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1  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: Elgar's Enigma Variations on alto? on: Today at 04:30 PM

We actually do know. Sue Addison (featured in the video you linked) recorded a solo album on it ("Elgar's trombone"), all turn of the century British music. I believe it's on Spotify if you want to have a listen. The playing is beautiful and extremely musical, unfortunately the recording quality is less good (I think it was recorded in a living room and it seems it then had tons of reverb added to it).

Other fun fact to bring back the topic of the Enigma Variations : there is a strong case to justify playing Nimrod as a solo trombone piece. There is a letter from Elgar or his wife (can't remember which) to a friend that mentions them "playing Nimrod as a trombone and piano duet this morning" or something along those lines.  Sue Addison did record it for the aforementioned solo CD.

Thank you. I found the recording by Sue Addison playing Nimrod for trombone and piano on Elgar's trombone.


Very nice playing. Couldn't resist buying immediately the sheet music and trying it out when I get home.
2  Creation and Performance / Performance / Elgar's Enigma Variations on alto? on: Yesterday at 03:09 PM
We will play Elgar's Enigma Variations in January as a side-by-side with the St. Louis Symphony. When I browsed through some recordings, I was surprised to find the Berlin Philharmonic playing it on an alto (with Simon Rattle conducting); see https://youtu.be/aQWAO9d43LY?t=2m20s. Even though trombone 1 is scored in alto clef, I thought of it as a tenor part.

Why did Christhard Goessling switch from his Kruspe Weschke to an alto? The Kruspe Weschke is a German small bore tenor but it is not like an old British small bore. May be the old British small bores were extremely bright in their sound, in which case the alto for Elgar would make sense?

Apparently Elgar played trombone himself. Here is a video clip on his trombone: https://youtu.be/EqYW32czVT0. Unfortunately they don't play it in the clip. So we don't know how it sounds.

3  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: Ecce Sacerdos Magnus - Brucker - Alto versus tenor on: Yesterday at 02:36 PM
Thank you for the responses. I played it with a tenor and I think it was a good decision.
4  Creation and Performance / Performance / Ecce Sacerdos Magnus - Brucker - Alto versus tenor on: Dec 02, 2017, 12:56AM
I have to play first trombone in Bruckner's Ecce Sacerdos Magnus. At first, I thought I should play tenor so as to have a nice homogeneous sound of three trombones. It was a kind of no-brainer for me given that I grew up with German Posaunenchor tradition where the Posaunenchor would double the choir. But then I realized that it plays much easier on alto. I.e., bars 3 to 4 can be played entirely in 3rd position on alto whereas on tenor I would have to change from 3rd to 2nd to 1st. Similarly, bars 6 to 9, I can play entirely in 4th position on alto but I would have change from 3rd to 2nd back to 3rd and then 2nd on tenor, etc. etc. Somehow it feels much more natural to play on alto than tenor. On top of it, the part I got has notes added because there won't be an organ. These added notes essentially double the alto singers.

Here is a recording https://youtu.be/2gzB-np9LJ0.

Here is the link to sheet music on ismpl http://imslp.org/wiki/Ecce_sacerdos_magnus,_WAB_13_(Bruckner,_Anton)

My part is written in alto clef. But there are scores in tenor clef and bass clef. Most sheet music just says something like "3 trombones".

So I wonder what are the views on playing it on alto versus tenor? The tradeoff seems to be between the Bruckner typical organ-like sound of three tenor/bass trombones (Example here https://youtu.be/RF1y6r_dppc?t=2m4s; different Bruckner piece though but same instrument as mine on first) and the ease of playing it on alto. What would Bruckner actually have expected?

(I play a Kruspe Weschke tenor and a Kruspe alto. Both are not necessarily "fat" sounding. The alto is brighter even at lower dynamics, somewhat more trumpet-like especially in the upper range. It would avoid "covering up" the alto singers but might nevertheless "shine through" too much. The tenor can sound mellow, dark, brighter, harsh, butter-soft etc. depending on what I want although brighter sound requires a louder dynamic. Here is an example of how it can sound https://youtu.be/czDDZnWKbsc?t=11m07s (not me of course, but same trombone). I still feel more comfortable on tenor but I am fine on alto. I play alto the same evening in Haydn's Schoepfung. As for the rest of the section, our bass trombone player is great - he would quickly adapt to any setting. Don't know the second trombone yet.)
5  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: Please a recommendation for Trio on: Oct 04, 2017, 10:59PM
Some time ago I posted here a trio arrangement of Engelbert Humperdinck's opera "Haensel and Gretel". His opera contains a wonderful duet by Haensel and Gretel, when they are alone in the forest at night frightened by strange noises of wild animals and the wind. They sing a prayer. I tried to make it into a trombone trio, with trombones 1 and 2 being the kids and the bass trombone the "base". Of course it shouldn't be played like a heavy trombone section in a 4000 seat symphony hall but more like singing my 4 year old son into sleep (which by my own experience is quite possible with the trombone).

The trio can be found here http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/schipper/humperdinck.pdf. It can be freely used under Creative Commons - Attribution.
6  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: Please a recommendation for Trio on: Sep 26, 2017, 10:47PM
Speer Sonata A minor. Very nice piece. Here is a recording:

Speer Sonata E minor. I couldn't find a recording on youtube.

Pergolesi Sonata No. 4. Here is a recording of a rehearsal with Alessi:

7  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: Jun 23, 2017, 01:48AM
Very interesting to read your views on Schmidt’s Weschke mouthpiece.  Do you have experience of his mouthpieces for larger trombones of this period: possibly the Kruspe ones?  I’m wondering if one might be suitable for my Robert Piering Bb/F, which seems to be between Bach 36 and Conn 88 in bore (my caliper not very accurate).

I haven't tried it on a trombone with a larger bore. My Weschke mouthpiece has small shank size. You can order with from Schmidt with any shank size though including the typical German shank size between small and large. But I would not want to use it on a larger bore German trombone as it is a perfect mouthpiece for the Kruspe Weschke. I wouldn't expect to perform well at larger bore German trombones.

For my Weite 3 (larger bore German trombone) Karl Moennich trombone (whose size looks very close to a Piering) I use a Schmidt Prof. Bambula TP 3 3/4. It just feels right to me. For an even larger German trombone like an old Kruspe Bass trombone I would use Schmidt Prof. Bambula TBP 5 W. I am biased though in the sense that I learned on Schmidt Prof. Bambula mouthpieces.
8  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 18, 2017, 04:06PM
I'm curious as to why that would have been your gut feeling before seeing the data. Nowadays, we regularly perform music from earlier periods, which includes periods where alto trombone was not written for at all. There are almost no dedicated alto trombone players now, because a dedicated alto player would have trouble finding regular work. Alto trombone positions in orchestras do not exist. You would have to freelance or be a soloist. Therefore I would expect a smaller number of alto trombones to exist today, since almost every alto player also plays tenor. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, I don't see any reason to believe there weren't dedicated alto trombone players who made their living playing alto trombone. So I would expect a higher proportion of altos than what we have today.

I wouldn't make that assumption, based on my reasoning above.

Perhaps larger instruments are more easily damaged, but players don't throw away their instrument when it is damaged; they usually have it repaired.

My impression was that in general trombone players were not primarily trombone players. For instance, one of the most famous trombonists in the 19th century, Karl Traugott Queisser, for whom the David concertino was written, played primarily viola (together with David). I would expect this to be much different pre-19th century.

Yes, players don't necessarily throw away instruments when damaged. But the higher the probability of damage, the higher also the probability irreparable damage or damage that is not worth to repair anymore. Important for my argument is not so much how often instruments get repaired but whether tenors and altos differ in their survival probability.

Anyway, to calibrate these assumptions, I would be interest to hear from experts like Howard Weiner, Will Kimball, Trevor Herbert etc. I think it is important to discuss various views of the assumptions and also check how changes in the assumptions affect the conclusions.
9  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 18, 2017, 01:51AM
I think Will Kimball has attempted to do such a thing:


Thanks for drawing my attention to the list. Very interesting. Here are some numbers:

"Of the 122 extant pre-19th century trombones with positively identified voice (alto, tenor, bass, etc.), Herbert lists the following:

64 tenors (53%)

30 altos (25%)

22 basses (18%)

4 sopranos (3%)

1 contrabass (less than 1%)

1 “quartbass” (less than 1%)"

Now, 25% sounds a lot to me. My subjective prior would have been less than 5%.

Anyway, it doesn't mean though that 25% of all pre-19th century trombones must have been altos. Let's assume that throughout history altos have been played less than tenor trombones. Then they also have experienced less wear. Moreover, simply by the fact that they are smaller than tenors, they are more easily stored than tenor trombones and should be less likely damaged within any fixed period of time. So altos should have a higher "survival" probability than tenors. Thus, it is probably save to say that the actual pre-19th century share of altos was strictly less than 25%. 

To get closer to the truth we would need more assumptions, which is more transparently captured with the help of a little model.

Let p be the probability of being damaged beyond repair within one year ("yearly loss probability"). Then 1-p is the probability of having survived one year. Assuming that survival is independent across years (an assumption clearly violated in periods of war) and that the yearly survival probability is stationary (which again may be violated because of properties of aging of brass), we have that (1 - p)^n is the probability that an instrument survived n years (survival probability after n years). We can also interpret it as the fraction of instruments surviving n years. Then given q number of instruments today, the number of instruments x some n years ago must be x = q / ((1 - p)^n).

Let's plug in some numbers to get some idea about what could be plausible values for p and x. The median age of the pre-19th century instruments in the list seems to be 300 years (i.e., n = 300). Moreover, we got 64 surviving tenors (i.e., q = 64). Hence,

Yearly loss probability   Prob of survival 300 years  Number of tenors 300 years ago
0.5%                                      22.23%                      288
1.0%                                       4.90%                    1,305
1.5%                                       1.07%                    5,961
2.0%                                       0.23%                   27,438
2.5%                                       0.05%                  127,290
3.0%                                       0.01%                  595,196

What is a plausible number of the number tenors produced 1600 - 1800? Let's pick 27,438 from the list, which corresponds to an average yearly loss probability of 2%.

Now suppose because of less use and wear and smaller size, the average yearly loss probability of altos is half of that of tenors, i.e. 1%. Then we can use the same model with q = 30 (number of surviving pre-19th century altos) to get an estimate of 612 altos produced between 1600 - 1800. Rather small compared to the number of tenors but not negligible.

So based on this quick-and-dirty calculation, one may agree with Howard Weiner that the use of altos is much less than the use of tenors even though we got 30 surviving altos today and 64 surviving tenors. But I would also claim that altos must had their role in that period because the estimated number produced is not negligible. Now, it is clear that this conclusion is based on the assumptions about yearly loss probability, known surviving instruments etc. that are debatable. But the nice thing is that the model makes it transparent how these assumptions are used to derive the conclusion. So rather than alto trombone scholars attacking each other on a personal level, there could be now a scholarly discussion about the assumptions that went into the conclusions and hopefully we could come up with a much better model and thus more well-founded conclusions.
10  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: May 17, 2017, 01:17AM
My Schmidt Kruspe Weschke mouthpiece arrived yesterday. Ordering and shipping went very smoothly. The mouthpiece looks like the original except that I ordered it silverplated.

It is an excellent mouthpiece for my Kruspe Weschke. It just feels right. I can compare it to the mouthpiece I usually play on my Kruspe Weschke, which is a Schmidt Bambula TP3 3/4 E.

It is sounds brighter. The extreme upper range is effortless. It got a fuller sound in the extreme upper range. The low range is slightly more difficult. That's not too surprising since it is a little shallower than the Schmidt Bambula TP3 3/4 E.

Response is more immediate in the mezzo forte and louder but not necessarily in pianissimo. I guess this has to do with the form of the rim. The rim of the Kruspe Weschke is flatter, wider, and less round. The rim of the Schmidt Bambula TP3 3/4 E is rounder and pretty small compared to other Schmidt Bambula. This smaller rim lets the lips to protrude more into the mouthpiece. I find this facilitates response in pianissimo but not necessarily in mezzo forte and louder.

The wider rim of the Kruspe Weschke makes it much more comfortable when playing longer in the upper range. But the smaller rim of the Schmidt Bambula TP3 3/4E allows for more flexibility.

I have a hard time choosing: For the lowest three octaves, I prefer the Schmidt Bambula. But this is not the most commonly used range of a Kruspe Weschke. For the upper range, I strictly prefer the Kruspe Weschke. In the middle range, I would take the Schmidt Bambula for lyrical work with lower dynamics but the Kruspe Weschke for louder dynamics.

May be I can blur the differences with more practice. 

I should mention that I already use an old original Ed. Kruspe mouthpiece for my Kruspe alto. This mouthpiece is essentially the same as the Kruspe Weschke mouthpiece except that it is a little shallower and more cup-like. But the rim form and diameter appears to be the same. (It is unplated brass though.) So I am used to the Kruspe rim already.
11  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 17, 2017, 12:53AM
There is a set of three Joseph Huschauer trombones in Florence: an "alto," a B-flat tenor, and a G bass. They are dated 1813, although Huschauer died in 1805 -- his workshop was run by his widow until 1815. These instruments display some anomalies: they apparently were never played on a regular basis and are therefore in almost mint condition; all inner and outer slides are identical in size (11.9 mm/inside diameter); the bells of the alto and tenor have the same bell profile. Two friends of mine, both very knowledgeable, have examined these instruments and come to completely contrary conclusions about the "alto": one says that it was built as an alto, the other says it was tenor that has clearly been cut down.


Why would somebody exert the effort to cut down a tenor if there was supposedly no need for altos? Is this evidence for or against altos?
12  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 17, 2017, 12:47AM
I tend to doubt that statistics would be of help here. There are too many things that cannot be calculated, such as the damages and losses caused by war. A case in point: during WW2 the instrument collection in Berlin suffered great losses, but in Vienna, which I think was hit just about as severely by allied bombing and shelling, the instrument collection survived intact. And even efforts to remove valuable collections from metropolitan areas that were obviously endangered often backfired: for example, the music collection of the Royal and University Library in Königsberg was packed up and moved for storage to a mansion in the countryside, which then took a direct hit and burned to the ground.

And of course even trying to determine the provenance of music instruments is often difficult if not impossible. Sure you can say that a trombone with "Nürnberg" engraved on the bell was made in Nuremberg. But where was it after that, before some private collector bought it in the 19th century and later donated it to a museum in Hamburg, for example? At the royal court in Warsaw, in Rome, in Dinkelsbühl? (It's really a stroke of luck that so many instruments from the Viennese court ensemble found their way into Viennese collections and have remained more or less where they had been used.)

This kind of information usually does not exist, or only for the most recent history of an instrument. And even some of that gets lost and forgotten. Another case in point, which is possibly of particular interest to a number of people reading this: The "classical" trombones made by Egger are based on originals in Basel. That is to say, an alto in E-flat and a quart trombone in F both by Schmied (Pfaffendorf) in the Basel Musical Instrument Museum. These were bequeathed to the museum as part of the collection of Wilhelm Bernoulli, a Protestant minister who lived in a castle on the shores of a lake northeast of Zurich (which is where I first saw and played these instruments). Bernoulli kept records of where and when he bought his instruments. -- I'm not sure anymore, but I think he acquired the Schmied trombones in the 1930s or so. -- In any case, the "alto" was actually an alto bell section with the slide of a tenor trombone, a fact that Bernoulli did not record. Fast forward several decades: In the early 1970s, Heinrich Huber, then co-principal trombonist of the Basel Symphony Orchestra, bought a Schmied tenor trombone from the estate of a collector in Germany. This "tenor" was however a tenor bell section with the slide of an alto trombone. After some negotiation, Bernoulli and Huber traded slide sections. About ten years later, in the early 1980s, Bernoulli's collection was transfered to the museum in Basel, so that Raini Egger had a set of "classical" trombones within walking distance of his shop. Neither the "original" condition of the alto with a tenor slide nor the subsequent trading of slides are mentioned in the records of the Basel museum. And even a master's thesis written in Basel in 2010 on early trombones in Swiss collections lacks this information, because the author did not think to contact Huber, who had sold his original Schmied tenor trombone following his retirement, but who would have been more than happy to supply information.

That's why I doubt that statistics would be much use to us in this matter.


I admire your detailed knowledge of the subject. Yet, I like to point out that statistics becomes especially useful if there is uncertainty. You mention fascinating details of cases, each of which features some missing information. But each features also some limited amount of information. And it is precisely this limited information that should be used in a systematic way to draw conclusions about the history of trombones. Surely we can estimate features of people in a sample of people of a certain age. Why wouldn't we be able to do the same with a sample of trombones?

Let's do a list of all surviving trombones, estimated age, sizes, features etc. Next, let's find some common understanding how long trombones survive on average depending on use, climate, material, craftmanship etc. From this we should be able to estimate bounds on the historical distributions of trombones. It is so straightforward that I would be surprised if nobody done it already.

Another advantage of such an approach is that it would require us to spell out explicitly all assumptions that go into the conclusions. This would be make them transparent for scholarly debate. 
13  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 07, 2017, 10:55PM
Not true. As far as I know, the earliest surviving alto trombone is from the mid 17th century, which would make it around a hundred years younger than the earliest surviving tenor trombone. And the earliest reliable depiction of an alto trombone is probably that in Praetorius's Theatrum instrumentorum from 1620.

Statistically speaking, how many e-flat altos would we expect to have survived? If we were to assume that e-flat instruments were as rare or rarer as today relative to tenors then given how few tenors have survived, we should expect no alto to have survived. So the fact that there is no surviving alto, is not sufficient evidence that they may not have existed.

Given some theoretical considerations about durability of brass etc. and the distribution of known surviving instruments, it should be possible to calculate the set of historical distributions of instruments consistent with today's evidence. 
14  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 07, 2017, 10:51PM


Yes, we are in agreement here. But I'm taking it a step further: What I've been trying to show is that the trombone section in the 18th and early 19th centuries was not a monolithic entity of alto in E-flat (or D), tenor in B-flat (or A) and a quart/quint in E-flat (or D), that the make-up of the trombone sections was different in different places and at different times. In other words, I would like to encourage the players in period-performance ensembles to display even more differentiation in their choice of instruments.

I couldn't agree more. Since there are so few instruments of which copies are made, historical performance-practice seems even more standardized than performances on modern instruments. This goes totally against the spirit of historical performance practice that should also aim to reproduce the historical variety of instruments at that time.
15  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: May 07, 2017, 10:41PM
Working on getting one made? I've been looking for a mid 19th century German alto for a few years for period German romantic stuff, which is just now starting to be programmed more in the states. ONE came up on eBay a few years ago and it was unmarked (though the details looked exactly like Penzel/Schopper) but I didn't buy it. I've regretted it ever since.

I've played a Kruspe alto, and it's a very nice instrument, but those (the tenors too) seem to be different than the Penzel/Schoppers somehow. Besides, Noah won't sell it to me. :cry:

Although it is a bit off topic, but there seem to be at least two kinds of Kruspe alto. There is a Kruspe alto with Neusilverkranz and a bell of about 16 cm diameter but no 7th position. And there is a Kruspe alto without Kranz but with a slightly larger bell (close to 18 cm) and a 7th position.
16  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: May 07, 2017, 10:33PM
I tried the Weschke piece at the shop a week or so ago. It's a great mouthpiece for Weschke modell trombone. A bit small for my taste.  It's quite small in diameter.
I'll be back there in the summer. To try some of the other ones.

In terms of rim size, depth of cup, and bore it is comparable to Schmidt Prof. Bambula TP 3 1/2 A, which is a standard tenor trombone mouthpiece for a principal trombone player. The rim size is 25 mm or 0.984252 inch. Since Kruspe Weschke was used by principal trombone players, this does not really come as a surprise. 

Nowadays we are trained on larger equipment. So this may look small today.

I ordered the mouthpiece and it has been shipped. Waiting for its arrival. Eager to try it not just on my Kruspe Weschke but also my Kruspe alto.
17  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: Apr 30, 2017, 12:28PM

[this post typed from backstage at an all Beethoven period instrument concert]

Wow, you really mean trombone manufactured at Beethoven's time? What slide lubricant do you use? Do you use the one used in Beethoven's time? 
18  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: Apr 28, 2017, 04:23PM

I'm not saying don't use an alto, in fact that is what I would use. But if you're going to do it, don't claim it is for historical reasons, because a) the top trombone scholars in the world are still debating the question and b) your modern alto has nothing at all to do with a classical instrument anyway.

b) holds not just for alto trombones but also for tenor trombones, bass trombones, today's classical trombones, today's baroque trombones (just think about today's standardization of brass alloys), mouthpieces, slide lubricants, trombone training, tuning pitches, physical stature of players, buildings in which music is played, cultural background of players and listeners including their music training and day-to-day exposure to noises ...

In some sense, historical performances seem elusive and in its essence highly romantic of the past. So why not focusing on making nice music in the age of penicillin, cars, and the trombone forum. An alto trombone has definitely a place in helping with making nice music (not that I assumed somebody disputed it here). And of course, we hope to eventually get to the know the outcome of a) even though it may not be that relevant to how we make music today.
19  Creation and Performance / Performance / Re: alto or tenor: Leonore #3 on: Apr 27, 2017, 12:35PM
Let me quote from an older post by Ralph Sauer (http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,2399.0.html):

"A big tenor sounds dull unless it is played too loudly for these classical compositions. It is easier to get a fortissimo quality (when using the alto) at the lower dynamic levels that are appropriate in this music. Also, it makes a nice "bridge" between the trombones and the rotary trumpet sound."

I don't have experience playing Beethoven's Leonore, but when we played Brahms recently, we used a Kruspe alto, Shires tenor and Edwards Bass in our section and the brass chords in the lower dynamic levels simply sounded beautiful.
20  Teaching & Learning / History of the Trombone / Re: Copies of Ed. Kruspe Prof. Weschke Mouthpiece on: Apr 22, 2017, 09:54PM
This is very good news. I'll be driving down to Markneukirchen next week, so I'll try to visit them and take a look and maybe take some pics to share. Now I think I'll take my Kruspe Weschke along.

May be it is a good idea to give them heads-up in order to make sure that they have them ready.
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