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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningHistory of the Trombone(Moderator: bhcordova) The Mystery of the Missing Equali
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robcat2075

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« on: Nov 09, 2017, 08:30AM »

The first trombone Equali we're familiar with are Beethoven's (1812).  The last are Bruckner's (1847). That is the 19th Century. 

If you try to read about the equali form you will encounter references, of course, to Beethoven and Bruckner and assertions that they were in the long tradition of somber trombone music for funerals and church use.

Typical, from Wikipedia: "In the 18th century the equale became established as a generic term for short, chordal pieces for trombone choirs, usually quartets or trios...."

Note that that time frame can not include any of the pieces we know today. By whom and where are those 18th century equali?

There doesn't seem to be any 18th Century evidence for 18th Century equali.
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« Reply #1 on: Nov 09, 2017, 10:12AM »

If you think of equali as any piece written for groups of any instrument or voice, then any mens choir, trombone, shawm, serpent or recorder ensemble of the same pitch would be an equali. Google is probably not the best measure of historic works. Don't we have a couple music historians around here.?
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« Reply #2 on: Nov 09, 2017, 10:27AM »

IMSLP has many obscure composers and works but I can find nothing called an "Equali" or any of the variant spellings, for trombones or any other instrumentation or voices, prior to Beethoven.
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« Reply #3 on: Nov 09, 2017, 10:39AM »

IMSLP has many obscure composers and works but I can find nothing called an "Equali" or any of the variant spellings, for trombones or any other instrumentation or voices, prior to Beethoven.
I don't doubt that. What I'm saying is to think of "equali" as a form rather than a title. Not all lieder are called "lieder".
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 09, 2017, 11:04AM »

If you think of equali as any piece written for groups of any instrument or voice, then any mens choir, trombone, shawm, serpent or recorder ensemble of the same pitch would be an equali. Google is probably not the best measure of historic works. Don't we have a couple music historians around here.?
I think you are right.  They would not even have to be of the same pitch, but would need to be scored closely together.  I think the term was used mainly academically.  Today we'd refer to them as small ensemble choirs like  trombone quartet or sax trio, or something of that nature.  They could even be a movement of or other small part of a larger composition.
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« Reply #5 on: Nov 09, 2017, 11:21AM »

I don't doubt that. What I'm saying is to think of "equali" as a form rather than a title. Not all lieder are called "lieder".

That's valid. 

There is a category of  "for 4 equal voices", one entry does indeed precede Beethoven and fits the Wiki definition above.

(get a load of the notation.  A whole note on a bar line.  Too lazy to tie two halves)


I'm going to say the lyrics Amazed are so integral to that that it didn't inform any part of a trombone tradition.

It's possible there are more, but if they were such a crucial trombone tradition, why aren't we playing them when we are so eager for examples of trombone music from that period?



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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #6 on: Nov 09, 2017, 11:37AM »

I think the term was used mainly academically. 

My trombone quartet played several equali in our last concert. We chose composers other than Beethoven or Bruckner. From my amateur research, I remember the term originated in the 18th century, but the origins were unknown. I don’t remember it being used academically or strictly academically. After all, Bruckner and Beethoven weren’t academics, but they were familiar enough with the term to use for similar pieces over a 30- or 40-year gap. Descriptively (or functionally), it’s come to mean an instrumental (occasionally choral) chamber work of short duration, often in a slow tempo and somber mood, but not always. Usually homophonic and chorale-like, with little in the way of counterpoint.


They could even be a movement of or other small part of a larger composition.

I doubt it. Equali were usually independent compositions.

Theoretically, you might take an excerpt from a larger composition and call it an equali. Example: the trombone quintet from Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607, 1609, 1615), act 4. Orfeo (Orpheus) looks back to see whether his beloved Euridice is following him so she can escape Hell and follow him to the surface. In looking back, he loses his agreement with Plutone (Pluto, ruler of Hell) to trust the gods. Once Orfeo realizes what he’s done, the trombone quintet intones a somber chorale-like piece, about 11 or 12 bars in length, to emphasize the consequences of his action. 

While this little piece could be excerpted and played on its own as an equali, that wasn’t the intent of Monteverdi, and doesn’t seem to be the purpose of writing an equali.
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« Reply #7 on: Nov 09, 2017, 11:57AM »

Which equali did you perform that were by other composers?
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« Reply #8 on: Nov 09, 2017, 12:21PM »

I will pedantically note  Clever that Bruckner was an academic. He spent a lot of his life pursuing degrees and certifications and taught music theory for 20+ years in Vienna.

I have no idea if he was aware of Beethoven's Equali prior to writing his own.
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« Reply #9 on: Nov 09, 2017, 12:48PM »

My trombone quartet played several equali in our last concert. We chose composers other than Beethoven or Bruckner. From my amateur research, I remember the term originated in the 18th century, but the origins were unknown. I don’t remember it being used academically or strictly academically. After all, Bruckner and Beethoven weren’t academics, but they were familiar enough with the term to use for similar pieces over a 30- or 40-year gap. Descriptively (or functionally), it’s come to mean an instrumental (occasionally choral) chamber work of short duration, often in a slow tempo and somber mood, but not always. Usually homophonic and chorale-like, with little in the way of counterpoint.
Not sure I agree with you.  Beethoven was a student of Neefer and a teacher of Czerny as well as others.  Bruckner was a noted student of music, despite being trained as a music teacher and later returning to music teaching at the Vienna Conservatory.  Nevertheless, what I meant by being used academically was it was liekly not used in common language by the layperson, but rather by those well versed in musical theory.


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I doubt it. Equali were usually independent compositions.

Theoretically, you might take an excerpt from a larger composition and call it an equali. Example: the trombone quintet from Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607, 1609, 1615), act 4. Orfeo (Orpheus) looks back to see whether his beloved Euridice is following him so she can escape Hell and follow him to the surface. In looking back, he loses his agreement with Plutone (Pluto, ruler of Hell) to trust the gods. Once Orfeo realizes what he’s done, the trombone quintet intones a somber chorale-like piece, about 11 or 12 bars in length, to emphasize the consequences of his action. 

While this little piece could be excerpted and played on its own as an equali, that wasn’t the intent of Monteverdi, and doesn’t seem to be the purpose of writing an equali.
Again I have to disagree.  The word equali does not describe a piece.  It is not like 'concerto' or 'overture', it is a musical style - Equal Voices - close harmonies - like barbershop is a 'style' and not a 'piece'.  The piece you mention could indeed be in the equali style, and would be whether you perform it as part of the whole work, or by itself.
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« Reply #10 on: Nov 09, 2017, 01:58PM »

No, the sense I get from what is written about "equali" is that it's not a style but a category of music compositions.

For solemn occasions (not just funerals)
Played in churches
Equal voices
Stand alone, not part of larger works containing non-equali type music

It's a category like "minuet" or "fugue" or "air".  Those are not titles, and not really styles. But people do talk about them and we know they existed before Beethoven. Not so for "equali"





Here is a page from "Musical Times" in 1898 which seems to be the first published account of the circumstances surrounding Beethoven's Equale.

The three equali came to prominence then because they were played at William Gladstone's funeral.

It admits, in 1898, the origin of the term is "unknown" and then says that "it has come to signify" a piece for trombones played at "great funerals" but provides no source for that.

I propose that everything we "know" about Equali comes from this 1898 article and that years of misremembering and misquoting it has grown a legend about equali for trombones that can't be substantiated with actual music from before Beethoven.


Unless someone can produce music that was somehow identified or referred to as being "equali"?

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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #11 on: Nov 09, 2017, 04:03PM »

I think you're inferring a lot from the few pieces named "Equali" and the limited writing on this.  I don't think this is a valid approach given the little information we have.

Here: https://archive.org/stream/5000musicalterms00adamuoft#page/52/mode/2up  we have the definition of the term Equal Voices - the English term.  It leaves things a bit more open.

Other than the very few known equali of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Bruckner we have little to go on pertaining to the actual use of such compositions.

The Wiki article offers this:

"Stravinsky scored In memoriam Dylan Thomas, his setting of "Do not go gentle into that good night", for tenor, string quartet and four trombones, which may be an "echo" of the tradition."

And there is the piece kbiggs alluded to.

If we assume equali were written for trombone only, and the only examples are those of Beethoven, Mendelssohn (Wittmann) and Bruckner, then your inference may be correct.  However, I'm not yet ready to accept those confines.

But then we have this from fsung: http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,102941.msg1219979.html#msg1219979 which implies the Mendelssohn pieces were just transcriptions by Gustave Wittmann of music Mendelssohn never referred to as equali.  He called them "Songs for four-part male choir".  In fact, some of his songs for four-part male choir (and there were a few) are definitely not overly solemn, but he drew no distinction between them.  That's a matter of interpretation though.

It's all so inconclusive.

I'm going to keep an open mind on this until I see more information.
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« Reply #12 on: Nov 09, 2017, 05:08PM »

Inferring is all we can do until someone starts finding actual evidence of anything "equali" prior to Beethoven.

Published pieces, mentions of pieces, even a use of the term in some sense similar to what we are using it for now... it seems not to really exist.

Wikipedia says "equali" was a term of 16th century music theorists but the citation goes nowhere.

Using Google's ngram viewer, in the years 1500-1800, I can't find any musical-context use of "equali" or "equale" in English, Italian or German and only one possibly musical use of it a French book of poetry.


The Stravinsky piece (1954) "may be," possibly, his imaginative notion of solemn trombone music but we can't take it as any evidence of pre-Beethoven music making.

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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #13 on: Nov 09, 2017, 06:25PM »

More mystery...

It turns out "equale" is not an Italian word that means "equal". It means "and which" according to Google translate.

That Italian word is "eguale" and that is in the noun sense like , "we are equals"

"Eguali" would be the plural.
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« Reply #14 on: Nov 09, 2017, 07:55PM »

I seem to recall it being derived from the Latin Æquale, not the Italian.
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« Reply #15 on: Nov 09, 2017, 10:27PM »

I seem to recall it being derived from the Latin Æquale, not the Italian.

That would explain Bruckner's spelling.

A cursory look through book titles that have that word in them is as bleak as for the other spellings...  it seems to be used mostly in a math/algebra/geometry frame.

We still lack an actual 18th century use of the term in a musical context.



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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #16 on: Nov 10, 2017, 07:07AM »

Here's a thought experiment...

Is there any other musical term that we are sure was being used in the 18th century even though no 18th century evidence of its use exists?
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #17 on: Nov 10, 2017, 07:23AM »

Which equali did you perform that were by other composers?

Wenzel Lambel, 19th c.
Robert (?) Newton, 21st c.

There was another composer but I can’t remember now who.  Some of the Lambel equali were different than the Beethoven or Bruckner equali—extended pieces of 3-4 minutes including a repeat, some solo and duet passages of 3-4 bars at a time.
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« Reply #18 on: Nov 10, 2017, 07:43AM »

This thread reminds me of the joke about the musicologist’s convention...

One evening, after the papers had been presented and the participants had retired to the local drinking establishment to imbibe their favorite beverages (rosé, claret, chablis, etc.), the conversation eventually came around to 18th and 19th century European composers. At one point, someone mentioned the name Beethoven.

Conversation stopped.

“Beethoven?” someone asked.

The name was murmured around the room, all questioning who this “Beethoven” could be.

Conversation started to pick up again when, all of a sudden, from a dark corner of the room, came the question, “Beethoven? He was a student of Albrechtsberger, wasn’t he?”

The replies were swift and congratulatory: “Why, of course!” “Indeed, how silly of me to forget!” “By Jove, that’s the ticket!” “Good job, I say!” “Mind like a steel trap, he has!”

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« Reply #19 on: Nov 10, 2017, 04:23PM »

I believe these things to be true...  Clever

- the original manuscript is lost
- No one actually says the word "Equale" appeared on it.
- The only claim is that Beethoven "inscribed" on it, "Linz, den 2ten 9ber, 1812". That's not the day he wrote it, that is the day it was for, aka All Soul's Day.

-The first publication of this music (Haslinger, 1827) in any form, a men's chorus adaptation created for Beethoven's funeral, does not use the word "Equale".

-The trombone-only version is not published until 1888 (Breitkopf & Hartel). This is the first time Beethoven's work is labeled "Equale"

-The explanation in the 1898 The Musical Times article of what "Equale" means is informed only by its usage in the 19th century and has since been wrongly assumed as evidence of "equale" being a musical genre prior to Beethoven.


The easiest way to disprove my thesis is to find...
 
-the Beethoven manuscript and see it really has "Drei Equale fur vier Posaunen" on it.
-a pre-Beethoven piece of music labeled as an "equale"
-a pre-Beethoven written reference to such a work
-a pre-Beethoven discussion of "equale" as a genre. 
 
 Don't know


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