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Author Topic: Why Not More Trombone Concertos?  (Read 1875 times)
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Paul T. McGraw
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« on: Dec 29, 2017, 06:33PM »

This has probably been discussed many times, but I am new to the forum, so please forgive me. Why aren't there more trombone concertos for trombone and orchestra from the romantic and late romantic era? The trombone seems like such a natural for a concerto instrument. No problem with plenty of projection, and lots more stamina possible than horn or trumpet. So why did the great romantic and late romantic composers not write trombone concertos?

Or even just give the trombone equal star treatment with the horn? What's the deal?
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robcat2075

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« Reply #1 on: Dec 29, 2017, 07:02PM »

just my ideas...

-No one asked for a trombone concerto. Aside from Mendelssohn (who never got around to it) no one ever asked an A-list composer to write one. No major concerto of the Romantic era, for any instrument, was written without a specific soloist involved.

-Trombone lacked the virtuoso elegance of a piano or violin. "Flight of the Bumble Bee" on trombone is 25% note and 75% tongue.

-Composers weren't very familiar with what potential it had. Wagner did, but he had no skills or desire for sonata form.

-Composers felt trombone was more advantageous as an ensemble instrument and occasional color than as a leading solo voice.

-The available trombonists of the time, the ones composers encountered during their careers, were less than worthy of an A-list concerto effort.
 
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #2 on: Dec 29, 2017, 07:24PM »

The trombone was considered quite passe in the era of Bach and Haydn and only was recently reintroduced to the orchestra (in the very early 19th Century).  It was considered a "church instrument" and as such was not considered for soloistic material.  We have a couple of pieces written for Quiesser and Belcke (the David being one) but as Rob said, none of the A-list composers were interested.  Violins, cellos, and pianos were much more flashy.  Also, composers of the period had to play piano or violin (or both).  Much easier to write for what you know.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #3 on: Dec 29, 2017, 07:54PM »

This has probably been discussed many times, but I am new to the forum, so please forgive me. Why aren't there more trombone concertos for trombone and orchestra from the romantic and late romantic era? The trombone seems like such a natural for a concerto instrument. No problem with plenty of projection, and lots more stamina possible than horn or trumpet. So why did the great romantic and late romantic composers not write trombone concertos?

Or even just give the trombone equal star treatment with the horn? What's the deal?

To be fair, pretty much every instrument aside from violin and piano could say the same thing. Not many major 19th century composers wrote concerti for other instruments than those two. Several obscure/minor ones did though, including for trombone. Cello is a bit ahead of the pack but still nothing close to violin and piano. You know many major romantic or late romantic concerti for flute or oboe (or trumpet or horn, which you mention, for that matter)?

To be frank, I don't see how the trombone is more "a natural" than other instruments. I don't think it's any less natural, but certainly not more either.


-No one asked for a trombone concerto. Aside from Mendelssohn (who never got around to it) no one ever asked an A-list composer to write one. No major concerto of the Romantic era, for any instrument, was written without a specific soloist involved.


I wish people stopped spreading that story about Mendelssohn being asked and then passing the ball to David. The only sources I can find for that are unsubstantiated, mostly CD liner notes starting with Lindberg. Sure it makes a nice story so we can claim that at least a major composer ALMOST wrote us a concerto but...there doesn't seem to be any evidence supporting it (correct me if I'm wrong), and it sounds like a typical made-up story, so in the end we just look desperate and silly.
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Maximilien Brisson
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« Reply #4 on: Dec 29, 2017, 08:36PM »



I wish people stopped spreading that story about Mendelssohn being asked and then passing the ball to David. The only sources I can find for that are unsubstantiated, mostly CD liner notes starting with Lindberg. Sure it makes a nice story so we can claim that at least a major composer ALMOST wrote us a concerto but...there doesn't seem to be any evidence supporting it (correct me if I'm wrong), and it sounds like a typical made-up story, so in the end we just look desperate and silly.

Lindberg is alive. If the story is doubtful, he could be asked as to how he came to it.
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #5 on: Dec 29, 2017, 09:04PM »

On a side note, it's interesting that several of our romantic concerti (including the David) were conceived in the entourage of the Gewandhaus orchestra, one of the few major orchestras that did not actually employ regular/permanent trombone players at the time
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« Reply #6 on: Dec 29, 2017, 10:18PM »

All the trombone players at the time sucked because they were busy delivering pizzas.
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« Reply #7 on: Dec 29, 2017, 10:24PM »

All the trombone players at the time sucked because they were busy delivering pizzas.

Gee, I thought it was because they were selling vacuum cleaners :-P
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #8 on: Dec 29, 2017, 11:15PM »

No, that was in the '70's, there were trombone concertos being written by then.

The OP was asking about the Romantic era which coincided with the Age of Pizza.  And of course the trombone players were right on top of that, same as today.
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« Reply #9 on: Dec 30, 2017, 04:30AM »

Gee, I thought it was because they were selling vacuum cleaners :-P

Was that because there were more concertos for vacuum cleaners than trombones?
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« Reply #10 on: Dec 30, 2017, 05:09AM »

 I happen to be writing a concertino for bass trombone, winds and percussion.  Stay tuned and I'll let folks know when it's finished.  Pardon me for, ahem, blowing my own horn.
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« Reply #11 on: Dec 30, 2017, 05:09AM »

Was that because there were more concertos for vacuum cleaners than trombones?
Malcolm Arnold: Grand, Grand Overture:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPsiVxUdkvo
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Bruce Guttman
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Paul T. McGraw
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« Reply #12 on: Dec 30, 2017, 08:44AM »

To be frank, I don't see how the trombone is more "a natural" than other instruments. I don't think it's any less natural, but certainly not more either.

Well, perhaps my thinking is wrong, but I compose as a hobby, and the trombone seems a natural for a concerto. First dynamics and projection. The trombone can make itself heard even with a full symphony orchestra playing forte. Not true of any woodwinds, and a lot of care has to be taken with violin or cello to make sure they are not masked. Trumpet can make itself heard, but not for too long or the player will get tired. Second thing about trombone is a wide pitch range. Three or more octaves for a professional player. Not as wide a range as violin or cello, but more than wide enough to provide a variety of colors. Third is stamina. Time spent in the high range would need to be limited, but compared to the horn and trumpet, composers would have little fear of fatigue related errors. So that is why a bone would be a natural for a concerto instrument in my opinion. But perhaps I am biased as I love the trombone.

R. Strauss wrote two horn concertos and an oboe concerto. Saint-Saens wrote a flute concerto (French so it figures). and several composers wrote clarinet concertos. But as far as I know, no Romantic era trumpet concerto by a well-known composer

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« Reply #13 on: Dec 30, 2017, 09:11AM »

Here's a question... 

There's nothing physically stopping anyone from writing a Romantic trombone concerto (or a Romantic anything) today to fill that perceived need but no such effort will succeed. 

What happened?
How did it come to be that new Romantic music is no longer allowed to take root in the concert hall? (Film music doesn't count in this discussion.)

It is as if a curtain came down about the time of the death of Prokofiev in 1953 and after that point Classical-Romantic music took on "antique" status. (You can't make new antiques, only discover old ones.)

After that point it was OK to resurrect an old Romantic work that no one had heard before but a new Romantic work that no one had heard before would not be taken seriously.

It is very hard to identify anything written after 1953 that has become standard repertoire, even by composers like Shostakovitch or Copeland who managed to get off some standard rep before 1953.

Are there exceptions? Not strong ones.  For example... Leonard Bernstein... only his stage music has a toe-hold in the concert repertoire.

What happened?




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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #14 on: Dec 30, 2017, 09:45AM »

In a related note, there is a wealth of trombone features in jazz orchestras.

As for late-Romantic concertos, don't forget about Arthur Pryor's stuff he did with Sousa's band.

But, yes, neither of these examples include trombone solos with orchestras.
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« Reply #15 on: Dec 30, 2017, 09:49AM »

Robcat,

Very, very good question. I was born in March 1953, so it must be my fault!  :cry:

But seriously, I have asked myself the same thing a million times. It makes no sense. I suppose there are people who really enjoy Boulez or minimalism, but I am not one of them, so I really, really wich we had more music of the romantic aesthetic.
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« Reply #16 on: Dec 30, 2017, 09:59AM »

Robcat,

Very, very good question. I was born in March 1953, so it must be my fault!  :cry:

But seriously, I have asked myself the same thing a million times. It makes no sense. I suppose there are people who really enjoy Boulez or minimalism, but I am not one of them, so I really, really wich we had more music of the romantic aesthetic.

There definitely does seem to be a trend for talented composers to go to film scoring during this period. There are definitely examples of late-Romantic and post-Romantic style in film - such as from composers Dmitri Tiomkin, Berhard Hermann, Elmer Bernstein, and Alex North, and looking a bit later, Maurice Jarre and John Williams.
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« Reply #17 on: Dec 30, 2017, 12:55PM »

A few years ago, we took my sons to Video Games Live, which involved an orchestra, choir, electronics, and what have you playing the music from video games. Very enjoyable concert.
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« Reply #18 on: Dec 30, 2017, 01:53PM »

A few years ago, we took my sons to Video Games Live, which involved an orchestra, choir, electronics, and what have you playing the music from video games. Very enjoyable concert.

Many of the Video Games Live concerts are just musicians and singers lip-syncing/playing along a pre-recorded concert. Sadly. Also a bad track record at paying their musicians in a timely manner (or paying them at all).

But yes video game music can be very interesting and well written. I was lucky to play for a few years in the Montreal-based Video Games Orchestra when I was in college. Lots of fun playing that repertoire.
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« Reply #19 on: Dec 30, 2017, 02:47PM »

https://youtu.be/e-x01ddG0x4

that's why
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