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Author Topic: alto or tenor: Leonore #3  (Read 5999 times)
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BGuttman
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« Reply #140 on: May 19, 2017, 01:09PM »

I think we are arguing at cross purposes.

Did alto trombones exist in the late 18th and early 19th centuries?  Sure.  We even have examples.  We also know there were certain venues that continued to use them.

Were they used by Beethoven/Schubert/Mozart?  Who really knows?  We have indirect evidence in both directions.

Tim Dowling played the Schumann 3 excerpt on a mid 19th century alto.  Was it used for the premiere?  Who knows?

Silverbone wondered whether an alto was more historically accurate.  He is actually asking the wrong question.  Does an alto fit the part?  The answer there is "yes".  And if it sounds good and fits the part, what difference does "historically accurate" mean in a modern performance.  Especially if the strings are not using gut, and the trumpets and horns have valves.

Now if we are trying to reproduce the Leipzig Gewandhus Orchestra at the time it premiered a work, that is another matter entirely.
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« Reply #141 on: May 19, 2017, 01:18PM »

As it stands, objectively, all a person would have to show is a single contravening piece of evidence ("any evidence at all"), and the thesis is shot. That is why I think he must want to qualify it.
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« Reply #142 on: May 19, 2017, 01:25PM »

I think we are arguing at cross purposes.

Did alto trombones exist in the late 18th and early 19th centuries?  Sure.  We even have examples.  We also know there were certain venues that continued to use them.

Were they used by Beethoven/Schubert/Mozart?  Who really knows?  We have indirect evidence in both directions.

Tim Dowling played the Schumann 3 excerpt on a mid 19th century alto.  Was it used for the premiere?  Who knows?

Silverbone wondered whether an alto was more historically accurate.  He is actually asking the wrong question.  Does an alto fit the part?  The answer there is "yes".  And if it sounds good and fits the part, what difference does "historically accurate" mean in a modern performance.  Especially if the strings are not using gut, and the trumpets and horns have valves.

Now if we are trying to reproduce the Leipzig Gewandhus Orchestra at the time it premiered a work, that is another matter entirely.

Nope, no cross purposes. Merely looking closely and objectively at a very broad statement by Weiner that should be analyzed. No ad hominem or red herring distractions. Let's explore his sweeping statement before moving on: "And as I've mentioned before, in the twelve years since the publication of my article, a number of people have criticized or even taken umbrage at my conclusions, but nobody has come forward with any evidence at all to refute them."
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« Reply #143 on: May 19, 2017, 03:18PM »


Were they used by Beethoven/Schubert/Mozart?  Who really knows?  We have indirect evidence in both directions.

I think a better question, and one that I think is getting lost in the argument about who played what, is "What instrument were they WRITING for?" A composer doesn't always get the performance that he intended when he wrote the piece. For example, there seems to be evidence that some pieces were played without trombones at all. Does that mean the composer intended for the piece not to have trombones? Not necessarily. Someone mentioned earlier that trombone parts were crossed out because they had no one to play them.

So let's say that so-and-so, who used a Bb tenor trombone to play first trombone parts, played a piece written by Mozart at a particular concert. Does that mean Mozart wrote the part for a Bb trombone? I don't think that necessarily follows. We often make choices as musicians as to what instrument we want to use for a particular part. We may have the composer's input on that, but usually not. Why would it have been any different then? It seems to me it should be just as important to understand the composer's intent and how the part functions in the ensemble as to know who played what horn at the time.
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« Reply #144 on: May 19, 2017, 07:15PM »

And as I've mentioned before, in the twelve years since the publication of my article, a number of people have criticized or even taken umbrage at my conclusions, but nobody has come forward with any evidence at all to refute them.
Howard

Below is some contravening evidence. I believe it fits within the category of "any evidence at all."

Having read the article thoroughly, checked many of its sources, and visited with other scholars, I find more than a dozen reasons that Weiner’s conclusions are unconvincing. There is a pattern of oversimplifying and inconsistently utilizing sources (see items 2-7, below), faulty logic (see items 1, 8 and 9, below), and failure to account for contravening evidence (see items 10-14, below):

1) It is based on only one solid source (Nemetz). The others that he uses are contradictory or unclear at best (e.g., Frölich); see here: http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/treatises-on-alto/
This is what David Hackett Fischer famously calls the “fallacy of the lonely fact.” A careful historian will be extremely cautious about generalizing from a single data point.

2) Weiner even oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Nemetz. While stating unequivocally multiple times in the article that Nemetz places all three trombones (alto, tenor, and bass) in the key of B-flat, Weiner never mentions that Nemetz also includes a bass trombone in F (“bass or so-called quartposaune”) in his method book. In fact, Nemetz dedicates two full pages to that non-B-flat instrument, including text, a slide position chart, and practice scales. Weiner’s discussion of the “absence” of the quart trombone in Vienna would have been a particularly relevant place for this contradictory information from Nemetz.
For a graphic from Nemetz of bass trombone in F, see here: http://kimballtrombone.com/2013/06/13/answer-to-blog-comment-on-alto-trombone/

3) Weiner oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Praetorius. I believe Maximilien has also spoken of this in this forum. For details, see here:
http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/praetorius-on-alto-trombone/

4) Weiner oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Berlioz. Although Weiner includes a partial sentence from Berlioz’s treatise (“it is unfortunate that the alto trombone is currently banned from almost all French orchestras”), he fails to mention that, in the same treatise, Berlioz clearly places the alto trombone in E-flat (“small trombone, or alto trombone in E-flat”). This is important because Weiner uses Berlioz as one of just two sources to prove that the alto trombone was considered a B-flat instrument in Paris (for the other source, see #5, below). I believe Maximilien has also spoken, in this forum, about problems with Weiner's representation of alto trombone in France.

5) Weiner oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Kastner. While paraphrasing Stewart Carter’s paraphrase of Kastner, he overlooks the qualifier “in general” and fails to mention that in the same source (Kastner’s Supplement of 1844), Kastner clearly places the alto trombone in E-flat or F (see the harmonic series in E-flat and the harmonic series in F on p. 40 of the Supplement). And the fact that Kastner likewise places the alto trombone in E-flat in his original treatise of 1837 can only be found buried in a footnote in Weiner’s article (see Kastner’s position chart on p. 313 of the original treatise). This oversimplification is significant because Weiner uses Kastner as one of just two sources to prove that the alto trombone was considered a B-flat instrument in Paris (for the other source, see #4, above).
For graphics from both Kastner sources showing alto trombone, see here:
http://kimballtrombone.com/2013/06/13/answer-to-blog-comment-on-alto-trombone/

6) Weiner misconstrues Albrechtsberger’s treatise by applying false tones inconsistently. Whereas Weiner is at pains to allow for false or “falset” tones in his discussion of bass trombone—his statement that “I contend that the Viennese trombonists were versed in the use of falset tones” is accompanied by three pages on the practice—the idea is apparently off the table when it comes to alto trombone. Anyone with any kind of playing experience on alto trombone knows that false tones are particularly easy in the low register, the register in question, not to mention the fact that the single note in question would only need to be bent down a single half step. It is unclear why Viennese trombonists would have been well versed in false tone technique on the bass trombone but not on the alto trombone.

7) Weiner inconsistently uses Seyfried’s edition of the Albrechtsberger treatise to buttress his own argument that the bass trombone is pitched in B-flat, while conveniently discounting Seyfried’s clarification that the alto trombone is pitched in E-flat. If Seyfried is credible on bass trombone, it is not clear why he should not be trusted on alto trombone. This kind of special pleading and inconsistent use of sources is a problem throughout Weiner’s article.
For a graphic from Seyfried's edition of Albrechtsberger showing an alto trombone in E-flat, see here: http://kimballtrombone.com/2013/06/13/answer-to-blog-comment-on-alto-trombone/

8) Weiner argues from his own personal aesthetic opinion as a premise in the article:

“It therefore follows that a tenor trombone in B-flat or A would have been the virtuoso’s preferred instrument because of its superior tonal qualities. (While there are surely trombonists today who make a nice sound on the E-flat alto, I would contend that they, too, make an even nicer sound on the B-flat tenor.)”

Superior tonal qualities? Even nicer sound? Not only is this loaded language, it is neither sound reasoning nor good history. Historians will have their own aesthetic opinions, of course, but when they use their opinion as the premise of an argument, they run aground.

9) Weiner makes a faulty historical generalization from the opinion of one (Praetorius) to many (“any self-respecting eighteenth-century virtuoso”). As I point out above (#3), the generalization from Praetorius is additionally precarious because the partial sentence from Praetorius is already an oversimplification—of the both the sentence itself and of Praetorius’s overall writings about the alto trombone. Again, this is neither sound reasoning nor good history. Furthermore, Weiner’s faulty generalization is stretched chronologically from Praetorius (early 17th century) all the way to any hypothetical virtuoso of the 18th century, a century later! So there are actually three glaring logical problems in just one paragraph: 1) generalizing from one to many, 2) generalizing from an oversimplified statement, and 3) generalizing from one century to another. Here is the full paragraph from Weiner’s article; the non sequiturs absolutely pile up:

“My reasoning for discounting the use of the alto trombone in D or E-flat: It is my belief that any self-respecting eighteenth-century virtuoso would have chosen an instrument that helped him make the most beautiful sound possible. Given the trombone’s physical development, or lack thereof, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I know of no reason why Praetorius’ judgement, that ‘the sound in such a small corpus is not as good as when the tenor trombone, with good embouchure and practice, is played in this high register,’ should not also apply to the small alto trombone of the eighteenth century. It therefore follows that a tenor trombone in B-flat or A would have been the virtuoso’s preferred instrument because of its superior tonal qualities. (While there are surely trombonists today who make a nice sound on the E-flat alto, I would contend that they, too, make an even nicer sound on the B-flat tenor.)”

10) Weiner misses entirely the Brahms letter in which the highly influential and respected composer notes his preference for the alto trombone and indicates what a “genuine” alto trombone was considered to be at the time: “On no account 3 tenor trombones! One genuine little alto trombone and, if possible, also a genuine bass trombone.” Emphasis in original; see here for more details: http://kimballtrombone.com/2009/08/07/a-remarkable-brahms-letter-genuine-little-alto-trombone/

This information is particularly relevant because Weiner’s claims in the final sentence of the article actually refer specifically to Brahms:

“The newly introduced E-flat alto trombone was most likely not intended to be used for the works of the ‘modern’ composers Brahms, Bruckner, Dvorak, etc., but for the ‘alto’ trombone parts of the classical masters, parts for which the new large-bore tenor trombone was not suitable.”

In addition, although Weiner’s article focuses on the trombone section of the 18th and early 19th centuries in his article, a number of the “historical sources” that he introduces as backing fall well outside of those date ranges (e.g., 1620, c. 1650, 1687). The date of Brahms’s letter (1859) is far closer to Weiner’s date range than any number of the sources presented in the article.

11) If alto=tenor had been true in the widespread way that Weiner suggests, both chronologically and geographically, there should be widespread evidence of that philosophy or viewpoint in contemporary and later treatises, dictionaries, methods, trade catalogs, etc. It is simply not there to the extent that it should be. Of course, absence of evidence does not of itself constitute evidence. However, in this case, the reverse pattern of written sources is observable: the bulk of the written evidence points to a widespread view of the alto trombone as a smaller instrument pitched in a higher key.
See here for treatises, dictionaries, and methods: http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/treatises-on-alto/
See here for 19th century trade catalogs: http://kimballtrombone.com/2012/12/19/alto-trombone-in-19th-century-trade-catalogs/

12) Weiner ignores the evidence of existing instruments from the period. A full 25 percent of all existing trombones from before the year 1800 are alto trombones; see here for dates, locations, amounts, and  percentages: http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/extant-altos/
Even if you adhere strictly to Weiner’s date range of 18th and early 19th centuries (which, as I discuss in #10, above, Weiner himself fails to do), you still have a significant number of alto trombones to account for.  The idea that these were primarily amateur instruments lacks documentation: it remains to be shown that amateurs like Moravians used the alto trombone to any greater extent than they used tenor (that is to say, take away the tenor trombones also used by amateurs and you very likely end up with the same overall ratios).

13) Many, many other good historical sources contradict Weiner’s alto=tenor idea, clearly placing the alto trombone in a different, higher key. For example, Weiner uses two sources to prove that the alto trombone was considered a B-flat instrument in Paris; however, not only do those two sources themselves contradict such a conclusion (see #4 and #5, above), but three more primary sources from 1840s France contradict it as well:
http://kimballtrombone.com/2016/06/13/alto-trombone-1840s-france-five-primary-sources/
In fact, the broad historical picture is that, for every historical source that clearly indicates an alto in B-flat, there are at least five contradictory primary sources that clearly indicate an instrument pitched in the E-flat orbit. See here: http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/treatises-on-alto/
See also #11, above.

14) At the risk of ad hominem, several active professionals have expressed this concern: Howard Weiner is not an active trombone performer. I would question whether he has publicly performed any solo work on the alto trombone in the last 20 years (if ever), let alone whether he has played it on both alto and tenor trombone. In addition, I would question whether he has sufficient performance experience on both instruments to determine for other trombone players which is easier (or more “idiomatic”). For example, having the partials of a brass instrument closer together in a given register (as on tenor) can be helpful, at times, but so can having the partials farther apart (as on alto). Ornamentation is one of a brass performer’s concerns, but so is accuracy and security. I was amused to read recently a passage in a trombone history book where another supposed historical “expert” explained to readers that certain works were more idiomatic on tenor trombone than alto trombone; this from a person who had admitted in an online forum that he never actually learned the alto trombone!
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« Reply #145 on: May 19, 2017, 07:33PM »

(munch, munch, munch -- popcorn is good, Silverbone!)

Will, I don't think that use of falset tones on alto would make much difference; I doubt altos were used in place of tenors on 2nd trombone parts (except in emergencies).  I do agree that I have an easier time playing falset tones and even pedals on my Conn 36H alto.  But that is neither here nor there.

Based on the two pictures I have seen of Moravian ensembles in the 19th Century, there were probably 2 (or maybe more) tenors for every alto (or soprano).  So I would expect more tenors to survive than altos.

I'm sure some composers were writing for alto trombone even if the parts were played on a tenor.  Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique 1st trombone part being a case in point.

Again, dealing with Mr. Silver's original question, whether to use alto or not depends on (1) how the part fits on an alto and (2) how well you can execute the part on the alto trombone.  Modern players can play nearly the same upper range on either instrument so that becomes less of an issue.
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« Reply #146 on: May 19, 2017, 09:09PM »


Will, I don't think that use of falset tones on alto would make much difference; I doubt altos were used in place of tenors on 2nd trombone parts (except in emergencies).  I do agree that I have an easier time playing falset tones and even pedals on my Conn 36H alto.  But that is neither here nor there.


Agreed. I take your point. My point with falset tones and alto is this: In his discussion of Albrechtsberger's original treatise, Weiner discusses possible use of falset tones at length in order to assert that Albrechtsberger's bass trombone was in B-flat. However, he rules out the alto trombone in E-flat (for Albrechtsberger's original treatise) on the basis of a single note that could easily--very easily--be played as a falset tone; for some unexplained reason, the possibility of a single falset tone is off the table for alto trombones.

Additional evidence in favor of alto in E-flat for the Albrechtsberger treatise is that Albrechtsberger's personal pupil, Seyfried, who, besides studying with Albrechtsberger, was born in Vienna, musically trained in Vienna, spent his entire orchestral conducting career in Vienna, conducted many important works in Vienna, and died in Vienna, clearly places the alto trombone in E-flat in his edition of his teacher's treatise.
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« Reply #147 on: May 19, 2017, 10:16PM »

Based on the two pictures I have seen of Moravian ensembles in the 19th Century, there were probably 2 (or maybe more) tenors for every alto (or soprano).  So I would expect more tenors to survive than altos.

Pictures are great, and I agree that they can contribute to the conversation. However, you should look at Stewart Carter's article—he shows pretty clearly that Moravians tended to purchase their trombones in sets of soprano, alto, tenor, bass (Stewart Carter, “Trombone Ensembles of the Moravian Brethren in America,” in Brass Scholarship in Review, 1999).
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« Reply #148 on: May 20, 2017, 06:00AM »

I suspected that something like this was coming.

14) At the risk of ad hominem, several active professionals have expressed this concern: Howard Weiner is not an active trombone performer. I would question whether he has publicly performed any solo work on the alto trombone in the last 20 years (if ever), let alone whether he has played it on both alto and tenor trombone. In addition, I would question whether he has sufficient performance experience on both instruments to determine for other trombone players which is easier (or more “idiomatic”).

Let's get this out of the way first: It is true that I have not performed any solo work on alto trombone in the last 20 years. In fact, I have not played any trombone at all in the past 20 years. Between 1997 to 2001 I went through a series of serious health issues that effectively put an end to my performing career: after the tenth operation within 4 1/2 years, I was KO and and decided it was time to call it quits. In the 20+ years before I got sick, I played modern tenor and bass trombones, as well as early alto, tenor, and bass trombones (a.k.a. "sackbuts") in a wide range of music from Renaissance to avant-garde (even including a Europe-wide live broadcast performance of Mauricio Kagel's Music for Renaissance Instruments) in professional ensembles and orchestras.

As far as alto trombone is concerned, I played an F alto sackbut in a number of performances in the Chicago area between 1972 and 1978; from 1978 I was located in Switzerland, where I had an E-flat alto sackbut at my disposal, which I likewise used in a number of performances. When I later teamed up with colleagues who preferred playing alto, I had no problem relinquishing the alto parts to them -- the bass trombone parts in the Classical repertoire are often much more fun. So yes, I have had sufficient performance experience on both instruments.

Quote
1) It is based on only one solid source (Nemetz). The others that he uses are contradictory or unclear at best (e.g., Frölich)

My study and my conclusions were based on a large number of sources, which of course doesn't preclude contradictions. In fact, in my article I pointed out the contradictions in the sources and tried to explain and resolve them. Your claim that Fröhlich is contradictory or unclear is patently false -- Fröhlich clearly states the situation at the time he was writing (1813, republished 1829): that is to say, in some places alto, tenor, and bass trombones were used, and  in other places three tenor trombones were used. Which brings us to

Quote
10) Weiner misses entirely the Brahms letter in which the highly influential and respected composer notes his preference for the alto trombone and indicates what a “genuine” alto trombone was considered to be at the time: “On no account 3 tenor trombones! One genuine little alto trombone and, if possible, also a genuine bass trombone.” Emphasis in original.

and

This information is particularly relevant because Weiner’s claims in the final sentence of the article actually refer specifically to Brahms.

My article was about the use of trombones in the 18th- and early 19th-century orchestra. Brahms was thus not included in my study. In spite of the timeframe given in the title of my article, I considered it necessary to present earlier sources in the introductory section in order to show that the terminology was and had never been uniform. But more to the point, at the end of my article, after my conclusions, I added an epilogue in which I proposed a "hypothesis for further research on the alto trombone," for research that should include but also go beyond the timeframe I attempted to cover. In this hypothesis, I included information I had came across during the course of my research as well as some possible implications. It was not intended to be more than a call for others to start doing some research.

The Brahms letter that you refer to is indeed interesting. However, I tend to try to read between the lines. Thus, Brahms did indeed say

“On no account 3 tenor trombones! One genuine little alto trombone and, if possible, also a genuine bass trombone.”

But this also tells us 1) that Brahms knew that the trombone section made up of three tenor trombones had become all but ubiquitous by the mid-1800s, and 2) that he knew that he had to request/demand a small alto and a genuine bass if he wanted them. In effect, Brahms confirms what Fröhlich had said some 40 years earlier: in some places alto, tenor, and bass trombones were used, in other places three tenors.

I have often wondered what Brahms's reaction was when he arrived in Vienna and discovered that the Viennese trombonists not only didn't have alto trombones, but also only played valve trombones, and that the orchestral sections there were made up of two tenors and one bass. A price list from the important Viennese brass instrument maker Leopold Uhlmann from ca. 1850 lists the following trombone models:

Tenor or alto trombone in b-flat
Terz or bass trombone in g
Quart or bass trombone in f
Quint or bass trombone in e-flat

"Tenor oder Alt Posaune in b" with rotary or Viennese double-piston valves! Since Uhlmann was "purveyor to the court," his instruments would have been used by the court chapel and by the court opera orchestra (which was also the Vienna Philharmonic). Slide trombones (including an alto) were reintroduced in Vienna only in 1883, just in time for the premiere of Brahms's Third Symphony.

Quote
2) Weiner even oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Nemetz. While stating unequivocally multiple times in the article that Nemetz places all three trombones (alto, tenor, and bass) in the key of B-flat, Weiner never mentions that Nemetz also includes a bass trombone in F (“bass or so-called quartposaune”) in his method book.

Yes, Nemetz does devote two pages in his method to the quart trombone in F, A-flat, and G, saying that it "primarily finds use in the military." Since my article was about orchestral trombone sections, I did not include this military band instrument. Moreover, I previous published an article on Nemetz's trombone method, including a full translation, which I duly cited.

Quote
3) Weiner oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Praetorius.

This is really a tempest in a teapot! Praetorius wrote: "Alto or descant trombone: ... with which a melody can be played very well and naturally, although the sound in such a small corpus is not as good as when the tenor trombone, with good embouchure and practice, is played in this high register."

This is how I quoted Praetorius in my earlier article on the soprano trombone. In the article on 18th- and 19th-century trombone sections, I left off the first phrase:

"the sound in such a small corpus is not as good as when the tenor trombone, with good embouchure and practice, is played in this high register."

Quite frankly, I cannot see how this can be construed as an oversimplification and misrepresentation. Praetorius's opinion of the sound of the alto trombone vs that of the tenor trombone is what I was concerned with; the prefixed "with which a melody can be played very well and naturally" has no effect on this statement. On the contrary, the conjunction "although" indicates that what follows is a qualification of the first part of the sentence.

Moreover, this and
Quote
8) Weiner argues from his own personal aesthetic opinion as a premise in the article:
concern a text that does not have to do with the actual subject of the article, a text that is a clearly marked "Excursus--The solo alto trombone." I simply felt that I should say something about the solo alto trombone, and allowed myself a few subjective comments. Mea culpa!

Quote
9) ... Furthermore, Weiner’s faulty generalization is stretched chronologically from Praetorius (early 17th century) all the way to any hypothetical virtuoso of the 18th century, a century later!
As I admitted a year ago, I should have formulated this better. I was in no way claiming that Praetorius's statement had any currency or was even still known 150 years later. I was simply opining that an 18th-century listener of Praetorius's musical acumen would probably also have noted the difference in sound quality between an alto and a tenor "played with a good embouchure and practice" in the high range.

More to come... if I find the time.
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« Reply #149 on: May 20, 2017, 08:04AM »

All that is fine and good. Much of it is debatable. We can do that later. However, the question at hand is this thesis of yours--whether it is accurate or whether it needs to be tempered or qualified in any way:

"And as I've mentioned before, in the twelve years since the publication of my article, a number of people have criticized or even taken umbrage at my conclusions, but nobody has come forward with any evidence at all to refute them."
Howard"

[My emphasis]
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« Reply #150 on: May 21, 2017, 06:10AM »

All that is fine and good. Much of it is debatable. We can do that later. However, the question at hand is this thesis of yours--whether it is accurate or whether it needs to be tempered or qualified in any way:

"And as I've mentioned before, in the twelve years since the publication of my article, a number of people have criticized or even taken umbrage at my conclusions, but nobody has come forward with any evidence at all to refute them."

No, it is not fine and good. I don’t intend to waste any more time debunking your objections to my article. As I’ve shown above, they are nothing more than hot air. And I stand by my statement that in the twelve years since the publication of my article, a number of people have criticized or even taken umbrage at my conclusions, but nobody has come forward with any evidence at all to refute them.

After rereading my article -- which I still find well-written and logically argued -- and reviewing your objections, I can only conclude that you do not possess an adequate reading comprehension level to deal with such scholarly texts. Moreover, not only did my article go through a peer-review process before being accepted for publication, but a number of trombone-playing colleagues have understood it and accepted my conclusions, even if they cannot always apply them in practice.

But actually, Mr. Kimball, it is you who should be answering here for all the mistakes, for all the false and outdated information in your so-called time-lines and lists of early trombone music. The very few things in my article that could have been formulated a little bit better are absolutely nothing in comparison to the amount of garbage that you offer on your website.

Do you need an example? OK: The dates that you give for the Bach cantatas with trombones are taken from Charles S.Terry’s book Bach’s Orchestra, which was published in 1939. Are you really ignorant of the 70 years of Bach research that has taken place since WW2? Do you really not know that all the Bach cantatas with trombone (except BWV 118) were performed in Leipzig in 1723-25, during the first two years of Bach’s tenure there? And that of them, the one cantata (BWV 21) written before that, in 1714, received its trombone parts only for its 1723 Leipzig performance? And that Bach dispensed with trombones entirely in his performances of these cantatas in subsequent years? No, I didn’t think so. Your knowledge of music history is obviously even more deficient than your knowledge of trombone history.

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« Reply #151 on: May 21, 2017, 06:34AM »

Honestly, Weiner, you can say that the below does not even fit into the category of "any evidence at all"? You can say that objectively?

Below is some contravening evidence. I believe it fits within the category of "any evidence at all."

Having read the article thoroughly, checked many of its sources, and visited with other scholars, I find more than a dozen reasons that Weiner’s conclusions are unconvincing. There is a pattern of oversimplifying and inconsistently utilizing sources (see items 2-7, below), faulty logic (see items 1, 8 and 9, below), and failure to account for contravening evidence (see items 10-14, below):

1) It is based on only one solid source (Nemetz). The others that he uses are contradictory or unclear at best (e.g., Frölich); see here: http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/treatises-on-alto/
This is what David Hackett Fischer famously calls the “fallacy of the lonely fact.” A careful historian will be extremely cautious about generalizing from a single data point.

2) Weiner even oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Nemetz. While stating unequivocally multiple times in the article that Nemetz places all three trombones (alto, tenor, and bass) in the key of B-flat, Weiner never mentions that Nemetz also includes a bass trombone in F (“bass or so-called quartposaune”) in his method book. In fact, Nemetz dedicates two full pages to that non-B-flat instrument, including text, a slide position chart, and practice scales. Weiner’s discussion of the “absence” of the quart trombone in Vienna would have been a particularly relevant place for this contradictory information from Nemetz.
For a graphic from Nemetz of bass trombone in F, see here: http://kimballtrombone.com/2013/06/13/answer-to-blog-comment-on-alto-trombone/

3) Weiner oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Praetorius. I believe Maximilien has also spoken of this in this forum. For details, see here:
http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/praetorius-on-alto-trombone/

4) Weiner oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Berlioz. Although Weiner includes a partial sentence from Berlioz’s treatise (“it is unfortunate that the alto trombone is currently banned from almost all French orchestras”), he fails to mention that, in the same treatise, Berlioz clearly places the alto trombone in E-flat (“small trombone, or alto trombone in E-flat”). This is important because Weiner uses Berlioz as one of just two sources to prove that the alto trombone was considered a B-flat instrument in Paris (for the other source, see #5, below). I believe Maximilien has also spoken, in this forum, about problems with Weiner's representation of alto trombone in France.

5) Weiner oversimplifies and thus misrepresents Kastner. While paraphrasing Stewart Carter’s paraphrase of Kastner, he overlooks the qualifier “in general” and fails to mention that in the same source (Kastner’s Supplement of 1844), Kastner clearly places the alto trombone in E-flat or F (see the harmonic series in E-flat and the harmonic series in F on p. 40 of the Supplement). And the fact that Kastner likewise places the alto trombone in E-flat in his original treatise of 1837 can only be found buried in a footnote in Weiner’s article (see Kastner’s position chart on p. 313 of the original treatise). This oversimplification is significant because Weiner uses Kastner as one of just two sources to prove that the alto trombone was considered a B-flat instrument in Paris (for the other source, see #4, above).
For graphics from both Kastner sources showing alto trombone, see here:
http://kimballtrombone.com/2013/06/13/answer-to-blog-comment-on-alto-trombone/

6) Weiner misconstrues Albrechtsberger’s treatise by applying false tones inconsistently. Whereas Weiner is at pains to allow for false or “falset” tones in his discussion of bass trombone—his statement that “I contend that the Viennese trombonists were versed in the use of falset tones” is accompanied by three pages on the practice—the idea is apparently off the table when it comes to alto trombone. Anyone with any kind of playing experience on alto trombone knows that false tones are particularly easy in the low register, the register in question, not to mention the fact that the single note in question would only need to be bent down a single half step. It is unclear why Viennese trombonists would have been well versed in false tone technique on the bass trombone but not on the alto trombone.

7) Weiner inconsistently uses Seyfried’s edition of the Albrechtsberger treatise to buttress his own argument that the bass trombone is pitched in B-flat, while conveniently discounting Seyfried’s clarification that the alto trombone is pitched in E-flat. If Seyfried is credible on bass trombone, it is not clear why he should not be trusted on alto trombone. This kind of special pleading and inconsistent use of sources is a problem throughout Weiner’s article.
For a graphic from Seyfried's edition of Albrechtsberger showing an alto trombone in E-flat, see here: http://kimballtrombone.com/2013/06/13/answer-to-blog-comment-on-alto-trombone/

8) Weiner argues from his own personal aesthetic opinion as a premise in the article:

“It therefore follows that a tenor trombone in B-flat or A would have been the virtuoso’s preferred instrument because of its superior tonal qualities. (While there are surely trombonists today who make a nice sound on the E-flat alto, I would contend that they, too, make an even nicer sound on the B-flat tenor.)”

Superior tonal qualities? Even nicer sound? Not only is this loaded language, it is neither sound reasoning nor good history. Historians will have their own aesthetic opinions, of course, but when they use their opinion as the premise of an argument, they run aground.

9) Weiner makes a faulty historical generalization from the opinion of one (Praetorius) to many (“any self-respecting eighteenth-century virtuoso”). As I point out above (#3), the generalization from Praetorius is additionally precarious because the partial sentence from Praetorius is already an oversimplification—of the both the sentence itself and of Praetorius’s overall writings about the alto trombone. Again, this is neither sound reasoning nor good history. Furthermore, Weiner’s faulty generalization is stretched chronologically from Praetorius (early 17th century) all the way to any hypothetical virtuoso of the 18th century, a century later! So there are actually three glaring logical problems in just one paragraph: 1) generalizing from one to many, 2) generalizing from an oversimplified statement, and 3) generalizing from one century to another. Here is the full paragraph from Weiner’s article; the non sequiturs absolutely pile up:

“My reasoning for discounting the use of the alto trombone in D or E-flat: It is my belief that any self-respecting eighteenth-century virtuoso would have chosen an instrument that helped him make the most beautiful sound possible. Given the trombone’s physical development, or lack thereof, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I know of no reason why Praetorius’ judgement, that ‘the sound in such a small corpus is not as good as when the tenor trombone, with good embouchure and practice, is played in this high register,’ should not also apply to the small alto trombone of the eighteenth century. It therefore follows that a tenor trombone in B-flat or A would have been the virtuoso’s preferred instrument because of its superior tonal qualities. (While there are surely trombonists today who make a nice sound on the E-flat alto, I would contend that they, too, make an even nicer sound on the B-flat tenor.)”

10) Weiner misses entirely the Brahms letter in which the highly influential and respected composer notes his preference for the alto trombone and indicates what a “genuine” alto trombone was considered to be at the time: “On no account 3 tenor trombones! One genuine little alto trombone and, if possible, also a genuine bass trombone.” Emphasis in original; see here for more details: http://kimballtrombone.com/2009/08/07/a-remarkable-brahms-letter-genuine-little-alto-trombone/

This information is particularly relevant because Weiner’s claims in the final sentence of the article actually refer specifically to Brahms:

“The newly introduced E-flat alto trombone was most likely not intended to be used for the works of the ‘modern’ composers Brahms, Bruckner, Dvorak, etc., but for the ‘alto’ trombone parts of the classical masters, parts for which the new large-bore tenor trombone was not suitable.”

In addition, although Weiner’s article focuses on the trombone section of the 18th and early 19th centuries in his article, a number of the “historical sources” that he introduces as backing fall well outside of those date ranges (e.g., 1620, c. 1650, 1687). The date of Brahms’s letter (1859) is far closer to Weiner’s date range than any number of the sources presented in the article.

11) If alto=tenor had been true in the widespread way that Weiner suggests, both chronologically and geographically, there should be widespread evidence of that philosophy or viewpoint in contemporary and later treatises, dictionaries, methods, trade catalogs, etc. It is simply not there to the extent that it should be. Of course, absence of evidence does not of itself constitute evidence. However, in this case, the reverse pattern of written sources is observable: the bulk of the written evidence points to a widespread view of the alto trombone as a smaller instrument pitched in a higher key.
See here for treatises, dictionaries, and methods: http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/treatises-on-alto/
See here for 19th century trade catalogs: http://kimballtrombone.com/2012/12/19/alto-trombone-in-19th-century-trade-catalogs/

12) Weiner ignores the evidence of existing instruments from the period. A full 25 percent of all existing trombones from before the year 1800 are alto trombones; see here for dates, locations, amounts, and  percentages: http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/extant-altos/
Even if you adhere strictly to Weiner’s date range of 18th and early 19th centuries (which, as I discuss in #10, above, Weiner himself fails to do), you still have a significant number of alto trombones to account for.  The idea that these were primarily amateur instruments lacks documentation: it remains to be shown that amateurs like Moravians used the alto trombone to any greater extent than they used tenor (that is to say, take away the tenor trombones also used by amateurs and you very likely end up with the same overall ratios).

13) Many, many other good historical sources contradict Weiner’s alto=tenor idea, clearly placing the alto trombone in a different, higher key. For example, Weiner uses two sources to prove that the alto trombone was considered a B-flat instrument in Paris; however, not only do those two sources themselves contradict such a conclusion (see #4 and #5, above), but three more primary sources from 1840s France contradict it as well:
http://kimballtrombone.com/2016/06/13/alto-trombone-1840s-france-five-primary-sources/
In fact, the broad historical picture is that, for every historical source that clearly indicates an alto in B-flat, there are at least five contradictory primary sources that clearly indicate an instrument pitched in the E-flat orbit. See here: http://kimballtrombone.com/alto-trombone/treatises-on-alto/
See also #11, above.

14) At the risk of ad hominem, several active professionals have expressed this concern: Howard Weiner is not an active trombone performer. I would question whether he has publicly performed any solo work on the alto trombone in the last 20 years (if ever), let alone whether he has played it on both alto and tenor trombone. In addition, I would question whether he has sufficient performance experience on both instruments to determine for other trombone players which is easier (or more “idiomatic”). For example, having the partials of a brass instrument closer together in a given register (as on tenor) can be helpful, at times, but so can having the partials farther apart (as on alto). Ornamentation is one of a brass performer’s concerns, but so is accuracy and security. I was amused to read recently a passage in a trombone history book where another supposed historical “expert” explained to readers that certain works were more idiomatic on tenor trombone than alto trombone; this from a person who had admitted in an online forum that he never actually learned the alto trombone!
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« Reply #152 on: May 21, 2017, 06:53AM »

Weiner, objectively, there are two clear fallacies in your reasoning here that are quite obvious and quite predictable. I will note that, after I presented that initial list of "any evidence at all," I actually jotted down a note about likely responses:
"No red herring/changing the subject. No ad hominem." Here are your fallacies, Weiner:
1) The first is called the red herring fallacy, and it falls under the umbrella of fallacies of distraction. You are going after some other question, some other issue (my website), in order to avoid the question at hand. My website has nothing whatsoever to do with the question at hand. I made no claims about my website. You introduced that as a red herring. The question at hand was your sweeping statement about your own article.
2) The second is called the ad hominem fallacy. This is another fallacy that falls under the broader category of fallacies of distraction. By attacking me, again, you are going after some other issue besides the question at hand. And in this case your response also very likely falls outside the "Terms of Use" for this forum:
http://tromboneforum.org/index.php/topic,29863.0.html

I would direct readers to David Hackett Fischer's Historians' Fallacies for details and excellent examples of these fallacies in historical writing!


No, it is not fine and good. I don’t intend to waste any more time debunking your objections to my article. As I’ve shown above, they are nothing more than hot air. And I stand by my statement that in the twelve years since the publication of my article, a number of people have criticized or even taken umbrage at my conclusions, but nobody has come forward with any evidence at all to refute them.

After rereading my article -- which I still find well-written and logically argued -- and reviewing your objections, I can only conclude that you do not possess an adequate reading comprehension level to deal with such scholarly texts. Moreover, not only did my article go through a peer-review process before being accepted for publication, but a number of trombone-playing colleagues have understood it and accepted my conclusions, even if they cannot always apply them in practice.

But actually, Mr. Kimball, it is you who should be answering here for all the mistakes, for all the false and outdated information in your so-called time-lines and lists of early trombone music. The very few things in my article that could have been formulated a little bit better are absolutely nothing in comparison to the amount of garbage that you offer on your website.

Do you need an example? OK: The dates that you give for the Bach cantatas with trombones are taken from Charles S.Terry’s book Bach’s Orchestra, which was published in 1939. Are you really ignorant of the 70 years of Bach research that has taken place since WW2? Do you really not know that all the Bach cantatas with trombone (except BWV 118) were performed in Leipzig in 1723-25, during the first two years of Bach’s tenure there? And that of them, the one cantata (BWV 21) written before that, in 1714, received its trombone parts only for its 1723 Leipzig performance? And that Bach dispensed with trombones entirely in his performances of these cantatas in subsequent years? No, I didn’t think so. Your knowledge of music history is obviously even more deficient than your knowledge of trombone history.


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« Reply #153 on: May 21, 2017, 08:51AM »

Wow is this getting old fast.
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« Reply #154 on: May 21, 2017, 09:00AM »

Wow is this getting old fast.

Happens every time Kimball and Weiner post in the same thread.  I don't think they like each other. :-P

Meanwhile, if this stays as a two sided slash and burn attack on each other's scholarship, I think we may need to shut this down.  We've long ago dispensed with Silverbone's question.
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« Reply #155 on: May 21, 2017, 10:38AM »

Happens every time Kimball and Weiner post in the same thread.  I don't think they like each other. :-P

Meanwhile, if this stays as a two sided slash and burn attack on each other's scholarship, I think we may need to shut this down.  We've long ago dispensed with Silverbone's question.

Might want to give them their own thread. Popcorn and beer has been okay up to this point. And since there's no real basketball until June 1st, on with the freak show...
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« Reply #156 on: May 21, 2017, 10:57AM »

I have made every attempt to remain respectful and avoid personal attacks. Go back and read closely and you'll see where the personal attacks are coming from. As I said, it's an important skill to be able to engage with other scholars in a respectful way.
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« Reply #157 on: May 21, 2017, 11:37AM »

Might want to give them their own thread. Popcorn and beer has been okay up to this point. And since there's no real basketball until June 1st, on with the freak show...

Just because the Celtics and Sonics are out of it, there should be some good ball beteen Curry and James in the finals.  Yes, I know there are still at least two games between the Celtics and Cavaliers, but the way the Celtics were manhandled in the first two, I'm counting them out.
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« Reply #158 on: May 21, 2017, 11:49AM »

Nice. Jazz and (probably) Celtics both out of it. Too bad for me.
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« Reply #159 on: May 22, 2017, 02:12PM »

There's much to be learned here in terms of logic, methodology, and objectivity. Look closely and critically at the reasoning.
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