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Author Topic: Contrabass trombone in the 1920s  (Read 41287 times)
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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 »

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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...

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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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Sincerely,
Steve Dillon
Dillon Music
www.dillonmusic.com
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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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Firas el Achkar.

The size of a bass trombone has an inverse relationship with the size of the owner's penis.

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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!

-Douglas Yeo
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Douglas Yeo   

Professor of Trombone, Arizona State University
 www.asutrombonestudio.org

Bass Trombonist, Boston Symphony Orchestra (1985-2012) - retired
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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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