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Author Topic: Contrabass trombone in the 1920s  (Read 38685 times)
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Steve Dillon
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« on: Dec 14, 2005, 03:36AM »

What would an orchestra of the 1920s use a contrabass trombone for and would the rest of the section use larger instruments when the contra is being used?
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« Reply #1 on: Dec 14, 2005, 05:40AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
What would an orchestra of the 1920s use a contrabass trombone for and would the rest of the section use larger instruments when the contra is being used?


By the 1920s there were really only six major works for which the slide contrabass trombone had been scored:

Richard Wagner - Das Rheingold
Richard Wagner - Die Walküre
Richard Wagner - Siegfried
Richard Wagner - Götterdämmerung
Richard Strauss - Elektra
Arnold Schoenberg - Gurrelieder

There is no call for the other trombonists to use a larger instrument than usual. Certainly that was not the case in Germany, nor have players ever done so since then. I cannot imagine that it was the case anywhere else. In the 1920s it is most likely that only an opera house would have possessed a contrabass trombone and, as today, used it in addition to the standard section of two tenors and one bass trombone.

By 1924, Ernst Dehmel's F/E flat/B flat contrabass trombone had been patented and he played on it in the Bayreuth orchestra, while the B flat double slide contrabass, probably made by Moritz of Berlin, was in use before then.

The French used their own types of contrabass trombone, either in low B flat with double slide or else a more modern design based on the same principle as the German instrument, viz. a bass trombone with valve attachment. The Italians preferred a three or four valve B flat contrabass trombone, which was scored for by Verdi and Puccini in some of their operatic and ecclesiastical works. It was adjoined to a section of three B flat valve tenor trombones.

The British used the Boosey & Co. contrabass trombone in C or B flat or a G/C bass trombone to cover the contrabass parts. It is only in very recent years that the rest of the world has begun to deploy the contrabass trombone and it is usually a model in F/D/C or F/E flat/B flat which is used nowadays.
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« Reply #2 on: Dec 14, 2005, 07:03PM »

Ed, why the British preference for G/C and not not F/C
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« Reply #3 on: Dec 15, 2005, 01:23AM »

Quote from: "Lebanese Bass Bone"
Ed, why the British preference for G/C and not not F/C


The British used a G/D bass trombone with a C slide in the valve attachment instead of a D slide, which facilitated the production of the low A flat, a semitone above the first fundamental. This was the preferred choice at Covent Garden for many years and provided a good match for the tenor trombones in vogue at the time. The added advantage for the player was that there was little alteration to the basic technique in order to be able to cover the contrabass trombone parts using the C slide, which was only ever required if a passage included low A flat, otherwise the D slide would suffice.
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« Reply #4 on: Jan 13, 2006, 04:27AM »

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The Italians preferred a three or four valve B flat contrabass trombone, which was scored for by Verdi and Puccini in some of their operatic and ecclesiastical works. It was adjoined to a section of three B flat valve tenor trombones.


Weren't (aren't) these BBb instruments cimbassi?
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« Reply #5 on: Jan 13, 2006, 10:40AM »

I guess Ed will be back, but until then…
Cimbasso was not an instrument from the beginning in Verdi´s time, but the part just below the (valved?) trombones.
It could be played on an optional wind bass of brass. Tuba, ophicleide, bass horn or basstrombone (valved).
The Italian tuba was very narrow. The part was often played on the Italian tuba or the bass (valve) trombone. I don’t know from what year the modified large bass valved trombone got the name Cimbasso, but valved bass trombones that was not by any means called cimbassi was used in Europe in the 19:th century.
The use of valved trombones (alto, tenor and bass, even contrabass occasionally) in Sweden was very common not only in military bands, but also in opera and symphony orchestras all the way into the beginning of the 20:th century.
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 20, 2006, 03:20PM »

The whole issue of the word "cimbasso" and what instruments were used when composers wrote for an instrument of that name is one that needs a lot of unravelling.  I just had an article published, "Some Clarity About the Cimbasso" in "The Brass Herald", Issue 11, December 2005 (pp. 56-57).  Briefly: there actually was an instrument called cimbasso (short hand for "corno di basso" or bass horn).  It had a wood body and a metal bell, an evolution of the bass horn which in England was all metal.  It was a form of upright serpent.

Here is a photo of me  taken at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, holding the earliest extant "cimbasso" by the Italian maker, Piana, c. 1815.  Also in the case behind me can be seen (left to right) a copper serpent, English bass horn, military serpent, and the bells of a Russian bassoon and buccin):




The word "cimbasso" rapidly became associated with the best available bass brass instrument. Later, parts written for cimbasso would be played on keyed and valved ophicleide, bombardon, valve trombone in BB flat (Verdi's "trombone basso Verdi" - a valved contrabass trombone in BB flat), valve trombone in F (the modern cimbasso we see with 4-6 valves, a form of valved contrabass trombone in F) and slide contrabass trombone in F (the most sensible modern instrument to play "cimbasso parts" since  in Verdi's time, all four trombones were valved instruments - today, we do not use valved trombones in most orchestras so when slide tenor and bass trombones are used, a slide contrabass trombone - rather than a valved contrabass trombone - would be most sensible.  Verdi was adamant that a tuba should not be the bass of the trombone section; he did not feel it blended well with trombones.).

In Italy in 1881 the Gazetta Musicale de Milano carried an article about Verdi's visit to the Pelitti factory where his "trombone basso Verdi" was made - the article speaks of the Italian trombone section consisting of, "two b flat tenor trombones, a bass trombone in F and the new bass trombone in BBflat [which] are necessary in order to achieve a trombone quartet tht is perfect, homogenous and effective without bringing into the orchestra a timbre from the band (ie: a tuba) that would affect the instrumental blending of the various instruments."

For more on this subject, see:

Renato Meucci: "The Cimbasso and Related Instruments in 19th -century Italy". Galpin Society Journal, number XLIX, March 1996. pp 143-179.

and

Clifford Bevan: "The Tuba Family".  Piccolo Press, second edition, 2000. pp.  406-425

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 20, 2006, 03:35PM »

Quote from: "Ed_Solomon"
The British used the Boosey & Co. contrabass trombone in C or B flat or a G/C bass trombone to cover the contrabass parts.


Hi Edward!  Great info from you on this thread.  

There was a British BBflat contrabass trombone manufactured by the Salvation Army which appeared in SA catalogs as early as 1905.  I have one of these instruments, a very narrow bore and not likely used in orchestras at the time (and how it may have been deployed in Salvation Army Bands is not clear).  A very interesting specimen.  Here is a photo:



More photos can be found on my website trombone gallery (including photos of a 1905 Conn BBflat contrabass trombone with its original owner, August Helleberg) at:

http://www.yeodoug.com/articles/trombone_gallery/trombone_gallery.html

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #8 on: Jan 21, 2006, 12:42PM »

I'm reminded of a line from the "Batman" movie where the Joker asks "Where does he get all those wonderful toys?"
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 21, 2006, 07:02PM »

The Italian "cimbasso" looks to have a similar construction to the butt stock on a bassoon.  Could you tell if that was indeed how it was constructed?
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 21, 2006, 07:54PM »

Quote from: "Labrat"
The Italian "cimbasso" looks to have a similar construction to the butt stock on a bassoon.  Could you tell if that was indeed how it was constructed?


Yes, there are clear similarities, although bassoons at that time were of a much narrower bore, not as thick walled as the bass horns.

The cimbasso and other bass horns are really forms of upright serpents.  They had various names but all had similar characteristics - usually in C,  usually with 6 holes and perhaps a few keys in addition, usually a bell flare at the top, most often with wooden butt stock.

Here is a photo of a serpent Forveille:



The classic serpentine shape is gone; now the serpent is sporting more metal, the beginning of basically having a bocal, then a down tube and an up tube, with the bell at the top.

Here is a photo of a "basson Russe" or Russian bassoon:



It is neither Russian (it is French)  nor a bassoon, but it does have a bassoon like butt stock.  The zoomorphic head (in this photo, the head is turned backwards, it should be facing to the right) is common in this form of upright serpent.  These upright serpents - and the cimbasso - all were easier to play when marching in a band than a traditional, serpentine shaped serpent, and also had the advantage of the bell being at the top of the instrument where the sound would project well.

While the serpent, cimbasso, basson Russe and other forms of upright serpents were part of the evolutionary path that led to the modern tuba, they were all 8 feet long and played with mouthpieces similar in size to modern trombone mouthpieces.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 22, 2006, 04:31AM »

Excellent information, Douglas.
Thank you very much for sharing it.
Chris Stearn.
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 22, 2006, 06:17AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"
The whole issue of the word "cimbasso" and what instruments were used when composers wrote for an instrument of that name is one that needs a lot of unravelling.  I just had an article published, "Some Clarity About the Cimbasso" in "The Brass Herald", Issue 11, December 2005 (pp. 56-57).  Briefly: there actually was an instrument called cimbasso (short hand for "corno di basso" or bass horn).  It had a wood body and a metal bell, an evolution of the bass horn which in England was all metal.  It was a form of upright serpent.

[The word "cimbasso" rapidly became associated with the best available bass brass instrument. Later, parts written for cimbasso would be played on keyed and valved ophicleide, bombardon, valve trombone in BB flat (Verdi's "trombone basso Verdi" - a valved contrabass trombone in BB flat), valve trombone in F (the modern cimbasso we see with 4-6 valves, a form of valved contrabass trombone in F) and slide contrabass trombone in F (the most sensible modern instrument to play "cimbasso parts" since  in Verdi's time, all four trombones were valved instruments - today, we do not use valved trombones in most orchestras so when slide tenor and bass trombones are used, a slide contrabass trombone - rather than a valved contrabass trombone - would be most sensible.  Verdi was adamant that a tuba should not be the bass of the trombone section; he did not feel it blended well with trombones.).

In Italy in 1881 the Gazetta Musicale de Milano carried an article about Verdi's visit to the Pelitti factory where his "trombone basso Verdi" was made - the article speaks of the Italian trombone section consisting of, "two b flat tenor trombones, a bass trombone in F and the new bass trombone in BBflat [which] are necessary in order to achieve a trombone quartet tht is perfect, homogenous and effective without bringing into the orchestra a timbre from the band (ie: a tuba) that would affect the instrumental blending of the various instruments."

For more on this subject, see:

Renato Meucci: "The Cimbasso and Related Instruments in 19th -century Italy". Galpin Society Journal, number XLIX, March 1996. pp 143-179.

and

Clifford Bevan: "The Tuba Family".  Piccolo Press, second edition, 2000. pp.  406-425

-Douglas Yeo


Hi Mr. Yeo, I wanted to add to the whole Cimbasso thread, back in Sewanee I played the Reformation Symphony by  Felix Mendelssohn , I played the basso part, while the other bass in our studio played the cimbasso, it was awesome.Yup....
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« Reply #13 on: Jan 22, 2006, 11:47AM »

Quote from: "TexasBassBone"
I wanted to add to the whole Cimbasso thread, back in Sewanee I played the Reformation Symphony by  Felix Mendelssohn , I played the basso part, while the other bass in our studio played the cimbasso, it was awesome.Yup....


That is one way to do it, certainly.  Mendelssohn wrote for three trombones.  He also wrote for two bassoons, serpent and contrabassoon.  If no serpent can be found, any kind of historical bass horn (English bass horn, early cimbasso, basson Russe, etc) would work well; a small bore British style baritone is the best modern substitute, especially if a serpent mouthpiece is used; failing that, a euphonium would be a good fit and then another bassoon.  A bass trombone on that part would work well if played very sensitively in order to blend with the contrabassoon and make a new kind of sound that is neither bassoon nor serpent.  When I played the Mendelssohn "Reformation" Sym with the Boston Symphony a few months ago, I played serpent.  Ton Koopman was the conductor; his comment, on hearing the unique blend of serpent and contrabassoon, was that Mendelssohn clearly knew about the blending of sounds; as an organist, he would have understood the mising of the 8 and 18 foot instruments and their overtones would give a new kind of sound, unique to that particular combination of instruments.

-Douglas Yeo
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Bob1062
« Reply #14 on: Jan 27, 2006, 01:43PM »

If I may ask some general questions-

When playing the G/D(C) as a contra, was there a change in mouthpiece or sound concept? I see that "slides," not a slide (as would seem to make sense in the picture) are added to put it into C, is it also possible to put it into Db?

Mr. Yeo, do you happen to know the bore and bell size of the Conn contra? I imagine you have spent some time on a Miraphone contra, how does the Conn compare to it?
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« Reply #15 on: Jan 27, 2006, 02:28PM »

I have never seen any information that would lead me to believe that the orchestral G/D/C bass trombone was used to play contra parts in the UK.
Before the 1960's the Ring cycle was not often performed in the UK.... at least not as much as it has been since, and it was my understanding that the Boosey CC instrument was always used in London. I do not think there had been performances outside London in the early 20th C.
I have never heard of any larger mouthpieces being used for low parts on the G/D/C. The players involved are all dead by now.... the best person to ask is the historical specialist for Covent Garden, Tom Winthorpe.
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« Reply #16 on: Jan 27, 2006, 06:38PM »

Quote from: "Bob1062"
Mr. Yeo, do you happen to know the bore and bell size of the Conn contra? I imagine you have spent some time on a Miraphone contra, how does the Conn compare to it?


My Conn contrabas trombone has a 9.5 inch bell.  I played a Miraphone BBflat double slide contrabass trombone only once, back in 1983 when I was in the Baltimore Symphony and we played the Varese Integrales.  I do remember it was terribly difficult to center notes on the Miraphone.  The Conn centers reasonably well (better, as my distant memory can recall, than the Miraphone - the Conn has no valves while the Miraphone I used had two valves) but suffers from the same problem all BBflat contras have - the length of cylindrical bore tubing is so long that notes don't tend to slot well and the horn has a rather unstable feeling above the fourth partial.  I mostly use a contrabass trombone in F (by Lätzsch) when playing with the Boston Symphony, as I will be doing when we play the Schöenberg Gurre-Lieder for three performances on February 23, 24 and 25 (Symphony Hall, Boston - James Levine, conducting).

I have recently added a new/old photo of my Conn contrabass trombone taken around 1905, held by its original owner, August Helleberg.  That photo can be seen on my website at:

http://www.yeodoug.com/articles/trombone_gallery/trombone_gallery.html

As to how the G/D/C bass trombone may have been used to play contrabass trombone parts in England, that, as the Brits say, is my friend Edward's pigeon, and I'm sure when he comes up for air and has a chance to look back in on the forum he'll have more to add to that thought which he originally posted above.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #17 on: Jan 28, 2006, 05:23AM »

I would just like to clear this up Mr Yeo, obviously you use the Latzch when playing contrabass parts but in your website when talking about the Conn contra you said:

"I use this instrument in the Boston Symphony when I play parts by Wagner on contrabass trombone."

So have you ever played the Ring on that amzing Conn-trabass Grin ?
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« Reply #18 on: Jan 28, 2006, 10:14AM »

Quote from: "Lebanese Bass Bone"
So have you ever played the Ring on that amzing Conn-trabass Grin ?


No. I will edit that comment on my website as after experimenting in several concerts of Wagner's music, I have decided not to use the BB flat contra on that music. The horn simply isn't stable enough to give me the quality of sound and evenness of response I would want on the Ring Cycle.  Others might have more succes with the BBflat contra than I, but like most players who play contrabass trombone these days, I prefer the F contrabass which behaves like a trombone and has a great sound.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #19 on: Jan 29, 2006, 07:21AM »

Quote from: "blast"
I have never seen any information that would lead me to believe that the orchestral G/D/C bass trombone was used to play contra parts in the UK.
Before the 1960's the Ring cycle was not often performed in the UK.... at least not as much as it has been since, and it was my understanding that the Boosey CC instrument was always used in London. I do not think there had been performances outside London in the early 20th C.
I have never heard of any larger mouthpieces being used for low parts on the G/D/C. The players involved are all dead by now.... the best person to ask is the historical specialist for Covent Garden, Tom Winthorpe.
Chris Stearn.


The use of the G/C bass trombone in Britain to perform Wagner's contrabass trombone parts is mentioned by Anthony Baines, Jeremy Montagu (who provides a photograph), and Philip Bate, and specifically at Covent Garden up to the 1950s by Anthony Baines. I cannot for a moment imagine that Anthony Baines got his facts wrong when everything else that he has written is 100% accurate. Yes, it is true that Godfrey Kneller asserted that he played quite comfortably on the old Boosey C contrabass trombone, but I would have thought that he was in a minority.

Quote from: "Bob1062"
When playing the G/D(C) as a contra, was there a change in mouthpiece or sound concept? I see that "slides," not a slide (as would seem to make sense in the picture) are added to put it into C, is it also possible to put it into Db?


There was no change in mouthpiece - at least none that I am aware of. It was simply equivalent to German players using an E flat slide in the F attachment tubing and tantamount to modern players using a B flat/F bass trombone to play the contrabass trombone parts because the player simply used his regular G/D bass trombone and mouthpiece and used the C slide any time that low A flat was called for (it's remarkably stuffy with the C slide down there and only used when absolutely necessary). The D slide (and C slide) was not long enough to draw out to a length to render D flat. There is really very little play in the tuning slide, so it doesn't extend much more than around three or four centimetres before coming right out, at least on the Boosey & Hawkes "Imperial" model that I own. Still, I am sure that, much as today, players then did not wish to upset their usual method of playing the instrument by using unusual tunings, so they probably kept such changes to a bare minimum.
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« Reply #20 on: Jan 29, 2006, 03:29PM »

Quote from: "Ed_Solomon"
Quote from: "blast"
I have never seen any information that would lead me to believe that the orchestral G/D/C bass trombone was used to play contra parts in the UK.
Before the 1960's the Ring cycle was not often performed in the UK.... at least not as much as it has been since, and it was my understanding that the Boosey CC instrument was always used in London. I do not think there had been performances outside London in the early 20th C.
I have never heard of any larger mouthpieces being used for low parts on the G/D/C. The players involved are all dead by now.... the best person to ask is the historical specialist for Covent Garden, Tom Winthorpe.
Chris Stearn.


The use of the G/C bass trombone in Britain to perform Wagner's contrabass trombone parts is mentioned by Anthony Baines, Jeremy Montagu (who provides a photograph), and Philip Bate, and specifically at Covent Garden up to the 1950s by Anthony Baines. I cannot for a moment imagine that Anthony Baines got his facts wrong when everything else that he has written is 100% accurate. Yes, it is true that Godfrey Kneller asserted that he played quite comfortably on the old Boosey C contrabass trombone, but I would have thought that he was in a minority.

Quote from: "Bob1062"
When playing the G/D(C) as a contra, was there a change in mouthpiece or sound concept? I see that "slides," not a slide (as would seem to make sense in the picture) are added to put it into C, is it also possible to put it into Db?


There was no change in mouthpiece - at least none that I am aware of. It was simply equivalent to German players using an E flat slide in the F attachment tubing and tantamount to modern players using a B flat/F bass trombone to play the contrabass trombone parts because the player simply used his regular G/D bass trombone and mouthpiece and used the C slide any time that low A flat was called for (it's remarkably stuffy with the C slide down there and only used when absolutely necessary). The D slide (and C slide) was not long enough to draw out to a length to render D flat. There is really very little play in the tuning slide, so it doesn't extend much more than around three or four centimetres before coming right out, at least on the Boosey & Hawkes "Imperial" model that I own. Still, I am sure that, much as today, players then did not wish to upset their usual method of playing the instrument by using unusual tunings, so they probably kept such changes to a bare minimum.



From a fairly quick recap of those references, Bate does nothing more than to refer to Baines (p 54), though he does quote Richter's dissatisfaction with the Boosey CC.
Baines says (p 247) ' But in the long run the double slide has yet to prove popular and Wagner's parts are now usually played on some form of bass trombone with a plain slide. In London up to the 1950's this was a G/D trombone with a C slide placed in the attachment'

Now, I have always been impressed with Baines and would not doubt his word, but this is a fairly casual footnote rather than an important point of argument within the context of the book. It may be open to development.
How many performances of the ring were there in London between the 1905 cycle and the mid 1950's ? With two wars and hardly any years of full time company it cannot be many..... having asked the question, I should go and check. I recall being told that a Wagner tuba I was looking at years ago was bought for the Beecham cycle in the thirties.... so I presume we have at least one occasion to research.
Chris Stearn.
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« Reply #21 on: Jan 29, 2006, 04:04PM »

Quote from: "blast"
From a fairly quick recap of those references, Bate does nothing more than to refer to Baines (p 54), though he does quote Richter's dissatisfaction with the Boosey CC.
Baines says (p 247) ' But in the long run the double slide has yet to prove popular and Wagner's parts are now usually played on some form of bass trombone with a plain slide. In London up to the 1950's this was a G/D trombone with a C slide placed in the attachment'

Now, I have always been impressed with Baines and would not doubt his word, but this is a fairly casual footnote rather than an important point of argument within the context of the book. It may be open to development.
How many performances of the ring were there in London between the 1905 cycle and the mid 1950's ? With two wars and hardly any years of full time company it cannot be many..... having asked the question, I should go and check. I recall being told that a Wagner tuba I was looking at years ago was bought for the Beecham cycle in the thirties.... so I presume we have at least one occasion to research.
Chris Stearn.


Maybe we're not talking about entire cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen. Sir Henry Wood, for example, started a tradition of performing "bleeding chunks" of Wagner at the Promenade Concerts, so clearly there was an outlet there for covering contrabass trombone parts on an annual basis on "Wagner Night". Sir Henry Wood, too, scored occasionally for contrabass trombone in his arrangements. I can't imagine a real contrabass trombone being hauled in for the purpose when a C slide in a G/D bass would do the job.
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« Reply #22 on: Jan 30, 2006, 09:26AM »

"Bleeding Chunks"!

 Grin  Grin  Grin  Grin  Grin  Grin
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« Reply #23 on: Jan 30, 2006, 12:09PM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"

No. I will edit that comment on my website as after experimenting in several concerts of Wagner's music, I have decided not to use the BB flat contra on that music. The horn simply isn't stable enough to give me the quality of sound and evenness of response I would want on the Ring Cycle.  Others might have more succes with the BBflat contra than I, but like most players who play contrabass trombone these days, I prefer the F contrabass which behaves like a trombone and has a great sound.

-Douglas Yeo


Doug,

I have always wondered about that contra that you have.  Was it made for band or orchestra?  Or was it made as a “see what we can make” instrument. (this was the period that Conn was making all kinds of funny instruments, ie double bell tubas, etc….)  I do know Conn was making both the BBb and EEb contras, as early as the 1900’s, but for what?  

If I remember right, I believe I read about that instrument (your BBb contra) in a copy of the Sousa Press Books.  I remember it something like this: (paraphrasing)

“Colonel Conn recently arrived at the NY store with a new BBb contra bass trombone that just had been added to the line.  Gus Helleberg got wind Conn had this instrument, and ran over to give it a try. (an interesting quote, as it seems Helleberg could play the trombone) Helleberg picked it up and liked the sound so much that he stated he would use it on the next tour with the Sousa Band”

The interesting thing is that it is never mentioned again in the press book, which makes me think that Sousa did not let Helleberg use it, as if he did, there would have been more written about it, as Sousa had one of the best PR groups of that time.

I have wondered if Conn made these for the tuba player who wanted to play trombone, or for the trombonist who wanted to play tuba?  Was it made for orchestra here in the States, or for band?  Or both?
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« Reply #24 on: Jan 30, 2006, 02:56PM »

Steve, it wasn't just C G Conn that manufactured the low B flat contrabass trombone around that time. Here's something to gloat over - some photocopies of the 1929 Hawkes & Son catalogue that I took when I visited the now long since defunct Boosey & Hawkes factory in Edgware.





Take a look at the first illustration and you can see that Hawkes & Co. produced the "Artist's Perfected BB flat [contra]bass trombone".

The 1903 Stuart & Grinsted Salvation Army "Improved Trombone" also included a B flat contrabass:



Just for the sake of illustrating the type of instrument I was referring to previously when referring to the G/C trombone:



You can see the C slide lying next to the instrument. It makes it incredibly stuffy to play with the valve tubing engaged. Doug Yeo illustrates the "Betty" model G/D bass trombone with C slide in his trombone gallery.
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« Reply #25 on: Jan 31, 2006, 04:00AM »

<Steve, it wasn't just C G Conn that manufactured the low B flat contrabass trombone around that time. Here's something to gloat over - some photocopies of the 1929 Hawkes & Son catalogue that I took when I visited the now long since defunct Boosey & Hawkes factory in Edgware>

Ed,

I agree, Conn was not the only one making contras at the time. (by the way, great catalog pictures.  Could I get a better scan of the first image?  There is some info. there that I find interesting.)

But my question is:  Why was Conn making contras at this early time, and what were they for?

In a catalog from circa 1917, I find the following bass trombones listed:  G and F Bass,(I think I have the bell for one of these somewhere in one of the basements) EEb bass and BBb bass.

The thing that I have always wondered is, what market was Conn going after with these instruments?  Was it an orchestral market or a band market?  Or both?

Around 1923, the Philadelphia Orchestra received a Conn EEb contra.  This I can understand.

Remember, as I have stated before, America was a “band” society at the turn of the century, and this is what most manufactures were producing for.  Also, the fact that Helleberg states that he wants to take it on tour with the Sousa Band makes me wonder.  Was this intended for the band market, at least here in the States?
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« Reply #26 on: Jan 31, 2006, 04:12AM »

Interesting points, Steve. A curious thing here in Britain is that the Salvation Army was producing contrabass trombones in low B flat (Doug Yeo has one), so again it begs the question why when the Salvation Army band tradition only includes the same instrumentation as for the British brass band, i.e. two tenor trombones (in B flat) and one bass trombone (in G).

By the way, around 1930 was the last time that a British contrabass trombone was made, so that copy of the Hawkes & Son catalogue is quite significant because it was possibly the last time that a contrabass trombone appeared in a British maker's catalogue until Michael Rath began production of the R90 F contrabass trombone last year. The Salvation Army, Boosey & Co. and Hawkes & Son all listed and manufactured contrabass trombones (how many we are not certain), but with no ostensible market in the UK owing to the deeply entrenched fashion of using two tenors in B flat and a bass in G. Few composers scored for the contrabass trombone and given the scarcity of music for the instrument, it cannot have been ordered and manufactured frequently.
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« Reply #27 on: Jan 31, 2006, 04:27AM »

Quote from: "Ed_Solomon"
Interesting points, Steve. A curious thing here in Britain is that the Salvation Army was producing contrabass trombones in low B flat (Doug Yeo has one), so again it begs the question why when the Salvation Army band tradition only includes the same instrumentation as for the British brass band, i.e. two tenor trombones (in B flat) and one bass trombone (in G).


Didn't think of the SA!

Yes, this is curious!

What would the SA use the contra for?
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« Reply #28 on: Jan 31, 2006, 04:59AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
I have always wondered about that contra that you have.  Was it made for band or orchestra?  Or was it made as a “see what we can make” instrument. (this was the period that Conn was making all kinds of funny instruments, ie double bell tubas, etc….)  I do know Conn was making both the BBb and EEb contras, as early as the 1900’s, but for what?


A good question, Steve.  I do know this:  the 1903 Conn BBflat contrabass trombone that I have was owned by August Helleberg was his own personal property.  The photo of Helleberg on my website was given to me by Peter Pereira, Helleberg's great-grandson from whom I purchased the contrabass trombone.  Here, let's make it easy on folks, here is the  photo of Helleberg with the Conn BBflat contrabass trombone:



Look carefully: you can see what looks to be the long stick of a lyre attached to the mouthpiece receiver.  More photos and commentary about the instrument  (and also the Salvation Army BBflat double slide contrabass trombone) can be found on  my website at:

http://www.yeodoug.com/articles/trombone_gallery/trombone_gallery.html

I do not know the years when Helleberg played in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra - if he played there after 1903 it's possible he might have used the Conn BBflat contrabass in that orchestra.  I cannot imagine what he would have used it for in the Sousa Band since there was no discrete repertoire written for contrabass trombone in band music.  My guess is Helleberg would have been a much greater asset to the band on tuba than as a contrabasstrombonist.  

When I purchased the contra, it came with the original mouthpiece you see Helleberg using in the photo of him with the horn.  Here is a closer view of the mouthpiece:



It is somewhat larger than my current basstrombone mouthpiece but much smaller than the Conn Helleberg tuba mouthpiece.  It has the designation "CONN L" stamped on the shank.  I don't know enough about the line of old Conn mouthpieces; Steve, maybe you can shed some light on this.

I heard somewhere (not verified) that Conn made only 5 of these contrabass trombones.  In addition to the one I have, Roger Bobo had one (which I believe he has since sold).  The National Music Museum, which has a huge collection of Conn instruments, does not have one and I'm not aware who might have the others.

I do know that the Metropolitan Opera has never had a strong tradition of using contrabass trombone, that John Clark, Don Harwood, Max Bonecutter, Hal Janks and Steve Norrell (the bass trombonists at the MET in my lifetime) have eschewed the contrabass trombone in favor of their regular bass trombone.  If Helleberg used the Conn BBflat contrabass in the MET, he would have started a trend which did not catch on in his own orchestra.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #29 on: Jan 31, 2006, 09:05AM »

<A good question, Steve. I do know this: the 1903 Conn BBflat contrabass trombone that I have was owned by August Helleberg was his own personal property. The photo of Helleberg on my website was given to me by Peter Pereira, Helleberg's great-grandson from whom I purchased the contrabass trombone. Here, let's make it easy on folks, here is the photo of Helleberg with the Conn BBflat contrabass trombone:>

It is most likely the same instrument that is mentioned in the Sousa Press books, that Colonel Conn hand delivered to the Conn Store in NY.

<I do not know the years when Helleberg played in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra - if he played there after 1903 it's possible he might have used the Conn BBflat contrabass in that orchestra. I cannot imagine what he would have used it for in the Sousa Band since there was no discrete repertoire written for contrabass trombone in band music. My guess is Helleberg would have been a much greater asset to the band on tuba than as a contrabasstrombonist.>

Gus Helleberg Played with the Met. from 1897-1908.

If I remember correct, the press book was from around 1901, give or take a year or 2.

Your are correct that there is no band music, that I know of, from that period that would call for the contra bass, and it would be at home more in the orchestra, but………..remember this was the time of “look we have something different” in the bands, and the contra would be a novel instrument to attract attention.  I do not know if Helleberg used it with the band, but my feeling is, he did not, as stated before for the lack of any PR about the instrument in the press books.

<I heard somewhere (not verified) that Conn made only 5 of these contrabass trombones. In addition to the one I have, Roger Bobo had one (which I believe he has since sold). The National Music Museum, which has a huge collection of Conn instruments, does not have one and I'm not aware who might have the others>

I know of only 2 of the BBbs and one of the EEbs.  Roger did own one, and I believe I have a picture of it somewhere.  It was in the catalog and not a special order for a period of time, but is possible that not many ordered it, and it was discontinued after a time.

<I do know that the Metropolitan Opera has never had a strong tradition of using contrabass trombone, that John Clark, Don Harwood, Max Bonecutter, Hal Janks and Steve Norrell (the bass trombonists at the MET in my lifetime) have eschewed the contrabass trombone in favor of their regular bass trombone. If Helleberg used the Conn BBflat contrabass in the MET, he would have started a trend which did not catch on in his own orchestra.>

Yes, I agree, but the interesting thing is that Helleberg was a tuba player with the Met, and not a bass trombonist.  My question would be:  what piece would the contra have been played on at the Met during this period, and…..would it be a piece that the tuba was not used?

By the way, I love the picture of Helleberg with his contra.  Does it have a date?
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« Reply #30 on: Jan 31, 2006, 12:10PM »

This is a fascinating, and extremely informative, topic which I, and probably many more, are following avidly. This is partly because of a feeling of "I want one of those" but more a feeling of "I never knew that before." So it is with some trepidation that I venture an idea into this vast sea of knowledge.

The idea of the Conn contrabass being used by Helleberg in Sousa's band has been discounted, but could it have been an attempt to produce a true bass register instrument which sent out the sound forwards in a marching or outdoor situation? Was it before the introduction of the Sousaphone? Was it a possible alternative to the Sousaphone which has a bell much larger than anything current in the early 1900s and so would possibly have sounded very "Woofly". I have had the opportunity to compare a Sousaphone with a Helicon-The Helicon was almost a percussion instrument in comparison.

Just a thought Don't know

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« Reply #31 on: Jan 31, 2006, 12:43PM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Yes, I agree, but the interesting thing is that Helleberg was a tuba player with the Met, and not a bass trombonist.  My question would be:  what piece would the contra have been played on at the Met during this period, and…..would it be a piece that the tuba was not used?


That would be a good question for the Met Opera archives.  I will see if I can contact them and find out.  Thanks for Helleberg's dates with the MET, that is very helpful.

We who today live in the world of the 52 week season for a symphony and opera orchestra forget what it was like in the "old days" when such a job only provided employment for part of a year.  That Helleberg played in the Sousa Band at the time he played in the MET reminds me of my four years playing in the Goldman Band in New York City (1977-1980).  The band was populated with many fine players of an earlier era, some who had begun playing in the band many years earlier when they were playing in some of New York's finest ensembles (including, for instance, the NBC Symphony, in the case of Abe Pearlstein who not only played 2nd trombone in the NBC Symphony, but was a fine euphonium player for the Goldman Band for many years).  When I was in the band, the MET Opera's principal oboist, William Arrowsmith, played principal oboe in the band.

I'll check with the MET archives.  I really wonder how Helleberg sounded on the BBflat contra, despite his comment to Conn that he "loved it."  The mouthpiece for the contra is much closer to a trombone mouthpiece than his Conn Helleberg mouthpiece ( should post a better photo of the mouthpiece next to a Conn Helleberg tuba mouthpiece and a ruler, to give better perspective - I'll do that as soon as I can).  Since Wagner wrote his 4th trombone part in the "Ring" operas as a doubling part for tenor/bass trombone and contrabass trombone (both instruments to be played by the same player), it is interesting that a tradition developed to have the contrabass trombone parts played by tuba players in some cases.  For instance, I have seen photos of the landmark recording of the "Ring" cycle by Georg Solti and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and they used a section of 4 trombone players and a tuba player playing a modern 6 valved "cimbasso" in F to play the contrabass trombone parts.  Interesting that even in Vienna in the 1950's a slide contrabass trombone was not employed in such a prestigious opera house as the Vienna State Opera.

Quote
By the way, I love the picture of Helleberg with his contra.  Does it have a date?


I believe Peter Pereira told me that the photo was from 1905, perhaps because there was a date on the back of the original.  That the horn had a lyre fitted for it (now lost) tells me that Helleberg MAY have played marches with it.  Only speculation...

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #32 on: Feb 01, 2006, 12:25AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Quote from: "Ed_Solomon"
Interesting points, Steve. A curious thing here in Britain is that the Salvation Army was producing contrabass trombones in low B flat (Doug Yeo has one), so again it begs the question why when the Salvation Army band tradition only includes the same instrumentation as for the British brass band, i.e. two tenor trombones (in B flat) and one bass trombone (in G).


Didn't think of the SA!

Yes, this is curious!

What would the SA use the contra for?


One thing to bear in mind is that Salvation Army bands were not restricted in numbers in the same way that contesting bands have been.  If you look at photos of bands from the 20s and 30s it is not unusual to find bands of 50 or more players.   Equally, although the scoring was, as Ed points out, for two tenor trombones and one bass, it was common practice for both tenor parts to be divided much of the time.  You could easily have had a section of 7 or more players, and possibly they used the contra to reinforce the bass line.

SA Bands of that period, even in the UK, would often be found with additional instruments such as saxophones and mellophones, whilst for some time the New York Staff Band also included flutes and clarinets.
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« Reply #33 on: Feb 01, 2006, 04:13AM »

Quote from: "Stewbones43"
The idea of the Conn contrabass being used by Helleberg in Sousa's band has been discounted, but could it have been an attempt to produce a true bass register instrument which sent out the sound forwards in a marching or outdoor situation? Was it before the introduction of the Sousaphone? Was it a possible alternative to the Sousaphone which has a bell much larger than anything current in the early 1900s and so would possibly have sounded very "Woofly". I have had the opportunity to compare a Sousaphone with a Helicon-The Helicon was almost a percussion instrument in comparison.

Stewbones


Glad you enjoying this tread.

The contra, from what I can tell, was developed after the introduction of the Sousaphone.  The Governor (the name given Mr. Sousa by the members of the band) wanted the bass to flower over the band, and not be directional, as with the helicon, or with a contra bass trombone.  And the Sousa Band was not a “marching” band. (they did march a total of 7 times during the 40 +/- years of touring.  Mostly for special events) So, I don’t think the instrument was used for marching, but it is interesting that Helleberg has a lyre attached to the instrument.
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« Reply #34 on: Feb 01, 2006, 04:16AM »

Quote from: "PeterBale"

One thing to bear in mind is that Salvation Army bands were not restricted in numbers in the same way that contesting bands have been.  If you look at photos of bands from the 20s and 30s it is not unusual to find bands of 50 or more players.   Equally, although the scoring was, as Ed points out, for two tenor trombones and one bass, it was common practice for both tenor parts to be divided much of the time.  You could easily have had a section of 7 or more players, and possibly they used the contra to reinforce the bass line.

SA Bands of that period, even in the UK, would often be found with additional instruments such as saxophones and mellophones, whilst for some time the New York Staff Band also included flutes and clarinets.


Interesting, didn't know that.

Are there any pictures of any SA bands with a contra?
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« Reply #35 on: Feb 01, 2006, 04:22AM »

Below is a photo of some mouthpieces which I have mentioned in posts above that will give some perspective.



On the left is a BBflat Conn Helleberg tuba mouthpiece.  Next is the Conn L contrabass trombone mouthpiece that came with my Conn BBflat contrabass trombone which had been previously owned by Helleberg.  Next is the Conn Kenfield bass trombone mouthpiece (Leroy Kenfield was bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony from 1900-1933).  Finally, for a modern reference, is my Yamaha Signature Series bass trombone mouthpiece.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #36 on: Feb 01, 2006, 04:33AM »

Found something!  At least in regards to the Helleberg contra.

From a 1915 Conn tuba catalog:

The passage seems to be looking back to a time when Helleberg was at the Conn Factory to help in the design of some tubas.  It is a full page dedicated to Helleberg.    

“Since this picture was taken, showing Mr. Helleberg testing the Bass at the Conn factory, which was designed and constructed under his personal supervision, Mr. Conn has ……….”

The picture looks to be of a similar time as the one of Helleberg with the contra bass.

Now here is the reference to the contra:

“During Mr. Helleberg’s stay in the Conn factory he arranged for a BBb Bass Slide Trombone; an instrument on which he is truly a virtuoso and which he proposes to popularize upon his return to New York.”

The article seems to be from a few different articles on Helleberg, and I believe the reference to the contra was made at an earlier time, (evidence of this is that the article states that Helleberg is still playing with the Met., which he left in 1908) and would be right in line with the article of the contra in the Sousa Press Books.

It is interesting that Helleberg is stated to be a “virtuoso” on the contra, and this would make one believe that he could play the slide trombone.
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« Reply #37 on: Feb 01, 2006, 04:58AM »

Okay, this is seriosuly THE most imformative thread I've ever read!
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« Reply #38 on: Feb 01, 2006, 05:41AM »

I have some information about the Metropolitan Opera performances during the time August Helleberg owned the Conn BBflat contrabass trombone and was a member of the orchestra.  While there is no way (yet) for me to know if he used the instrument in these performances, the possibility at least exists that he MIGHT have used it.  

The serial number of the instrument is 69213 which seems to date it from 1903.  When in 1903?  I don't know.  Steve, any specific date thoughts?  Below are all Metropolitan Opera performances from January 1903 through the 1907-1908 season, the period that includes possible performances after the instrument was manufactured and Helleberg left the orchestra.  The date is of the first performance in that season.

Wagner: Das Rheingold (January 14, 1903 - 3 performances)
Wagner: Die Walküre (January 16, 1903 - 6 performances)
Wagner: Siegfried (January 19, 1903 - 8 performances)
Wagner: Götterdämmerung (January 23, 1903 - 5 performances)

Wagner: Die Walküre (November 25, 1903 -10 performances)
Wagner: Siegfried (January 18, 1904 - 6 performances)
Wagner: Das Rheingold (March 3, 1904 - 3 performances)
Wagner: Götterdämmerung (March 6, 1904 - 6 performances)

Wagner: Die Walküre (December 17, 1904 - 4 performances)
Wagner: Das Rheingold (January 15, 1905 - 1 performance)
Wagner: Siegfried (January 19, 1905 - 2 performances)
Wagner: Götterdämmerung (January 25, 1905 - 2 performances)

Wagner: Die Walküre (December 9, 1905 - 6 performances)
Wagner: Siegfried (December 13, 1905 - 4 performances)
Wagner: Das Rheingold (December 25, 1905 - 2 performances)
Wagner: Götterdämmerung (December 22, 1905 - 4 performances)

Wagner: Siegfried (December 29, 1906 - 5 performances)
Wagner: Das Rheingold (March 19, 1907 - 1 performance)
Wagner: Die Walküre (March 26, 1907 - 3 performances)
Wagner: Götterdämmerung (March 27, 1907 - 1 performance)

Wagner: Die Walküre (February 7, 1908 - 8 performances)
Wagner: Siegfried (February 19, 1908 - 5 performances)
Wagner: Das Rheingold: (April 13, 1908 - 1 performance)
Wanger: Götterdämmerung (April 18, 1908 - 1 performance)

So as you can see, Helleberg certainly had opportunities to use his new Conn BBflat contrabass trombone in Metropolitan Opera performances of Wagner's "Ring" cycle.  Now to find out if he actually DID use it.  And if he did, who played bass trombone in the performances when the part required it (did Helleberg play  bass trombone, too!?).  And who played tuba if Helleberg was playing trombones?

The more we learn the less we know!

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« Reply #39 on: Feb 01, 2006, 05:52AM »

Here, for the sake of comparison with the Conn B flat contrabass trombone, is the Boosey "King Kong" model in C, together with exponent - Godfrey Kneller (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). The design of this model dates from 1880. The first UK performance of the Ring was in either 1882 or 1892, depending on which source you consult. According to one, Seidl conducted the production of the Ring in London, under the direction of Angelo Neumann, at Her Majesty's Theatre, May 5-9, 1882. Most sources (including people at Covent Garden) state that the first performance was directed by Mahler in 1892 at the Royal Opera and was a particularly important event, so this seems to be more reliable information.





According to the Grove Encyclopaedia:

Quote from: "Grove Encyclopaedia"
Boosey & Co. made a trombone in 16' C' for the London première of the Ring; as its double slide provided nine positions instead of the usual seven, Wagner's E' could be reached on it. According to Arthur Falkner, however, it failed to earn Hans Richter's approval and the part was played on a tuba.


Clearly this must be the same model as that which I have illustrated, but it obviously was not used in the first performance of the Ring and (worse luck) a tuba was used instead!
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« Reply #40 on: Feb 01, 2006, 06:13AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"

The serial number of the instrument is 69213 which seems to date it from 1903.  When in 1903?  I don't know.  Steve, any specific date thoughts?  Below are all Metropolitan Opera performances from January 1903 through the 1907-1908 season, the period that includes possible performances after the instrument was manufactured and Helleberg left the orchestra.  The date is of the first performance in that season.

The more we learn the less we know!

-Douglas Yeo


Doug,

In regards to the serial number, we both know that the numbers of the year that an instrument was made can be off a year or 2.

Since you have a contact at the Marine Band, and I believe they have the Sousa Press Books, can you have someone look up the article on Helleberg and the contra?  I believe it was 1901 or so. (my friend Barry, the Sousa collector, had a copies of the books, but they were damaged in a flood.)

And, in regards to your last comment:

You're on the money!
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« Reply #41 on: Feb 01, 2006, 06:21AM »

Ed,

I have an article written by Arnold Meyers stating that a C Contra was made by Boosey in 1897.

Is the one pictured the same instrument?

Also, when would have been the first time they used this contra (in England) in Wagner?
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« Reply #42 on: Feb 01, 2006, 06:29AM »

One cannot ignore events in Germany while discussing the history of the contrabass trombone, for the 1920s were pivotal in the development of the instrument.

According to an article on the trombonists in the Festspielorchester Bayreuth in Das Schallstück No. 26, 2/1998:

Quote from: "Das Schallstück"
The contrabass trombone in the Ring of 1876 was still an Oktavposaune or "double trombone" in low B flat, albeit furnished with the double slide proposed by Gottfried Weber in his paper of 1817 entitled Description and Scale of the Gottfried Weber Double Trombone (published by Schott) and built for the first time iby Halary in Paris in 1830. Wagner had an order placed for this instrument with the Berlin instrument maker C. A. Moritz. The aforementioned Eduard Grosse from Weimar took on the demands of getting to grips with this unwieldy instrument. He was presumably introduced to the task by Liszt, who has befriended Grosse, accompanied him often on the organ and wrote several trombone pieces for him.

The modern generation of contrabass trombone was introduced into the pit at Bayreuth in 1924 by Ernst Dehmel (first employed in Warsaw, then Orchestra Inspector of the Städtische Oper (Municipal Opera) in Berlin-Charlottenburg). He had an instrument in F built by the Berlin maker A. Sprinz, with a single slide, though with two additional, independently operated valves (E flat and B flat valves) [Patent of 3 June 1921, Patent No. S. 56011 IX/51c]. Dehmel played on it with the "Aerophon" and could sustain long phrases with it at considerable dynamic levels. (The Aerophon was a patented invention by Bernhard Samuels in Schwerin. A foot-operated pump provided air to the player through a mouthpipe. In Cologne, tubist Anton Frank played in Das Rheingold for the first time on 21 June 1913 with the Aerophon.) His orchestral colleague Ewald Ferchland, as well as Alfred Jacobs, a pupil of Professor Paul Weschke, adopted this new contrabass trombone two years later and played on it also in 1933. Since then this version has been in use everywhere. Wagner's instrumentation vis-à-vis the four-part trumpet and trombone section through extension into the bass register was also adopted by other composers (Verdi. Puccini, d'Indy, Richard Strauss, Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, etc.).


This is significant because Dehmel's invention of the 1920s was to the contrabass trombonist what Sattler's invention of the 1830s was to the bass trombonist and rendered it far easier to cope with low-lying trombone parts that had hitherto been much harder to perform. Still, it is important to recall that Dehmel's invention was possibly an improvement on the existing F/B flat contrabass trombone that had been pioneered by Kruspe and Piering, though may not have been known to Dehmel. Sattler's application of the F valve to a large bore B flat trombone, known as a Tenorbaßposaune was probably more significant in terms of its widespread adoption, but then given that the contrabass trombone sees little use by comparison, it is still remarkable that Dehmel's design caught on so quickly.

Small wonder, then, that modern bass and contrabass trombones are, almost without exception, derivatives of these two models. It is also worth noting that whereas the design of the B flat bass and F contrabass trombones has been improved, the design of the B flat contrabass trombone is fundamentally unchanged since the nineteenth century (compare Helleberg's Conn contrabass trombone with a modern model by Miraphone, for example).
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« Reply #43 on: Feb 01, 2006, 07:30AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Ed,

I have an article written by Arnold Meyers stating that a C Contra was made by Boosey in 1897.

Is the one pictured the same instrument?

Also, when would have been the first time they used this contra (in England) in Wagner?


That could quite easily be the same model because I saw one when I visited the B&H factory years ago. The design never changed as far as I know.

As for the first time the contra was used in Britain, that should, by rights, have been at the first complete performance of the Ring in London at the Royal Opera, directed by no less a figure than Gustav Mahler in 1892. However, Anthony Baines states:

Quote from: "Anthony Baines"
A double-slide B flat contrabass contemporary with Wagner's was exhibited by Boosey & Sons in 1862 under the name 'Basso Profondo'. The wide bell contained a large loop through which the left arm passed. It was played at massed brass-band festivals in London and was still in the 1905 catalogue. A version was later made for The Ring, in C with nine positions on the slide in order to reach the low E'. But in the long run the double slide has yet to prove popular and Wagner's parts are now usually played on some form of bass trombone with plain slide. In London up to the 1950s this was a G/D trombone with a C slide placed in the attachment; the notes from C to A' flat were then obtained without passing the 5th position and the lower notes followed as pedals. At Bayreuth they now use an F/low C trombone.


If we defer back to the previous quote from the Grove Encyclopaedia, knowing now that the London première of the Ring was that directed by Gustav Mahler in 1892, clearly the Grove article claims that the part was not, in the event, played on a contrabass trombone, but on a tuba, as the renowned German conductor Hans Richter did not approve of the new instrument. Can Mahler have known about this - he, of all conductors, who was the archetypal martinet, a real stickler for the letter of the score?

However, possibly of greater import with reference to Steve's question is the statement by Baines that "it was played at massed brass-band festivals in London and was still in the 1905 catalogue", for this is a clear indication that the instrument was known and used in Britain before the Conn instrument was produced. Was the Conn instrument a reaction to or spin-off from the use of the contrabass trombone in London brass band festivals? Presumably the instrument was used to bolster the basses by playing the same lines as the E flat or B flat tubas.
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« Reply #44 on: Feb 01, 2006, 07:44AM »

Quote from: "Ed_Solomon"

However, possibly of greater import with reference to Steve's question is the statement by Baines that "it was played at massed brass-band festivals in London and was still in the 1905 catalogue", for this is a clear indication that the instrument was known and used in Britain before the Conn instrument was produced. Was the Conn instrument a reaction to or spin-off from the use of the contrabass trombone in London brass band festivals? Presumably the instrument was used to bolster the basses by playing the same lines as the E flat or B flat tubas.


Yes, I wondered this.

The Sousa Band made a tour of England in 1900, and I believe in 1903.

I know that Helleberg was on the 1900 tour, and I believe I have a picture somewhere of the Sousa Band with the Coldstream Guards.

Could Helleberg have seen this instrument and wanted Conn to make one?

Or could Helleberg have been using a contra before, as he did play trombone?

Was it to play Wagner in the band? At the Met?  Or both?

Sousa did like to play Wagner.

It would help if we could get a copy of the Sousa Press Book to see if there are any clues.
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« Reply #45 on: Feb 01, 2006, 08:23AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Are there any pictures of any SA bands with a contra?


I'm sure I came across one quite recently, with quite a small band and the caption highlighted the contra but I've not tracked that one down.  I did come across these two, however.  The quality isn't brilliant, but I believe they may feature contras, and are certainly interesting in their own right:

"Congress Hall Band, London" which clearly shows 3 Bb tenors, a G and then another one on the end:



"Coventry City band, 1907", which seems to have an alto, two tenors, bass and contra:

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« Reply #46 on: Feb 01, 2006, 08:48AM »

The first of the photographs Peter illustrates includes a contrabass trombone, though the second does not show the contrabass trombone, but the Stuart & Grinstead SA bass trombone in E flat, which is also visible in a couple of other photographs of the same Coventry SA band between 1905 and 1907:




The instrument in question is none other than that discussed in an article entitled The Improved Trombone, which I illustrated previously. The article contains more drawings and illustrations of this early twentieth century curiosity.

Incidentally, there are more photographs of that trombone in action:


Chalk Farm Salvation Army Band


Salisbury Salvation Army Band

As a further aside, the use of the alto trombone in that particular band is most unusual for the time as the alto had become more or less completely obsolete by the 1880s in brass and other bands. The Stuart & Grinsted instrument must have fallen out of favour fairly rapidly because it is nowhere to be seen after 1910 in the photographs presented on that web site.

Clearly the use of the Salvation Army B flat contrabass trombone is proven by the photograph of the Congress Hall band, though as few examples were likely to have been built, this must have been something of a curiosity and maybe Doug Yeo can chime in with what he knows about the instrument as he has an example and has visited the museum in London.
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« Reply #47 on: Feb 01, 2006, 03:21PM »

Fantastic discussion!

About the SA BBflat contra: The photo of the Congress Hall Band posted by Peter Bale is quite nice.  Photos, though, sometimes give deceptive perspective.  Looking at the player on the left with the BBflat contra, the wrap of the instrument seems a little different than my SA BBflat contra.  Here are photos of both instruments:



Both photos are not in exactly the same angle, but it appears the Coventry player's contra has the inner bell loop of tubing be a little longer and closer to the hand brace than my instrument.  I would assume both instruments are at low pitch as all SA instruments of the time were (the there is only one tuning slide on my instrument, at the top of the horn in the usual place).  But I wonder if there might have been slightly different configurations of these instruments which must have been rare (the SA's archivist was unaware any of these instruments had survived until I told him of the one I have).

The great photos Edward posted that include the Eflat SA bass trombone reminded me of my experience playing that instrument at the old SA Heritage Museum on Judd Street (which, the last time I asked, had not been re-established since the SA's move to Tiverton Street... alas). The article "The Improved Trombone" on the BTS website which Edward references above is fascinating and also includes two photos of the horn from my vist to the museum, including one of me playing it.  My commentary about the experience with the the Eflat bass trombone appears on the first page of my article on the BTS website. "I've been to London (not) to visit the Queen: A European Tour Odyssey", which documents my experiences in Europe while on a Boston Symphony Orchestra tour in 1998.

I will contact my friend in the US Marine Band Library to see if I can locate the reference in the Sousa Press Books about Helleberg and his Conn BBflat contra.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #48 on: Feb 01, 2006, 06:05PM »

That picture of Helleberg with the Conn contra is great...like Teddy Roosevelt, had he played the trombone.  

Last I heard, Murray Crewe was the new owner of Roger Bobo's Conn contra.
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« Reply #49 on: Feb 01, 2006, 07:05PM »

http://www.rogerbobo.com/instruments/contrabass_trombone.shtml


Does anyone have a picture of the Conn Eb contra?

The onlyt picture that I have ever seen of one was Dick Tyack's
http://www.contrabass.com/pages/cbtbn.html
Hmm, I'm sure I've seen a better picture somewhere
http://www.trombone-society.org.uk/contra.htm
there we go, at the bottom of the page
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« Reply #50 on: Feb 02, 2006, 03:32AM »

Quote from: "Bob1062"

Does anyone have a picture of the Conn Eb contra?


The one I know of was owned by Philly.

A friend of mine had purchased it, and had it for some years.

He pasted away a few years ago and willed it to his sister, and I have lost track of it. (and I am sure his sister will not sell it)

This instrument did have a valve.
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« Reply #51 on: Feb 02, 2006, 03:54AM »

I still wonder what Helleberg was using the contra for?  Band or orchestra?

I find an interesting quote in Sousa’s auto-biography, Marching Along:

Page 341.

“My admiration for Wagner and Beethoven is profound.  I played Parsifal-or excerpts from it-ten years before it was produced at the Metropolitan.”

Could have Sousa wanted the sound of the contra, but decided not to use it?(it was mention first, with regard to the Sousa Band)  Or even better, could it have been used on a few numbers, and then Helleberg left, (which I believe was 1903, when Pryor left) and no one else wanted to play the “thing”?

With all the pictures of the SA bands, could have Helleberg seen the instrument when the band was on the European tour of 1900, and mentioned it to Conn?

Could have Sousa seen it used when they were in Germany, and wanted to see if it could be used in the band? (it would make great PR, “come see the monster trombone”.)

Questions!  Questions! Questions!

Regardless, it seems that we know one thing, and that is, as stated before, Helleberg seems to have been able to play the trombone, and was considered proficient on it.

I am hoping that the quote from the Sousa Press Books will give us a hint.
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« Reply #52 on: Feb 02, 2006, 03:56AM »

Quote from: "Dan Satterwhite"
That picture of Helleberg with the Conn contra is great...like Teddy Roosevelt, had he played the trombone.  

Last I heard, Murray Crewe was the new owner of Roger Bobo's Conn contra.


Dan,

Right on both accounts!

But I think Helleberg was taller. ;-)
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« Reply #53 on: Feb 02, 2006, 04:33AM »

When I was in Edinburgh several years ago I spent a day at the Edinburgh University Collection of Historical Musical Instruments.  Curator Arnold Myers, a good friend, allowed me to photograph and try many instruments.  What a day - like a kid in a candy store.

While my particular interest on that day was serpents and ophicleides, I did also try many trombones (this collection is truly amazing...).  

There is only one slide contrabass trombone in the collection (which is privately owned by Arnold Myers and currently on deposit at the museum).  Here is a photo:



Here is the description of the instrument from the Museum's catalog (Arnold Myers, editor: Historic Musical Instruments in the Edinburgh University Collection. Volume 2, Part H, Fascicle iii: Trumpets and Trombones. Third edition, 1998, p. 77. ISBN 0 907635 37 7):

(3208) Contrabass Trombone
Nominal pitch: E flat + F + B flat (+ A flat)
Modified Dehmel Model

Probably Germany
Circa 1930

Overall size: 1440 mm; bell 240 mm
Bore: at c60mm from mouthpiece receiver (minimum bore), 13.3; not expanding in 100 mm from mouthpiece receiver; descending slide, 13.8; ascending slide, 13.3 (sic); joint, 13.3; v.t.s. bore, 15.4; m.t.s. bore, 15.5, 32.0mm from bell end, 128.5.

Dia of mouthpiece receiver: m.r.t. 16.0 - 13.5 (stepped at depth 10.2 mm)

Technical description: Brass; German silver garland. One valve two-semitone ascending (for F);  other valve perfect 5th descending; operating both together (the layout makes this easy) gives perfect 4th descending (for B flat) i.e. a normal quartventile; use of single valve for A flat also possible.

Valve type: 2 lever-action rotary valves.


[NB: the photo belows hows me holding the instrument with a close up view of the valve levers]



Inscribed on bell garland "Gewandhaus Leipzig"

Handle missing

General literature references: Kunitz 1956, pp. 753-754

Usable pitch: A4 = 435 Hz

Illustration references: World-Wide-Web picture at http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/euchmi/ucj/ucjth3.html

Specific usage history: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Current Ownereship: Lent by A. Myers


It is quite an instrument.  I found it very difficult to hold as the slide (as you can see in the photo above) is extraordinarily wide.  But the sound was strong and clear.

Follow the link to the photo of the instrument on the museum's website - there is a good quality black and white photo as well as photos of many other interesting instruments.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #54 on: Feb 02, 2006, 04:47AM »

And another thing.

While in Lucerne in 2001 on a Boston Symphony tour, I visited the Richard Wagner house at Tribschen (where the "Siegfried Idyll" was premiered).  I tell the story of my visit to the house, which also has a musical instrument museum, on my website at:

http://www.yeodoug.com/articles/wagner_museum/wagnermuseum.html

In the museum they have a few trombones including this very interesting specimen.  Unfortunately detailed information about the instruments and makers in this collection was not forthcoming, the only comment about this double slide trombone is Quartposaune, 19th century.



Here is a view of the instrument in situ, to give some perspective:



In the photos above and below, you can see a large three valve trombone in the case although I don't recall any specific information about it.




Edward, what do you make of this "quartposaune"?

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #55 on: Feb 02, 2006, 05:02AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"

Specific usage history: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Douglas Yeo


Doug,

Do you have a year for use in this orchestra?
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« Reply #56 on: Feb 02, 2006, 05:20AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Quote from: "yeodoug"

Specific usage history: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Douglas Yeo


Doug,

Do you have a year for use in this orchestra?


Sorry, Steve, the only information I have is what the catalog entry states.  There is not even a manufacturer's name on the instrument and I don't know how the "c.1930" date was arrived upon.  My copy of Kunitz has walked away so perhaps that might have a clue.  Edward?

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #57 on: Feb 02, 2006, 08:02AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"
Edward, what do you make of this "quartposaune"?


I knew I read somewhere about the use of the double slide on the F bass trombone and it didn't take long to figure out where:

Quote from: "Anthony Baines"
For The Ring, in which Wagner demands of the fourth of the four trombonists a contrabass trombone descending to E', Bayreuth was supplied (by Moritz as far as one can tell) with an instrument in 18-foot B flat provided with a double slide. This has four legs connected by a bow at the top and by two bows crossing each other at the bottom. The shifts become halved and hence the same as those of the ordinary trombone. The device was already well known in Wagner's time, though only with F bass trombones (or in England, G). An early example for mounted band was mentioned in Chapter 7, while the double coulisse appears in the Tuerlinckx and the Schott lists. On the F instruments the double slide is sometimes long enough to provide an 8th position (at 17 inches) for B' flat.


As an aside, I've never yet seen a double slide G bass trombone, but Baines is not usually unreliable as a source of information. Looking at Philip Bate's The Trumpet and Trombone, he illustrates "two ways in which the problem of stowing away the long bellpipe of the contrabass trombone has been attacked":

Quote from: "Philip Bate"
A shows plain but carefully calculated folding accommodated within the accepted shape. This model is, in general, the better known of the two and follows a design introduced by the Paris maker Halary about 1885.


This method is in fact the same as that used by Conn and Miraphone. He continues:

Quote from: "Philip Bate"
B is an exclusively English instrument produced by Boosey and Co., probably to the designs of the late D. J. Blaikley, a distinguished acoustician who was technical adviser to the firm for some 60 years. Here the bellpipe is reflected on itself only once (a good feature), the rest of the length being taken up in a large loop passing under the player's left arm. I have been unable to find out how this rather unorthodox construction was received by players on its introduction, but it would appear to be not uncomfortable in use. This instrument disappeared from the maker's catalogue shortly after 1902, but it is not the model (built in C), which is recorded by Baines as having failed to satisfy Richter for the first London performance of The Ring in 1882. A contrabass trombone with the large-scale bell section similar to the Boosey example, but allied to a well-designed double slide more like the Halary model, is to be found in the Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley, Yorkshire. It was 'invented' by John Midgley of Keighley and made for him by Besson of London in 1912.


Here is a photo of the Boosey model contrabass trombone with the large loop in the bell section:



Yet again we see a difference of opinion regarding the London première of The Ring; was it in 1882 or 1892? Bate states 1882, as does at least one other source I found during a Google search, but the Royal Opera House itself states 1892, which was directed by Gustav Mahler. Perhaps that was the first performance of The Ring in its entirety as a cycle and in 1882 there were performances of one or more operas from the cycle. It would be worth putting this one to bed as the confusion between the two dates is frustrating.
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« Reply #58 on: Feb 02, 2006, 08:28AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"
My copy of Kunitz has walked away so perhaps that might have a clue. Edward?


I have before me a pristine copy of Hans Kunitz' Die Posaune, who states on page 753 (my translation):

Quote from: "Hans Kunitz"
This extension of the trombone section into the contrabass register made the new construction of a technically complete contrabass trombone unavoidable. As the first, according to the structural principle of the tenorbass trombone, in 1921 Ernst Dehmel built a contrabass trombone in the basic key of F (corresponding to the pitch of the F bass trombone) with two independent and simultaneously operable valves, of which the one lowers the overall pitch of the instrument to E flat and the other to B flat, whilst simultaneous use of both valves gives A flat. This instrument is therefore in practice a bass trombone in F with two ancillary thumb-operated valves. As with the tenorbass trombone, the technical advantage exists here because of the fact that the large tube length required for the low register is not achieved by means of an overlong slide, but rather through the opening of the ancillary valves. For this instrument, which was first produced by the Berlin firm A. Sprinz, a patent was given on 3 June 1921 (Patent No. S. 56 011 IX/51c). Essentially this is in practice an extrapolation of Sattler's 1839 invention, applied to the construction of the new tenorbass trombone, but in relation to the bass trombone, i.e. a combination of the bass and contrabass trombone. This system was also used in the subsequent period with valves in different tunings. For example, the contrabass trombone used currently in the Dresdner Staatsoper is indeed also an instrument in F, although it is equipped with an E flat valve and a C valve. The combination of both valves gives B flat, which can be further lowered to A flat by the use of a whole tone crook (the so-called A flat crook).


Kunitz, who later developed the so-called "Cimbasso" model contrabass trombone in F/D/C with Gebrüder Alexander of Mainz, goes into an inordinate amount of detail about the contrabass trombone, which is worth digesting, though one does have to remember that he was writing in the 1950s and made various claims about the instrument that are rather frowned on today in some circles, particularly in relation to using the contrabass trombone for works in which no part for the contrabass trombone is scored. His assertions about the soprano trombone are well documented by Howard Weiner in The Soprano Trombone Swindle.

Considering how the contrabass trombone has languished behind the other members of the family, it is hardly surprising that it is only in relatively recent years that technical development of the instrument has taken place, initially by makers such as Max and Heinrich Thein and Herbert Lätzsch. It is still possible to see the occasional older model of F contrabass trombone appear (this one sold on eBay recently), which is very closely related in design to that illustrated by Doug Yeo:





I am not certain who the manufacturer of this model is, though it is possibly made by Kull of Wietzenhausen. It is definitely in F, with valves actuating E flat and B flat, together with an A flat crook for the second valve attachment. Prior to development by the Thein brothers and Lätzsch during the 1980s, pretty much all F contrabass trombones were of this ilk.
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« Reply #59 on: Feb 02, 2006, 11:52AM »

With reference to the contrabass owned by Arnold Myres that is in the Reid Collection in Edinburgh, it was long thought that the instrument was in Eb with an acending valve to F, however, when I was asked to play it for a university recording project, I discovered that the lever linkages had been wrongly placed on the valve, so that it worked in the opposite way to that intended. I was pleased to discover this as I found the acending idea brain-frying to say the least. It may we have been altered by an Eb tubist to make the transition easier. I restored the lever placement and found the instrument to be very nice to play. Smaller than the present examples but with a very fine tone. Arnold now owns a few more contras, but I'd better not say how many....it's obscene. The Coutois BBb is nice, but I've not seen the others.
I did try a SA BBb a while back.... I've no idea how people played them with the mouthpieces available then... I had a real job getting anything out in the low register at all.
As to use.... I expect it was not so different then as now- apart from the established works that specify contra, I have used it on occasions when it added to the musical mix, often in 'crossover' concerts with traditional or popular musicians. They often ask what is possible at the music arranging stage, and are usually keen to include the monster. Probably what happened 100 years ago too.
Congrats to all on the quality of this thread.
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« Reply #60 on: Feb 02, 2006, 02:17PM »

Quote from: "Ed_Solomon, quoting Das Schallstück"
Dehmel played on it with the "Aerophon" and could sustain long phrases with it at considerable dynamic levels. (The Aerophon was a patented invention by Bernhard Samuels in Schwerin. A foot-operated pump provided air to the player through a mouthpipe. In Cologne, tubist Anton Frank played in Das Rheingold for the first time on 21 June 1913 with the Aerophon.)

Pardon a slight threadjack, please:
Could someone explain to me how the "aerophon" would work?  The best information I can find via Google is that it was developed for woodwinds, at least initially.   I understand that it was a foot-operated bellows with a tube.  

My question is: would the performer insert the tube in the corner of his/her mouth? And the follow-up question would be: wouldn't that be particularly difficult when using a large mouthpieced instrument, like a tuba?
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« Reply #61 on: Feb 03, 2006, 03:09AM »

He’s something interesting that might answer some questions regarding the use of the Conn contras:  

Conn Trombone catalog, circa 1918-1919:

“The E Flat Bass Slide Trombone

This model is built for those desiring to play Eb Bass parts in a Trombone Band, Trombone Quartette, Quintets, Sextette or Octette, or in a Vaudeville Musical combination.  It possesses a rich Bass tone, and while it is a larger Trombone than the regular Bass Trombone, it is reasonably easy to handle.  Its pitch is the same as the Eb Bass or Tuba.

The BB Bass Slide Trombone

This model is built for the same uses as the Eb Bass Trombone and is easily operated as the slides are made the same length as the regular Slide Trombone, but with double tubing, thereby giving the extra lower octave pitch.  Its pitch is the same as the BBb Bass.”

The thing I find interesting, is there is no mention of the word orchestra, thus bringing one to believe that the contras were developed, at least by Conn, for use in the band.
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« Reply #62 on: Feb 03, 2006, 05:01AM »

Quote from: "Brisko"
Pardon a slight threadjack, please:
Could someone explain to me how the "aerophon" would work?  The best information I can find via Google is that it was developed for woodwinds, at least initially.   I understand that it was a foot-operated bellows with a tube.  

My question is: would the performer insert the tube in the corner of his/her mouth? And the follow-up question would be: wouldn't that be particularly difficult when using a large mouthpieced instrument, like a tuba?


To answer your questions briefly: the performer inserted a small tube in the corner of his mouth. This was not difficult because the tube was quite small and mouthpieces then were rather smaller than those in use today. Richard Strauss notably required the wind and brass to make use of the Aerophon in Eine Alpensinfonie, though this is never done today as the Aerophon is long since obsolete.

Now, back to the subject of the contrabass trombone.
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« Reply #63 on: Feb 03, 2006, 05:07AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"
Thanks for Helleberg's dates with the MET, that is very helpful.

-Douglas Yeo


Doug,

I was wrong with the dates for Helleberg with the Met.  The dates I gave were when he played in the NY Philharmonic, not the Met. (1897-1908)

Sorry about that.

So with that said, your contra was made when Helleberg was at the NY Phil.
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« Reply #64 on: Feb 03, 2006, 06:45AM »

Steve, obviously the Conn BB flat [contra]bass trombone was a double slide instrument, but was the Conn E flat bass trombone a single or double slide model?

According to Philip Bate, an interesting fact regarding the double slide principle is that Schott brought out a complete set of trombones with double slides (not merely bass and contrabass) subsequent to Gottfried Weber's "invention" in 1817. However, one must recall that the principle of the double slide is almost as old as the trombone itself because it was known and used during the Renaissance, so the various nineteenth century makers who claimed this "new" invention were not doing anything more than breathing renewed life into an existing, yet long dormant, invention.
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« Reply #65 on: Feb 03, 2006, 06:50AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
I was wrong with the dates for Helleberg with the Met.  The dates I gave were when he played in the NY Philharmonic, not the Met. (1897-1908)

Sorry about that.

So with that said, your contra was made when Helleberg was at the NY Phil.


Thanks Steve, that does change things quite a bit.  Do you know when he played at the Met?  I contacted the MET archives to ask them to look for a photo of the orchestra perhaps playing Wagner but since the dates I gave them are not correct, I'll do the same thing with the NY Philharmonic archives.  

My guess is you are on to something that the BBflat contra was made as a band instrument.  Apart from the Moravian trombone choir tradition in both Bethlehem Pennsylvania and Salem (now Winston-Salem) North Carolina, I would be hard pressed to know when the first use of a contrabass trombone by a player in the USA was, particularly in an orchestra.

Chris made a good point that even today, composers/promoters are keen to include unusual instruments for their visual and public relations value.  This is an old tradition going back to the father of the monster concert, Louis Jullien (1812-1860), who organized many such concerts both in France and England.  His concerts were often outrageous productions.  In 1845, he organized a monster concert in Surrey Gardens, London that featured a performance of "Suona la tromba" from Bellini's "I Puritani" that was orchestrated for the following ensemble:

20 cornets
20 trumpets
20 trombones
20 ophicleides
20 serpents

I can only imagine the sound...

Periodicals regularly lampooned these events, as evidenced in this spectacular cartoon from "Punch" (1849) - the caption is "A Concert Monstre".  Jullien can be seen in the middle of the cartoon in his tuxedo, holding court with an orchestra of fanciful instruments and players while the crowd looks on with amazement.



It would not surprise me if Conn and Sousa were thinking along the same lines, inventing and then using exotic brass instruments - the bigger is better attitude - in order to make a greater impression on audiences.  While the market for such instruments might have been rather small, the public relations value was no doubt great, as people would leave saying, "Did you see THAT!?"  Remember that this was an age before television and the Internet.   Seeing things live was the way to know about them and there would be no doubt that conductors and promoters always wanted to make the most memorable impression possible.

I'll check with the NY Philharmonic archives now.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #66 on: Feb 03, 2006, 07:54AM »

Quote from: "Ed_Solomon"
Steve, obviously the Conn BB flat [contra]bass trombone was a double slide instrument, but was the Conn E flat bass trombone a single or double slide model?


I seem to remember it was a double slide with a valve.
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« Reply #67 on: Feb 03, 2006, 08:06AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"

My guess is you are on to something that the BBflat contra was made as a band instrument.  Apart from the Moravian trombone choir tradition in both Bethlehem Pennsylvania and Salem (now Winston-Salem) North Carolina, I would be hard pressed to know when the first use of a contrabass trombone by a player in the USA was, particularly in an orchestra.
-Douglas Yeo


Any luck on the Sousa Press Book?
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« Reply #68 on: Feb 03, 2006, 08:08AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Quote from: "Ed_Solomon"
Steve, obviously the Conn BB flat [contra]bass trombone was a double slide instrument, but was the Conn E flat bass trombone a single or double slide model?


I seem to remember it was a double slide with a valve.


Just found a picture!

Not a good one, but a picture.

I'll have it scanned and post it today.
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« Reply #69 on: Feb 03, 2006, 08:31AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Any luck on the Sousa Press Book?


I made contact with my friend at the US Marine Band library and he is taking up the challenge.  They have copies of the press books but he did say that looking for specific things in those books is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  But he is on the case.  Hopefully something will develop soon.

And a photo of the E flat bass?  Hot dog!

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #70 on: Feb 03, 2006, 08:58AM »

Not a great picture, but we can get the idea.

http://www.dillonmusic.com/steve10.html
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« Reply #71 on: Feb 03, 2006, 09:13AM »

Looks like a normal bass bell with a double slide...pre Fuchs?  Or maybe the pattern...
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« Reply #72 on: Feb 03, 2006, 09:23AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"

It would not surprise me if Conn and Sousa were thinking along the same lines, inventing and then using exotic brass instruments - the bigger is better attitude - in order to make a greater impression on audiences.  While the market for such instruments might have been rather small, the public relations value was no doubt great, as people would leave saying, "Did you see THAT!?"  Remember that this was an age before television and the Internet.   Seeing things live was the way to know about them and there would be no doubt that conductors and promoters always wanted to make the most memorable impression possible.

-Douglas Yeo


I believe that was part of the reason the Sousaphone was made.  An "exotic" bass instrument for the Sousa Band.(Pryor had the "Pryorphone", but from what I can tell it was nothing but the double belled euph.)

If I remember right, it was the era of "bigger" is better, and a few bands had monster tubas made to use on tour, so they would draw crowds.

Also, this was not too long after the "jumbo" craze of P.T. Barumn, and the Peace Jubilee's of Pat Gilmore, up in Boston.  Gilmore put together an orchestra of 1000, to play at the Jubilee.

But I wonder why we do not hear of the contra being used?
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« Reply #73 on: Feb 03, 2006, 10:39AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"
Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Any luck on the Sousa Press Book?


I made contact with my friend at the US Marine Band library and he is taking up the challenge.  They have copies of the press books but he did say that looking for specific things in those books is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  But he is on the case.  Hopefully something will develop soon.

-Douglas Yeo


Have them look at the one from 1901.  For some reason that year sticks in my head.
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« Reply #74 on: Feb 03, 2006, 10:57AM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Have them look at the one from 1901.  For some reason that year sticks in my head.


Yes, I asked that he look from 1901-1908.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #75 on: Feb 04, 2006, 06:34AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"
Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
Have them look at the one from 1901.  For some reason that year sticks in my head.


Yes, I asked that he look from 1901-1908.

-Douglas Yeo


Doug,

He should only have to look up until 1903.

I believe that is the year Helleberg left the band.
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« Reply #76 on: Feb 04, 2006, 01:29PM »

Quote from: "Steve Dillon"
He should only have to look up until 1903.

I believe that is the year Helleberg left the band.


Noted and passed on.  This will take some time, but I'm confident I'll get a definitive answer.  More anon...

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #77 on: Feb 04, 2006, 07:55PM »

Bravo, gentleman...this is one excellent thread. So much great information, I hope someone is archiving all of this for posterity sake !

Thanks to all who have spent time and effort presenting this information to us....keep it up, please.

Howard Knapp
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« Reply #78 on: Feb 04, 2006, 09:10PM »

O god! Ar we gonna lose this amazing thread when we move?

Mods, you have to save this one!!!!
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« Reply #79 on: Feb 08, 2006, 04:10AM »

In going along with what Doug posted in regards to Jullien, I found this:

Bands of America.

Pages 180-183

Circa 1896, speaking about Fred Innes. (Innes was also a band conductor, as well as a trombone soloist)

“Nevertheless he was not above using a bit of cheap showmanship if it would draw customers in the box office.  For his production at the Tennessee Centennial and subsequent tours Innes took a page from the book of Louis Antoine Jullien, who exploited a giant ophicleide for the good of ticket sales; Innes chose the modern descendant of the big ophicleide-the bass tuba.

As a further stimulant to this circus stunt Innes probably was affected by the efforts of Thomas Preston Brooke, ………….This big bass (tuba) was to be the largest ever made.  It was to have 208 inches of tubing and a bell that was 32 inches in diameter.  Before it was finished, Innes placed his order for a bigger one-bigger by one inch in the bell diameter!  That would make it bigger than Brooke’s tuba and enable Innes to put forth a super-claim to the biggest tuba ever constructed.

Even Sousa became infected with the “bigger” virus, for in 1898 he placed an order with an instrument maker to build for his band a bass tuba, large in bore and surmounted with a big bell opening upward.  Sousa did not claim that his instrument was bigger than others, but it was a spectacular instrument, both in performance and in appearance, especially when held and played by the military giant Herman Conrad. (Conrad was said to be 6 foot 5/6 inches.  SD Comment)”

Could not this “giant” trombone been of the same thinking?
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« Reply #80 on: Feb 12, 2006, 11:16AM »

No luck yet with the Sousa press books.  My friend at the US Marine Band library looked through 1901-1903 - no photos of Helleberg with the Conn BBflat bass and no entries that jumped out although there are thousands of entries and to read every word would take a long time.  There may be something there but it will need more time and a more careful analysis.  I hope to get down to DC to look them over myself sometime.  Hopefully something will come up.

-Douglas Yeo
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« Reply #81 on: Feb 13, 2006, 01:15AM »

My fingers are crossed very tightly Mr Yeo, hopefully something comes up!! Good!

Thanks alot to the major contributors of this topic, it has been so fascinating, and very helpful on a speech Im doing about trombone for music class.

Thanks alot again!!
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« Reply #82 on: Feb 14, 2006, 04:46AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"
No luck yet with the Sousa press books.  My friend at the US Marine Band library looked through 1901-1903 - no photos of Helleberg with the Conn BBflat bass and no entries that jumped out although there are thousands of entries and to read every word would take a long time.  There may be something there but it will need more time and a more careful analysis.  I hope to get down to DC to look them over myself sometime.  Hopefully something will come up.

-Douglas Yeo


If I remember right, there was no photo, and Helleberg would not have been in the title.

It would have had something in the title about Conn.

Also, it might have been in 1900.

How far is the Marine Band from Ft. Meyer?
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« Reply #83 on: Feb 27, 2006, 02:37PM »

I came across a paper that I had printed from Ben van Dijk's site today. It was about Piering contrabass trombones. It seems that they (Piering) made five contras in F with a double slide and a valve to BBb. this was in the late 19th and early 20th C. It seems that in 1903 one went out to L.A.  That looks very interesting to me. First we have double slide F/ BBb contras being made in Germany at the end of the 19th C..... then we have one being exported to the U.S.
Buying an instrument from Germany would not be an easy thing... whoever ordered it must have REALLY wanted that horn... I wonder what it was used for.... and what happened to it.
Puts a new angle on the original question.
Chris Stearn.
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« Reply #84 on: Feb 28, 2006, 05:59AM »

That's especially strange considering that L.A. was a very small community at that time, before the movie business and the growth of the water infrastructure. The phil started in 1919.
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« Reply #85 on: Mar 21, 2006, 11:25AM »

Quote from: "yeodoug"
No luck yet with the Sousa press books.  My friend at the US Marine Band library looked through 1901-1903 - no photos of Helleberg with the Conn BBflat bass and no entries that jumped out although there are thousands of entries and to read every word would take a long time.  There may be something there but it will need more time and a more careful analysis.  I hope to get down to DC to look them over myself sometime.  Hopefully something will come up.

-Douglas Yeo


I have the Sousa Lib. in Ill working on this.

I'll post as soon as I get something.
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« Reply #86 on: Jan 01, 2012, 08:31PM »

Thread revival! Just finished reading through the five pages and was wondering whatever happened with this?? Don't know
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« Reply #87 on: May 12, 2012, 03:23PM »

Thread revival! Just finished reading through the five pages and was wondering whatever happened with this?? Don't know

There are quite a few of Steve's questions unanswered. He's not the only one asking them either.
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« Reply #88 on: Jan 26, 2013, 04:36PM »

Is this Helleberg, holding the Conn contrabass trombone with the Marine band in 1911?
The link is high resolution.

http://www.marineband.usmc.mil/imgs/sub/library_archives/1911poster.jpg

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« Reply #89 on: Jan 26, 2013, 05:16PM »

Jacob, that picture is a riot.

Clearly the heads do not belong to the bodies.  It was a common means of group photos of the period where faces were glued (literally) onto pictures of bodies.

The guy holding the contra does bear some resemblance to the picture posted of Helleberg with his Conn Contra some years ago (I think by Steve Dillon).
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Bruce Guttman
Solo Trombone, Hollis Town Band
Section Ldr, Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orch.
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« Reply #90 on: Jan 29, 2013, 04:30AM »

Very interesting picture. What about the guy with the natural horn ???? what did he do ? What would the contra player play... a tuba part ? Low Sax part ?. Only one bass trombone that I can see. Great collection of 'tashes !!

Chris Stearn
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shelbykifer
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« Reply #91 on: Apr 15, 2013, 11:41AM »

The pic may be "shopped" with the cut and paste heads but what if it wasn't and it was just painted? Remember. Black and white photo. That could make it look like the heads were cut and pasted in...
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