regularly sits around the top of the bass staff and frequently ascends to the Eb above middle C, which is pretty exalted territory for a long bass trombone.
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svenlarsson

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« Reply #26 on: Feb 20, 2002, 11:37PM »

Chris, I played the "Creation" on F sackbut on
severel occasions, THAT IS HARD WORK!!!

If I´m to play that again, I´m goin to play it on the Bb horn. (I think I found a better mpc, the
false notes are no problem!)
Nick is living just a kilometer from me, so I´m watching out!  
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Kanstul 1662. Bach 45B. Kanstul 1555. Besson Euphonium. Kanstul 66-S Tuba. Sackbuts in F/E/Eb Bb/A
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« Reply #27 on: Feb 21, 2002, 06:38AM »

But if Mozart wanted a low "D" in his Magic Flute, why would he intend a Bb trombone to play it?  
Was he that unaware of orchestration?
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svenlarsson

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« Reply #28 on: Feb 21, 2002, 08:19AM »

To use "falsetstimme" (low Eb D Db C) on tenor could be a (common or not) praxis?, as it was done in Michael Praetorius time (his book from 1618). It is easy on more cylindrical
instruments. Actually, on a totaly cylindrical pipe it is very easy, but then you cant play
the "regular" notes at all. Unless you play them like on a ***** .  
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Kanstul 1662. Bach 45B. Kanstul 1555. Besson Euphonium. Kanstul 66-S Tuba. Sackbuts in F/E/Eb Bb/A
And several horns I should sell.
Edward_Solomon
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« Reply #29 on: Feb 22, 2002, 12:08AM »

Originally posted by Craig Hansford:
Quote
But if Mozart wanted a low "D" in his Magic Flute, why would he intend a Bb trombone to play it?  
Was he that unaware of orchestration?


I don't think that Mozart was unaware of what he was writing for. On the contrary, I imagine he was perfectly cognisant of performance practice in Vienna, because his other Vienna works which require trombones (e.g. Requiem) do not take the lowest trombone below F. It was almost certainly commonplace in Vienna from the time of Fux (approx. 1720s onwards) for there to be only two trombones used, alto and tenor. From the 1770s onwards there is documentary evidence of the bass trombone being completely refused by the Imperial Court Orchestra, and no doubt this had an influence on the rest of Vienna.

As if that were not enough, the Zauberflöte part itself cries out for a higher pitched instrument, as does Haydn's Creation and several other works. No doubt by the time Schubert was writing, the practice of using an alto and two tenors was quite entrenched.
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« Reply #30 on: Feb 22, 2002, 03:15AM »

Great stuff-I'm really enjoying this.The whole bass trombone thing in central Europe around this period looks ripe for re-appraisal.It's often problematical to try to draw to many conclusions from composer's parts.Who would believe some of Elgar's writing for the 'G'?(though his works were performed in Germany on a regular basis).Bartok and the famous gliss-written for the Boston,and I think(correct me on this)first played on a Bb/F.Please keep digging.
Chris Stearn.
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Edward_Solomon
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« Reply #31 on: Feb 22, 2002, 08:11AM »

By the time we reach Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Britten and so on, the British low brass are firmly established. The section consists of two Bb tenors, a bass in G (typically in G/D, to be able to play down to low B) and a Barlow 5-valve F tuba. (There is a clear distinction between the orchestral tuba in F and the brass band/military band tubas in Eb and Bb. At the time, the F tubists were quite snobbish about it, too!)

The alto trombone had pretty much died the death, although it was always procurable and in manufacturers' catalogues. The tenor in Bb reigned supreme (though the C tenor went through a phase of popularity in the 19th century and enjoyed at least as much success as the Bb tenor), and the G bass was used as the third trombone in all bands and orchestras throughout the British Empire. To date, only Canada has really come heavily under the influence of the USA and adopted the Bb/F bass trombone earlier than the rest of the (former) countries of the Empire.

The G bass was an odd creature, for the downward range stopped irritatingly at Db/C# and if the player did not possess an instrument with a D attachment, he was forced into playing certain passages an octave higher to avoid low C or B. Orchestrally, at any rate, the G bass acquired a D attachment fairly early on (during the mid-19th century) and was quite able to hold its own in any repertoire. Still, British composers like Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Britten and so on avoided writing below Db, though that note in particular appears to have enjoyed quite some popularity among composers, as Elgar certainly relished taking the bass trombone down to it in many works (Symphony No.1, Alassio, Cello Concerto, Cockaigne, to name a few).

The most peculiar thing about the use of Bb tenor and G bass trombones is the result of the differences in harmonic series reachable in 1st and seventh positions on both instruments. The Bb trombone has the Bb series in 1st position and the E series in 7th position. Any requirement to move between Bb and B natural tends to be placed in the bass trombone part in order to avoid the awkward shifts between the closed and fully extended slide. The same occurs on the G bass when alternating between the G series and the Db series, especially when moving between G and Ab. The second Bb tenor is normally scored for to cover that awkward change. Thus the bass trombone is often placed between the two Bb tenors in the harmony, so as to avoid long slide shifts. This is a peculiarity of British trombone writing, for it is not seen elsewhere. To the average trombonist, this appears very strange at first view, because it is expected that the bass trombone always takes the lower voice in the harmony, though that is not always the case!

It is a common misconception of modern trombonists who romanticise about the Classical and Romantic eras that the trombones were always used equally as a trio of alto, tenor and bass. This, however, is quite untrue. Certainly, the alto and tenor enjoyed popularity, but the alto soon suffered the fate of being replaced by a second tenor playing in its upper register. Praetorius suggested this way back in the 17th century. The bass trombone in low F, Eb or D is at best an unwieldy instrument to play and not as agile as a tenor or alto trombone. No surprise then, that the bass trombone was also declined by many players.

It was the erosion of the old trio of alto, tenor and bass trombones that caused the divergence of styles. The French were content to use the alto and two tenors (viz. Berlioz) and never had any problem with two or three instruments of the same kind being used together in the orchestra. In fact, the style tended towards writing for the trombones in closed position, which differed from the practice in Britain, Germany, Austria and the rest of Central Europe.

The Central Europeans went through a very trying time. In many cases, trombones were simply not to be had at all. There is documentary evidence of performances of the Mozart Requiem being affected by a complete lack of trombonists in the early 19th century. The erosion of the ATB trio continued in Central Europe as well. The bass trombone and alto trombone were dumped in favour of playing all parts on a Bb trombone of different dimensions. In the bass variant, the bore and bell size reflected that of a low F or Eb bass trombone, and the alto variant was a narrower bore and used a trumpet mouthpiece, possibly slightly adapted. However, the range of all three was technically the same, though the tenor covering the alto part was not at the same obvious disadvantage as the bass, who was using a Bb instrument and didn't have a low Eb, D, Db, C or B available. Inevitably, players either became skilled at playing falset tones, or else had to upset the harmony by playing an octave higher, which must have occurred on a fairly frequent basis.

The only instrument that really had no possible replacement due to its range was the reinvented contrabass trombone, which Wagner introduced into the orchestra for the Ring cycle. The contrabass has been enjoying something of a revival recently, though it can be replaced fairly easily by a modern bass trombone, which allows for reasonably easy production of fundamentals due to its large bore and mouthpiece, albeit with a slight loss in timbre due to the difference in tube length.

Today, trombonists enjoy more choice and variety of instruments and styles of music than at any time in the instrument's history. We should rejoice in that, but not let our view of history become clouded by romantic thoughts of a non-existent past.
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« Reply #32 on: Feb 23, 2002, 01:18AM »

Maybe the F bass is not authentic as regards the performing practice, but since there are now players who are more than proficient- even virtuosos perhaps, it seems logical to use it in historically informed performance (HIP) these days. There are now good instruments- copies of originals that play much easier than the originals themselves. Besides I love the sound of a section of alto tenor and bass all pitched a 4th apart. Even if it isn't truly historically correct.

I have seen a picture of a Kruspe F bass (no triggers) from the late 19th century BTW. Somebody somewhere must have ordered that one and used it.
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svenlarsson

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« Reply #33 on: Feb 23, 2002, 04:48AM »

Quote:
Maybe the F bass is not authentic as regards the performing practice, but since there are now players who are more than proficient- even virtuosos perhaps, it seems logical to use it in historically informed performance (HIP) these days. There are now good instruments- copies of originals that play much easier than the originals themselves. Besides I love the sound of a section of alto tenor and bass all pitched a 4th apart. Even if it isn't truly historically correct.

I have seen a picture of a Kruspe F bass (no triggers) from the late 19th century BTW. Somebody somewhere must have ordered that one and used it.
=================================================
I´ts a matter of opinions as it probably allways ben, according to Edward the F-bone was out because people didn´t like the sound!

I starded to play Eb sackbut in 1966, was invalved
experiments on old music in the time with Anders
Öhrwall, famous renaissance enterpret in Sweden.
I´ve done a lot F-sackbutplaying in different
groups, two of them started and lead by me,
(zinkadusum and Schola Buccina)and done a lot of
experimenting on the instrument, and I have a reputation as sackbutplayer in Sweden. I still own one F-sackbut, and one large bore F-trombone (no trigger) and I plan to use them when I think they fit, in my oppinion they do fit in many occasiones. But some of the music I´ve struggled
with, like Haydn´s Creation, is not only easyer
on a Bb-bone, but in my oppinion would sound much better!

Quote:
"There are now good instruments- copies of originals that play much easier than the originals themselves. "

I dont se how we could possible see if the copies
are better or not, I played on some originals, in
those cases they sounded better than the copies,
how can you judge a slide whats not ben used for
hundreds of years? Even the best copies will give
even a fulltime F-sackbutist big problems with
the Creation, and its not going sound better then
a Bb-sackbut in my opinion.

Nobody have claimed that all old basstrombone
parts are to be played on Bb horns, some of Mozarts music sound better with F-bone, some are
not intended to be played on such, and then: it´s
a matter of oppinion of sound.
My oppinionn is: some music will sound better useing a Bb bass. I guess there are other oppinions, fine, that makes some good variety.  
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Edward_Solomon
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« Reply #34 on: Feb 23, 2002, 12:04PM »

I have been rereading the doctoral dissertation of Ottmar Schreiber, who published his thesis on "Orchestras and Orchestral Practice in Germany between 1780 and 1850" in 1938. In it, he devotes a little space to the trombone:

"The trombone experienced few improvements. Since the trombone family had been standardised as alto, tenor and bass in German military music (1816), the trombone was also used henceforth in art music only in a section of three, although there were four types known until the 1830s: alto, tenor, tenor-bass and bass. After 1815, the soprano trombone is hardly spoken of again. The alto trombone in Eb, which possesses a very similar timbre, had long been entrusted with the execution of the uppermost trombone parts. Of the bass trombones, the F bass was the most used, whereas the G bass and Eb bass were hardly ever employed. At first, the most widely used of all trombones was the bass; "if only one trombone is used, then it's usually the bass trombone" states the Münchener Allgemeine Musikzeitung in 1927/28 (P.827). Later the tenor-bass trombone with a compass from E (below the bassclef) to Bb (above middle C) the most popular instrument. The alto trombone disappeared from German ensembles gradually. Again, in France the current alto and tenor trombones were unusual. The bass trombone was completely unknown there as of the 1840s. That led to the practice of writing for the tenor-bass trombones used there instead of the bass trombone and to reinforce it with the ophicleide, as happened meanwhile in the operatic scores of Portici and Meyerbeer. In Germany, where the bass trombone was required, but not available in German orchestras, the tenor-bass trombone (improved by Sattler in 1839) was used. This instrument was a wide-bore tenor trombone in Bb, which was able to produce the low Eb, D and C that were missing on the old tenor-bass trombone, and which could completely replace the older F and Eb bass trombones that had been in use up until that time. Thus the gap between low E and pedal Bb could be filled in. Sattler's tenor-bass trombone experienced such rapid popularity among German trombonists that even by retaining only one single type of trombone, the successive application of valves to the trombone from around 1830 onwards posed it no serious threat."

An example of an old German large-bore Bb tenor-bass trombone from before Sattler's time (i.e. with no F attachment):

 

Schreiber goes on at length on the subject of when and where trombones were (or were not) available, and which types too. It makes for interesting reading. I imagine that he must have taken a lot of trouble to amass the information he had prepared, for there is no doubting that his thesis is minutely detailed. It sheds much light on the thorny topic of the trombone in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
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