The Alto Trombone in the Orchestra: 1800-2000

Dedicated to my mentor and friend Professor Jarmil Burghauser, 1921-1997

By Ken Shifrin, Former Principal Trombonist, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


Maybe it’s all those mind-boggling measures-rest we get, I don’t know, but something seems to compel us trombonists, the so-called cerebral members of the brass section, to ponder and seek out “deeper meanings” beyond the printed part. Like most of those who I imagine (and hope!) will purchase this book, I consider myself a performer more so than a musicologist (that means you can trust me, right?), and like most of you, I imagine, my knowledge of the trombone’s orchestral history, prior to undertaking this study, consisted of a hodge-podge of “facts” pronounced by the icons of the trombone world: grand old scholars (especially those with English accents), big-time players from big-time orchestras and of course authors of articles in the Journal of the International Trombone Association. (Hey man, if it’s in the ITA Journal it’s gotta be true, right?) Along my journey to a better understanding of the orchestral trombone, I started to come across things that seemed to cast doubt on what the experts had declared. Initially, desperate to cling on to my anchor, I tried hard to reconcile incontrovertible positions so that my experts could still be right, and everything could remain hunky-dory. My inability to do so led me to realise that much that I had taken as gospel, especially about the orchestral alto trombone, was about as ungospelish as you could get.

The findings of this research are not exhaustive, but rather the first, timid steps towards the de-gospelisation of some of our most cherished folklore, and it is my hope that it will encourage others to delve further. I fully realise that I have set myself up to be knocked down by those that follow. (And right now I can already envision three or four reviewers eyeing up my text, with pupils dilated, hands gleefully rubbed together, and salivary glands kicked into over-drive, all the time thinking LUNCH!). However, if this should aid in a better understanding of our beloved instrument, then I shall welcome it. Besides, they will have to buy the book first.

Ken Shifrin
Oxford, England
May 2000


For today’s orchestral trombone player, great difficulty often exists in determining when the alto trombone is the ‘right’ instrument for the first part, particularly in the works of Bruckner, Brahms and Dvořák. Scholarly editions and modern publications are often misleading; today’s experts are frequently inconsistent, contradictory and highly subjective. To a certain degree this may be attributable to ambiguity on the part of music authorities contemporaneous with these composers, perhaps owing to the fact that the second half of the nineteenth century was a period of great flux, with divergent performance practices often dependent on geography. Ascertaining whether the composer meant the light-timbred alto or the heavier, more robust tenor to lead the section is crucially relevant to performances today, since the choice will influence the sound and style not only of the trombone group, but also that of the entire brass section which, with its powerful voice, can affect the colour of the orchestra. By examining the orchestral repertoire from Beethoven until the end of the nineteenth century I hope to dispel some of the ambiguity.

In Chapter 1 I will examine several works by Beethoven, Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Schumann in order to illustrate the development of orchestral alto trombone writing and the contributions each composer made to it. Except for the extreme demands Beethoven often made on the alto trombone’s upper register, his scoring for the trombone section was unremarkable, primarily reserved for adding weight to orchestral fortissimos. Weber used the trombones somewhat more imaginatively, occasionally featuring them in pianissimo chordal passages; while Schubert took the development of the section a major step further by assigning it thematic material in both forte and piano unisons. With the exception of the latter’s masses, neither composer posed serious tessitura challenges for the alto trombonist, rarely writing above a’, whereas Mendelssohn and Schumann featured the instrument’s uppermost register in prominent passages.

Berlioz is the focal point of Chapter 2, in much the same way he was central to sweeping changes which affected trombone writing during the nineteenth century in France: the ascension of the tenor trombone and the utilisation of valved instruments, along with the concomitant alterations taking place in orchestral harmonies and tone colour.

By around 1840 the tenor trombone had rendered the alto nearly obsolete in France, with England and Italy following suit. Even first trombone parts that had been originally intended for the alto were now played on the tenor – often a valved tenor – or, if too high, by a flugelhorn or trumpet. Moreover, as tenor trombonists developed greater facility in the higher tessitura, the alto was increasingly dismissed as an outmoded upper-register tool.

Discussed in Part I are the concepts of trombone range, nomenclature, clefs, score and part-writing, and the significance of primary sources such as the erste Abschriftstimme, or first handwritten part – the tools which I will use in Part II to determine the type of trombone intended for the first desk of the section by Bruckner, Brahms and Dvořák, who composed during the last stages of the transition from alto to tenor, when the standard orchestral trombone section was becoming firmly established as two tenors and a bass, and the goal of good ‘section blend’ coming to mean the production of well-matched, weighty sounds, replacing the earlier concept of a balanced mix of three distinct tone colours. Although during the early part of the twentieth century a few composers, notably Schoenberg and Berg, specified the alto trombone in some works, it was used more as an upper-register aid than for its unique tone colour.

To attempt to discern a composer’s intention with respect to the use of the alto or tenor trombone from the context of even the autograph score can be highly unreliable. I intend to examine this issue on the basis of historical context and function, contemporaneous instrumentation texts and most importantly, when available, the first handwritten part – frequently the earliest and most specific indicator of a composer’s requirements. Because the alto joined the orchestra on the backs of the tenor and bass trombone, composers prior to Wagner did not so much choose between the alto and tenor for the sake of tone colour, but were stuck with the ATB combination. Similarly, during the nineteenth century, French composers who scored for a tenor-led trombone section (the sound and power of which had so impressed Wagner) were obliged to write in this manner due to the acute shortage of alto trombonists in Paris.

The instrumentation texts by the following nineteenth century authorities are pivotal to my thesis. Not only do they chronicle the then current orchestral alto trombone-writing practices, but they provide us with a clear insight into what was considered suitable writing for the trombone, given the capabilities of the performers at the time.

  • Berlioz: Grand Traité d’Instrumentation et d’Orchestration;
  • Bussler: Instrumentation und Orchestersatz;
  • Corder: The Orchestra and How to write for It;
  • Dieppo: Méthode Complète pour le Trombone;
  • Gevaert: Nouveau Traité d’Instrumentation, Traité Général d’Instrumentation, Cours Méthodique d’Orchestration;
  • Jadassohn: Musikalischen Kompositionslehre;
  • Kastner: Traité Général d’Instrumentation (first and second editions), Méthode Elémentaire pour le Trombone;
  • Lobe: Lehrbuch der musikalischen Composition, Lehrbuch der musikalischen Composition, ed. Kretzmar;
  • Marx: Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition, Allgemeine Musiklehre;
  • Sundelin: Die Instrumentierung.

Of far less use for the purposes of this study was the present-day literature on the orchestral trombone. Although there are a number of studies dealing with the eighteenth- century alto trombone as a solo and obbligato instrument, very little has been written about its orchestral role and none, of which I am aware, that deals specifically with the topic of examining the first trombone part from the standpoint of determining whether a composer intended the alto or tenor instrument. Mark Hartman’s DMA dissertation, The Use of the Alto Trombone in Symphonic and Operatic Literature (Arizona State University, 1985), surveys of that which is popularly assumed to be the most significant liturgical, operatic and symphonic repertoire for the alto trombone from the eighteenth through to the twentieth century. According to the bibliographical sources, the only other thesis that deals with the orchestral alto trombone is David Mathie’s 1993 DMA dissertation, The Alto Trombone: Current Use and Performance Trends (University of Georgia), which includes the responses to a questionnaire about the alto trombone submitted to all professional tenor trombonists and University/Conservatoire trombone instructors in the USA. The respondents were asked to state whether they played the alto trombone and to indicate in which orchestral works, to identify their preferred make and model of alto trombone and to recommend alto trombone method books. The survey is most revealing in the near-unanimous agreement of the players regarding works assumed originally to have been written for a first tenor trombone (for which the alto was therefore deemed inappropriate). I will show in my thesis that it was in fact the alto instrument that had actually been intended by the composer.

Robin Gregory’s The Trombone (Oxford University Press, 1973) can be very useful as background material, provided one does not accept all his statements uncritically. The difficulty lies in separating insights from inaccuracies. Unfortunately, his discussion of the orchestral alto trombone contains several errors with regard to range, Gluck, Thomas and Bruckner, errors that have been further propagated by others.

As noted in the Coda section of my thesis, during the late 1960s there was a resurgence of interest in the alto trombone as a concertante instrument, spawned by new discoveries of eighteenth-century manuscripts from the Austrian empire (for which we are particularly indebted to Richard Raum and Kenneth Hanlon) as well as by the soloistic use of the alto by contemporary composers such as Britten. The alto trombone increasingly has begun to reappear in the symphony orchestra as players endeavour to ascertain which works require the instrument.

In contrast to the ophicleide or serpent, the alto trombone stands alone as the only instrument to return to the orchestral mainstream after having virtually disappeared. In this thesis I intend to consider the physical structure of today’s instrument, as well as performers’ attitudes towards it, as keys to assessing the extent to which the alto trombone has really been resurrected, and to what degree its traditional usage changed in order to bring about this re-birth.

Part I: The Alto-Tenor-Bass Trombone Trio


Although the trombone was the first of all modern wind instruments to come into existence, it was the last to join the ranks of the concert orchestra. It seems curious that while throughout history the trombone could be so favoured in tower music, in the church and for royalty, it did not become an established fixture in most orchestras until the 1820s.1As we shall see later, although he was the first composer of stature to employ the trombone section in his symphonic works, Beethoven was not the first composer to use trombones in the concert orchestra.Whilst the trombone may have existed as early as 1430,2Keith Polk, ‘Instrumental Music in the Urban Centres of Renaissance Germany’, Early Music History 7 (1984), p. was not until the sixteenth century that the concept of a trombone ‘section’ began to develop, with the alto trombone as the uppermost voice followed by the gemeine rechte (tenor) trombone, the quart or quint (bass) trombone and the octav (contrabass) trombone, as described by Praetorius.3Michael Praetorius, ‘Von dem Instrumentation’ in Syntagma Musicum II, Wolfenbüttel, 1618, pp. 35-6. According to Guido Adler, as the century progressed the trombone family ‘beschränkte sich in der Regel auf die drei…..Größen, den Alt, Tenor, und Bass’ (‘became restricted, as a rule, to the three… sizes, the alto, tenor and bass’). Guido Adler (ed.), Handbuch der Musikgeschichte, erster Teil, Berlin, 1930, pp. 624-25. Anthony Baines adds that before the end of the century this nomenclature was rarely employed and the trombones were referred to as Klein, Mittel (or Gemeine) and Gross. Anthony Baines, Brass Instruments: Their History and Development, London, 1976, p. 109.Composers have historically tended to treat the alto trombone as the most treble member4Despite the recent discovery of an historical curiosity, the short-lived soprano trombone most probably did not come into use until the late 18th century (contrary to claims by Terry: Bach’s Orchestra, pp. 36, 40; Sachs: Handbuch der Instrumentenkunde, p. 298; Kunitz: Die Instrumentation, p. 714 and Bate: The Trumpet and the Trombone, p. 212), perhaps in response to the decline of the ATB trombone trio’s heretofore treble partner, the Zink, and is indicated in the scores of Bach’s Cantatas Nos. 2, 21 and 38. Hauptman (J. S. Bachs Werke, vol. 1, p. xvi), Galpin (The Sackbut, Its Evolution and History, pp. 19-20) and Carse (History of Orchestration, p. 18) incorrectly identify the soprano trombone as the single-slide tromba da tirarsi (or Zugtrompete) of Bach’s orchestra.of the trombone group, rather than as the soloist of the section. Therefore much of the alto’s history is inseparable from that of the section as a whole, and I will review it in this context. According to Kunitz, during the sixteenth century the trombone section was consistently employed by Palestrina, Lasso, Giovanni Gabrieli and Monteverdi ‘als selbständiger, homogener Klangfaktor’.5‘as an independent, homogeneous element of sound’. Hans Kunitz, Die Instrumentation: ein Hand- und Lehrbuch 3rd edition, Leipzig, 1970, p.778-9. Trans. Helmut Braunlich.Being fully chromatic, trombones were able to participate in many forms of music of the time, but their soft, sombre sounds were considered to be particularly suited to the accompaniment of voices. Perhaps most important was their use in liturgical music, stemming from Biblical associations as well as the playing of Abblasen by members of the German Stadtpfeiffer as part of their civic duties. In Monteverdi’s Orfeo, which employs a section of five trombones (two altos, two tenors and a bass), another significant function of the trombones can be observed: that is, their usefulness to composers of dramatic music in depicting infernal and supernatural elements. The first half of the seventeenth century witnessed a growing popularity of the alto-tenor-bass trombone trio with composers, and curiously the only exception to the instrument’s otherwise widespread use appears to be its almost total absence from the opera orchestra. A high point in trombone writing was reached in the works of Heinrich Schütz: he exploited the trombone’s tone colour to bring out the emotions behind the texts of his religious compositions, such as Fili mi Absalom and Meine Seele erhebt, through techniques learned from Giovanni Gabrieli and Monteverdi. But around the middle of the century a drastic change in the trombone’s fortunes was brought about by a shift in musical taste throughout Europe, which now preferred the Italian violin ensemble and the tremendously popular French bassoon-oboe consort: this soon made the shawm obsolete and the Zink passé, and left the trombone bereft of its traditional music partners. Most likely the trombone survived this period of musical upheaval because of its proven usefulness as a support for voices, and its ongoing association with sacred music. Apparently only the Stadtpfeiffer played the instrument by now; they became the sole source of trombonists, albeit often of lacklustre ability. While Bach used trombones sparingly and unimaginatively, in part due to the dearth of skilled players,6Given the deficiencies of his trombonists, one remains sceptical of their ability to handle some of Bach’s more florid, colla voce lines, particularly in the strenuous upper tessitura of the alto part. It seems logical to assume that the trombone parts were not always played note for note and allowed for the discretionary omission of the more demanding and exposed passage.Fux and others in Vienna, influenced by immigrant Italian composers who favoured the instrument, and encouraged by a succession of musical monarchs, used the trombones not only colla voce7In a statement attributed to Albrechtsberger he states: “Langsame, feyerlich getragene Accorde bringen stets die erhabenste Wirkung hervor; schnelle Wechselfiguren, Läufe u. dgl. müßen nothwendig einer klar verständlichen Deutlichkeit ermangeln und die alte Befahrungsweise, in Fugensätzen aus purer Bequemlichkeit die Posaunen mit den Singstimmen im Einklange fortschlendern zu lassen, dürfte weder zu billigen, noch zu rechtfertigen, oder nachzuahmen seyn. Die eigenthümliche Würde dieser Instrumente weiset ihnen zunächst den Ehrenplatz in der Kirche an.” (“These instruments are best effective in slow, solemn-moving chords; rapid passages and runs must, of necessity, be wanting in clearness; and the ancient method of letting trombones play in unison with voices in fugue compositions is neither to be recommended, justified or imitated. The peculiar dignity of this instrument entitles it to a post of honour in church style.”) Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Sämtliche Schriften über Generalbaß, Harmonielehre und Tonsetzkunst zur Selbsunterrichten, annoted and edited by Ignaz von Seyfried, Dritter Band, Vienna, 1837, pp.185-86. Trans. Novello, J. G. Albrechtsberger’s Collected Writings in Thorough-Bass, Harmony and Composition for Self-Instruction, with many explanatory examples, verbally communicated to, and systematically arranged, enlarged and edited by, his pupil Ignaz von Seyfried, London, 1855, p.253. The above statement does not appear in the original German text of 1826 as Novello states, but in the 1837 German edition. with the voices but featured the alto trombone as a solo obbligato instrument in a new, creative and exciting manner. Ironically, a century that began full of promise for the trombone ended with its use dramatically reduced to the area known today as Austria, Bohemia, Moravia and Southern Germany. The near-obsolescence of its traditional partner, the Zink, was just one contributing factor to the trombone’s continuing decline. Its image as a symbol of Christian divinity that should not be profaned by use in secular music – an opinion held at the time by a number of influential music critics and composers – probably helped keep it out of the concert orchestra. Some viewed the trombone as an instrument of limited technical capability, suitable solely for the doubling of voices; the bassoon and horn, both capable of playing in the tenor-alto register, were seen as preferable in the orchestra. The decline of the German Stadtpfeiffer paralleled the decline of the trombone in that country. In the Austrian Empire, however, the standard of trombone playing continued to rise and leading composers such as Leopold Mozart, Michael Haydn, Georg Christoph Wagenseil and Johann Georg Albrechtsberger8Some historians speculate that Albrechtsberger composed his 1769 Konzert für Alt Posaune for either Leopold Ferdinand Christian or Wenzel Thomas, who were the court trombonists at that time. (Ludwig Köchel, Die Kaiserliche Hofmusikkapelle in Wien von 1543 bis 1867, Vienna, 1869, p. 87). However, Christian was just two years away from retirement in 1769 (Robert C. Wigness, The Soloistic Use of Trombone in Eighteenth Century Vienna, Nashville, 1978, p. 41), and Thomas would have been sixty-one (ibid.), passing away six years later (Köchel, op. cit., p. 87). Also, in his Sämtliche Schriften, Albrechtsberger fails to mention either trombonist in his enumeration of those who ‘haben dieses schwieriges Instrument kunstmässig behandelt’ (‘have mastered this difficult instrument with artistry’: J. G. Albrechstberger, Sämtliche Schriften über Generalbass, Harmonie-Lehre und Tonsetzkunst, Vienna, 1826, p. 201). Those listed by Albrechtsberger (and surely added by Seyfried or the publisher) are: Ahlsdorf, Belke, Braun, Dueller, Fröhlich, Hörbeder, Micke, Pöck, Schmitt, Seeger, Segner and Ulbrich (ibid.). Segner, who was appointed to the Court Orchestra in 1807 and who died in 1834 (Köchel, op. cit., p. 95) was surely too young to have been an established professional in 1769. There were three trombonists by the name of Ulbrich who could conceivably have been Albrechtsberger’s soloist from amoung those he had listed: Ignaz Ulbrich, although he would have been sixty-three in 1769 was considered sufficiently skilled to be selected fro the Court Orchestra three years later, a position he held for the next nineteen years (Wigness, op. cit., p. 43); Michael Anton Ulbrich, who would have been fifteen at the time, was appointed to the Court in 1793 (Köchel, op. cit., p. 95); and Johann K. Ulbrich, who was employed as a court trombonist in 1787 (Wigness, op. cit., p. 43).had a choice of virtuoso alto trombonists for whom they wrote concertos and serenades, as well as solo obbligato parts in liturgical works. That composers of the stature of Handel and Gluck scored for the ATB trombone section in a number of important dramatic works, while significant, did not in itself bring about the revival of the trombone. Very likely it was military band music, the popularity of which soared during the French Revolution and spread throughout Europe in the wake of Napoleon’s conquering armies, that paved the way for the ‘resurrection’ of the trombone section. Bandmasters, searching for more colour and carrying-power for outdoor performances ‘discovered’ the trombone just as they had previously unearthed the serpent. The key to this revivification was the construction by trombone makers of flared bells and wider bores in response to the insistence of bandmasters for yet louder and more robust sound. Thanks to military music the trombone developed a new, second personality – although the diminutive alto struggled to keep pace with the tenor and bass – that soon had repercussions in civic music. Opera composers, with the French in the vanguard, sought instruments of varied colour to underscore action on stage, and latched onto the trombone as a dramatic resource. In French opera9“Plus ça change, plus ça reste” Theodore de Lajarte gives the following description of a typical trombone part of the time: Daphnis et Pandrose, de Mehul, la partie de trombones ainsi formulée: ACTE PREMIER. — du 1er numéro au numéro 19, tacet. Numéro 11 (lent, en la), deux rondes, puis trente-et-une mesures de pause. ACTE II. — Jusqu’au numéro 19, tacet. Numéro 20 (allegro vivace). dix-neuf pauses. Andante: trois mesures de pause, point d’orgue. Allego: soixante-quatorze mesures de pause. La mineur: douze mesures de pause. Ritournelle de violon: quatre mesures. Enfin, le tromboniste embouche son instrument; mais ce n’est que pour faire entendre quatre rondes et une noire fortissimo. Il attend cing autres mesures, joue deux mesures et demie avec trois fff et son role est terminé: dix notes chacun. Ah! Le beau temps que c’etait la pour les trombones!” (“Daphis et Pandrose, by Mehul, the trombone part is thus constructed: ACT I. — From the first number to number 10, tacet. Number 11 (lento, in A), two semi-breves, then thirty-one bars rest. ACT II.– Up to number 19, tacet. Number 20 (allegro vivace), nineteen bars rest. Andante: three bars rest, pedal point. Allegro: seventy-four bars rest. A minor: twelve bars rest. Violin ritornello: four bars. Finally, the trombonists put their instruments to their lips; but it is only to play four semi-breves and a crotchet fortissimo. After waiting five more bars, he plays two-and-a-half bars triple forte and his part is finished. Ah! What an easy life the trombones had in those days!”). Theodore de LaJarte, “Introduction du trombone dans l’orchestre de Opera,” La Chronique Musicale vi (1874), p.79.the trombone section was no longer restricted to scenes of death and the supernatural, although in Vienna Mozart still employed the ATB trio in the tradition of Monteverdi, Cesti and Gluck with great success. By the end of the eighteenth century the trombone section had become established in military and civic music in France, Italy, Germany and England. The demand from composers for the instrument grew, and the stage was set for the introduction of the alto-tenor-bass trombone trio into the concert orchestra. Although Beethoven is generally credited with the introduction of the ATB trombone trio to the concert orchestra in 1808 in his Fifth Symphony, he was not the first orchestral composer to score for it, nor even the first to include the section in a symphony. According to Robin Gregory, Franz Beck (1723-1809), born and trained in Mannheim, was the first composer to include the trio of alto, tenor and bass trombone in a symphony:
Trombones had been used earlier [than Beethoven] in some of the ‘battle’ symphonies popular at the time; their earliest symphonic appearance was in Franz Beck’s Symphony in E flat, circa 1760.10Robin Gregory, The Trombone: The Instrument and its Music, London, 1973, p. 127. Since there is no extant autograph score it is uncertain whether Beck actually did score for trombones.
In 1990 Sarah Gordon, writing in The Trombonist, described a Beck symphony ‘in the key of E flat, written in 1760, for two oboes, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones and a full string section’.11Sarah Gordon, ‘Das Sinfonische Werk von Franz Beck’, The Trombonist, Spring 1990, p. 18.The Sinfonie in Es Dur, composed between the years 1760 and 1762, consists of three relatively short movements: Allegro con brio/Andante/ Funèbre – Menuett 1 and 2 – Funèbre. Beck does not use the trumpets until the beginning of the final Funèbre section, and the trombones do not appear until the ninth bar from the end (see Ex. I.1). It seems more than likely that these players would have doubled on other instruments until the last movement. Another composer who appears to have used trombones in a symphony prior to Beethoven was the Salzburger Joseph Krottendorfer. According to T. Donley Thomas, a 1768 work scored for two oboes, eight trumpets, two trombones and strings is ‘akin… to Beethoven’s Finale [of the Fifth Symphony]’.12T. Donley Thomas, ‘Michael Haydn’s “Trombone Symphony” ’, Brass Quarterly 6 (1962), p. 8.Neither the Beck nor the Krottendorfer symphonies is part of today’s standard repertoire and, according to Guion, it is doubtful whether either was ‘ever widely performed even during the lifetime of the composers’.13David Guion, The Trombone: The Instrument and its Music, London, 1973, p. 135. According to Carse and Schreiber, a few concert orchestras engaged a trombone section prior to 1800: the Kaiserliche Hofmusik Kapelle, Wien in 1782,14Ottmar Schreiber, Orchester und Orchesterpraxis in Deutschland zwischen 1780 und 1850, Berlin, 1938, p. 111.the Kurfürstliche Hofkapelle of Mainz in 178215Adam Carse, The Orchestra in the XVIIIth Century, Cambridge, 1940, p. 19.and 1790,16Schreiber, op. cit., p. 107.the Königliche Kapelle of Berlin in 1787,17Carse, The Orchestra, p. 19.and the Royal Stockholm Orchestra in 1790.18Schreiber, op. cit., p. 110.In orchestras that employed a section of trombones either permanently or from time to time, much music with trombone parts must have consisted either of overtures and extracts from operas and oratorios, as these were popular concert items at this time,19For example, the ‘Dead March’ from Handel’s Saul.or of religious music.20The Salzburg Orchestra of 1757 engaged a trombone section with the proviso that they were to be used for church music only. Carse, The Orchestra, p. 26.Thus the importance of theatre music to the development of the orchestral trombone section can be seen as a crucial link in the chain which led to its eventual inclusion in symphonies and other types of purely orchestral music. Thought to have been written in 1791, three symphonies with trombone parts were composed by Ignace Pleyel for London’s Professional Concerts.21Guion, The Trombone, p. 268.However, these works were all scored for a single trombone. This raises the question of what was considered the optimum number of players of which a trombone section should consist. Whereas the French composer and music critic François Henri Joseph Blaze (1784-1857) felt that one (the bass trombone) was sufficient, and that three (alto, tenor, bass) were needed only when the string section was unusually large,22H.F. Blaze, De l’Opéra en France, Paris, 1820, p. 136.Berlioz contended that:
… un seul trombone dans un orchestre semble toujours plus ou moins déplacé. Cet instrument a besoin de l’harmonie, ou tout au moins, de l’unison des autres membres de la famille, pour que ses aptitudes diverses puissent se manifester complètement. Beethoven l’a employé quelque fois par paires, comme les Trompettes; mais l’usage consacré de les écrire à trois parties me pârait préférable.23‘… a single trombone in an orchestra always seems more or less out of place. This instrument needs harmony, or at least, unison with the other members of its family in order that its varied attributes may be manifested. Beethoven sometimes employed it in pairs, like the trumpets; but the time-honoured custom of writing in three parts appears preferable to me.’ Hector Berlioz, Grand Traité d’Instrumentation et d’Orchestration, 2nd edition, Paris, 1855, p.205. Trans. Mary Clarke, A Treatise upon Modern Instrumentation and Orchestration, 2nd edition, London, 1858, p.156 (trans. edited by A. C. Howie).
Hermann Zopff (1826-83), a German music critic, teacher and composer, agreed that a trombone section ideally consisted of three players; as far as a fourth trombone was concerned, more was definitely not better:
Die Gewalt des Posaunensatzes liegt zum Theil gerade in seiner Dreistimmigkeit, in der Macht des einfachen Drei-Klanges. Eine vierte Posaune bedeckt das ehrern Durchbringende des Tons schon durch überfüllung.24‘The power of a trombone passage lies precisely in its three-part texture, in the power of the simple triad. A fourth trombone obscures the quality of sound penetration… through overloading.’ Hermann Zopff, Der Angehende Dirigent, Leipzig, 1881, p. 21.
According to Adolph Marx:
Gewöhnlich werden zu vierstimmigem Posaunensatze zwei Bassposaunen genommen, das scheint uns der überwältigenden Macht und Schwere diesen Instruments nicht angemessen. Gegen zwei Bassposaunen sind eine Tenor – und eine Altposaune zu schwach, wohl aber ist eine Bassposaune gegen zwei Tenorposaunen und eine Altposaune stark genug. Auch ist eine Bassposaune als Mittelstimme zu schwer und ausser Verhältniss mit der vom Tenor besetzten andern Mittelstimme.25‘Customarily, two bass trombones are designated in four-part trombone writing. This seems to us, unsuitable because of the overpowering might and weight of the instrument. Opposed to two bass trombones, a tenor and an alto trombone are too weak; indeed one bass trombone is strong enough to balance two tenor trombones and an alto trombone. Also a bass trombone as a middle voice is disproportionately too heavy with respect to the tenor which is the other middle voice.’ Adolph Bernard Marx, Die Lehre von der Musikalischen Komposition, praktisch theoretisch, part iv, Leipzig, 1847, p.72. Personally, I find a fourth trombone (i.e. TTTB) adds immeasurably to the warmth and fullness of the section’s sound (for example in Mahler’s Second Symphony). Not only is the section capable of more power, as one would expect, but paradoxically the resulting tone-mix can be more gentle and solemn as a result of the breadth and sonority of the sound that derives from doubling the root of the chord at the octave, or the playing of four-part chords, which makes the trombone trio seem thin by comparison. However, in an ATTB section, the three lower voices must be vigilant not to overbalance the alto, which should just rest comfortably atop the cushion of sound.
Although somewhat difficult to read, the autograph score of the 1807 Symphony in E flat Major (Ex. I.2) by the Swedish composer Joachim Eggert (1779-1813) reveals a section of alto, tenor and bass trombones that pre-dates Beethoven’s use of the section in the Fifth Symphony. While for much of the time Eggert’s trombones functioned as harmonic filler, he did employ the section in ways that were quite novel for the time. For example, in the ‘Fugue’ (Ex. I.3), the alto, tenor and bass have been given separate entries and the parts are rhythmically independent of each other. Additionally, at times the individual members of the section are assigned different articulations. While there is much doubling of the trombones by the woodwinds, Eggert does give the section independent, thematic material, albeit of no great length. The alto’s range is a comfortable f to c”. The 1800s may have ushered in an age of trombones,26For example, in 1810 a journalist singled out the trombones for mention in an article about the works to be performed in an up-coming concert: ‘Eine grosse neue Ouvertüre fürs ganze Orchester (auch mit Posaunen) von Herr Spohr’ (‘A big new overture for the entire orchestra (including trombones) by Mr Spohr’.) G. L. P. Sievers, ‘Nachricht von einem in Thurigen seltenen Musikfeste’, Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 12, no. 47 (August 22, 1810), col. 750.but not without a chorus of critics who decried the craze. ‘Posaunen, Posaunen – diese sind für unsere neusten Komponisten das Herrlichste, gerade wie Trommeln für die Kinder’,27‘Trombones, trombones – for our modern composers these are the most marvellous things, exactly like drums for children’. Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 5 (1802/03), pp. 216-217.lamented a Paris correspondent in 1802. These critics, performers and composers among them, found the new, boisterous sound of the trombone objectionable. Joseph Fröhlich, who felt the trombone’s most important role to be vocal accompaniment,28Joseph Fröhlich, Vollständige Theoretische-Pracktische Musikschule, vol. iii ‘Von der Posaune’, Bonn, 1811, p. 27.argued, like Mersenne nearly two centuries earlier, that:
Der Charakter des Instrumentes, besonders geeignet zum Ausdruck des Erhabnen, Feyerlichen, welchem auf der andern Seite das Sanfte Ruhige entspricht, so wie die gewöhnliche Bestimung desselben, jene der Begleitung von Singstimmen erfordert es, dass der Vortrag auf demselben gehalten, gesangvoll, und ja nicht zu grell seyn dörfe, um so die möglichste Annäherung an diejenige Stimme zu bewirken, welche jede dieser Posaunen im Satze begleitet, oder vorstellt, der Alt-Posaune an die Alt, der Tenor an die Tenor, und der Bass-Posaune an die Bass-Stimme. Soviele Wirkung eine schöne Harmonien folge auf diesen Instrumenten mit Seele und einem verhältnissmässig modificirten Ansatze vorgetragen immer hat, und haben muss, so wiederlich, und allen guten Eindruck verderbend ist es, wenn Posaunen mit einem wilden schmetterden Tone geblasen werden.29‘The instrument, particularly suited to the expression of the noble and solemn also suits the gentle and calm, as well as its usual role of doubling voices. Its character requires that its execution be kept melodious and not too shrill, in order to bring out the closest resemblance to the voice that each trombone doubles or represents: alto, tenor and bass trombones with alto, tenor and bass voices respectively. Just as beautiful resulting harmony always has, and must have, so much effect on this instrument when it is played soulfully and with gentle articulation, so it is revolting and spoils all the good impressions when the trombone is played with a wild, blaring tone…’ Ibid., p. 27. Translated by Guion, The Trombone, p. 96-7 (trans. edited by A. C. Howie). Mersenne similarly wrote in 1636 that vicious sounds were inappropriate for trombones. Marin Mersenne, Harmonie Universelle, Paris, 1636; facsimile edition, Paris, 1965, p. 272.
Fröhlich, who as a respected trombonist and educator had intended his remarks for students and performers, might have been influential in putting the brakes on the development of the powerful new trombone sound; or perhaps he was influential in curbing its excesses. Echoing the words of Schubart in the previous century, the correspondent of the Morgenblatt lamented the sorry state of the trombone in 1819:
‘Der Berichterstatter aus Paris im Morgenblatte Nr. 150, v.J. führt bey der Beschreibung der ländlichen Vergnügungen der Pariser an, dass dort bey den meisten Tanz-Orchestern die Posaune gebraucht werde, deren ernsthafter Basston, wie sehr treffend bemerkt wird, das übrige Geräusch durchdringe, und damit sonderbar contrastire.’ Alle in dieser Gebrauch, oder richtiger Missbrauch eines ernsten, feyerlichen Instruments, das nach der biblischen Sage die letzten Dinge zu verkündigen bestimmt ist, und dazu unter allen Instrumenten am besten gewählt zu seyn scheint, ist nicht bloss in der Nähe der Glanz- und Prachtstadt des französischen Königreiches Sitte, sondern durch die französische Kriegsmusik, und die nach ihr gemodelte kriegerische Musik der heutigen deutschen, seit den Jahren der französischen Herrschaft, durch ganz Deutschland verbreitet worden, so dass z.B. in der Nähe von Leipzig fast überall kein Tanz ohne Posaunen-Bass gespielt und gehüpft werden kann.30‘In the Morgenblatte no. 150 of this year the correspondent from Paris, in his description of the Parisians’ rural diversions, mentioned that the trombone is used in most of the dance orchestras there, where its serious bass voice… sounds through the rest of the noise, making a peculiar contrast. But this use, or more properly misuse, of a serious, ceremonial instrument – which, according to the Bible, is ordained to pronounce the Last Judgement; and which, of all the instruments, seems the best chosen for this – is not confined to the vicinity of the magnificent and splendid capital of the French kingdom, but has spread all over Germany since the days of the French occupation, via the French military bands and the modern German military bands, which are modelled after them, so that, for example, in the vicinity of Leipzig almost no dance can be played without a bass trombone playing and cavorting about.’ ‘Die Posaune in der Mode’, Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung mit besonderer Rucksicht auf den österreichischen Kaiserstaat, October 1819, pp. 671-72. Translation by Mary Rasmussen, ‘Two Early Nineteenth-Century Trombone Virtuosi: Carl Traugott Quiesser and Friedrich August Belke’, Brass Quarterly 5 (1961), pp. 15-16.
John Marsh, a violinist, organist, composer and conductor, cautioned composers to follow Handel’s example and use the trombones ‘sparingly’.31John Marsh, Hints to Young Composers of Instrumental Music, London, c. 1807; reprinted in the Galpin Society Journal 18 (1965), p. 69.According to Marsh, trombones and percussion ‘degenerate into continued noise and clatter, with which the audience frequently becomes fatigued before the performance is over’.32Ibid., p. 70.Especially offensive to some critics was the seemingly ubiquitous presence of the trombones. Around 1805 Burney complained that:
Tromboni and double-drums are now so frequently used at the opera, oratorios and in symphonies that they are become a nuisance to lovers of pure harmony and refined tones; for, in fact, the vibrations of these instruments produce noise, not musical sounds.33Charles Burney, ‘Trombone’ in Abraham Rees (ed.) Cyclopaedia vol. xxxvi, London, 1819, no pagination.
Albrechtsberger, who would live to hear the momentous entrance of the trombone section in the Fifth Symphony (as well as the Sixth) of his former pupil, Beethoven, lamented the abuse of the trombones at the hands of most composers at the turn of the century:
Gluck und Mozart haben sie auch mit wunderbar herrlichem Erfolge in das musicalische Drama verpflanzt; die Nachkommen haben ihrer Nature sie entwürdigt; sie müssen gegenwärtig zu Allem herhalten, und fortwährend verstärken, gleich den übrigen Blechmassen, in ernsten und Komischen Opern, bey Regiments-Banden und Tanzmusiken, woselbst ein obligates Posaunen-Solo in einem Walzer oder Galopp so recht wie sarcastische Ironie sich ausnimmt.34‘Gluck and Mozart have transplanted them to dramatic style with excellent results. Trombones, however, have degenerated in the hands of successors; they are now condemned to continual service; for strengthening, combined with other brass instruments, serious or comic operas, in regimental bands, or dance music; in which a trombone solo for a waltz or gallop appears a mere ironical sarcasm.’ Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Sämtlichen Schriften über Generalbass, Harmonie-Lehre und Tonsetzkunst zum Selbstunterrichte, vermehrt und herausgegeben von Ignaz von Seyfried, Band iii, Vienna, 1837, p.186. Trans. S. Novello, Thorough-Bass, Harmony and Composition, London, 1855, p.253. Ironically, the following curious statement attributed to Albrechtsberger seems to indicate that he was not particularly enamoured of the slide trombone: ‘Die industriösen Instrumenten-Macher unsere Kaiserstadt haben nunmehr auch die Posaunen mit Grifflöchern und Klappen versehen, und dadurch die theilweise stets lästige Unsicherheit der Züge beseitigt.’ (‘The industrious instrument makers of our imperial city [Vienna] have added stop-holes and keys to trombones… and have thus obviated the former uncertainty of the slides.’) Albrechtsberger, ibid., p. 185: trans. Novello, ibid., p. 253. This passage, which does not appear in the original text, seems unlikely to be Albrechtsberger’s opinion, since the first valve trombones were not produced in Vienna until the 1820s (Anthony Baines, ‘The Trombone’, Grove’s Dictionary of Musical Instruments, London 1984, vol. 3, p. 631): it must therefore be Seyfried’s. See note 56, Chapter 2.
The sight of a trombonist experiencing ‘the horrors of apoplexy [with] swollen veins and starting eyes’,35Edward Holmes, A Ramble among the Musicians of Germany, London, 1828, p. 254.the ‘sheer ridiculousness of the trombone as a virtuoso instrument’36Mary Rasmussen, op. cit., p. 14.– something comically novel about the instrument thoroughly captured the public’s imagination. Indeed, ‘the demand for trombones had reached such a degree in some places that no work could be performed without them, even if it did not provide for them in the original instrumentation’.37 Ibid, p.16. Protesting the addition of the trombones to a performance of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony at Halle, the correspondent of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung wrote:
Doch gar manche schöne Stellen durch den gewaltigen Posaunenton fast erdrückt… Wir leben freylich im Posaunenzeitalten. Aber, fragen muss doch: kann denn gar kein Tonwerk mehr ohne Posaunen Wirkung haben?38 ‘Indeed, many beautiful passages were nearly crushed under the weight of the trombones… Truly we live in an age of trombones, but indeed one must enquire if it is any longer possible for a piece to have an effect without them?’ Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 32 (July 1830), pp. 425-26.

Chapter 1: From Beethoven to Schumann

1:1 Beethoven
Although Beethoven was not responsible for introducing the trombone section into the concert orchestra, he was the earliest composer of stature whose symphonies contained trombone parts.
Chez Beethoven les trombones remplissent un rôle plutôt décoratif; ils sont destinés à augmenter la quantité sonore, à entourer de tout l’éclat imaginable une composition grandiose ou pittoresque. Ils n’apparaissent sur le champ de bataille instrumental que vers la fin de l’action, en guise de réserve, afin d’appuyer un effort suprème, de frapper le coup définitif.1‘With Beethoven the trombone performed a mostly decorative function; they were intended to increase the amount of sound and to surround a grandiose or picturesque composition with all imaginable brilliance. They didn’t appear on the instrumental battlefield until near the end of the action, in the guise of a reserve, finally to support a supreme effort, to deliver the final blow.’ François Gevaert, Cours Méthodique d’Orchestration, Paris, 1880, pp. 207-8. Trans. J. Wagstaff.
In the Fifth Symphony, Beethoven holds the trombones in reserve until the opening of the Finale which Berlioz described as a ‘coup de foudre’ (a ‘thunderbolt’):2Hector Berlioz, A Travers Chant, 2me edition, ed. Mihel Lèvy Frères, Paris, 1872, p. 38.
Tout l’orchestre, aidé des trombones qui n’ont point encore paru, éclat alors dans le mode majeur sur un thème de march triomphale…3‘The entire orchestra, reinforced by the trombones who have been tacet to this point, burst forth in the major key with a triumphant march theme.’ Ibid., p. 38.
Montagu finds it curious that Beethoven should have waited until this point in the symphony (when it changes from C minor to C major) before bringing in the trombones, since the fully chromatic trombones, unlike the natural horns and trumpets, were the only brass instruments capable at that time of playing the minor third, E flat.4Although the valved horn did exist by the time of the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven was aware that only one horn player in Vienna – the fourth horn – possessed one (Felix Weingartner, Ratschläge fur Aufführungen Klassischer Symphonien: Beethoven vol. 1, Leipzig, 1906, p. 179). The horns probably could have managed the minor third by a combination of hand-in-bell technique and ‘lipping’.He concludes that ‘it was presumably for the sake of their weight and tone colour at the moment of blazing triumph that he wanted the trombone’.5Jeremy Montagu, The World of Romantic and Modern Instruments, Newton Abbot, 1981, p. 103.In a letter to Graf Oppersdorf, Beethoven explained his decision to use the trombone section:
Das letzte Stück der Sinfonie ist mit 3 Posaunen und flautino – zwar nicht 3 Pauken, wird aber mehr Lärm als 6 Pauken und zwar bettern Lärm machen.6‘The last movement of the symphony has three trombones and a piccolo – and although, it is true, there are not three kettledrums, yet this combination of instruments will make more noise and, what is more, a more pleasing noise than six kettledrums.’ A. Thayer (ed.) Ludwig van Beethovens Leben 3rd Edition, vol. iii, Leipzig, 1911, pp. 11-12. Translated in E. Anderson (ed.), The Letters of Ludwig van Beethoven vol i, London , 1961, p. 189.
The alto trombonist must enter ‘cold’ on a c” at fortissimo after sitting tacet through the first three movements.7This, as we whall see, was just the first of many such difficult entries following a tacet which were to be written for the alto trombone.Indeed, the alto’s tessitura during the entire movement is extreme, with a range of ab to f”. Many of the notes are easily ‘split’ (and often are). By scoring an f” for the first trombone at bars 453-54, Beethoven assured himself an infamous place in history as far as future generations of trombonists would be concerned.8Today, one will find this passage on almost all first trombone orchestral audition lists and the ability to play this note is not only assumed, but candidates are judged on the quality of the sound as well. Lest one be tempted to speculate that modern technology has made the f” easier to play, the author wishes to point out that he found this note actually spoke more easily on an 1814 Leipzig Eb alto trombone than on the modern alto, because of the former’s narrower gauge.Of the entire standard orchestral repertoire, this would prove to be the first and (so far) the last f” required of the first trombonist – the highest note that would ever be demanded. Curiously, his teacher Albrechtsberger had cautioned writing above c” for the alto trombone.9Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Anweisung zur Composition, original manuscript: Archives Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien.One notes that Fröhlich10Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Sämtlichen Schriften über Generalbass, Harmonie-Lehre und Tonsetzkunst, Vienna 1826, p. 200in 1811, like Albrechtsberger11Fröhlich, op. cit., p. 35., cites eb” as the highest note attainable on the Eb alto trombone. Indeed, Prout in 1898 also gives eb” as the highest possible note on the Eb alto,12Ebenezer Prout, The Orchestra, London, 1897, p. 224.and Forsyth writes in 1914 that ‘the four semi-tones above eb” are for all intents and purposes unplayable’.13Cecil Forsyth, Orchestration, London, 1914, p. 139.This would have meant that Beethoven’s f” for the Eb alto trombone, as well as the e” at bars 803-5, were, technically speaking, a practical impossibility.14Mozart called for an e” colla voce in the Gloria of the C Minor Mass, as well as in bar 182 of no. 6 in the theatre work Thomas, König in Ägypten, as did Bach in his Cantata no. 121; Gluck wrote an f” for the alto trombonist in Alceste. However, in all these cases, the trombone is doubling the voice part.Beethoven’s first trombonist may have played this symphony on an F alto, if one existed.15Although Baines contends that the F alto was used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Anthony Baines, Brass Instruments: Their History and Development, London, 1976, p. 245), neither Albrechtsberger nor Fröhlich makes reference to any alto trombone except the one pitched in Eb. In 1836 Kastner mentions an F alto: ‘En général, en France, la première position du Trombone Alto donne l’accord suivant, mais on en rencontre d’autres, un notamment dont la première position est un ton plus haut et par consequent tous les dégrés dans la même proportion.’ (‘Generally, in France, the following harmonics can be played on first position on the alto trombone [eb-bb-eb’-g’-bb’-eb”] but one finds others, particularly one in which first position is one tone higher, and consequently the harmonics one tone higher per slide position.’) J.G. Kastner, Traité Général d’Instrumentation, second edition, Paris, 1836, p. 40. According to Adolph Bernard Marx ‘bisweilen, – man versichert es uns von der sächsischen Militärmusik, – wird die Altposaune in höherer Stimmung (also mit kürzerm Rohr) gebrauch… Ob die in F stehenden Posaunen engere Mensur haben und dadurch geeigneter sind für die Ansprache der höhern Töne, wissen wir nicht, müssen es aber vermuthen… Da nun ohnehin die Es-stimmung soviel wie wir wissen, die bei weitem verbreitere ist…’ (‘Occasionally – those from the Saxon military bands assure us – a higher-pitched alto (thus with a shorter slide) is used… We don’t know whether the trombone with its narrower dimensions is thus more suitable for the playing in the upper register, but we must presume so… In any case the alto in Eb, so far as we know, is more prevalent.’) Marx op. cit., pp. 505-506. Berlioz, in his Traité, describes a valved F alto trombone (p. 224); see also ‘The Alto Valve-Trombone’, Chapter 2.As the f” is in unison with the piccolo, oboes and clarinet, one cannot discount the possibility that it was omitted and ‘cause[d] many a fine first trombonist to shake his head’.16Nicholas Bessaraboff, Ancient European Musical Instruments, Boston, 1941, p. 189. Flandrin asks: ‘Est-ce que pour éviter un danger aux trompettes simples à changement de tons en usage alors, ou est-ce une sonorité de son choix?’ (‘Was this to avoid the risk of the natural trumpets changing [the way of playing] the notes commonly used, or was it his preferred sonority?’) M.G. Flandrin, ‘Le Trombone’, Encyclopédie de la Musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire, Deuxième Partie: Technique-esthétique-Pédagogie, Paris, 1925, p. 1685.Ironically, Widor held that Beethoven composed for the trombones ‘dans leur vrai register’,17‘in their true register’. Charles Marie Widor, Le Technique de l’Orchestre Moderne, Paris, 1904, p. 107. Translated by Edward Suddard, The Technique of the Modern Orchestra, A Manual of Practical Instrumentation, London, 1905, p. 86.and that in this respect he and Weber were similar.18Widor, ibid, p. 107.However, as we shall see, Beethoven and Weber in fact wrote for the first trombone in very different registers. Rhythmically, throughout the Finale of the Fifth Symphony, the trombones generally do not play the up-beats that are otherwise played by the full orchestra. They function mainly as harmonic reinforcement and are limited to simple rhythms. In only one tutti passage – the third bar of the opening theme with a rare up-beat – are they given anything shorter than crotchets to play.
1:1:1 The uncompleted orchestral brass choir
Gevaert states that:
Le grand symphoniste oppose le trio des trombones au deuxième groupe, accru des trompettes, de la même manière que celui-ci est opposé au quatuor, c’est à dire comme un organisme doué d’une mobilité moindre. Il lui assigne en conséquence des rythmes et des formes mélodiques plus simples qu’aux autres instruments à vent, lesquels, à leur tour, reçoivent une figuration moins abondante que les instruments à archet.19‘In augmenting the trumpets, the great symphonist used the trombone trio to counter them in the same manner he countered the trumpets with the woodwind quartet, that is to say, as an entity endowed with less mobility. Thus, he assigned the trumpets simpler rhythms and motifs than the other wind instruments which, likewise, received less complex passages than the strings.’ Gevaert, op. cit., p. 208.
Beethoven’s inclusion of the trombone trio did not, as some might contend, establish the orchestral brass choir, as the trumpets, horns and trombones seldom function as a unit. According to Gevaert, the addition of the trombones to the orchestra:
… a pour résultat de constituer les cuivres éclatants en choeur à cinq voix: aux deux dessus viennent se joindre la haute-contre, la taille et la basse. Par la prépondérance de cet ensemble puissant, le champ d’activité des voix individuelles se trouve forcément rétréci: les nuances délicates s’évanouissent quand de violents contrastes entrent en jeu… Bien que ces instruments appartiennent légitimement à la famille des trompettes, Beethoven (à l’exemple de Gluck) les traite presque toujours comme un groupe spécial contenant en lui-même une harmonie plus ou moins complète.20‘resulted in the creation of a brilliant brass choir of five voices: two trumpets above were joined by the alto, tenor and bass voices of the trombones. Due to the sheer weight of this powerful ensemble, the musical role of the individual parts was inevitably reduced: the delicate nuances vanished when the violent contrasts came into play. Moreover… even though the trombones technically were aligned with the trumpet section, Beethoven (following Gluck’s example) treated them almost always as a special group with harmony more or less complete.’ Ibid., p. 208.
Often the trombone parts have more in common with those of the woodwinds than with those of the trumpets and horns. As shown in Ex. 1.1, the passage from bars 7 to 15 in the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, is interesting, for although the trombones, bassoons and clarinets function together, Beethoven curiously assigns the trombones different note-values from the woodwinds. In bar 7, for example, the first trombone and bass trombone double the first clarinet and contrabassoon respectively, but the trombones play dotted crotchets versus the woodwind’s minims. It appears that Beethoven was taking into account the tendency of trombones to lag behind due to the distance of their position at the back of the orchestra.21A statement attributed to Albrechtsberger by Seyfried appears in the 1837 edition of the Sämtliche Schriften: ‘Ein routinirter Bläser hat vorzüglich darauf Bedacht zu nehmen, daß er jeden Ton um ein Comma früher anschlägt, als es der eigentliche Takt-Rhythmus erheischt; weil die Luft erst sich entwickeln muß, und sonst immer etwas zu spät der Klang vernommen wird.’ (‘A practised [trombonist] will take care to commence every tone a comma earlier than necessary for the rhythm of the measure; otherwise the sound will occur too late, as the air takes time for development’. Albrechtsberger, Sämtliche Schriften, second edition, 1837, p.185 . Trans. Novello, op. cit., p. 253.This would also seem to account for the dotted crotchet rest in bar 8 – clearing the trombones a quaver early so they would not intrude upon the three-quaver pick-ups played by the upper woodwinds, horns and first violins. But in bar 9, which is identical to bar 7, Beethoven this time gives the trombones the same note-values as the clarinet and contra-bassoon; in bar 11 we are back to dotted crotchets against minims. Bar 10 is also perplexing. This is the same material as that of bar 8, but now the bass trombone plays a dotted crotchet E against the alto and tenor’s minim tied to a quaver. In bar 12, ironically, Beethoven demands a staccato fourth crotchet from the clarinets and bassoons but not from the trombones, who with their heavy voice would have a tendency to sound longer than the lighter woodwinds. In bar 13, while the bass trombone doubles the contra exactly in minims, the first two trombones double the clarinets and bassoons but with shorter notes. This means they are also playing shorter notes than the third trombone of the section. The same occurs in bar 15. Inevitably, bars 10, 13 and 15 can feel wrong to the trombone section. While some of these inconsistencies may be attributed to a copyist’s error – certainly this could be the case for bar 12, for the staccato marking does not appear in the recapitulation – one wonders whether the scoring of the trombones came as an afterthought to Beethoven, who perhaps sketched their parts in rather hastily.22We know this is probably the case with Christus am Oelberge, op. 86. ‘It is possible, indeed, that… the trombones here were a last-minute addition, as is implied also in Ries’s account of how he was summoned to Beethoven at five in the morning on the day of the concert: “I found him in bed, writing on single sheets of paper. To my questions what it was he answered ‘Trombones’. In the actual performance, the trombones played from these very sheets. Had the copying of these parts been forgotten? Where they an afterthought? I was too young at the time to see anything of artistic interest in the incident; but probably the trombones were an afterthought.”’ Alan Tyson, ‘The 1803 version of Beethoven’s Christus am Oelberge’, The Musical Quarterly 56 (1970), p. 559, n. 11. With regard to modern performance practice, today’s trombone section will scrupulously distinguish between bars 7, 9 and 11, and it is open to speculation whether this is what Beethoven intended. As Gevaert points out:
D’habitude les trois trombones marchent réunis; de loin en loin seulement une partie du groupe agit seule (p.e. le troisième pour renforcer une basse importante; l’alto, le ténor, pour faire entendre un chant en grosses notes). Selon l’effet à produire, les accords retentissants du trio sont tantôt serrés, tantôt très larges (au temps de Beethoven on se servait des trois variétés de l’instrument); parfois leurs sons s’étalent longuement, en d’autres moments des coups brefs marquent les accents rythmiques les plus saillants.23‘Customarily the three trombones work as a unit: only very rarely could a part of the group act alone (for example the third to support an important bass part; the alto, the tenor to bring out a passage in tenuto). Accordingly to the effect to be produced, the resounding chords of the trio were sometimes short, sometimes very long. (During Beethoven’s time the trombone section consisted of three species of instrument); occasionally their sounds broadly extended, other times in quick stabs, accentuating the most important rhythms.’ Gevaert, Cours, p. 208-9.
In bars 112-118 (Ex. 1.2), Beethoven assigns a significant passage to the alto and tenor trombone in unison (doubled by the bassoons) – ‘leurs sons s’étalent longuement’. Although Beethoven has not indicated on the part that this passage should be brought out, it needs to be played soloistically. These bars are followed by ‘coups brefs’ punctuating the rhythm.
1:1:2 The limited solo capabilities of the alto trombone; unthematic trombone parts
Referring to bars 112-118, Guion asserts that this ‘moment of prominence, [on] any other instrument… would have been a solo’,24Guion, The Trombone, p. 279.suggesting Beethoven’s reluctance to assign a prominent solo to a single trombonist. According to Guion:
such was Beethoven’s influence that the trombone, alone among the ordinary instruments of the orchestra, had no soloistic role in symphonic music until the end of the century… leaving it to Mahler and later generations to discover what the trombone could add to symphonic work.25Ibid., pp. 280, 283.
Although Guion fails to take into account the trombone solos in Berlioz’s Symphonie funèbre et triomphale (1840), Halévy’s Le Juif Errant (1852), Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet (1868), Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 326With 3rd horn and 1st clarinet.(1886) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture and Scheherazade (1888), most later composers who wrote thematically for the trombones did so in chorale fashion (e.g. Schubert, Schumann, Bruckner, Brahms, Dvořák) or in section unison, as Wagner did in his Overture to Tannhäuser (1845) and Prelude to Act III in Lohengrin (1850). However, a solo alto trombone in the upper register, especially against the backdrop of a full symphony orchestra, has a tendency to sound thin and weak, and would have sounded even more so on the narrower-bore alto of Beethoven’s day. Very likely Beethoven scored the passage in this manner in order to achieve weight and breadth of sound; and in adding the bassoons also provided for the possibility of a future performance, without trombones. There is one other ‘moment of prominence’ in the Fifth Symphony for the alto trombone. Most conductors will ask the alto trombonist to bring out the a’ at bar 293, as the alto is the only instrument in the orchestra which moves in that bar and the only one to play the minor third of the f# diminished seventh chord.27Unfortunately some first trombonists, in their astonishment at being asked to actually play louder and in their enthusiasm to comply, end up splitting this solo note. Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, also first performed in 1808, is unique in being the only symphony in the standard repertoire that calls for just two trombones.28According to Widor (op cit., p. 95): ‘Beethoven (dans sa jeunesse) [a] toujours écrit pour trois Trombones: Alto, Ténor et Basse’ (‘Beethoven, in his youth, had always written for three trombones: alto, tenor and bass’). However, I can find no evidence to support the implication that Beethoven ever scored for less than three trombones at a later time in his life. Furthermore, Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony could hardly be called early works.‘L’usage de deux trombones (au lieu de trois) [est un] procédé exclusivement propre à Beethoven’.29‘The use of two trombones (as opposed to three) [is a] procedure belonging exclusively to Beethoven’. Gevaert, Cours, p. 214. Scored for alto and tenor trombone, reminiscent of the works of the Viennese Fux, Gevaert felt that in the capable hands of Beethoven the two trombones created the most intense effects, depicting the great clap of thunder during the storm scene.30Ibid. Gevaert felt that in the capable hands of Beethoven the alto and tenor trombone created the most intense effects, depicting the great clap of thunder during the storm scene.31Ibid. Beethoven reserves the trombones for the climactic moment. At the peak of the storm, in ‘Gewitter, Sturm’, on the last beat of bar 106, the alto trombonist is once again required to enter fortissimo on c”, without preparation, and must sustain the note for five bars. However, Beethoven wisely had the first trumpet double this entrance. Berlioz describes the effect of this entrance:
Alors les trombones éclatent, le tonnerre des timbales redoubles de violence: ce n’est plus de la pluie, du vent. C’est un cataclysm épouvantable, le déluge universel, la fin du monde.32‘When the trombones burst forth, the thunder of the timpani redoubles the violence: it is no longer just rain and wind. It is a frightful cataclysm, the Great Flood, the end of the world’. Berlioz, A Travers Chants, p. 40.
Nonetheless, the trombone’s role is, once again, primarily to add harmonic support. As with the Fifth Symphony, Beethoven omits from the trombone parts the quaver anacrusis that is played by all the other instruments throughout the symphony. The absence of the up-beat makes a difficult passage for the alto even more perilous. Without the quaver preparation, the c” and d” in bars 54-55 of the last movement (Ex. 1.3) become especially dangerous, particularly as some conductors prefer to stretch this phrase out. However, the first trombone is in unison with the clarinets and first trumpet in bar 54. In bar 55 the alto trombone actually plays higher than the first trumpet; the d” is again in unison with the clarinets and doubled at the octave by the second flute and first violins. Though not nearly as high as the Fifth Symphony, the tessitura is very demanding and great stamina is required. Also scored for two trombones, tenor and bass, is the overture to Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, op.72, (1815). This is probably the earliest instance in the standard repertoire in which the tenor trombone replaced the alto on the first part. (Ex. 1.4). Utilising the trombones in their traditional role of vocal support, Beethoven scored for an ATB trio in his Ninth Symphony (1824).33One chorus singer’s lament that ‘if my voice is to be drowned out by the blatant trombones, what is the use of my singing?’ is a clear indication that Beethoven used the trombones simply to reinforce the voices. ‘Beethoven’s Use of the Trombone’, The Musical Times 45 (1904), p. 444. No author given.Gevaert writes that:
Par réminiscence de l’exécution traditionnelle du choral luthérien, Beethoven fait aussi intervenir les trombones dans un chant de haute allure religieuse (Seid umschlungen, Millionen) au final de la IXe.34‘Reminiscent of the traditional performance of the Lutheran chorale, Beethoven also inserted the trombones in a song of great spirituality (Seid umschlungen, Millionen) in the Finale of the Ninth.’ Gevaert, Cours, p. 208.
In the double fugue section of the last movement of the Choral Symphony (see Ex. 1.5), Beethoven writes for the first trombone with discretion and caution, despite the fact that the part is merely supporting the altos of the chorus. In a very deliberate and obvious manner, Beethoven scrupulously avoids taking the alto trombone above c#”. For example, the altos open the fugue on an exposed d”; Beethoven does not entrust this crucial entry to the alto trombone, even though the clarinets and violas are already doubling the voices, but assigns it to the second D trumpet, on which it will be more secure. Only once the section is under way does Beethoven bring in the first trombone on a semitone lower in the second full bar. The first six bars of the second trumpet part, with its intermittent entrances, seem rather peculiar, as it is not serving to emphasise particular words in the alto’s text, and many a second trumpet player has looked at his part quizzically. It is only when this part is viewed in conjunction with the alto trombone part that it becomes clear that it was probably intended to steer the first trombone around its first dangerous upper-harmonic entrances. In bars 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 the horn and bassoon double the first trombone part. Finally, from bar 12 onwards, the alto trombonist is entrusted with the playing of his part unaided, and the notes here are significantly lower and safer. In bar 22 Beethoven omits the technically somewhat difficult passage from the first trombone, having the clarinet double the voice. In bars 25, 26, 31, 37, 38, 50, 53, 56, 57, 60, 61 and 62 one can see vividly how Beethoven draws the alto trombone’s upper register ‘ceiling’ at c#”. Most significantly, Beethoven has the alto trombone descend a major 7th in the last bar to a safe d’ rather than move step-wise with the alto voices to the logical d”.35Today the first trombone often plays the d”.
1:1:3 The difficulty in assembling a full trombone section
It is open to speculation why Beethoven should have written rather pedestrian and unthematic trombone parts in his symphonies.36In contrast to the florid lines in the Missa Solemnis; but here the section is doubling the voice parts and, as Gevaert wrote: ‘mais ici nous ne sommes plus sur le vrai terrain de la musique instrumentale’ . (‘But here we are no longer in the true realm of instrumental music’.) Gevaert, Cours, p. 208. Similarly, this passage, in support of the altos, appears in the alto trombone part in Beethoven’s autograph score of the 1814 Der Glorreiche Augenblick, op. 136: Ernst Herttrich (ed.), Beethoven Werke, Gesamtausgabe, Abteiling x, vol i, Kantanten, Munich (G. Henle Verlag), 1996, Nr 3: ‘Der Glorreiche Augenblick’, op. 136. However, it seems Beethoven may have later deleted it, perhaps due to the strenuous demands.Guion, who suggests the Viennese trombonists were ‘experts’,37Guion, The Trombone, p. 282.states that ‘no incompetence on the part of the trombonists available to Beethoven can account for the lack of intrinsic interest in his trombone parts’.38Ibid., p. 287.Unfortunately, we know precious little about Vienna’s trombonists at this time. Within the span of forty years between Albrechtsberger’s Konzert in 1769 and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, it appears that no alto trombone concerto was written, perhaps due to a decline in the quality of the Viennese alto trombonists.39Dr Glendening makes the odd suggestion that ‘since Beethoven was increasingly deaf… it is conceivable that the composer would not have been fully aware of the lack of quality trombonists’. Andrew Glendening, The Use of the Trombone in Schubert’s Mature Symphonies and Symphonic Fragments, Indiana University Dissertation, 1992, p. 49.While we can conjecture that there was at least one competent tenor trombonist in Vienna around 1791 to enable Mozart to compose the difficult ‘Tuba Mirum’ trombone obbligato in his Requiem, we should recall that the Vienna production of Don Giovanni (1787) contained no trombone parts.40According to Dexter Edge, there is evidence from book-keeping records to suggest that the trombones were not used in the Viennese production in 1788/9, perhaps due to a cost-cutting measure. Dexter Edge, ‘Mozart’s Viennese Orchestra’, Early Music 20, no. 1 (Feb. 1992), p.68.Similarly, in the first printed edition of Don Giovanni as well as Haydn’s The Seasons, the trombone parts were assigned to an appendix, suggesting that the instruments were not always used.41W.F.H. Blandford, ‘Handel’s Horn and Trombone Parts’, Musical Times 80 (1939), p.794. Carse relates the difficulty some orchestras had mustering a complete trombone section:
This short supply of trombone players no doubt accounts for the absence of those instruments in some orchestras, and also for the fact that composers often treated them as ad libitum instruments and omitted the parts in their full scores, adding them only as supplementary parts which were not indispensable. In some early 19th century scores the trombone parts are not embodied in the full score, but appear only in an appendix at the end of the score.42Adam Carse, The Orchestra from Beethoven to Berlioz, Cambridge, 1948, p. 41.
For example, in the manuscript score of ‘The Choral Symphony’ belonging to the Royal Philharmonic Society and revised by Beethoven himself, the trombones were also relegated to an appendix.43Blandford, op. cit., p.794. Of the three symphonies Beethoven wrote that included trombones, only one crucial note for the trombone is not doubled: the a’ played by the alto trombonist in bar 293 of the last movement of the Fifth Symphony. Otherwise, anything of relative prominence for the trombones is covered by other instruments, while the rest is harmonic padding and – with very few exceptions – the parts are not exposed.44To a large extent, of course, this depends on how the parts are played.Significantly, the trombone parts could be omitted without causing great upset to a performance. This even applies to the extreme tessitura sections for the alto trombone. Rather than viewing these passages as anomalies among otherwise simple parts, we cannot discount the possibility that, since Beethoven used the trombones primarily to reinforce the other lines and to add volume, rather than to ‘serve a programmatic function’,45John Drew, ‘The Emancipation of the Trombone in the Orchestra’, International Trombone Association Journal 9 (1981), p. 2.he was indifferent to the severe upper register demands he set. Neither can we discount the possibility that Beethoven overestimated the alto trombonist’s ability, particularly in the Fifth Symphony. In any case, Beethoven never again wrote as high for the first trombone. For example, in the 1812 Drei Equali 46Commissioned by Franz Glöggl (1764-1839), the Kapellmeister of the Linz Cathedral, a trombonist who later became an instructor at the Vienna Conservatoire (V. O. E. Deutsch (ed.) Schubert: Die Dokumente seines Lebens, Kassel, 1964, p. 505n). Beethoven became closely acquainted with him while visiting his brother Johann in Linz in order to break up the affair Johann was conducting with his so-called housekeeper, Therese Obermeyer (B. Cooper (general ed.), Beethoven Compendium, London, 1991, p. 22). Contrary to Andrew Glendening’s assertion (op. cit., pp. 61, 84), Josef – not Franz – Glöggl was employed as a copyist for Schubert’s C Major Symphony. See E. Badura-Skoda and P. Branscombe (eds) Schubert Studies, Cambridge, 1982, p. 264. Originally written for All Souls’ Day, the Equali were performed as Trauermusik at Beethoven’s funeral, as well as the funerals of Gladstone and Edward VII (Alan Lumsden, The Sound of the Sackbut: A Lecture in Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Collection of Musical Instruments, 1988, p. 6). Alfred Pettet describes Beethoven’s funeral procession, which included a ‘walking orchestra’ of four trombonists: ‘the whole procession moved forward in the following order: 1. The cross-bearer. 2. Four trombone players, the brothers Böck, Waidl, and Tuschky. 3. The master of the choir, M. Assmayer, and under his direction 4. A choir of singers; M. Tietze, Schnitzer, Gross, Sikora, Nejebse, Ziegler, Perschil, Leidl, Winkopf, Pfeiffer, and Seipelt, which alternately with the trombone quartett, performed the Miserere’. (Alfred Pettet, ‘Miserere’, The Harmonicon 7 (1830), p. 444.) written for alto, two tenors and bass trombone in choral fashion – a rather pedestrian composition that would probably attract little attention were it not for the fact that it was written by Beethoven47Lobe described it as an example of how to ‘best employ the instrument’s tone to portray… solemnity, seriousness [and] pathetic grandeur’. Lobe, ed. Kretzmar, op. cit., p. 228 (original German not available). On the other hand, Kevin Thompson writes rather whimsically that the fact that these pieces were played at Beethoven’s funeral is something ‘we trombonists are very proud of… as it helps our image to be associated with the death of a great composer… Beethoven wrote masterpieces for most of the other instruments of the orchestra, as well as five beautiful piano concertos. So it is somewhat ironic that we trombonists go into paroxysms of emotion when we talk about the four minutes of slow chordal music Beethoven wrote for us…’ (Kevin Thompson, ‘On the Slide’, Classical Music 585 (26 July 1997), p. 29.– the highest note scored for the alto trombone is a single c”, which occurs five bars from the end in the last movement; otherwise the first trombone plays mostly in the secure range from d’ to a’,48According to the 1925 Encyclopédie de la Musique, ‘ces morceaux… peuvent être exécutés par quatre tenors’ (‘These pieces… could be played by four tenors’: Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1685).as illustrated in the second movement (Ex. 1.6). Whether the Viennese trombonists were ‘experts’, as Guion asserts, remains to be seen. The point is that Vienna could assemble a trombone section at this time while other cities could not. Moreover, those orchestras that could gather three trombonists could not, it seems, count on an assured degree of competency. Around 1805 in Berlin, for example, Die Zauberflöte had to be performed without a trombone section for lack of quality players,49Schreiber, op. cit., p. 139-40.and a solo horn played the obligato in ‘Tuba Mirum’ in the Mozart Requiem in place of the tenor trombone, although there was a full trombone section present.50‘wurde, mit der nicht üblen Vertauschung eines Horns statt der Posaune’. Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 7 (3 April 1805), col. 430.Thus by writing trombone parts in this manner, Beethoven ensured himself future performances by orchestras that may have lacked three, two, or even one competent trombonist; for the ideal number of trombonists that made up a Beethoven trombone section may have been any number that was available.51Whereas the author takes exception to Guion’s statement that ‘such was Beethoven’s influence on nineteenth century orchestration that the trombone’s role continued to be limited to the same functions he allowed it’ (Guion, The Trombone, p. 136), Guion is accurate in his assesment that ‘no other instrument in Beethoven’s orchestra was so consistently mistreated for so long’ (ibid.).
1:2 Weber
According to Ebenezer Prout, ‘it was Weber who first introduced the trombones as regular constituents of the orchestra’.52Prout, op. cit., p. 224. Ironically, a younger Weber had criticised Beethoven for his use of trombones. Speaking through the character Dihl in his unfinished novel Kunstlerleben, Weber attacked Beethoven for making ‘excessive demands… on the resources of art, which must soon lead to total bankruptcy… The musical wealth brought to light by the latest developments of instrumental music has been misused in the most criminal way. Luxuriance of harmony and overloading of instrumentation in the most trifling and unpretentious things have been carried to extremes. Trombones are quite the usual seasoning, and already no one can do anything without four horns’. C. M. von Weber, Tonkünstlers Leben, eine Arabeske, cited and translated in Gerald Abraham, Slavonic and Romantic Music, London, 1968, p. 248 (original German unavailable). Abraham adds: ‘clearly it is the early critic of Beethoven who speaks here, not the composer of Der Freischütz’ (ibid.).The overtures and extracts from Weber’s operas, in particular Der Freischütz (1821), Euryanthe (1823) and Oberon (1826) are considered standard repertoire in many symphony orchestras today. It is interesting to consider Weber’s trombone writing in the light of the contemporaneous publication of Sundelin’s Die Instrumentierung. Weber’s writing for the trombone, while differing from Beethoven’s in a number of aspects, reflected a chiefly cautious and pragmatic approach. Similarly to Beethoven, Weber’s primary use of the trombones was to ’emphasise detached chords’53Philip Bate, The Trumpet and Trombone, London, 1966, p. 232.and to ‘build up and enhance a climax’;54Carse, The Orchestra from Beethoven to Berlioz, p. the end of the first quarter of the century, ‘that the trombones should add the weight of their tone to any loud chord or tutti was now more or less a convention’.55Ibid. Nevertheless, Weber’s trombone parts are not as mundane as Beethoven’s. Weber appears to be the first major composer to score pianissimo chords and chorales for the ATB trio, a style of writing admired by Kastner, (‘Solos en forme de chorale pour les trois espèces font un effect admirable’56Kastner, Traité Général, p. 53. This is precisely what the trombones had been principally known for since the days of Abblassen.), and recommended by Sundelin – provided these passages were ‘nicht zu lange’.57‘not too long’. A. Sundelin, Die Instrumentierung für Sämtliche Militär-Musik-Chöre oder Nachweisung über alle denselben gebräuchliche Instrumente, um dafür wirkungsvoll und ausführbar komponieren zu können, Berlin, 1828,p. 29. According to Carse:
It was… a distinct advantage that they were no longer considered to be fit only for loud effects. The value of the effect of soft harmony on trombones was appreciated by, and exploited by, practically all composers during the period immediately following the time of Weber, and probably owes that appreciation largely to his example.58A. Carse, The Orchestra from Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 249.
Like his operatic predecessors,59See Introduction to Part I, p. 2. Weber used the trombones in sustained chords to portray damnation and the supernatural. Frequently, he would feature the section in this role independently of the voices. In Ex. 1.7 the trombones introduce the ‘Choir of the Invisible Ghosts’60Whereas Monteverdi similarly used the trombones (with cornetts) to introduce the ‘Chorus of Spirits’ in his opera Orfeo in 1607, the effect of the trombones playing in pianissimo seemed to be less a compositional technique than a reliance on the intrinsic sound of the trombone in that period. Edward Tarr suggests that if Orfeo is performed on modern trombones, rather than original instruments, they should be muted. C. Monteverdi, Orfeo, edited by Edward Tarr, Paris, 1974, p. xxxvi. According to Richard Strauss, the same may be said of Gluck’s trombone parts: ‘Neuerdings mit Gluck [sind] dämpfer für die Posaunen in Anwendung. Sie sind gleich den Dämpfern für die Trompete nicht so schwer zu handhaben, wie die Dämpfern den Horner und geben den Posaunen im Forte einen Knatternden, im pp einen ungeheuer unheimlichen, phantastisch – düstern Klang’. (‘Lately mutes [are] applied to the trombones with Gluck. They are exactly like the mutes for trumpets, not so difficult to handle, like the mutes for the horns and give the trombones in forte a rattle and in pp an enormously uncanny, ghostly, gloomy timbre.’) Instrumentationslehre von Hector Berlioz, ergänzt und revidiert von Richard Strauss, Leipzig, 1905, p. 353. with a soft f# minor chord in second-inversion, close-position, in the low-to-middle range. This creates a sense of gloom and produces, according to Jadassohn, ‘einen unheimlichen Eindruck hervor’,61‘an eerie impression.’ Salomon Jadassohn, Lehrbuch der Instrumentation, Leipzig, 1899, p. 279.or what Gevaert calls ‘caractère satanique’62François Gevaert, Nouveau Traité d’Instrumentation, Paris, 1855, p. 255.and which Lobe refers to as ‘a most sinister effect (or, as we say, a feeling akin to terror creeps over us)’.63Lobe, ed. Kretzmar, op. cit., p. 277 (original German unavailable).In Act III, no. 23, of Euryanthe (Ex. 1.8), soft octaves in the trombone accompany the word schweigen (‘silence’), but also serve to portend the schreckliche Licht (‘the terrible light’) and Wahnsinn (‘delirium’) that follows. Similarly, Weber’s use of the soft trombones in octaves in the Freischütz overture (Ex. 1.9) creates a hollow, ominous mood, a foretaste of ‘der Hölle Netz hat dich umgarnt’ (‘Hell’s Net has ensnared you’). However, according to Cecil Forsyth it produced ‘an abominable circusy effect’.64Forsyth, op. cit., p. 149.He further contends (with which the present author disagrees) that:
Piano octaves of two trombones always need caution in treatment. The sound of the instrument is naturally so full of a certain threatening purpose that the slightest variation from the serious, the majestic and the pompous becomes vulgarised almost to the level of a personal insult.65Ibid.
1:2:1 Sundelin: Die Instrumentierung

In many respects Weber’s trombone writing is consistent with the advice given by Sundelin in his Die Instrumentierung of 1828. For example, Sundelin stated that ‘schnellen Figuren eigenen sich nicht für die Alto Posaune, sondern mehr aus gehaltene, und kurz abgestossenen Akkorde’.66‘Fast technical passages are not idiomatic of the alto trombone; rather longer note values are, as well as the playing of short articulated chords’. Sundelin, op. cit., p. 28. Georges Kastner also felt that notes of long or short duration (‘sons prolongés et coupés’) were better suited to the alto than technical passages (‘figures rapides’).67J.G. Kastner, Traité Général d’Instrumentation, Paris, 1836; second edition, Paris, 1840, p. 53.Although Weber’s technical demands were rather modest, Widor overstates the case that Weber, like Beethoven, ‘n’écrivent jamais que par Rondes, Blanches, [et] Noires’.68‘always wrote [for the trombones] in semi-breves, minims [and] crotchets’. Widor, op. cit., p. 102. Translated in Suddard, op. cit., p. 82.The passage from the Finale to Act III of Euryanthe quoted in Ex. 1.10, illustrates the extent of Weber’s technical requirements for the trombones, which, although minimal, were more exacting than those demanded by Beethoven. Moreover, Weber did not share Beethoven’s apparent aversion to writing quaver anacruse for the trombone; the Euryanthe trombone parts are peppered with the dotted quaver semiquaver rhythms, as illustrated in Exx. 1.11 and 1.12. Beethoven might have approached this passage, which Jadassohn called ‘prächtig und glänzend’,69‘magnificent and brilliant’. Jadassohn, op. cit., p. 279.more cautiously, thus robbing it of much of the effect (Ex. 1.12a). Sundelin held that forzandi are well-suited to the alto trombone.70‘Forzandos lassen sich dieses Instrument besondere gut bezeichnen’. Sundelin, op. cit., p. 28. Kastner in his Traité Général concurred: ‘Les sforzandos surtout se dessinent bien sur [cet] trombone’ – ‘sforzandi are especially suitable on [this] trombone.’ Kastner, Traité Général, p. 54.While in general an accent does not require as much force of attack as the sforzando, they are similar in the sense that neither requires ‘follow-through’, a more difficult, sustained kind of playing. Furthermore, the alto’s relative lack of body is less noticeable in this forte-subito-piano type of attack. The difference in the explosiveness of the attack between fz, sfz and > is one of degree and depends largely on context and compositional style. For example, Beethoven’s sfz in fortissimo for the trombones in the ‘Choral Symphony’, where they are doubling the voices, would require far less force of attack than the accents Weber uses in his overtures. Nevertheless, the symphonic player must bear in mind that since Weber’s works were written for a pit orchestra, in which seating was arranged to dampen down the sound of the trombone and other so-called noisy instruments,71Dennis Wick, Trombone Technique, second impression (revised), London, 1973, p. 77.forte and fortissimo indications must be ‘mentally marked down’ for performance in the concert hall.72Daniel Koury, Orchestral Performance Practices in the Nineteenth Century, Ann Arbor, 1986, p. 180. Sundelin advised composers not to score interval leaps of more than a seventh for the alto trombone.73‘Das springende, nicht natürlich Fortschreiten der Septime und der andern Intervalle, darf man sich nicht erlauben…’. Sundelin, op. cit., p. 29.In general Weber’s writing seems in accord with this suggestion. A notable exception appears near the end of the Overture to Oberon (Ex. 1.13), where there is a risk of over- or under-shooting the wide interval of the minor tenth. Sundelin recommended that composers should write for the alto trombone chiefly in the middle register, from c to a’/b’ (‘bei der Alt-Posaune in den Mitteltönen aufzuhalten… von c der kleinen Oktave bis zum ein-gestrichenen a bis zum höchstens h’74Sundelin, op. cit., p. 29. Adolph Marx concurs: ‘Die mittlern und tiefen Töne des Es stehenden Altposaune genügen vollkommen im Verein mit Tenor – und Bassposaune, die harmonie in den wirkungsreichsten lagen erschallen zu lassen, reichen… gut aus’. (‘The combination of the middle and low notes of the Eb alto trombone with the tenor and bass trombones produces a perfectly fine sound and is conducive to good harmony in the most effective registers’.) Marx, op. cit., p. 506.), as shown in Fig. 1.1. In the three works discussed, the highest note Weber writes for the alto is c#” which occurs twice in the ‘Wedding March’ of Euryanthe and is played by the trombonist in the Bühneorchester (stage orchestra). On both occasions the c#” is approached by a major third, not exposed, and in unison with the second clarinet, while doubled at the octave by the first flute and first clarinet. Occasionally one will come across a c” in the first trombone part, but generally Weber stays within the range described by Sundelin. As this is well within the range of today’s orchestral tenor trombonist, Weber’s first parts are often mistakenly played on that instrument, the assumption being made that these parts were written too low for an alto to have been intended.

Figure 1.1: Sundelin, Die Instrumentierung75‘The alto trombone is the highest instrument of the family; its range is from C to a’, at the very highest b’.’ Sundelin, op. cit., p. 29.

Widor states that after Beethoven composed the Fifth Symphony:
Beethoven adoptera l’écriture sur un même ligne, les deux premiers trombones n’excédent pas les limites du Ténor. Et Weber et ses successeurs en useront ainsi.76‘Beethoven adopted the system of writing the two first trombones on one staff, never exceeding the limits of the tenor trombones [sic], and Weber and his successors followed his example’. Widor, op. cit., Translation Suddard, op. cit., p. 78.
However, at this time the d” in the alto trombone part of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony and the c#” in the Ninth were not considered within the range of the tenor trombone. Sundelin, for example, gives the highest note on the tenor as g’.77Sundelin, op. cit., p. 29. Sundelin maintained that the alto should never be used on its own (‘Die Alt-Posaune wird nie allein… angewendet’78Ibid.), but rather always in conjunction with other instruments, especially the other trombones. Moreover, Sundelin felt it was unwise to assign a solo to any of the trombones:
[Es] ist nicht rathsam weil diese Instrumente kein zuverlässiges Mittel haben, woran sie ihren anzugebenden Ton abmessen könnten, und aus diesem Grunde fällt solcher Satz immer unrein aus.79‘[It] is inadvisable because this instrument has no reliable means by which to gauge its notes, and therefore such a passage does not emerge cleanly’. Ibid., p. 29.
On the other hand, when the trombone plays with other instruments, including other members of the section, the full purity of the sound can be assured:
[Die Posaunen] spielen… noch andere Instrumente mit, so man alsdann vollkommene Reinheit voraussetzen.80Ibid., p. 29.
Accordingly, on the infrequent occasion when Weber would engage the trombone as a melodic instrument, it was not used on its own, but in conjunction with other winds or tutti orchestra. For example, in the molto vivace of the Freischütz Ouverture (Ex. 1.14), Weber gives the second trombone the same line as the first flute for two bars, the next two doubling first flute and first trombone. When this thematic material reappears in the Finale to Act II, the stage directions describe a terrifying thunderstorm: ‘Der ganze Himmel wird schwarze Nacht. Die Gewitter treffen furchtbar zusammen. Flammen schlagen aus [sic] der Erde’.81‘The entire sky becomes black as night. The thunder and lightning strike terrifyingly together. Flames strike the ground’. Weber, op. cit., p.179.However, these examples of melodic usage are more the exception than the rule.
1:2:2 The limitations of trombonists as a decisive factor in Weber’s trombone writing
It is probably no coincidence that Sundelin’s precepts, although intended for use by composers for military band, are reflected in the trombone writing of Weber. To a very large degree, what Sundelin believed to be possible or desirable for the trombone must have had less to do with the instrument’s supposed intrinsic limitations than with the abilities of the players with whom he was familiar. Weber’s trombonists were in many cases drawn from the ranks of the military band, for by the 1820s the supply of trombone players for the concert orchestras:
seemed to have improved… The players appear to have been drawn… almost entirely from the wind and military bands, which by that time were able to provide a fairly plentiful supply. In this way… the trombones began to find their way into the scores of symphonies and other orchestral works.82Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 41.
According to Karl-Heinz Weber: ‘die Militärmusiker gaben nicht nur eigene Konzerte… sondern sie spielen auch als Aushilfs oder Verstärkungsmusiker in Theater und in den Konzerten’.83‘The military musicians not only gave their own performances… but also served as substitutes and extras in the theatre and in the concert orchestras’. Personal correspondence with the author, 13.06.94.Around 1825, conductor/composer Sir George Smart attended a concert in Kassel and observed that ‘this is the first time that I have seen persons in uniform playing in the orchestra’.84H. B. and C. L. E. Cox (eds), Leaves from the Journal of Sir George Smart, London, 1825, p. 208-9. Additionally, up to the middle of the nineteenth century the orchestras continued to draw players from the Stadtpfeiffer:
The old corps of town musicians survived long enough to ensure a supply of players in Germany, [and] at the same time trombonists were becoming regular constituents of opera and concert orchestras… In South Germany, Bavaria and Austria the old civic organisations… [the] Stadtmusiker, remained… a valuable source from which orchestras could draw their trombone players.85Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 41.
The music education provided by the guilds was frequently carried out in an atmosphere of moral squalor. At best the tuition was irregular; at worst it was not much better than enforced serfdom. However, before the establishment of music conservatories, these civic musical organisations provided the only training, even for many of those who made up the more important orchestras. There was no orchestra in Germany, up until the end of the last century, that did not include in its ranks some players who had graduated as Stadtmusiker… even Liszt’s orchestra at Weimar in 1850 had to draw on the town band for some of [its] players.86Ibid, p. 107. According to Ehmann, Weber himself was from a Stadtpfeiffer family. Wilhelm Ehmann, Tibilustrium: Das geistliche Blasen, Formen und Reformen, Kasel, 1950, p. 27. Although there were exceptions, many players were those ‘whose skill and qualifications were far below the best standard’.87Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 108.Indeed, in 1804, a journalist for the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung went as far as to suggest that the trombone was one of those instruments that preferably should not be exposed:
Mehrere Instrumente, z.B…. Posaunen… sind öfters von Spielern besetz, die mit der besten Willen, durch üble Angewohnheit oder aus Mangel an Geschicklichkeit nicht in Stande sind, sich zu mässigen. Diesem übeln Umstande kann nur dadurch einigermässen abgeholfen werden, wenn man diese Subjekte mit ihren Instrumenten so viel als möglich in einem Winkel zu verstecken sucht.88‘A number of instruments, for example… the trombones… are often handled by players, who, despite the best intentions, either through bad habit or lack of ability, are unable to control themselves in executing their part. This lamentable situation can only be remedied, so far as it’s possible, by concealing these players in the corner.’ Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 6 (Dec. 1803), col. 183.
Berlioz paid tribute to Weber as one of those who had:
compris toute l’importance du rôle des trombones… appliqué avec un intelligence parfaite humaine à la peinture des passions humaines, à la reproduction des bruits de la nature, les caractères divers de ce noble instrument… [et] en conséquence, conserve sa puissance, sa dignité, et sa poésie.89‘comprehended all the importance of the trombone’s duties… had applied the various characteristics of this noble instrument, with perfect intelligence, to depicting human passion, to illustrating the sounds of Nature… [and had] in consequence, maintained its power, its dignity and its poetry’. Berlioz, op. cit., p. 222. Trans. Clarke, op. cit., p. 173.
To accomplish this with the players he apparently had at his disposal is indeed a testimony to Weber’s skill as a composer.
1:3 Schubert
It is indeed unfortunate that Schubert’s ‘Great C Major’ symphony of 1826 had to wait until 1839 for its first performance, as his writing for trombones represented a major milestone in the section’s orchestral development. In Symphony No. 9, Schubert not only distanced himself from the cliché of using the section merely to enhance climaxes and provide reinforcement, but he was also apparently the first orchestral composer to demand soft, delicate playing in melodic passages as well as in chorale sections. To be sure, Schubert utilised the section to provide harmonic filler at times, but in the ‘Great C Major’ he distinguished himself by the significant amount of thematic material that is assigned to the trombones. According to Lewis Coerne:
No composer before [Schubert] had elicited from the trombone such impressive utterance as is to be found, for instance, in the first movement of the Symphony in C [D.944] where the trombones, pianissimo, intone the melody. The first innovation consisted, therefore, of employing the trombones freely as solo instruments, or again as independent factors in three part harmony, pianissimo, or in unison forte.90Lewis Coerne, Evolution of Modern Orchestration, New York, 1908, p. 74. Evidence of this innovation can be traced back to Schubert’s 1814 stage work, Des Teufels Lustschloss, in which his then highly unusual use of the trombone section as an independent solo group in the following excerpt from the overture may be the earliest occasion in the orchestral repertoire in which the trombones are assigned melodic material in an extended passage. Franz Schubert: Kritische durchgesehene Gesamtausgabe: Dramatische Musik.
The solemn, majestic entrance of the trombones with strings in the introductory Andante of the first movement (Ex. 1.15), which Jadassohn calls ‘Eine grossartige Wirkung’,91‘a splendid effect’: Jadassohn, op. cit., p. described by Forsyth as a ‘wonderful solo passage for the three trombones in unison’.92Forsyth, op. cit., p. 149. Actually the first and second trombones are in unison whilst the bass trombone plays an octave lower (see Example 1.15). Forsyth contrasts this section with the ‘Tuba Mirum spargens sonum’ from Mozart’s Requiem, which appeared to him ‘not to have been written by one who understood the instrument, [and which] might be better described as “Tuba Dirum spargens sonum”’ (‘the dreadful trombone splatters its sound’) Forsyth, op. cit., p. 149. One can only surmise that Forsyth’s opinion resulted from hearing some very poor renditions of this trombone solo which, incidentally, is a standard orchestral repertoire/audition piece today.Gevaert, on the other hand, found Schubert’s use of the trombone ‘banal’ and unnecessarily heavy.93Gevaert, Cours, p. 213. It is noteworthy that Schubert has marked the passage fortissimo with accents. Perhaps the players still needed notational encouragement to ‘play out’,94… or to be convinced that they, the trombones, indeed had the melody. Was this another indication of the deficiency of the supposedly vaunted Viennese trombonists? Glendening makes the contradictory suggestions that although ‘none of Schubert’s symphonies using trombones was performed in his lifetime’ he would have been ‘fully aware of the lack of quality trombonists’ available to perform them in Vienna, ‘considering the contacts… Schubert had with Franz Glöggl… Although Schubert must have had some contact with Franz Xavier Glöggl, especially regarding the parts for D. 944 [which Josef Glöggl copied, not Franz Glöggl, as Glendening incorrectly states (see n. 46, this chapter], there is no evidence to suggest that Glöggl had any direct influence on Schubert.’ Glendening, op. cit., pp. 49, 84.despite the fact that he had intended these parts for the trombonists of the well-known Wiener Musikgesellschaft Orchester.95Vienna Philharmonic Archivist Hellsburg points out that although the Gesellschaft Orchester was frequently augmented by players of the Philharmonic, the two orchestras were separate, distinct bodies (personal interview with the author, 25.4.96). As a correspondent for the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung reminds us, during the 1800s it was not customary to assign solo passages to the trombone:
Als Soloinstrument war es bis dahin noch gar nicht benutzt worden, etwa mit Ausnahme des Tuba mirum in Mozarts Requiem, wo aber gewöhnlich die Posaunenstimme dem Fagott zugetheilt wurde.96‘As a solo instrument, the [trombone] was not used at all, with the exception of the ‘Tuba Mirum’ in Mozart’s Requiem, for which it is usual for the bassoon to be assigned the trombone’s part.’ ‘Necrolog: Carl Traugott Queisser’, Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 27 (July 1846), p. 460.
In any case, the dynamic and accents should not be taken too literally by trombonists, lest the strings be completely overwhelmed, for what Schubert seems to have been indicating is that the passage should be played soloistically and with a full sound. As J. Drew states, Schubert ‘gives the trombones a most prominent place at the beginning of the slow introduction… in which the strings are subservient and only provide harmonic interest’.97John Drew, ‘The Emancipation of the Trombone in the Orchestra’, International Trombone Association Journal 9 (1981), p. 2. Schubert assigns melodic material for the trombones throughout the first movement. The passage at bar 102 (Ex. 1.16) with violas and lower strings must be played delicately and leggiero against the counter-theme in the violins. At bar 195 (Ex. 1.17), Schubert entrusts the extended theme to the trombones alone; the scoring for unison trombones in pianissimo producing a misterioso effect. As illustrated in Ex. 1.18, the trombone section, in fortissimo (bar 320), leads the orchestra to the first climax in movement one. The fz (see Ex. 1.19) should be thought of as meaning even more weight and stress than the notes with accent marks, but never with a hard attack. A true fff would be overpowering and out of character for a work of this period. As seen in Ex. 1.19, the unison trombones, again unsupported by any other instruments, are assigned the theme of the second half of the movement. The alto trombonist must be very vigilant with the intonation, since the low register requires long shifts of the slide between notes. Also, the first note of the theme, eb, can be of very poor quality (Fröhlich’s Posaunenschule, published only fifteen years earlier, gave f as the alto’s lowest note98Joseph Fröhlich, Vollständige theoretisch-pracktische Musikschule, Bonn, [1811], vol. 3, p.35.). On the very narrow bore alto of Schubert’s time the eb, especially at a substantial dynamic, could sound almost comical. Fortunately the note is doubled by the tenor and bass so that the first player can ‘ghost’ it if necessary. Bar 145 in the second movement (Ex. 1.20), is a deceptively perilous entry for the alto trombone. The woodwinds and strings play gently together during the trombones’ twelve-bar rest. In the last bar, as the strings, playing alone, make a diminuendo to a nearly inaudible piano quaver on an (unwritten) ‘hairpin’, the alto trombone must enter pianissimo on an a’. Intonation is especially critical for the first trombone – with the added risk of splitting the a’ – which the bass trombonist,99Worth noting are the solo interjections by the bass trombone with the woodwinds from bars 105 to 135. Although most of the statements are no more than a bar or two in length and obbligato in character, they appear to be the first prominent solo passages written for a single trombone in the standard orchestral repertoire.playing an f, a tenth below, would be well advised to keep in mind. In bar 321 (Ex. 1.21), Schubert scores another solo-chorale for the trombones. It should be noted that the chorale begins pianissimo and proceeds to diminuendo in the fourth bar, where the horns enter. Although conductors tend to ask the trombones for a very soft entrance, if they start too piano the diminuendo may be minimal, thus spoiling the effect. The accents here are not to be thought of as sharp attacks. Schubert is indicating precise, separate entrances, with a slight lift between notes; otherwise the repeated notes have a tendency to sound like a single, sustained tone. In the third movement, Schubert requires extensive, gentle and lithe playing from the alto trombone – a style employed, it appears, for the first time in the orchestral context. Apparently there were those, such as Nicholas Bessaraboff, who objected to this type of trombone writing:
Although asked sometimes to display the agility of a youth, the trombone prefers a more dignified mode of expression. The trombone is like a man who has reached an age of discretion and concentrated power: its utterances have weight, and it cannot engage in five-o’clock tea talk. The trombone is primarily a masculine instrument and should not be made to sound like a frivolous dandy.100Nicholas Bessaraboff, op. cit., p. 184.
Schubert writes two exquisite obbligato passages for the trombones in the Trio of the third movement (Ex. 1.22). His use of the alto with the woodwinds achieves an exquisite mingling of timbres, when played with a soft, delicate, lilting style. Unfortunately, this is all too frequently performed on the tenor trombone, whose large, dark sound tends to dominate and engulf the woodwinds.
1:3:1 Tessitura, score notation and the erste Abschriftstimme
Dr Glendening demonstrates the inherent risk of error in relying solely on tessitura to determine whether the first trombone part in Schubert’s works was intended for alto or tenor trombone, when he asserts that:
the use of the alto trombone is less [than] certain. The registers employed are conservative for the alto trombone and quite reasonable for the tenor trombone.101Glendening, op. cit., p. 83.
For example, regarding the first trombone part of Schubert’s Ninth Symphony (D.944) he writes:
The range suggests that the first part may or may not have been for the alto trombone… [but] the number of unison passages in D.944 does favour the use of the tenor trombone for the first part.102Ibid.
Of Schubert’s sketch of Symphony No. 7 (D.729) he maintains that ‘the ranges appear to be most consistent with two tenors and a bass’,103Ibid., p. 51.and on this basis considers it a contradiction that in the Kalmus-Belwin score (n.d.) of Symphony No. 8 the first trombone part is labelled alto, ‘in spite of the range [being] consistent with that of D.729’.104Ibid., p. 55. The highest note that Schubert demands of the alto trombone in his symphonic works is a c” which occurs twice during the fourth movement of Symphony No. 9 in identical, unexposed phrases, doubled by the trumpet and second horn. The tessitura, though not quite as ‘tame’ as Weber’s, is rather modest by modern standards and well within the range of today’s tenor trombonist.105The author has performed this work on both tenor and alto trombone and has found that no matter how quietly and discreetly the tenor is played, the sound is too large and does not blend as well with the woodwinds. It almost seems as if the higher-pitched alto ‘seeks out’ the timbre of the woodwinds, resulting in a superior mix of tone-colours and ensemble.On the other hand, the alto trombone parts of Schubert’s masses, which ‘contain a good deal of vocal accompaniment in the good, old-fashioned German way’106Forsyth, op. cit., p. 148.are extremely taxing, demanding an excellent upper register as well as great stamina. According to Del Mar:
the custom… of doubling [the] voice parts in sacred works with trombones throughout… is to be found reflected in Schubert’s masses, during which the trombones are playing with the vocal parts for pages on end. In practice this is not only unthinkable on grounds of sheer endurance but musically intolerable, and it is barely credible that the trombonists of Schubert’s day played all the notes as they appear on the score.107Norman Del Mar, Anatomy of the Orchestra, London, 1981, p. 55.
This is especially true for the alto trombone part. In Schubert’s first edition of the Mass in Ab Major an e” is required of the first trombone (Ex. 1.23); the second edition demands ‘only’ a d#”. Following Glendening’s reasoning to its logical conclusion, one would deduce that Schubert scored for an ATB section in his masses, but used a tenor-led section for his symphonic works. However, this is not the case: One must not lose sight of the fact that music scholars at this time, such as Sundelin108Sundelin, op. cit., p. 30.and Marx,109Marx, Allgemeine Musiklehre, p. 147.considered g’ as the extent of the tenor’s upper register. Causing further confusion is the fact that published editions of Schubert’s orchestral works often present the first trombone part in tenor clef, even though it was intended to be played on the alto trombone. According to Finke-Hecklinger:
Schubert notiert die drei Posaunenstimmen, wenn sie auf einem System geschrieben sind, in Tenorschlüssel, wenn auf zwei Systemen, in Altschlüssel für die Alt- und Tenorposaune, im Baßschlüssel für die Baßposaune.110‘Schubert wrote the three trombones in tenor clef when he used only one stave for all the trombones; when he used two staves he would write the alto and tenor trombone in alto clef and use bass clef for the bass trombone.’ Doris Finke-Hecklinger (ed.), Franz Schubert, Neue Ausgabe Sämtlicher Werke, Serie 1, Kirchenmusik, Band iii: Teil a, ‘Messe in As’. Erste Fassung, Kassel, 1980, p. xiv.
On the autograph score of his Ninth Symphony, for example, Schubert has put all the trombone parts on one stave in tenor clef. This might have been a matter of convenience – perhaps it avoided having to use ledger lines – or it could have been determined by the number of staves he had on his score paper. Kastner explains:
Dans les partitions nouvelles où quelquefois l’espace est très restreint, et où les trois trombones réunis ne donnent que des accords, ils [les trombones] sont notés l’un au dessus de l’autre sur une même portée. D’autres fois on note ensemble sur une seule portée les trombones alto et ténor sur la clef d’ut, 4me ligne.111‘In new scores where sometimes space is very restricted and where the three-trombone ensemble is simply given chords, the notes appear one above the other on the same stave. Other times one finds the alto and tenor trombone written together on the same stave in tenor clef.’ Kastner, Traité Général d’Instrumentation, Paris, 1837, p. 54. See for example the autograph score of Bruckner’s F Minor Mass (Exx. 3.29 and 3.30).
Lobe suggests that ‘the most practical manner of arranging the score, is to write… the first and second trombones, the third trombone and tuba, each [pair] on one system’,112Lobe, ed. Kretzsmar, op. cit., p. 310 (original German not available).and Marx confirms this point:
Gesetzt werden die drei oder vier Posaunen nach ihrer Eintheilung auf drei oder vier Systemen in den jeder Art gebührenden Schlüsseln… Fehlt es an Raum, oder ist die Stimmführung einfach genug es zu erlauben, so kann man sich an zwei Systemen genügen lassen und Tenor– und Altposaune mit Tenorschlüssel notiren. Oder man kann sich selbst auf eine einzige Linie… beschränken und für alle drei Arten den F – Schlüssel – oder die höherer Tonlage den Tenorschlüssel anwenden.113‘The three or four trombones are set in three or four systems, each part, according to its species, in its corresponding clef. For lack of space, or when the voice-leading is simple enough to permit, two systems will suffice with the tenor and alto trombone notated in tenor clef. Or one can even reduce all three species to a single line in bass clef – or for a high register use tenor clef’. Marx, op. cit., p. 72.
However, the original hand-copied first trombone part (‘erste Abschriftstimme’ ) to the Ninth Symphony is written in alto clef because, as Sundelin points out:
Wenn der Raum der Partitur sehr beschränkt ist, so setzt man, aber nur im höchsten Nothfall, die Alt- und die Tenorposaune auf ein Liniensystem, und schreibt die Noten für beide in den Tenorschlüssel. Beim Ausschreiben muß aber immer die Altposaunenstimme alsdann auch in den Altschlüssel transponirt werden, weil dieses Instrument nach keinem andern bläßt.114‘If the space on the score paper is very limited, in extreme cases only, one may write the alto and tenor trombones on one stave in the tenor clef. When copying out the parts, the alto trombone part must always be transposed into alto clef, because this instrument cannot be played from any other clef.’ Sundelin, op. cit., p. 29 (italics added).
Echoing the words of Sundelin, as well as Berlioz115Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 199. One notes that Richard Strauss apparently agreed, for in his Instrumentationslehre (op. cit., p. 321) he does not take exception to this statement by Berlioz.and Adolph Marx,116Adolph Bernard Marx, Allgemeine Musiklehre, Leipzig, 1839, p. 87.Gevaert writes that the alto trombone part is always written in alto clef (‘toujours écrit sur la clef d’ut, 3e ligne’.117‘always written in C clef, third stave line.’ Gevaert, Traité Général, p. 87 (italics in text added by author).) If the composer does not use the corresponding clef for each species of trombone in his score, Gevaert continues, ‘quant aux clefs employées dans la notation de ces instruments, une assez grande confusion règne à cet égard…’118‘As for the clefs used to notate these instruments, great confusion reigns.’ Ibid, p. 89. For example, Flandrin surmises that Beethoven’s trombone Equali, written for ATTB combination, ‘paraissent, d’après les cléfs, avoir été écrits pour deux trombones altos, un ténor et un trombone basse’ (‘seem, according to the clefs, to have been written for two alto trombones, a tenor and a bass trombone’: M.G. Flandrin, ‘Le Trombone’, Encyclopédie de la Musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire, Deuxième Partie: Technique-esthétique-Pédagogie, Paris, 1925, p. 1685).and it is left ‘au copiste ou au graveur le soin de transcrire chaque partie separée dans sa clef normale’.119‘to the copiest or engraver the responsibility to transcribe each individual part in its proper clef’. Ibid., p. 87.This important point is demonstrated by Schubert’s copyist, whose first handwritten alto and tenor trombone parts of Symphony in C Major are shown in Examples 1.24 and 1.25.
1:4 Mendelssohn
According to Gevaert:
De tous les successeurs de Beethoven dans le genre symphonique, Mendelssohn est resté le plus fidèle aux traditions techniques du Maître.120‘With respect to the symphonic genre, of all of Beethoven’s successors, Mendelssohn has remained the most loyal to the Maestro’s technical traditions.’ Gevaert, Cours, p. 212.
However, with regard to the treatment of the trombones, the two composers were very different.121Although, similarly to Beethoven, Mendelssohn often wrote for the alto in its extreme upper register.Whereas Beethoven, as we have seen, confined the section to harmonic support and added weight, Mendelssohn used the trombones thematically and dramatically. Although not all of the first trombone parts to his works demanded exceptional upper-register facility, a number of his compositions, including the Overture in C Major, Symphony in D Minor, the Overture ‘Ruy Blas’ and ‘Lobgesang’, feature the alto trombone in prominent passages in the highest tessitura of the instrument. One of Mendelssohn’s earliest orchestral works, the Overture in C Major, op. 101 (Ex. 1.26), was first performed on 2 November 1826. In unison with the first horn and first trumpet, it requires the alto trombonist to play the forte passage, cited in the example, a total of five times, with a fermata on the e” in the final bar of the piece. Perhaps even more difficult, the first trombonist must also play this passage in pianissimo. Symphony in D Minor, composed to commemorate the Reformation, was Mendelssohn’s only symphony to include trombone parts.122Gevaert, Cours, p. 212. According to Gevaert, the solemn sonority of the trombones was demanded ‘par le caractère en quelque sorte liturgique de l’oeuvre’.123‘by the particular liturgical character of this work.’ Ibid., p. 212. Mendelssohn uses the trombones as part of the wind choir at the beginning (Ex. 1.27) and conclusion (Ex. 1.28) of the symphony to establish and confirm the ceremonial mood. In the well-known Overture ‘Ruy Blas’ (completed in 1839), Mendelssohn scores a very demanding passage for the alto trombone (Ex. 1.29): Though doubled by the first horn, the alto has the more difficult part, having to approach the eb” from a fourth below. With the flutes, trumpets and strings tacet in this fanfare-chorale, the precarious note is particularly exposed. In bars 243-246 of the Allegro that follows, the first trombonist has a deceptively difficult run from ab to eb. One must be attentive to the intonation as the first two trombones are in unison while the bass trombone plays an octave lower; moreover the alto trombonist may have tendency to play the e sharp for fear of losing the slide as well as to minimize the ‘snap’ from seventh position to first-position eb. (See also n. 4, Chapter 2)
1:4:1 Range (Marx)
A few years later, perhaps implicitly criticizing Mendelssohn, Marx would write:
dass die Posaune in ihren hohen Tönen an Karakter und Macht, verliert, daher wir rathen, so weit es nur möglich, die Alt-posaune nicht höher als bis zum zweigestrichnen c (schon diese Ton klingt gezwängt)’.124‘since the trombone loses its character and strength in the upper register, it is advisable, as far as possible, [to write] for the alto trombone no higher than c” (already this note sounds forced)’. Marx, Lehre, p. 67. (cf. Sundelin, n. 74, this chapter).
In the Overture ‘Ruy Blas’, bar 364 to the end requires great stamina on the part of the alto trombonist, as Mendelssohn requires the first trombonist to play continuously in the upper register for a total of fifty-one successive bars at forte and fortissimo. Sixteen bars from the end the alto ascends higher than the first trumpet125Throughout Mendelssohn’s Athalie the alto trombone is likewise scored higher than the first trumpet.and then proceeds to play nineteen consecutive high c”s before finishing with a fermata on a g’. In ‘Lobgesang’ Mendelssohn used all the trombones thematically, featuring them in solo and unison statements throughout the work. The majestic sound of unaccompanied trombones solemnly introduces the theme, thus setting the mood with great effect. According to Sir Charles Groves, Queisser, the famed trombonist of the Gewandhaus Orchester which premiered the work in 1840, is ‘still remembered by the story of his introducing a turn into the opening phrase of Mendelssohn’s ‘Hymn of Praise’ at the first rehearsal’, to Mendelssohn’s immense amusement: ‘Se non è vero, e ben trovato’126‘If it is not true, it is a happy invention’ (trans. Crawford Howie). Sir Charles Groves, ‘Queisser’, Grove’s Dictonary of Music and Musicians, fourth edition, vol. iv, London, 1940, p. 308. Unfortunately, this passage does not shed any further light on the question of whether Queisser was the alto trombonist or the bass trombonist in the Leipzig orchestra, for all three trombones play in unison. But given Mendelssohn’s opinion of German bass trombone playing, and that Queisser – whose career in the Gewandhaus spanned 1827-46 – was a member of the orchestra during Mendelssohn’s term as Chief Conductor, as well as the fact that the bass trombonist was customarily paid more than the other members of the section, it seems likely that the Leipzig virtuoso did play bass trombone, at least some of the time, in the Gewandhaus orchestra.(see Ex. 1.30). As illustrated in Ex. 1.31, the trombone’s pronouncements continue unaccompanied through bar 12. Bar 6 descends uncomfortably low for the small-bore alto trombone to d, a note that Berlioz would describe four years later in his Grand Traité as being of poor quality (‘d’un mauvais timbre’)127Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 199. Three years prior to Mendelssohn’s ‘Lobgesang’ Kastner had written that for the alto ‘on ne jamis écrire… plus bas que f ou e’ (‘one never writes lower than f or e’). Kastner, Traité Général, p. 53.on the alto; however, Mendelssohn masks the sound by doubling the alto with the tenor and bass. A short passage with the kernel of the motiv for the first trombone in bars 7-8 of No. 2 (‘Allegro moderato maestoso’) in Ex. 1.32, is very likely the first solo statement written for the alto trombone in the standard orchestral repertoire.128The first performance of Lobgesang predated Berlioz’s Symphonie Funèbre, the first proper orchestral trombone solo, by about a month. (See Ex. 2.3). Two very high passages for the alto trombone occur while doubling the soprano, as shown in Exx. 1.33 and 1.34. It might be appropriate at this juncture to point out that the alto trombone, while providing a tone colour distinctly brighter and less heavy than the tenor, aids not so much in accuracy as in sustaining notes in this tessitura.
1:4:2 Belcke and Queisser
According to Mendelssohn, although there were few skilled musicians in German orchestras, the bass trombonist129One recalls that the bass trombone served as the foundation of the military band (Bate, op. cit., p. 232) and in French opera was considered the most important instrument in the section (Guion, The Trombone, p. 253), being, therefore, usually the best paid. (Personal correspondence with Karl-Heinz Weber, 14.5.94.)– not the first trombonist – was invariably one of the most proficient players:
… dass [war] eben Elend in Deutschland, dass die Bassposaune und der Pauker und der Contrabass vortrefflich sind, und alle übrigen höchst niedrigträchtig.130‘That [was] just the misery in Germany, that the bass trombone, the tympani and the double bass are excellent, and all the rest highly incompetent.’ Ferdinand Hiller (ed.), Felix Bartholdy-Mendelssohn, Briefe und Erinnerungen, Köln, 1874, p. 41. Mistranslated as ‘bass trombones and drums’ in M.E. von Glehn, Mendelssohn, Letters and Recollections by Dr Ferdinand Hiller, 2nd edition, London, 1874.
Two of the most celebrated bass trombonists of this period were the famed virtuosi Friedrich Belcke (1795-1874) of Berlin – once described as the ‘premier trombone du roi du Prusse’131‘The foremost trombonist of the King of Prussia’. A. Elwart, Histoire de la Societé des Concerts du Conservatoire imperial de musique (ed. S. Castel), Paris, 1860, p. 216.– and Carl Traugott Queisser (1800-1846) of Leipzig, whom Schumann described as ‘Queisser der Posaunengott’,132‘Queisser the god of the trombone’. Robert Schumann, Gesammelte Schriften über Musik und Musiker, fifth edition, Leipzig, 1914, vol. i, p. 300. Mistranslated as ‘god of the trumpet’ in Fanny Raymond Ritter (ed.), Music and Musicians: Essays and Criticism by Robert Schumann, 5th Edition, 1877, vol. i, p. 365.both of whom rose from the ranks of the Stadtpfeiffer.133As a former Stadtpfeiffer, Queisser doubled skilfully on the viola, having originally joined the Leipzig Orchester on that instrument (Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 135). He was also for many years the violist of the Matthai Quartet, Germany’s first professional string quartet, as well as the leader of the musical ensemble Euterpe (Rasmussen, Brass Quarterly 5, p. 6). Edward Holmes wrote:
[of] the famous trombonist H. Queisser I have heard nothing so soft, round and deep as the tone of this extraordinary player who has, at the age of twenty seven, attained the most surprising mastery.134Edward Holmes, A Ramble among the Musicians of Germany, London, 1928, p. 254.
Queisser was eulogised by the correspondent of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung as a virtuoso, unsurpassed by any trombonist in the world (‘an Virtuosität in den Passagen übertraf ihn wohl kein Posaunist Deutschlands, d. h. der Welt, da anerkanntermassen die Instrumentalmusik in Deutschland am Höchsten steht’135‘His virtuosity was unsurpassed by any trombonist in German, that is to say the world, because instrumental music in German is generally recognised to be of the highest level’. ‘Necrolog’, Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 27 (July 1846), p. 460.). Baines maintains that while Belcke was a bass trombonist, Queisser performed solo works on the tenor trombone and played alto trombone in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester.136Baines, ‘The Trombone’, p. 558.According to Rasmussen:
Both Belcke and Queisser are usually referred to as bass trombone players. Just what kind of instrument they played is difficult to determine, but it seems safe to suggest that they played a variety of instruments during the course of their careers, including a wide-bore Bb tenor trombone, a wide-bore Bb tenor trombone with Quartventil, and perhaps even an old-fashioned bass trombone in F.137Rasmussen, Brass Quarterly 5, p. 8.
Moreover, the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung’s obituary of Queisser remembers him as a bass trombonist:
Zu welcher staunenswerthen Meisterschaft er es auf diesem schwierigen Instrumente – der Bassposaune – gebracht, weisst die ganze musikalische Welt.138‘The entire musical world is aware of his astonishing virtuosity on this difficult instrument – the bass trombone.’ ‘Necrolog’, p. 460.
Given Mendelssohn’s opinion of German bass trombone playing, and that Queisser – whose career in the Gewandhaus spanned the years 1827-46 – was a member of the orchestra during Mendelssohn’s term as Chief Conductor, as well as the fact that the bass trombonist was customarily paid more than the other members of the section, it seems likely that the Leipzig virtuoso did play bass trombone, at least some of the time, in the Gewandhaus orchestra. However, for an instrumentalist of his apparent skill, it is not impossible that Queisser played both alto and bass trombone in the orchestra, as we have seen that it was not uncommon at that time for orchestral players to double on an array of brass instruments. Today an alto-bass double would be considered extremely unusual due to the major differences in the use of one’s embouchure and air. On the other hand, it is very common for a first trombonist to double on alto and on a ‘wide-bore Bb tenor trombone with Quartventil’, and perhaps this is the type of bass trombone Queisser used in the orchestra. In any case, the fact that players of the calibre of Belcke and Queisser chose not the alto as the vehicle to demonstrate their virtuosity perhaps suggests a shifting of musical tastes away from the heretofore most prominent species of the section.
1:5 Schumann
A hallmark of Schumann’s writing for the trombones is the use of the section in soft solo chorale passages. By far the most significant is the solemn chorale with which Schumann begins the fourth movement of the Third Symphony (Ex. 1.35). Max Alberti writes that:
to the usual four movements an additional movement was inserted between the Andante and the Finale, inspired by the Cologne Cathedral and the festivities on the occasion of the Archbishop von Greissel’s elevation to the Cardinalate. It is a slow and solemn movement, hence, contrary to the other movements, the full orchestral apparatus including trombones was used… The fourth movement was originally inscribed ‘Im Character der Begleitung einer feierlichen Zeremonie’.139‘In the style of an accompaniment to a solemn ceremony’. Max Alberti, ‘Introduction’, in Four Symphonies by Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 3 in E flat Major (score: Ernst Eulenberg), London, 1945, p. 2.
This chorale is one of the most difficult – if not the most difficult – passages written for the alto trombone. It is insightful to appraise Schumann’s style of trombone scoring in light of the remarks made by contemporary and contemporaneous writers. For example, Del Mar describes it as ‘a cruel entry’,140Del Mar, op. cit., p. 299. as the trombonist must enter ‘cold’ after three tacet movements. The fact that it is in unison with the first horn does not minimise the difficulty, as the line is very exposed and any slip is immediately apparent to all listeners. Under very nerve-wracking conditions, great lip flexibility and a relaxed embouchure is required to span an interval of an eleventh, up to a sustained eb”, within the space of three bars. This is just the opposite of what Widor contended was required: ‘l’extrême tension des lèvres’.141‘extreme lip tension’. Widor, op. cit., p. 100.Firm support of the diaphragm is absolutely essential to produce a smooth legato in pianissimo in this range. Gevaert maintained that legato passages such as these could not be performed adequately on the slide trombone – a style of writing seen only in German music.
Le chant lié ne peut s’exécuter d’une manière satisfiante sur le trombone à coulisse, seul usité en Allemagne… 142‘The legato phrase on the slide trombone – used only in Germany – cannot be played in a satisfactory manner…’. Gevaert, Cours, p. 213.
The author further reasons that glissandi are inevitable on the trombone:
… lorsque les intonations liés proviennent de positions différentes, à cause des intervalles intermédiares que le glissement de la coulisse produit inévitablement.143‘When legato notes are produced by different positions, because of intermediary intervals which the movement [glissement=sliding] of the slide produces automatically.’ Gevaert, Nouveau Traité, p. 239.
Unfortunately, Gevaert is unclear whether ‘le chant lié’ was in fact performed satisfactorily by German trombonists. He goes on to say that this style of writing for trombones was even uncommon in Germany (‘mais ce cas est assez rare’.144Ibid., p. 240.)According to Gevaert:
En général les maîtres allemands ont traité le trombone à coulisse à manière d’une voix chorale, ne lui donnant que de grosses notes ou de courtes phrases d’un vigoureux dessin rythmique, et ne séparant jamais le ténor de ses deux compagnons.145‘German composers in general have treated the slide trombone in the same manner as a voice of a choir, giving it only long tones to play or otherwise short phrases of a forceful rhythmic pattern, and never separating the tenor trombone from the alto and bass.’ Ibid., p. 241.
One notes that the prevailing opinion of what constituted suitable trombone writing had remained relatively unchanged from Sundelin’s day. Gevaert’s explanation that slide trombonists would play a slurred passage simply as sustained notes (‘à l’exécution il se convertit en un simple sostenuto’146Ibid., pp. 240-41.) suggests that trombonists at this time, or at least the ones whom Gevaert observed, were not adept at legato-tongue technique or supporting with the diaphragm. Indeed, in order to mask this deficiency, according to Gevaert composers would frequently double legato phrases for the trombone with other low-pitched instruments:
Comme la plupart des traits chantants des trombones sont doublés par d’autres instruments graves, le compositeur n’a pas scrupule de mettre des liaisons illusoires, comptant sur l’effect de la masse pour couvrir les défaillances individuelles.147‘As most of the trombones’ lyrical passages are doubled by other instruments, the composer need not scrupulously notate illusory slur-markings, since he can rely on the mass effect to cover up the short-comings of individuals.’ Ibid., p. 240.
Thus it appears that the assumption made during J. S. Bach’s time – that the trombone was an instrument with inherent deficiencies which were virtually impossible to overcome – had prevailed almost into the twentieth century. According to Gevaert, ‘cet instrument, on le voit, offrait d’assez maigres resources techniques à la virtuosité individuelle’.148‘This instrument, one observes, provides rather meagre technical resources for the individual virtuoso.’ Ibid., p. 240. Widor, not very helpfully, describes Schumann’s writing for trombones as ‘tantôt trop haut, tantôt trop bas’;149‘sometimes too high, sometimes too low’. Widor, op. cit., p. 107.presumably he felt this was an example of the former. Although the first horn plays bars 1-8 of Ex. 1.35 in unison with the alto trombone, the part is not quite as difficult. Not only is the first horn accustomed to seeing even higher notes, it has the advantage of valves for producing a smooth legato. Moreover, the third horn doubles the first horn at times, thus enabling the latter to breathe undetected during the phrase and to re-set his embouchure for the upper register. Robert Sheldon, musical instrument curator at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, adds:
I doubt that the horn-trombone doubling on the theme was a kind of safety factor but rather for an assured sustained effect due to staggered breathing possibilities to be worked out between the players if necessary.150Robert Sheldon, personal correspondence with the author, 18.10.95.
Additionally, one should note that when the theme is re-introduced in the 3/2 section, (Ex. 1.35, bars 30-58), the trombones play the chorale unsupported as the alto trombone soars above the horns and trumpets. Widor, who mistakenly believed this passage was intended for a section with two (if not three) tenors, as was the custom in France at that time, wrote that:
Schumann se sert encore de la clef d’Alto pour ses deux premiers Trombones; il les écrit d’ailleurs comme si c’étaient des Trombones-Altos, témoin… de sa IIIe Symphonie… C’est là, certainement, un example d’écriture dangereuse… Soyons sages, n’écrivons pas si haut.151‘Schumann sometimes uses the alto clef for the first two trombones, which he thus writes as if they are both alto trombones, for example… in his Third Symphony… This is certainly an example of dangerous writing… Let us be wise and not write so high.’ Widor, op. cit., p. 100.
Kunitz, in pointing out Widor’s mistake, compounds the error by asserting that Schumann had intended both the first and the second part to be played on the alto trombone: ‘Schumann hat hier tatsächlich Altposaunen verlangt’.152‘Indeed, Schumann had here demanded [two] alto trombones’. Kunitz, op. cit., p. 619.According to Del Mar, such confusion arose from Schumann’s unorthodox score notation, which placed the first two trombones on a single stave of alto clef:
written without regard to the actual instruments playing the lines… thus producing the anomaly that the instruments… will not be at all two altos… but one.153Del Mar, op. cit., p. 312.
Although Gevaert described this chorale as: ‘cette phrase religieuse, d’allure austère et imposant’,154‘this solemn passage of austere and imposing attraction’. Gevaert, Cours, p. 213.he contended that ‘evidemment Schumann, à cet endroit, a voulu rendre par les trombones un effet de cors’.155‘obviously Schumann wanted to have the trombones sound horn-like in this passage’. Ibid., p. 214.However, it seems more likely that Schumann turned to the sound of the trombones to express the feeling of solemnity and enhanced the sound with the addition of the similar-timbred horns to capture the sense of serene majesty. As Robert Sheldon asserts, ‘the theme and its treatment is very much in a trombone chorale style’.156Sheldon, personal correspondence with the author op. cit. Gevaert argued that Schumann, like Schubert:
… [a] montré un goût moins pur. Trop souvent un grossier placage de trombones alourdit l’instrumentation de leurs symphonies et rappelle les formules banales de l’orchestre rossinien.157‘demonstrated taste less pure [than Mendelssohn]. Too often a coarse veneer of trombones weighed down the orchestration of their symphonies, and it brings to mind the banal orchestrations of Rossini’. Gevaert, Cours, p. 213.
Sheldon disagrees, maintaining that:
Schumann is, for my taste, wrongfully and too often over-criticized for poor orchestration and over-doubling. For me the 4th movement opening is an example of beautifully effective doubling, the three trombones, two bassoons, and three of the four horns working together as a fine octet of relatively dark sounding timbres. The only constant doubling throughout those measures in the brass is the melody line. It could have been done instead with the two upper horns (1st and 3rd) which then might have put the 1st trombone somewhere in the middle harmony lines, and… played on an alto… would have risked lightening the effect [as] the approach to horn playing (and this is ditto for the long trumpets in E-flat and F) [was] probably very laid back and carefully applied, never forced, little edge, and rather dark and poopy sounding – especially considering the very funnel-shaped horn mouthpieces of the period, often made of sheet metal with a rolled-over solder-on rim and therefore with no modern back bore… Compared to such horn timbre, trombones have (had) a more defined sound, and that opening just screams out (to me) to have the alto on the lead voice whether or not doubled by the horn. It really is trombone music, emotionally speaking, and Schumann’s voicing has the three trombones covering lead, principal bass, and an inner voice with the horns and bassoons just filling it out… Considering the period equipment, Schumann got the best effect as an orchestrator. Robert Russell Bennett could not have done it better for my tastes.158Robert Sheldon, personal correspondence with the author op. cit.
Also known as the ‘Rhenish Symphony’, it was written for the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra which was, according to Carse, a second-echelon orchestra during the mid-1800s.159Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 110.In 1835, Mendelssohn gave this scathing description of the orchestra:
[In Düsseldorf] ist so durchaus gar keine Musik zu hören und zu machen, dass ich mich wieder nach einem bessern Orchester sehne… Wenn Du mich einmal dies Orchester dirigieren hörtest, Dich trächten vier Pferde nicht zum zweiten Male hin.160[In Düsseldorf] there is nothing to be done in the way of music, and I long for a better orchestra… If you once heard me conduct this orchestra, not even four horses could bring you here a second time.’ Hiller, op. cit., p. 40. Trans. M. E. von Glehn, op. cit., p. 46-7.
But according to Ferdinand Hiller, only a short time later, by the time Schumann took over as director, the orchestra had improved greatly:
Als ich gegen das Ende des Jahres 1847 als Dirigent nach Düsseldorf gekommen, fand ich die Musik dort auf einer ganz anderen Stufe stehend. Ferdinand Rietz hatte nicht vergeblich dort eine zwölfjahre Wirksamkeit enthaltet. Bei meiner übersiedlung nach Köln, 1850, vermittelte ich die Besetzung der Stelle durch Robert Schumann.161‘At the end of 1847, when I came to Düsseldorf as Director, I found the music there on quite a different footing [from that which Mendelssohn had described]. The twelve years’ energy which Ferdinand Rietz had devoted to it had not been in vain. On my removal to Cologne in 1850, I managed to secure the post for Robert Schumann’. Hiller, op. cit., p. 42. Translated in von Glehn, op. cit., p. 50.
Orchestral writing for the ATB trio reaches its peak with Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, which marks his most creative use of the trombones. Exploiting several facets of their tone colour, Schumann uses the trombones in prominent chorales (Ex. 1.36) and in dramatic unisons and octaves, both solemn (Exx. 1.37, 1.38) and ominous (Ex. 1.39).

Chapter 2: The Ascent of the Tenor Trombone

2:1 Berlioz
At the epicenter of the changes occurring in the mid-nineteenth century stood Berlioz, whose writings, both musical and literary, are central to this thesis. Despite his overall preference for the tenor trombone,1‘Le meilleur de tous, sans contredit. Il a une sonorité fort et pleine… et son timbre est bon dans toute de son “echelle”.’ (‘Assuredly the best of all. It has a full and powerful sonority… and its tone is good throughout its entire range’). Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 200. Berlioz regretted that: ‘le trombone alto soit, à cette heure, banni de tous nos orchestres parisiens’.2 ‘At the present, the alto trombone has been banished from all our Paris orchestras.’ Hector Berlioz, ‘De l’instrumentation’, Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris no. 10 (6 March 1842), p. 92. The Opéra-Comique in 1839 listed Carteret as ‘alto’ and Buisson as ‘alto et ténor’ (L’indicateur général des Théâtres de Paris no. 3 (1839); cited by Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 493). The year 1831 saw the publication of the Méthode de Trombone by the trombonist Cornette of the Opéra-Comique which included a section of instruction for the alto trombone (‘Méthode de Trombone’, Revue Musicale année v, tome xi, numero 25 (23 July 1831), p. 200). The fact that players in the Opéra-Comique used the alto was probably a matter of personal preference. This oft-quoted lament, first made in 1842 and repeated in his Traité of 1844, reflected Berlioz’s despair over the absence of the alto trombone due to the loss of the notes b’ – f” (‘les sons hauts, tels que Si, Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, peuvent être fort utiles…’3 ‘the upper pitches, b’, c”, d”, e”, f” are highly useful’. Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 199. ), giving us a clear indication of what he considered the uppermost useable range on the tenor trombone. Kastner concurred:

Upper register
Le Trombone Alto qui est d’un usage général en Allemagne, ne se rencontre en France que dans fort peu d’Orchestres, ce qui est très malheureux, car le Trombone Ténor destiné à le footnotepléer ne peut pas monter aussi haut, et le compositeur se trouve privé d’employer les notes dont il pourrait tirer grand parti.4 ‘The alto trombone, which is in general usage in Germany, is hardly found at all in French orchestras, which is very unfortunate, because the tenor trombone which is forced to replace it is not capable of playing as high and the composer finds himself deprived of using the notes b’-f” of which he would have been able to take great advantage.’ Kastner, Traité Général, second edition, Paris, 1840, p. 41. According to Kastner, only tenor players of the greatest skill were capable of playing higher than bb’, with db” being the highest note possible on the tenor (ibid., p. 41.) However, Dieppo in his Méthode specifies d” as the highest note on the tenor as ‘très difficile’ (Dieppo, op. cit., p. 4) which is curious, as he was undoubtedly Berlioz’ model for what was considered possible on the trombone, and Berlioz described db” on the tenor as ‘très difficile’ (Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 199). In 1837, Kastner cited f” as the highest note possible on the alto (Kastner, op. cit., p. 53); in the 1840 edition of his Traité he states that it is gb” (Kastner, Traité Général, second edition (1840), p. 41), as Berlioz does in his Grande Traité (op. cit., p. 199), but with the proviso that this note is only attainable by a true virtuoso. Moreover, Kastner advises composers that the extremes of the alto’s upper and lower register are generally to be avoided: ‘les notes plus hauts et plus basses sont douteuses’ (‘the highest and lowest notes are doubtful’: Kastner, Traité Général, first edition, p. 53) and best reserved for solos (‘ne doivent s’employer que dans les solos’: Kastner, Traité Général, second edition, p. 41), adding that, since only a few artists are capable of playing ‘[l]es tons plus hauts et graves… on ne jamais écrire plus hauts que c” ou d”, ni plus bas que f ou e’ (‘the highest and lowest notes… one never writes higher than c” or d”, nor lower than f or e’: Kastner, Traité Général, first edition, p. 53). Finally, he advocates the avoidance of seventh position on the alto, as it seems did Eisel (Musicus Autodidactos, oder der sich, selbst informirende Musicus, Erfürt, 1738, p. 70), Christoph and Stoessel (Kurtzgefaßtes musicalischs Lexicon, Chemnitz, 1737, p. 184) and Fröhlich (op. cit., p. 34), ‘à cause de la mauvaise qualité des sons (‘because of the poor quality of the sound’: Kastner, Méthode Elementaire pour le Trombone, Paris, c. 1840, p. 11); Adolph Marx points out the risk of losing one’s slide in seventh position (‘an der Festigkeit des Zusammenhalts leicht verlieren’ – ‘the firmness of the grip is easily lost’: Marx, Lehre, p. 71) and advises composers to avoid writing notes played in this position. See also ‘Range (Marx), in Chapter 1.
On the other hand, Berlioz found the alto’s sound somewhat unpleasant; and that the low notes d down to A were of particularly poor quality (‘d’un mauvais timbre’5 Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 199. ) and best to be avoided, especially since they were excellent on the tenor trombone:
Son timbre est un peu grêle, comparitivement à celui des Trombones plus graves. Ses notes inférieures sonnent assez mal; il est d’autant plus raisonnable de les éviter en général, que ces mêmes notes sont excellents sur le Trombone Ténor.6 ‘ Its tone is somewhat shrill compared to that of the lower trombones. Its low notes sound rather poor. It is all the more reasonable to dispense with them altogether as the same notes are excellent on the tenor trombone.’ Ibid., p. 199.

Nevertheless, Berlioz’s opinions of the alto, expressed in 1842 and again in 1844, give the clear impression that despite its limitations he felt there was a definite place for the alto trombone in the orchestra, basically as an upper-register aid. Indeed, on the autograph score of the Symphonie Fantastique (1830), Berlioz wrote by the first trombone part: ‘Il ne faut pas comme on le fait souvent en France jouer le trombone alto sur un grand trombone, je demand un véritable alto’7 ‘The alto trombone part should not be played, as is often done in France, on a big trombone [tenor]. I insist on a true alto trombone.’ In 1972 Nicholas Temperley considered the alto practically obsolete:. Moreover, he maintained that the tessitura of the fourth movement was too demanding for a tenor trombonist: ‘the part [in Marche au Footnoteplice] reaches eb”… a note that is beyond the normal range of the tenor trombone.’ (Nicholas Temperley (ed.) Hector Berlioz: New Edition of the Complete Works (NBE): Symphonie Fantastique, series 1, Kassel, 1972, vol. xvi, p. xiv.) Temperley’s opinion notwithstanding, the fact is that this work today is customarily performed on the tenor trombone, and ‘March to the Scaffold’ has been a standard orchestral audition requirement for tenor trombone since well before 1972. (Figs. 2.1, 2.1a).

Figure 2.1: Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, autograph score page 18 Source: NBE (vol xvi), ibid..

Symphonie Fantastique autograph score page 1

Figure 2.1a: Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, autograph score page 1, inset, shows an enlargement of the relevant passage.


‘Je demande un véritable trombone alto’

However, in a letter to Louise Bertin, singer/pianist and daughter of the editor of the Paris Journal des Débats, written three months prior to publication of the Traité and nearly a year after submitting the manuscript for publication,9 According to Macdonald, Berlioz submitted the manuscript in December 1842. The letter is dated 8 October 1843. Hugh Macdonald, personal correspondence, 5.12.95. Berlioz expressed a less well-known opinion which at first blush appears to contradict his previous statements about the alto trombone. Based on his conducting experiences in Berlin, he wrote:

Observations réiterées, faites à Berlin, m’ont conduit à penser que la meilleure manière de grouper les trombones dans les théâtres, est, après tout, celle qu’on a adoptée à l’Opéra de Paris, et qui consiste à employer ensemble trois trombones ténors. Le timbre du petit trombone (l’alto) est grêle, et ses notes hautes ne présentent que peu d’utilité. Je voterais donc aussi pour son exclusion dans les théâtres.10 ‘Having made repeated observations of the kind in Berlin, I now believe that the best solution in the opera house is after all the solution adopted at the Paris Opera, and that is to use three tenor trombones. The tone of the small, alto trombone is shrill and high and its notes are poor; I would therefore vote to exclude it too from theatre orchestras.’ Hector Berlioz, Mémoires vol. ii, Paris, 1922, p. 97. Translation in E. Cairns (ed.) The Memoires of Hector Berlioz, London, 1969, p. 320; trans. ed. by John Wagstaff.
Dr David Mathie contends that there is ‘no contradiction [between the two opinions because] Berlioz only refers to the opera and theatre orchestras, not the symphony orchestra’.11 David Mathie, The Alto Trombone: Current Use and Performance Trends, University of Georgia DMA, 1993, p. 29. However, as Guion points out, in France:
after 1791 it appears that most public concert music was performed in theatres by theatre orchestras. Perhaps for this reason, trombone parts in French concert music did not differ significantly from those in theatre music.12 Guion, The Trombone, p. 266.
Moreover, whether a trombone section plays upon or below the stage, the concept of ensemble and blend are essentially the same. In truth, Berlioz’s two opinions are not difficult to reconcile, for what he appears to be saying in his letter to Mademoiselle Bertin is that, provided there is no loss of the notes b’ – f”, for reasons of sonority, balance and section blend it is best to replace the alto trombone with a tenor. He also advocated using the bass trombone only in section with the three tenors.13 Berlioz, Mémoires, vol. ii, p. 97. Indeed, in his Grand Traité there is a hint, expressed almost as an afterthought, that Berlioz will reach this conclusion when he states: ‘Il faut remarquer seulement que le son du Trombone Basse prédomine toujours plus ou moins, en pareil cas, sur les deux autres, surtout si le premier est un Trombone Alto.’ (‘It only remains to be said that the sound of the bass trombone always predominates more or less [in forte] over the other two trombones, especially if the first is an alto trombone’.) Grand Traité, p. 215. Kastner differed with Berlioz:
… le Trombone-Alto, le Trombone-Basse très répondu en Allemagne est presque inusité en France: on comprend que ce sont là un grand désavantage pour nos compositeurs… Quelques professeurs semblent s’en applaudir, en disant que l’unité de timbre d’une harmonie si flatteuse, dans les orchestres ne peut s’obtenir que par des instruments égaux: nous ne partageons aucunement leur opinion à cet égard, et nous voyons avec pein les compositeurs Français adoptir presqu’exclusivement l’usage d’écrire les presqu’ trois parties de Trombones pour le Trombone tenor… Nous pensons que c’est un grant tort de n’avoir point conservé les trois timbres différents du Trombone Basse, Ténor et Alto dont la diversité nous parait fort utile et fort désirable.14 ‘the alto trombone and the bass trombone, encountered widely in Germany, are hardly used at all in France: one understands that this is a great disadvantage for our composers… Some professors seem to applaud this, contending that this homogenous timbre in harmony is so complementary in the orchestra, a sound which can only be derived by the same instruments: we do not share at all their opinion in this respect, and we painfully watch the adoption by French composers of the almost exclusive practice of writing for the tenor trombone for all three parts… We think that it is a great mistake not to have preserved the three different timbres of the trombone – Bass, Tenor, Alto – whose diversity seems to us highly useful and highly desirable.’ Kastner, Traité Général; second edition, p. 41.
Gevaert also lamented the ‘malencontreuse transformation’15 ‘unfortunate transformation’. Gavaert, Nouveau Traité, p. 248. of the trombone trio into a section of three tenors:
Par cette innovation regrettable le troupe des trombones a vu son étendu s’amoindrir d’une octave entière. Ses qualités sonores et techniques en ont reçu une atteinte non moins sensible: en effect, le trombone ténor manque d’aisance et d’éclat dans le haut; au-dessous d’ut2 il n’a guère de puissance et aucune mobilité.16 ‘By this regrettable innovation the trombone section has seen its range decrease by a complete octave. Its sound and technical qualities have suffered an attack no less serious: indeed the tenor trombone lacks the unforced sound in the upper register; and below c it hardly has any strength or flexibility.’ Ibid., p. 248. Flandrin held that the demise of ‘les trombones classiques’ compelled composers to write ‘une basse pour un ténor et un alto pour un autre ténor; deux instruments sur trois, jouent un rôle qui leur est étranger, et les instrumentalistes d’aujourd’hui sont souvent obligés d’exécuter, non sans danger, des parties hors de leurs moyens.’ (‘a bass trombone part for a tenor and an alto part for another tenor; two out of the three instruments of the section take on a role which is foreign to them, and the players today are obliged to perform, not without risk, parts which are beyond their capabilities.’) Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1659.
According to Macdonald, ‘Berlioz wrote for the alto trombone in his early music with the upper trombone part notated in the alto clef, at least through the composition of Harold en Italie (1834)’.17 Hugh Macdonald, personal correspondence with the author, 30.11.95. This includes the Messe solennelle – the part reaches eb”18 Hector Berlioz, ‘Messe solenelle’ in New Edition of Complete Works, ed. Hugh Macdonald, Kassel, 1967, vol. 23, p.172. Scène héroique, La Mort d’Orphée, the overtures Les Francs-Juges, Waverley and Roi-Lear, Cléopâtre19 Hugh Macdonald points out that the alto trombone part on this score is puzzling since it is notated in tenor clef, and asks ‘was this defiance of convention a further cause of the Prix de Rome judges’ displeasure in 1829?’ Personal correspondence with the author, 30.11.95. and the 1832 version of Lélio.20 Ibid. With regard to Harold, the first trombone part is not particularly high by today’s standards, and it is doubtful that many professional trombonists are aware that Berlioz had intended the first part to be played on an alto. As Hans Bartenstein states:
Auch die 1. Pos. des ‘Harold en Italie’ ist noch im Altschlüssel notiert und geht mehrmals bis h’, was laut Gr. tr. schon fast über der Umfangsgrenze der Tenor-Pos liegt, aber tatsächlich von ihr ausführbar ist.21 ‘The first trombone part of Harold in Italy is also notated in alto clef and reaches b’ several times, which although it lies above the upper limit of the tenor trombone, according to Berlioz’s Treatise, is actually playable on the tenor.’ Hans Bartenstein, Hector Berlioz’ Instrumentationskunst und ihre geschichtlichen Grundlagen, Strassburg, 1939, p. 131.
The alto trombone was also used, according to Julian Rushton, in early performances in Germany of the ‘Marche Hongroise’ from Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust (1846). The first trombone was taken by an alto instrument; the manuscript part contains several alterations to accommodate it, sometimes a change of octave, sometimes simply a passage into the alto clef.22 J. Rushton (ed.), ‘La Damnation de Faust’ in Hector Berlioz, New Edition of the Complete Works, Kassel, 1986, vol. viii(b), p. 459.
A late alto trombone curiosity appears in the 1847 published first trombone part of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliet. Composed in 1839 (Ex. 2.1), the first part was intended for tenor trombone. However, in the edition that was published eight years later, the bracketed bars in the example above were written an octave higher in the part23 ‘Roméo et Juliette’ in D. Kern Holloman (ed.), Hector Berlioz: New Edition of the Complete Works vol. 18, Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1990, p. 371. (but not the score),24 Hugh Macdonald, personal correspondence with the author, 19.12.95. which would surely have necessitated the use of the alto trombone, given that Berlioz considered a c#”, a semitone lower to be essentially only a theoretical note on the tenor.25 However, one also recalls that Dieppo, in his Méthode, disagreed, indicating that d” was the highest note possible on the tenor trombone, see n. 4, this chapter. Modern editions used today score these bars of the first trombone part loco.
Regarding the 1849 Te Deum, Denis McCaldin writes that:
it is from the autograph score that Berlioz originally planned the uppermost trombone part for the alto instrument [but] changed his mind and was obliged to alter… the bars of the ‘Judex, Crederis’ in order to accommodate the lower range of the tenor trombone.26 ‘Te Deum’ in Denis McCaldin (ed.) Hector Berlioz: New Edition of the Complete Works vol. xix, 1967.
By changing the designation of the first trombone part from alto to tenor and rewriting passages lower (Ex. 2.2), it is apparent that by 1849 Berlioz was ‘acquiescing to the inevitable’,27 W.E. Runyon, ‘The Alto Trombone and Contemporary Concepts of Trombone Timbre’, Brass Bulletin no.28 (1979), p. 45. Ian Rumbold writes: ‘Although this part [in the autograph score] was originally described at the beginning of the movement as “Alto” the word was subsequently deleted; the part is labelled “2 Premiers Trombones”. Rumbold also confirms that the original handwritten part is in alto clef (personal correspondence with the author, 15.1.96). since with the previous abandonment of the bass trombone ‘le trombone alto n’avait plus guère de raisons d’exister’.28 ‘the alto trombone had scarcely any reason to exist’. Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1655. By 1863 Gevaert could write that in orchestral trombone sections, ‘trois ténors [sont] les seuls… [qu’]on connaisse en France’.29 ‘three tenors [are] all that are known in France’. François Gevaert, Traité Général d’instrumentation, Paris, 1863, p. 161. Anthony Baines suggests that:
In settling on one single species players had merely bowed to a new professional logic. The instruments were no longer a set of three owned by a municipality. Players provided their own, as they have done since, and the tenor, on which any part, whether a single part or one of three, could be dealt with somehow was the obvious choice, particularly when serpent or ophicleide became subjoined as a bass voice below the trio.30 Baines, Brass, p. 242.
Given his preference for the tenor trombone, it seems that it was not so much for reasons of tone colour that Berlioz designated an alto trombone for the first part, but because he thought the register was beyond a tenor trombonist’s capability.31 Indeed, Berlioz wrote that due to ‘l’insuffisance des trombones’ in the Mannheim orchestra he was unable to perform the Finale of Harold: ‘Je dus footnoteprimer le finale (l’Orgie) à cause des trombones manifestement incapable de remplir la rôle qui leur est confié dans ce morceau’ (‘I had to cancel the finale (the Orgy) because the trombones were manifestly incapable of filling the role that was entrusted to them in this piece.’ Berlioz, Memoires, vol. ii, p. 40.) Elsewhere Berlioz described the Hechingen trombonist – they had only one – along with the timpanist and trumpets as ‘knowing nothing’ (‘ils ne savent rien’: Memoires, vol. ii, p. 30). ‘Le seul trombonist était livré à lui-même; mais ne donnant prudemment que le sons qui lui étaient très familiers, comme si bemol, re, fa, et évitant avec soin tous les autres, il brillait presque partout par son silence’. (‘The sole trombonist was left to his own devices; but by prudently giving him only notes with which he was very familiar such as Bb, C, F, and carefully avoiding all the others, he distinguished himself mostly by his silence.’ Ibid., p. 31). Of the Berlin trombonists he wrote ‘Impossible! Tout à fait impossible!… Et n’y a-t-il pas de qui aller donner de la tête contre un mur?’ (‘Impossible. Completely impossible!… It is not enough to make you bang your head against a wall?’ Ibid. p. 129.) However, for the Stuttgart trombones Berlioz had fulsome praise: ‘Les trombones sont d’une belle force; le premier (M. Schrade) qui fit… à un véritable talent. Il possède à fond son instrument, se joue des plus grandes difficultés, tiré du trombone-ténor un son magnifique’. (‘A fine section. The Principal Trombone (Mr Schrade)… is a talented player. He is a complete master of his instrument, capable of performing the most difficult passages and producing a magnificent tone on the tenor trombone.’ Ibid., p. 24). In 1844 Berlioz wrote a b’ in the first trombone part of the overture La Carnaval Romain, but scored it for a tenor trombone rather than an alto. It appears that either there were no alto trombonists available in 1844, or that by this time tenor trombonists were thought capable of playing this note.
2:1:1 Nomenclature and the primacy of the tenor trombone
It appears that beginning with the 1835 version of Le Cinq Mai, Berlioz designated the tenor trombone for the first part and ‘wrote his three trombone parts on tenor and bass staves and presumed that all the players would use tenor trombones’.32 Macdonald, 19.12.95, op. cit. Although Berlioz advocated a section of three tenors, he felt that to use the tenor trombone when an alto (or bass) had been intended by a composer was:
admettre en général une pareille latitude dans l’interprétation des volontés du compositeur [et] ouvrir la porte à toute les infidélités, à tous les abus.33 ‘to take unpermitted latitude in the interpretation of the composer’s wishes [and] to open the door to all sorts of incorrectness and abuses’. Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 201, trans. Clarke, op. cit., p. 153.
Kastner maintained that this practice led to nomenclature problems:
En général, les compositeurs français ne se servent que du Trombone-Tenor qu’ils écrivent, à trois parties, mais qu’ils continuent souvent d’indiquer par les dénominations de: Alto, Ténor et Basse, ce qui, a l’étranger donne lieu à de singuliers embarras34 ‘Generally, the French composers have the use of only the tenor trombone which they write in three parts, but often continue to indicate them by the denominations Alto, Tenor and Bass, which gives rise to a singular confusion for foreigners…’ Kastner, Traité, second edition, p. 41.
However, while he preferred the bigger and more powerful tenor trombone with its ‘sonorité fort et pleine’, Koury maintains that ‘it would be a mistake to conclude that Berlioz liked a lot of noise’.35 Koury, op. cit., p. 130. According to Berlioz it was up to the conductor to ensure that with its powerful voice, the trombone’s majesty did not degenerate into raucousness:
Le préjugé vulgaire appelle bruyants les grands orchestres: s’ils sont bien composés, bien exercés et bien dirigés; et s’ils exécutent de la vraie musique, c’est puissants qu’il faut dire: et, certes, rien n’est plus dissemblable que le sens de ces deux expressions… Trois trombones mal placés, paraitront bruyants, infootnoteportables, et l’instant d’après dans la même salle douze Trombones étonneront le public par leur noble et puissante harmonie.36 ‘General prejudice charges large orchestras with being noisy. However, if they are well balanced, well rehearsed and well conducted, and if they perform truly good music, they should rather be called powerful. In fact, nothing is as different in meaning as these two expressions… Three trombones, if clumsily employed, may appear noisy and unbearable; and the very next moment, in the same hall, twelve trombones will delight the listeners with their powerful and yet noble tone.’ Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 297; trans. Koury, op. cit., p. 130.
The composer shares equal responsibility with the conductor, continued Berlioz. Echoing the words of Albrechtsberger37 See n. 32, Introduction to Part I. he heaped scorn on ‘la foule des compositeurs’38 ‘the herd of composers’. Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 223. who vulgarized this noble and dignified instrument, so capable of depicting ‘passions humaines’.39 ‘human emotions’. Ibid., p. 205.
Le son du Trombone est tellement caracterisé, qu’il ne doit jamais être entendu que pour produire un effet spécial… [Il] possède en effet au footnoterême degré la noblesse et grandeur; il a tous les accents graves ou forts de la haute poésie musicale, depuis l’accent religieuse, imposant et calme, jusqu’aux clameurs forcenées de l’orgie. Il depend du compositeur de la faire tour à chanter comme un choeur de prêtres, menacer, gémir, sourdement, murmure un glas funèbre, étonner un hymne de gloire, éclater en horrible cris, ou sonner sa redoutable fanfare pour le réveil des morts ou la mort des vivants… Mais le contraindre… à hurler dans credo des phrases brutales moins dignes du temple saint que de la taverne… [ou] à meler sa voix olympienne à la mesquine melodie d’un vaudeville… c’est dégrader une individualité magnifique; c’est faire d’un héros un esclave et un buffon; c’est décolorer l’orchestre…; c’est volontairement faire acte de vandalisme, ou prouver une absence de sentiment de l’expression qui approche de la stupidité.40 ‘The sound of the trombone is so markedly characterised that it should never be heard but for the production of some special effect… In fact it possesses the utmost nobility and grandeur. [I]t has all the deep and powerful accents of high musical poetry, from the religious accent, calm and imposing, to the wild clamours of the orgy. It depends on the composer to make it by turn chaunt (sic) like a chorus of priests; threaten, lament, ring a funeral knell, raise a hymn of glory, break forth into frantic cries, or sound its dread flourish to awaken the dead or to doom the living… But to constrain it… to howl out in a credo brutal phrases less worthy of a sacred edifice than of a tavern… [or] to mingle its Olympian voice with trumpery melody of a vaudeville duet… is to impoverish, to degrade a magnificent individuality; it is to make a hero into a slave and a buffoon; it is to tarnish the orchestra…; it is to commit a voluntary act of vandalism, or to give token of an absence of sentiment for expression amounting to stupidity.’ Ibid., pp. 205, 223; trans. Clarke, op. cit., pp. 156, 173; edited by A. C. Howie.
The tenor trombone solo from the ‘Oraison Funèbre’ of Berlioz’s Grande Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale of 1840 (Ex. 2.3) is the first major solo for an orchestral trombonist to appear in the standard repertoire. Of grand proportion, only the trombone solo in Mahler’s Third Symphony can rival it in magnitude and stature. The trombone was no doubt selected by Berlioz for its funeral associations and solemn tone. A strenuous solo, it requires great expressive ability and a broad, sustained, cantabile sound. Moreover, as the soloist is called upon a number of times to play b’, a note we recall Berlioz considered to be in the alto register, an alternate solo part for alto valve-trombone was provided by the composer. Berlioz wrote in the manuscript: ‘A defaut d’un Trombone ténor assez habile pour bien rendre la partie recitante de ce morceau, on peut l’exécuter sur un Trombone alto à pistons en Fa’.41 ‘If there is no tenor trombone capable of a good rendering of the solo part in this movement, it can be played on an alto valve-trombone in F’. Hugh Macdonald (ed.), ‘Grande Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale’ in Hector Berlioz, New Edition of the Complete Works (NBE), Kassel, 1967, vol. xix, p. xi. Translation by Macdonald. Berlioz also provided alternative solo parts for horn and bass clarinet. In the autograph score, a proviso to the statement above which read: ‘La Clarinete-basse en ce cas est préférable au Cor et au Trombone Alto. (‘In such a case the bass clarinet is to be preferred to the horn or alto trombone’.): ibid, was omitted in the first French edition. Ibid. In the autograph Berlioz scored the first trombone parts in the orchestra as ‘1rs Trombones altos ou ténors’ in the alto clef, c” being the highest note written. Hugh Macdonald, personal correspondence with the author, 5.12.95.
2:2 The Alto Valve-Trombone
The alto valve-trombone is described by Berlioz in his Grand Traité as basically the same instrument as the valve cornet but ‘avec un peu plus de sonorité’.42 ‘with rather more sonority’. Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 224. However, for an earlier account of a more striking contrast see Berlioz’s comment in the Gazette Musicale of 1838 (n. 52, this chapter). Pitched in the same keys (Eb and F), both written in treble clef and both probably using very similar mouthpieces,43 Consider that while both Fröhlich (Joseph Fröhlich, Systemischer Unterricht, zweiter Theil, Würzburg, 1829, p.272) and Nemetz (Gottfried Weber ‘Versuch einer praktischen Akustic’ Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung 4 (24 Jan 1816) p. 54) described the alto mouthpiece as basically the same as a trumpet mouthpiece but with a larger cup, a nineteenth century cornet mouthpiece was generally more bowl-shaped than that of a trumpet. Robert Sheldon, Musings about Brasswind Nomenclature or Name and Nature (first draft), Washington DC, circa 1989, p. 5. there seems very little to distinguish one from the other.44 According to Berlioz, the two instruments had very similar ranges: the ‘cornet à trois piston en fa’ extended from f to a”, whereas the valved ‘alto trombone en fa’, whilst capable of playing from B to gb”, the notes B to e were considered ‘d’un mauvais timbre’. Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 224. More than likely it was a logical double for cornetists. Thus, when we are told that on February 12 1848, in a concert at Drury Lane with Berlioz conducting, Koenig, one of England’s foremost cornet virtuosos at the time,45 Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 234. performed the ‘Funeral Oration’ from the Sinfonie Funèbre on alto trombone, it is likely that the instrument meant was an alto valve-trombone.46 Music World 23, no. 7 (12 February 1848), p. 97. The alto valve-trombone appears to have been used in French orchestras more as a solo instrument than as a member of the trombone section. Moreover, according to Berlioz:
on écrit souvent pour le Trombone alto à pistons des solos chantants. Bien phrasée, une melodie peut avoir ainsi beaucoup de charme.47 ‘Lyrical solos are frequently written for the alto valve-trombone. If well phrased, a melody can have considerable appeal.’ Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 224.
Del Mar states that:
cantabile solos are a rarity [for trombone] in symphonic literature and become a major feature when they do occur, as in the slow movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale.48 Del Mar, op. cit., p. 327.
Legato playing on the slide trombone is especially difficult in the upper register, requiring a strong embouchure, footnoteported by a well-developed diaphragm. It is perhaps indicative of how difficult this solo49 According to Flandrin, Berlioz’s Funeral Oration, the ‘grand solo’ from Halévy’s opera Le Juif Errant (Ex. 2.12), and the ‘solo difficile’ in Thomas’s Hamlet (Ex. 2.10), as well as a number of other trombone solos that appeared in the French repertoire during the mid 1800s, were inspired by the example of Antoine-Guillaume Dieppo (Solo Trombone, Paris Opera, 1831-1867), who distinguished himself as a master of the tenor trombone (Flandrin op. cit., p. 1657). Dieppo, who performed the Funeral Oration on the tenor trombone, was regarded as the ‘Dragonetti due trombone’ (‘Athénée musicale de la Ville de Paris’, Revue Musicale, année v, tome xi, numero xxvii (27 August 1831), p. 234) and whom Rivière called ‘the greatest trombonist that ever lived’ (J. Rivière, My Musical Life and Recollection, London, 1893, p. 81), and who was described by Berlioz as ‘un veritable virtuose’ (Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 224), caused a sensation at his Paris debut. At a recital on 18 August 1831, the correspondent for the Revue Musicale wrote: ‘M. Deipo [sic], phénomène allemand, qui est parvenu, par un travail sans doute long et pénible, à adoucir d’une manière étonnante les sons durs et secs du trombone et à les diviser, dans des traits rapides, aussi exactement que s’il se servait d’une trompette à clefs… Cet artiste a émerveillé l’assemblée et électrisé l’orchestre qui l’a fort bien accompagné’. (‘Mr Dieppo, the German phenomenon who has arrived here, is, obviously through arduous and long practice, astonishingly capable of turning the harsh and dry sound of the trombone into a mellow tone, and is able to play semi-quavers in rapid passages exactly as if he were playing a valve trumpet… This artist astounded the audience and electrifed the orchestra, which accompanied him admirably’.) ‘Athénée Musical de la Ville de Paris’ op. cit., p. 234). Ironically, Dieppo came to France originally as a clarinettist (Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1657). It is interesting to note that in 1855 von Gontershausen omits Dieppo when he lists the best trombonists of the time: ‘Unsere grössten Posaunen-virtuosen sind Queisser (Leipzig), Belke (Berlin) und Whittman (Paris)’. H.W. von Gontershausen, Neu eröffnetes Magazin musikalischer Tonwerkzeuge, Frankfurt, 1855, p. 149. Besides German, Dieppo was also said to be Swedish, Danish (Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 77n) and Dutch (F.J. Fétis, Biographie Universelle des Musiciens, 2nd edition, Paris, 1869, vol. iii, p. 18). was considered at the time that Cioffi, one of England’s leading trombone soloists and a member of Berlioz’s 1848 Drury Lane orchestra, did not perform the solo part.50 Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, pp. 203, 236. Cioffi ‘was a marvellous player on the slide trombone. His silk hat was lined with newspaper cuttings relating to his performances, and he would sometimes give us a taste of his quality which would rather open our eyes’ (‘Kneller Hall in the Days Gone By’, The British Musician and Orchestral Times 7 (1894), p. 14). The following statement by Weingartner in 1900 demonstrates how much performance standards must have improved in little more than a generation: ‘Sie erscheint heute wo der Musiker soviel Fertigkeit besitzen, um dieses Solo ohne besondere Schwierigkeit auf der Tenorposaune zu spielen, überflussig.’ ([‘An alternative part for alto valve-trombone] seems footnoteerfluous today, when [tenor trombonists] are so accomplished that this solo offers no particular performance problems’.) Charles Malherbe and Felix Weingartner, eds., ‘Sinfonie Funèbre’ in Hector Berlioz Werke, Band i, Leipzig, 1900, p. xlviii. Contrary to received opinion, Berlioz was not the first composer to score for the alto valve-trombone. In 1838, two years earlier, Halévy scored for a valved ‘trombone soprano’ in his opera Guido et Ginévra (see Ex. 2.4, 2.5, 2.5a, 2.6) which seems to be the same instrument Kastner and Berlioz refer to as an ‘alto à piston’ in their respective Traités. According to Kastner:
Plusiers maîtres, entr’autres Halévy, ont écrit des très jolis solos pour le trombone alto à pistons. Il faut naturellement que ces solos offrent un chant large et une mélodie distinguée.51 ‘Several composers, among them Halévy, have composed some very beautiful solos for the alto valve-trombone. It is necessary, naturally, that these solos be a very expressive and a distinguished melody.’ Kastner, Traité Général,second edition, p. 42. See Examples 2.5, 2.6, 2.7.
Berlioz enthusiastically describes the first appearance of this instrument in Halévy’s opera thus:
‘cet instrument nouveau, trés bien joué par M. Schlitz, a un son large et ample tout-à-fait différent du cornet à piston on a tant abusé. Il monte facilement, et conserve dans tout son étendue le timbre qui lui est propre’.52 ‘This new instrument, admirably played by M. Schlitz, has a large and ample sound absolutely different from a valved cornet, which is so much over-used. It ascends easily and maintains its true sound throughout its entire range’ Hector Berlioz, ‘Academie Royale de Musique: Guido et Ginévra ou la peste de Florence’ Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris 5, no. 11 (18 March 1838), p. 115. Schlitz, like Koenig (see n. 45, this chapter), appears to have been either a cornet or trumpet player. (Personal correspondence with Patrice Verrier, Director of Research and Documentation of the Musée de la Musique, Paris, 15.10.98).
Halévy’s new instrument functions as the most treble instrument in a brass group consisting of itself, two valved trumpets pitched in C and two valved horns in F (Ex. 2.4). In the same opera, Halévy also assigned to a trombone soprano à piston en Mi a solo which in 1925 Flandrin described as ‘peut-etre le plus haut et le plus dramatique solo de trombone qu’existe’.53 ‘Possibly the highest and most dramatic trombone solo that exists’. Flandrin, op. cit., p.1657. See Ex. 2.6. According to the autograph, Halévy’s solo ‘trombone soprano’ is an independent part, distinct from that of the first trombone and functions separately from the trombone section. (Exx. 2.5, 2.6) Robin Gregory misleads us when he writes that ‘Thomas appears to have had a particular affection for this instrument [i.e. the alto], for he gave it an important solo in the Overture to Le Compte de Carmagnola (1841)’.54 Gregory, op. cit., p. 293. Flandrin also misleads us when he states that the part was intended for an ‘alto en mi’55 Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1657. by failing to distinguish between the slide and valved species, as shown in the autograph score (Ex. 2.7). According to the autograph score, Thomas assigned the solo to a valved alto trombone in E, a separate instrument apart from the three-member trombone section. Moreover, as one would expect, the alto valve-trombone part in Thomas’s manuscript of Carmagnola is written in treble clef.
2:3 The Tenor Valve-Trombone
Almost concurrent with the alto being phased out in France, was the introduction of the tenor valve-trombone. Although Friedrich Blühmel’s 1818 patent foresaw the invention of the three-valved tenor trombone,56 Herbert Heyde, Das Ventilblasinstrument, Leipzig, 1987, p. 81, p. 240. it appears that this instrument was not built until the mid 1820s by other instrument-makers in Prague or Vienna. In 1836, Jacques Christoph Labbaye patented the first French three-piston tenor trombone.57 Lyndesay G. Langwill, An Index of Wind Instrument Makers, sixth edition, Edinburgh, 1977, p. 99. In his Traité, Berlioz fails to mention either Labbaye’s trombone or D. Jahn’s two piston-trombone, patented in 1834 (Henri Marie Lavoix, L’Histoire d’Instrumentation. p. 144; Flandrin. op. cit., p. 1653). Berlioz describes a ‘tenor’ valve-trombone capable of descending chromatically down to BBb, which he implies was only found in Germany at that time: ‘On trouve en Allemagne quelques trombones ténors à cylindres qui descendent jusqu’au sib grave’ (Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 227). Berlioz may have been referring to a four-valve tenor-bass trombone (Bb/F) similar to the Kleps model produced in Vienna in 1843 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Collection of Ancient Instruments, Vienna, 21.11.96). Marx describes a three-valve bass trombone in F that would have been capable of descending chromatically to BB (Marx gives the range as extending from CC to c”), whose tone ‘hält die Mitte zwischen Posaune und Horn; sie scheint übrigens wenig verbreitet vielleicht in Süden (in Österreich) mehr als in Norddeutschland’ (‘is half-way between a trombone and a horn; in any case it seems hardly prevalent – perhaps used in the South (in Austria) more than in northern Germany’). Marx, op. cit., pp. 99-100. Although the tenor valve-trombone (and to a slightly lesser extent, the bass valve-trombone) enjoyed widespread, albeit relatively short-lived58 For example, according to von Gontershausen, by 1855 in Germany the better players had abondoned the valve trombone due to its inferior sound, and had returned to the slide trombone: ‘ Unsere guten Posaunisten schaffen sie daher mit allem Recht wieder ab, und ergreifen die fruhere art mit Sangen zum Ausziehen’. (Our good trombonists, righfully so, have done away with it and have taken up again the former type with the draw-slide’. Von Gontershausen, op. cit., p. 149). Ironically, Frederick Corder predicted in 1895 that the tenor slide-trombone, which he maintained was in a ‘transitional stage’, would be footnoteerceded by the valve trombone due to ‘the impossibility of playing really legato’ on the former. Frederick Corder, The Orchestra and How to Write for It, London 1895, p. 58. usage59 In addition to the obvious technical advantages, it would have been a convenient double for valve-trumpet players, especially in locales where trombonists were in short footnoteply. throughout Europe during the mid-1800s, French composers in particular embraced the instrument, not only for its technical capabilities (see Ex. 2.8, 2.9) but especially for the lyrical, legato qualities it offered. (See Ex. 2.10, 2.11). Norman Del Mar contends that the slide:
makes a sentimental portamento (or worse still, glissando) very hard to avoid in legato phrases. No doubt it was on this account that the valve [tenor] trombone made a brief appearance.60 Del Mar, op. cit., p. 326.
Recalling Gevaert’s statement that ‘le chant lié ne peut s’éxécuter d’une manière satisfaisante sur le trombone à coulisse, seul usité en Allemagne’61 Gevaert, Cours, p. 213, see n. 142, Chapter 1. and the 1846 Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung’s smug assertion that it was generally acknowledged that the standard of German instrumental music was the highest in the world (‘da anerkanntermaassen die Instrumentalmusik in Deutschland am Höchsten steht’62 Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 27 (July 1846), see n. 135, Chapter 1. ), it may be that French trombonists were less proficient in legato playing than their German counterparts. Indeed, in Kastner’s Méthode Elémentaire pour le Trombone he instructs the pupil to place minute silences between slurred notes in order to avoid glissandi.63 Kastner, Méthode, p. 16. Perhaps another indication of the lower standard of French trombone playing: According to Kastner, lip trills were considered possible only by virtuosos (Kastner, Traité Général, p. 54). Berlioz also scored for the tenor valve-trombone in the 1846, Damnation of Faust (Ex. 2.9), discussed above. Rushton states that:
a fourth trombone is specified in the ‘Marche Hongroise’ from bar 96 to the end. It does not play elsewhere and no separate part has been found; it is wholly in unison with trombone 1. It is not clear why Berlioz here specified the unusual tenor trombone a pistons.64 Rushton, op. cit., p. 459.
The explanation that eludes Rushton is obvious to almost any trombonist. The very important first nine bars shown in the Ex. 2.9, played in unison by all three players, while technically awkward for the slide trombonist65 Even with the F-thumb valve attachment that would have been invented seven years earlier by Sattler in 1839 (Baines, Brass, p. 245). present no such problem for the valve trombonist. Moreover, if the first trombonist were to use an alto, the bracketed notes would be very weak. Finally, the last sixty bars, which should be very prominent, are very taxing for the first trombonist and doubling would help ‘zur Verstärkung der 1. Posaune für den Höhe Punkt’.66 ‘to reinforce the first trombone part for the climax’. Bartenstein, op. cit., p. 134. Kunitz and Gregory both cite a solo passage that occurs in the first trombone part during Act 1 of Ambroise Thomas’s 1868 opera Hamlet, as a ‘curiously late example of the use of the alto trombone’67 Gregory, op. cit., p. 108. in French music. According to Kunitz, ‘dieser Fall ist um so bemerkenswerter, als in den französischen Orchestern bereits seit 1830 keine Altposaune mehr verwendet wurden’.68 ‘This example is very curious since no alto trombones were used in French orchestras after 1830.’ Kunitz, op. cit., p. 780. However, despite the unusually high tessitura of the solo, the contention that Thomas specified an alto trombone seems to be without foundation as the autograph score specifically states ‘1st Trombone Tenor Solo’, as shown in Ex. 2.10. Moreover, on the score of the first printed edition published by Heugel (Ex. 2.11), it is suggested that ‘ce solo [est] mieux exécuté sur un trombone à pistons’.69 ‘This solo will be best performed on a valve trombone’. A. Thomas, Hamlet, Opéra en cinq actes, Paris: Heugel, 1869, p. 128. This suggestion does not appear on the autograph score, perhaps because it was assumed. In his Nouveau Traité Gevaert confirms that Thomas intended the solo to be played on a tenor valve-trombone and informs us that originally it was performed at the Opéra on Sax’s six-valve model70 Gevaert, Nouveaux Traité, p. 283. (see Fig. 2.2), which according to Flandrin, from about 1866 to 1873 became obligatory in the Opéra, causing ‘a cette époque la presque disparition du trombone à coulisse’.71 ‘the near total disappearance of the slide trombone during this period’. Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1657. During this time Dieppo, under pressure from Général Mellinet, Inspecteur des Musique Regimentaires, was compelled to teach the Sax valve-trombone at the Gymnase Militaire to the exclusion of the slide trombone.72 Ibid. French Bb tenor trombone with six independent valves, Adolphe Sax, Paris, ca. 1852. Gevaert states that in France:
Le système des pistons n’est appliqué jusqu’à ce jour qu’au trombone ténor… Aujourd’hui… l’usage général de trombone à pistons permet sans aucune restrictions de lier tous les sons entre eux.73 ‘These days the piston mechanism is only applied to the tenor trombone… Today… the widespread usage of the valve trombone allows one to slur all possible intervals.’ Gevaert, Traité Général, p. 98, 203.
He specifically cites the Hamlet solo as an example of how composers could write more expressively for the tenor trombone as a result of the application of the valved mechanism.74 Gevaert, Nouveau Traité, p. 283. Unfortunately Gevaert does not address the fact that this tenor solo is unusually high even by today’s standards. Significantly, Gevaert writes in his Nouveau Traité d’Instrumentation of 1885, nearly two decades after Hamlet had first been performed, that although
le trombone-alto possède plus de mobilité, plus de souplesse que le ténor; à l’orchestre néanmoins il n’a jamais été traité, que je sache, en instrument solo.75 ‘the alto [slide] trombone possesses more flexibility and footnotepleness than the tenor; nevertheless, as far as I know, it has never been used in the orchestra as a solo instrument’. Ibid., p. 242.
Unfortunately the original parts, which might provide further confirmation, no longer exist.76 Josiane Laurent, Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, personal correspondence with the author, 29.12.96. Nevertheless, there appears to be no evidence to footnoteport the contention that the Hamlet solo was intended for the alto (slide) trombone. According to Gevaert, from around 1850 tenor valve-trombones were prevalent not only in France but throughout Europe, as military brass bands customarily included three tenor valve-trombones.77 ‘À partir de 1848 la Fanfare subit une heureuse transformation, conséquence des innovations d’Adolphe Sax, bientôt propagées ou imitées hors de la France… Malgré les divergences locales, toutes les fanfares actuelles des pays occidentaux se composent au fond des memes éléments… trois ou quatre trompettes (chromatiques)…, [l]es bugles-sopranos…, [l]es cornets…, trois trombones ténors à pistons…, [l]es bugles tenors-barytons et un tuba basse en sib.’ (‘After 1848 la Fanfare went through a successful transformation, thanks to Adolphe Sax’s innovations which soon spread or were copied outside of France… Despite indigenous minor differences, all the military brass bands which exist in the Western nations are basically comprised of the same elements: three or four chromatic trumpets…, soprano bugles…, cornets…, three tenor valve trombones…, baritone horns and bass tuba in Bb.’) Gevaert, Cours, pp. 288, 291. Moreover, composers were accustomed to viewing the tenor valve-trombone as a solo instrument, as it often assumed this role in the Fanfare ensemble.
Même que la première trompette, mais moins souvent, le premier trombone est un des organes mélodiques de la Fanfare: une puissante voix de ténor aux accents tour à tour héroïques, onctueux ou terribles.78 ‘Exactly like the first trumpet, but less often, the first trombone serves as a melody instrument in the military brass ensemble: with a powerful, accented tenor voice, alternately heroic, smooth or terrifying.’ Ibid., p. 291.
For example, given the range and extensive legato playing that is demanded, a tenor valve-trombone would have been considered ideal for the lyrical first trombone solo79 In the score of the first printed edition published by Brandes et Cie, Paris 1851 (but not the autograph), this passage does not occur in the first trombone part but is assigned to a separate Solo Trombone player. Although referred to as ‘Trombone Alto’ in the original hand-copied part, Gevaert reminds us: “Depuis 1830 les orchestres n’ont plus que des trombones-ténor, ce qui n’a pas empêche les compositeurs de continuer longtemps après à designer les trois parties sous leurs noms traditionnels (‘Although since 1830 orchestras [in France] have used only tenor trombones, this has not prevented composers from continuing to designate the three parts by their traditional names for a long time since then’.) Gevaert, Nouveau Traite, p. 248. See note 34 in this chapter. in Halévy’s opera, Le Juif Errant (Ex. 2.12) composed in 1852, the same year that Sax brought out his six-valve instrument.80 Bate, op. cit., p.177. In 1873, thanks largely to the efforts of Dieppo’s former student Paul Delisse, ‘non moins brilliant instrumentaliste’,81 ‘no less brilliant an instrumentalist’, Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1657. study of the slide trombone was restored in France.82 Ibid. As late as 1949, Charles Kœchlin wrote that ‘on souhaiterait pourtant qu’il y eût au moins un trombone à pistons dans les orchestres symphoniques; il vendrait bien des services.’ (One would yet wish that there would be at least one valve trombone in symphony orchestras; it would be most useful’. Charles Kœchlin, Traité de l’Orchestration vol. ii, Paris, 1949, p. 94.)
2:3:1 Rossini’s Guillaume Tell
Bate makes the dubious assertion that:
such men as Rossini began to write bravura trombone parts which even today are not easy to realise except on the valved instrument… He is perhaps the most important of the composers who were beguiled by this feature, and we can think of passages in l’Italiana in Algeri for example, which probably terrified contemporary slide trombonists.83 Bate, op. cit., pp. 150, 220.
Contrary to what Bate maintains, not only are there no trombone parts in the 1813 L’Italiana, but Rossini’s most prolific years as a composer pre-date the advent of the valve trombone.84 See notes 56, 57, this chapter. A popular concert item assumed by many trombonists to have been written for valve trombones, Rossini’s overture to the opera Guillaume Tell, (Ex. 2.13) was premièred at the Paris Opera in 1829. The overture stands out from among Rossini’s compositions as containing his most technically demanding trombone parts.85 In France, shortly before his death in 1868, Rossini sketched a fanfare for military band entitled La Corona d’Italia. Published in 1880 in Carl Boosé’s Military Journal (series 46, no. 2, London: Boosey & Co., 1880), the trombone parts contain passages that seem well suited to valved instruments. At present the author is researching whether the trombone parts are authentic or the result of Boosé’s editing. Only the rapid quaver passages in the overture from La Gazza Ladra (1817), written for a single trombone with bassoon (and, significantly, predating the invention of the F-thumb valve by more than twenty years: Heyde, op. cit., p. 240) approaches the technical demands of the Guillaume Tell Overture. Heyde also mentions a Bb-Tenor/E-Bass Trombone (MüllerPosaune) built by Kruspe in 1897 (ibid.) which appears to have met with little success, and it seems unlikely that this instrument was used in Italy at the time Rossini was writing La Gazza Ladra for La Scala. According to Bartenstein, Berlioz would never have written anything as difficult for the slide trombone.
Schwierige Gänge in rascher Bewegung wie etwa die auf der Zug-posaune kaum ausführbaren donnernden Passagen im 1. Allegro (Sturm) von Rossinis ‘Tell’ Ouv. vermeidet Berlioz durchweg.86 ‘Berlioz scrupulously avoided [scoring] difficult passages in rapid tempi that were scarcely playable on the slide trombone, such as the thunderous section in the first Allegro (the ‘Storm Scene’) of Rossini’s ‘William Tell’ overture’. Bartenstein, op. cit., p. 133.
It seems rather ironic that the dramatic storm scene, with its rapid, ascending and descending scales, which would have made the perfect vehicle to show off the technical advantages of a newly invented valve trombone, was not in fact intended for this instrument. Although Bartenstein states that the 1829 Rossini opera made use of the new cornet à pistons in the Paris Opéra for the first time,87 ‘Das Ventil-Cornet… bereits 1829 von Rossini Guillaume Tell verwendet war’. ‘The valve cornet… was used in Rossini’s ‘William Tell’ already in 1829′. Bartenstein, op. cit., p. 130. according to Bartlett, no such use was made of the valve trombone.88 Bartlett, personal correspondence with the author, 20.12.95: ‘I have seen no evidence about valve trombones in Paris in the 1820s’. However, this does not preclude the possibility that valve trombones may have been used in later performances, throughout the continent.89 During the mid-1800s a section initially comprising three tenor valve-trombones (latterly with a valved bass trombone: Anthony Baines, ‘The Trombone’, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, 1980, p. 165) and sometimes with a cimbasso on the fourth part, was welcomed into the Italian opera, according to Carse, as they were far easier to manage in the cramped pit orchestra than slide trombones (Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 249). Perhaps a more plausible explanation is that Verdi, Puccini and other Italian composers favoured the valved instruments for their technical advantages: the trombone parts of Aida, Don Carlos (see below), Falstaff, Othello, La Forza del Destino, the Requiem, La Bohème and Tosca, for example, are filled with ‘athletic passages’ (Eric Crees, ‘Trombone Evolution’, part iv, Sounding Brass (Autumn 1976), p. 73), trills and grace notes. (All examples cited, with the exception of La Bohème and Tosca are by Verdi.) It is logical to assume that the Guillaume Tell would have also been performed on valve trombones in Italy. In the early 1920s Sir Henry Wood introduced a set of valve trombones in the Queen’s Hall Orchestra. According to Simon Baines, Rossini’s works were popular at that time with London audiences ‘and it was probably hoped that the valve trombone would allow more exciting performances of the difficult trombone writing’ (Simon Baines, The Evolution of Orchestral Brass in the Last Hundred Years: Organology, Trends in Performance Practice and their Effects, PhD Dissertation, Keele University, 1996, pp. 9-10). Verdi: Don Carlos, Act II, no. 17, sc.iv; bars 356-359 (Eulenberg). Kastner cautioned composers ‘si on désire de la nettetée de la justesse il faut craindre de donner des figures trop compliquées ou trop rapides aux trombones’.90 ‘if one wishes for clarity and precision it is necessary to shy away from giving the trombones overly technical or rapid rhythms’. Kastner, Traité, second edition, p. 41. Similarly, Berlioz advised composers to avoid writing passages for trombones that involved large position changes with abrupt shifts in slide direction.91 Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 204. For example, Bartenstein informs us that, in ‘Rex tremendae’ from the Requiem, Berlioz wrote the trombone part as A# – f# – c# [positions 1 – 5 – 5] rather than A# – B# – c# [positions 1 – 6 – 5] to avoid the awkward position change of A# to B#: ‘An eine Stelle in ‘Rex tremendae’ des Requiem springen der Posaune…. Schwierige Folge Ais-His zu vermeiden von Ais nach fis – cis (statt Ais – His – cis)’, Bartenstein, op. cit., p 132. Berlioz relates how the trombone section of the Théâtre-Italien, in order to negotiate an especially awkward unison phrase, had to resort to alternating notes between players ‘au grand divertissement, des autres musiciens’ (‘to the great amusement of the rest of the orchestra’) Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 204. With regard to the Guillaume Tell Overture, Gevaert criticized Rossini for having ‘imposé à l’executant une tâche audessus de ses forces’.92 ‘imposing on the player a task above his capabilities’. Gevaert, Nouveau Traité, p. 239. According to Gevaert, ‘un instrument à pistons est seul capable de jouer distinctement tant de notes’93 ‘only a valved instrument is capable of playing so many notes distinctly’. Ibid., p. 239. and he cautioned that ‘ceux de nos contemporains qui continuent à donner la préférence aux trombones à coulisse feront donc bien de s’abstenir de pareils passages’,94 ‘those of our contemporaries who continue to give preference to slide trombones would be well advised to abstain from [writing] similar passages’. Ibid. a warning they appeared to heed. Given the great technical demands of the Rossini overture, one wonders how the trombone section of the Paris Opera95 The virtuoso Dieppo would not join the Paris Opera orchestra until 1831, as previously mentioned (n. 49, this chapter). coped with what Jadassohn considered ‘der äussersten Grad von Geschwindigkeit, welchen man der Posaune zumuthen kann’.96 ‘the utmost degree of velocity which we should require from the trombone’, Jadassohn, op. cit., p. 277. Jadassohn further states that Rossini required a tempo of minim = 108. (Ibid). Moreover, according to Jadassohn, long phrases were inappropriate for the trombone:
Ebensowenig darf man die Posaunen andauernd beschäftigen, da sie sehr viel Athem erfordern. Der Bläser braucht Zeit, um die Lungenkraft wieder zu gewinnen.97 ‘The trombone should be used for long, continuous periods as little as possible because they require so much breath’. Ibid., p. 278.
It is not inconceivable that the three trombonists staggered the passage, dividing the unison scales into simplified alternating phrases. Jadassohn maintains that Rossini, by scoring the overture for tenor trombones in unison: verdient den Vorzug, weil die drei Instrumente gleichen Klang, gleiche Kraft wie gleiche Stimmung haben, und deren Behandlung die gleiche ist.98 ‘takes full advantage of the fact that these three instruments have the same sound, strength and pitch, and are manipulated in the same manner’. Ibid., p. 275. Clearly the ‘division of labour’ in the Rossini could not be brought off convincingly with the three different timbres of alto, tenor and bass trombones. Nevertheless, Jadassohn asserts that this section would be ‘für die kleinere Altposaune leichter und weniger ermüdend als für die grössere Tenor- un Bassposaune’,99 ‘easier and less fatiguing for the alto trombone than for the larger tenor and bass trombone’. Ibid., p. 275–276. although he provides no explanation for a statement that is not altogether valid. The reader, presumably, is to take for granted that since the alto is smaller it is thus easier to play. While in general these notes might be marginally more responsive on an alto, in order to balance the fortissimo of the other members of the section – what Jadassohn calls ‘von erschütternder Gewalt’100 ‘of earth shaking power’. Ibid., p. 280. – a great effort would be required. The resulting unflattering, over-blown sound would not justify the effort expended. Additionally, while manipulation of the lighter, shorter alto slide has its advantages, certain position changes between notes, which would not be difficult on the tenor, can be problematic on the alto. For example, the succession d – d# – e, which occurs four times, is simply the positions 4 – 3 – 2 on the tenor; on the Eb alto it would be a perilous 2 – 1 – 7 with the risk of losing the slide on the fast shift down to e. Similarly, the last four quavers of the eighteenth bar, e – d# – f# – d# – [b] would be far clumsier on the alto (positions 7 – 1 – 5 – 1 – [5]) than on the tenor (positions 2 – 3 – 5 – 3 – [4]). Indeed, Kastner maintains that ‘beaucoup de diezes [et] figures rapides ne conveniennent pas au trombone alto’.101 ‘many sharps [and] rapid rhythms do not suit the alto trombone’. Kastner, Traité, first edition, p. 53. According to Elizabeth Bartlett, an acknowledged Rossini expert, when Guillaume Tell was performed in Paris, the ‘three trombones [were] called “alto”, “tenor”, “bass” ’,102 Elizabeth Bartlett, personal correspondence with the author, 21.12.95. although it is unlikely, given the modest compass of the section, that three different species of trombone were used: all three parts could have been handled on a Bb tenor trombone. Bartlett states that ‘Rossini notated the parts on a single line of bass clef… for Rossini primarily conceived of the trombone as a bass instrument’.103 Ibid.
2:4 English Orchestral Trombone Playing
In England, loud, bombastic trombone playing seemed to be the order of the day. For example, in 1848 it was said of the orchestra of Her Majesty’s Theatre ‘that the trombones were noisy’.104 Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 188. According to Joseph Bennett, leading conductor Sir Michael Costa ‘remained to the end a noisy musician, and the trombones were more dear to him than any other instruments in the orchestra’.105 Joseph Bennett, Forty Years of Music, London, 1908, p. 335. Thus, Bate’s assertion that in England, ‘the alto seems to have disappeared quite early, yielding place to a second tenor trombone playing mainly in the upper part of its compass’,106 Bate, op. cit., p. 141. seems quite plausible. However, the lament by English music scholar Ebenezer Prout that in 1897 ‘the tenor trombone… is the only one to be found in the orchestras of France and Italy… [and] it is to be regretted that [the alto] is not always to be found in our orchestras’107 Prout, op. cit., p. 224. is an indication that the alto trombone had not completely disappeared from English soil. Carse refers to at least one London orchestra – the King’s Theatre – which employed an alto trombonist, Smithies (or Smithers), as late as 1850, the other members of the section being Schloengen and Mariotti, playing second and bass, respectively.108 Carse, op. cit., p. 181. Yet it appears that the trombones could at times become too raucous even for Sir Michael. Baines quotes the description of the London Philharmonic trombone section by music critic Samuel Wesley as ‘a disgusting interruption and disturbance of the harmony’,109 Baines, ‘The Trombone’, p. 558. and thus Costa had them try bell-over–the-shoulder models which directed the sound behind them.110 Algernon Rose, Talks with Bandsmen, London, 1895, p. 108. In 1852 an anonymous English writer stated that the Paris Societé des Concerts trombone section was ‘so footnoteerior to our ear-splitting Bartlemy-Fair bulls of Basham as can be conceived’.111 The section of the London Philharmonic was led by the famed English trombonist, Cioffi. From Musical World 30, no. 9 (Feb. 28, 1852), p. 136, an article entitled ‘”The Societé des Concerts” at the Conservatoire at Paris’: ‘(From a Correspondent): An anonymous Englishman, having recently attended a concert of this orchestra, proceeded to compare the Paris orchestra’s trombone section with that of the Philharmonic in London: “The sweet trombones with their silver sounds and silver it was, each playing with the band, and not endeavoring to drown everybody else… are as footnoteerior to our ear-splitting Bartlemy- Fair bulls of Basham as can be conceived.” From Musical World 30, no. 11, (March 13, 1852), p. 166, the following letter in ‘Original Correspondence’ was written in reply: ‘To the Editor of the Musical World: Sir,– An article appeared in the Musical World of Febr. 28th headed “‘The Society des Concerts’; at the Conservatoire of Paris”, the gross falsehood and unfairness of the remarks contained in that article, compel me, in justice to myself, as professor of the trombone of the Philharmonic, and the profession to which I have the honour to belong, to demand the name of the writer. An immediate answer, under the circumstances I have a right to expect. I am, sir, your obediant servant. F. Cioffi, March 8th.’ To which the editor of the periodical sarcastically responded: ‘We anxiously sympathise with the indignation of our Correspondent, and have caused inquiries to be instituted as to the authorship of the article in question, about which at present we are wholly in the dark. Signor Cioffi, if he has been in the habit of reading Musical World, must be well aware the Musical World appreciates his talents. Moreover, the article complained of was not an editorial article, and to conclude we have not read it. Secondly, if contributions headed or tailed with the words ‘From a Correspondent,’ be admitted into our columns, we have no right to alter the expressions, modify the sentiments, or obliterate the sense of the writer; but it does not necessarily follow that, because a ‘Correspondent’, who is not ‘our Correspondent,’ says so, or even so-so. So, under the circumstances, while earnestly sympathising, and, as we have already said, ‘anxiously’ (we quote from our own words) with the indignation of Signor Cioffi, we regret that we should have given way to it, since it needed only a mild protest on his part, to call attention to the offensive passages of the article in question, and to elicit the expression of our dissent. And ‘firstly,’ we have often said, and we now repeat, that Signor Cioffi is a very fine player on the trombone. ED’ See note 50, this chapter. See also Ken Shifrin, “An Exchange of Sharp Notes”, The Trombonist (Spring 1997). George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1885 that in a London perfomance by Richter, ‘the Tannhäuser overture was spoiled by the trombones. The three gentlemen in charge of these instruments confidently delivered the ‘Pilgrims’ Chorus’ with all possible coarseness, flat throughout’.112 George Bernard Shaw, Shaw’s Music. The Complete Musical Criticism in Three Volumes, (vol. i: 1876-1890; vol. ii: 1890-1893; vol. iii: 1893-1950) ed. Dan. H. Lawrence, London 1981; vol i., p. 238. Shaw goes on to make this scathing assessment of London trombone playing:
The gravity of [the trombone’s] tones, and the habitual solemnity of feature which its embouchure produces in the player, contrasted with the laughable action of the slide, have a serio-comic effect which has made it the butt of much unenlightened ridicule… It is not ordinarily believed that the trombone has been called the king of instruments… or that the trombone player may claim a position of the first dignity in the orchestra. He certainly enjoys – and frequently abuses – a greater power of spoiling an otherwise excellent performance than any other player can pretend to… The noisy vulgarity which our experience… has led us to associate with that instrument… and that brain-splitting bark which detaches itself from the rest of the orchestra, asserting itself rowdily and intrusively in your ear, prevent[s] you from hearing the music, and make[s] you wonder, if you accept the hideous din as inevitable, how Berlioz could ever call such an ignobly noisy instrument ‘Olympian’… Mr George Case the well known trombone player… protested earnestly… that trombone players are often blamed by critics for disagreeable effects due to the composers’ ignorance of the instrument’s peculiarities. Such cases probably occur some times, though far oftener the injustice is done to the composer, who is blamed for the coarseness due to the deficiencies of taste or skill in the player. But there is no doubt that [the] recommendation to composers to treat trombone players as gentlemen, pathetically insisted on by Mr Case, has been disregarded by the majority of composers. Mozart would certainly regard a fortissimo passage for three trombones in unison in a serious work as an attack on public decency – [yet] no matter how many fortissimo marks the composers writes there is no use in forcing the tone of the trombone. I am not going to be tromboned out of my senses. The trombone is like the little girl in the nursery rhyme. When it is good, it is very, very good, but when it is bad it is horrid.113 Ibid.; vol. i, pp. 91, 93, 216, 330-331. Shaw also reports the use of an alto trombone for a performance of Schütz’s Fili mi Absalon and Beethoven’s Equale at the Inventions Exhibition of 1885 (ibid., vol. i, p. 332). In 1890 he observed that the Walküre bass trumpet part was played on an alto trombone in a Richter London Concert (ibid., vol. ii, p. 92). However, this seems rather unlikely: perhaps Shaw meant an alto valve-trombone?
2:5 Rimsky-Korsakov
Norman Del Mar would have us believe that the alto trombone was used for the first trombone part as late as 1888 by Rimsky-Korsakov in Scheherazade and the Russian Easter Festival Overture:
The little alto, pitched in Eb, is regularly to be found in classical and early romantic scores. Even a composer as late as Rimsky-Korsakov can be found giving all the trombone solos to the second of the three players in his Scheherazade and the Russian Easter Festival Overture in order to specify that they should be played on a tenor and not an alto trombone.114 Del Mar, op. cit., p. 298.
With regard to Scheherazade, in which the highest note written for the first trombone is a’, Del Mar has apparently concluded that since Rimsky-Korsakov wrote the first trombone part in alto clef in the score, ipso facto he intended an alto trombone. It is risky to make assumptions about the clefs that composers used for the trombones in their manuscripts during the late 1800s, a period of transition from the alto to the tenor on the first trombone part. As we have seen, the choice of clef in the autograph score could have had more to do with convenience than instrument specification. Del Mar himself alludes to this fact earlier in his text:
It would be convenient to be able to say that the alto, tenor and bass trombones are notated each in their corresponding clef; but although all three clefs are in fact used, so that there is indeed an element of truth in this, it is needless to say by no means the whole story.115 Ibid., p. 285.
On the manuscript score of Scheherazade both first and second trombones are on the same stave in alto clef. 116 Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, ‘Scheherazade Symphonic Suite’, op. 35, in The Complete Works of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Conductor’s Score, facsimile edition, Belwin Mills, 1981. Del Mar appears to contradict a statement he makes about the Russian style of score notation during this period. According to Del Mar, Rimsky-Korsakov was one of a group of four Russian composers, along with Cui, Borodin and Musorgsky, who were influenced by Balakirev and adopted his predilection for:
writing for the 1st and 2nd trombones together on one stave and using the alto clef – thus producing the anomaly that the instruments actually used whilst reading in this clef will be not at all two altos but at least one and most probably two tenor trombones.117 Ibid., p. 312.
Regarding scores in which the first and second trombones share the same stave, Piston adds that first trombone parts, traditionally played by the alto trombone:
were written ordinarily in the alto clef, and this is probably one reason for the use of alto clef for first and second trombones seen in some scores even when no alto trombone is intended. This practice is common among Russian composers.118 Walter Piston, Orchestration, London, 1955, p. 270.

As far as the Russian Easter Festival Overture is concerned, the first performance of which was also in 1888, all three trombone parts are written in bass clef in the manuscript score.119 Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian Easter Festival Overture, op. 36, in The Complete Works of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Conductor’s Score, facsimile, Belwin Mills, 1981. Thus Del Mar’s assumption that the first part was played by an alto trombone is very unlikely, especially as the highest note called for is only a bb’. 120 Unfortunately the original parts to both works seem to be unavailable for perusal. One further factor that casts doubt on Del Mar’s assertion is that in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration, while he discusses the various pitched trumpets, cornets and horns, the composer makes no mention of different species of trombone; as far as Rimsky-Korsakov is concerned there appears to be only the tenor trombone with an F-valve attachment.121 Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Principles of Orchestration, ed. Maximilian Steinberg, trans. Edward Agate, Berlin, 1922, p. 25. Rimsky-Korsakov also refers to the tenor valve-trombone, ibid., pp. 23-4. (See Fig. 2.3).

Figure 2.3: From Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration122 Ibid., p. 25.

It is worth noting that he cites bb’ as the highest note for the trombone with g’ as the practical upper limit.
2:6 Wagner

While Alan Lumsden implies that Wagner never wrote for the alto trombone,123 Lumsden, op. cit., p. 10. Flandrin states that Wagner wrote in ‘deux manières, pour les trombones classiques et pour trois ténors’.124 ‘in two styles: for the classical trombone section and for three tenors’. Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1659. In the former, Flandrin adds, Wagner demonstrates the usefulness of the alto-trombone.125 Ibid. The following list (Fig. 2.4), provided courtesy of Dr Egon Voss, Chief Editor of the Richard Wagner-Gesamtausgabe, shows Wagner’s specification of trombones in his early works according to the autograph scores.

Figure 2.4 Specification of Trombones in Wagner’s Early Works (according to Wagner’s autograph scores) 126 Source, Egon Voss, personal correspondence with the author, 24.11.94. WWV refers to John Deathidge, Martin Geck and Egon Voss (eds), Wagner-Werk-Verzeichnis: Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke Richard Wagners und ihrer Quellen, Mainz, 1986.

Konzertouvertüre Nr 2 C dur WWV 271832Alto, Tenore, Basso
Symphonie C-Dur WWV 291832manuscript lost
Die Feen WWV 321833/4manuscript lost
Festspiel ‘Beim Antritt des neuen Jahres 1835’ WWV 361834Alto, Tenore, Basso
Overture ‘Columbus’ WWV 371834/35manuscript lost
Das Liebesverbot WWV 381835/36Alto, Tenore, Basso
Ouvertüre ‘Polonia’ WWV 391836Alto, Tenore, Basso
Ouvertüre ‘Rule Britannia’ WWV 421837Alto, Tenore, Basso
Volks-Hymne ‘Nicolay’ WWV 441837Alto, Tenore, Basso
Rossini: Li marinari (Instrumentation) WWV 4718383 Tromboni
Rienzi WWV 491838-40manuscript lost
‘Norma il predisse’. Arie für Bellinis ‘Norma’ WWV 5218393 Tromboni
Ouvertüre ‘Faust’ WWV 59 1. Fassung1839/403 Tromboni
Der fliegende Holländer WWV 631840/413 Tromboni
‘Descendons gaiment la courtille’ für das Vaudeville ‘La descente de la courtille’ WWV 6518413 Trombones
Festgesang ‘Der tag erscheint’ WWV 68B1843manuscript lost (copyist’s score: Alto, Tenore, Basso)
Das Liebsmahl der Apostel WWV 6918433 Tromboni
Tannhäuser WWV 701843-453 Posaunen

Recalling that, according to Berlioz among others, the highest note thought practical on the tenor until at least 1840 was bb’,127 Marx, as late as 1857, states that it was g’ (Marx, Lehre, third edition, Leipzig, 1857, p. 191). Marx makes the novel suggestion that rather than have a bassoon substitute for the tenor trombone in the ‘Tuba Mirum’ of Mozart’s Requiem, as often was the case, the alto would make a more suitable replacement (Marx, Lehre, first edition, p. 69), due presumably to the ab. it seems possible that at least two works on the list could well have been intended for alto trombone: Konzertouvertüre Nr 2 C-Dur (1832) and the overture Rule Britannia (1837). In the former, Wagner writes for a brass section of three trombones, designated as ‘alto’, ‘tenor’ and ‘bass’ with natural trumpets and horns in C, making the first trombone the most treble, chromatic brass instrument. In classical and pre-classical works the alto trombone frequently doubled the oboe and violin.128 Kunitz, op. cit., p. 792. In Example 2.14 from the Konzertouverture, in which Wagner takes the first trombone up to d”, it plays in unison with the second oboe and in octaves with the first violin, first oboe and first flute. In the overture Rule Britannia (1837), the first trombone, designated ‘alto’, plays the passage shown in Example 2.15, which at that time was clearly in the alto register. According to Karl-Heinz Weber (formerly Principal Trombone with the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra), in Lohengrin: ‘Wagner hat zwar für die Bühnenmusik zwei Altposaunen vorgeschrieben.129 ‘Wagner definitely wrote two alto trombone parts for the stage band.’ Karl-Heinz Weber, personal correspondence with the author, 14.5.95. Weber also contends that Wagner intended an alto trombone in the first version of Der fliegende Holländer (1841), which version was customarily performed in Bayreuth:

Der fliegende Holländer ist eindeutig für Altposaune geschrieben [und] ist traditionell in Altschlüssel geschrieben. In der ersten Fassung… die erste Posaune ging bus zum d” hinauf. Die Ouverture hat Wagner sicher nachträglich für den Konzertgebrauch bearbeitet. Daher der Tenorschlüssel für die erste Posaune.130The Flying Dutchman is unequivocally scored for alto trombone and is traditionally written in alto clef. In the first version… the first trombone part ascends to d”. Later Wagner definitely edited the overture for concert performance. Thus, tenor clef for the first trombone.’ Weber, personal correspondence with the author, 14.5.95. Herr Weber’s meaning is not that the tenor clef is more suitable for concert orchestra trombonists than the alto clef, but that Wagner lowered the tessitura of the first part so that it could be played by a tenor trombone.
Hausmann specifically cites Wagner’s Rienzi as a work that was scored for alto trombone.131 Teuchert and Haupt, op. cit., p. 89. Moreover, conductor and composer Herman Scherchen also maintained that Wagner had indeed intended an alto trombone for the first trombone part of Rienzi:
Auf jeden fall sollte sich bei den Orchestern je eine Altposaune befinden, diese ist noch heute [1929] unentbehrlich für Mendelssohn: Ruy Blas Ouvertüre, Schumann: Es-Dur Sinfonie [und] Wagner: Rienzi.132 ‘In any case, an alto trombone should be found in every orchestra: even today it is indispensable for Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture, Schumann’s Third Symphony in Eb Major and Wagner’s Rienzi.’ Hermann Scherchen, Lehrbuch des Dirigierens, Leipzig, 1929, p. 131.
The lithography of the first printed edition of Rienzi (1838–40) is believed to have been done by Wagner himself, according to a receipt of the Fürstenau and Co. printing firm dated 25 July 1844: twenty five copies were made by Wagner’s ‘als Manuscript autographiert’.133 ‘According to the autograph score’. Reinhard Strohm and Egon Voss (eds), ‘Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen’, Richard Wagner, Sämtliche Werke, Band iii, v, Mainz (B. Schott’s Söhne), 1991, p. 149. Unfortunately this cannot be verified, since the Stichvorlag (printer’s copy) is lost.134 Dr Eugen Voss, personal correspondence with the author, 24.11.94. However, even if we were to consider the first printed score as a kind of autograph, as we have observed, the fact that the first trombone part is designated ‘alto’ does not necessarily indicate that Wagner wrote this part for an alto trombone.135 However, Rienzi, a pre-Reformentwurf work, (see n. 141, this chapter) does call for a c” in the first trombone at a time when this note was considered above the tenor’s Umfangsgrenze. Designating trombone parts numerically, according to Bartlett, was a fairly modern concept and the terms ‘alto’, ‘tenor’ and ‘bass’ were used increasingly to indicate range rather than type of instrument.136 ‘I, II, III which, in any case, are modern designations’. Elizabeth Bartlett, personal correspondence with the author, 21.12.95. As late as 1885, Gevaert points out that some composers still clung to the traditional names of the three separate trombones137 Gevaert, Nouveau Traité, p. 242. Or two tenors and a tenor-bass. long after the section came to consist of three tenors:
… l’habitude traditionnelle d’écrire trois parties de trombones à l’imitation d’un trio vocal s’est maintenu jusqu’ à nos jours… Quelque fois on se contentait d’indiquer ‘trombones I II III’.138 ‘… the traditional custom of writing the three trombone parts in imitation of a vocal trio has been maintained up until today… Occasionally the parts are indicated “trombones I, II, III”.’ Gevaert, Traité Général, p. 88. See n. 34, this chapter.
Nor is the fact that in the score Wagner wrote the first part in alto clef a reliable indication of the type of trombone intended:
… nunmehr dass die Tenorposaune die höchste Stimme in der Posaunengruppe ausfürtre wenn man auch gewohnheitsmäßig vielfach die bisherige Notierung der Posaunenstimmen im Alt-, Tenor- und Baßschlüssel beibehielt.139 ‘… by this time the tenor trombone played the highest part in the trombone group even though, by force of habit, the former notation of the trombone parts in alto, tenor, and bass clef, was retained.’ Kunitz, op. cit., p. 780; trans. H Braunlich. See n. 34 and n. 79, this chapter.
2:6:1 Wagner’s disenchantment with the alto trombone
Influenced by leading French composers such as Meyerbeer, Berlioz and Halévy,140 Gevaert, Cours, p. 246. Wagner became increasingly disenchanted with the alto trombone and enamoured of the tenor trombone with its greater range and richer, more robust sound. In his Reform Plan for the Royal Dresden Orchestra, from March 1, 1846, Wagner applied for the acquisition of a tenor trombone for the following reasons:
Die Unschaffung noch einer Tenor-Posaune ist notwendig, weil für die meisten neuern Opern, zumal für die französischen (in welche nur für Tenor-Posaunen geschrieben ist) die Alt-Posaune ihrem Umfange nach nicht zureicht, und der Alt-Posaune daher genöthigt ist, oft ganz Stellen auszulassen oder sie um eine Ottave höher zu spielen. Dem Alt-Posaunisten muss daher ausser einem gewöhlichen Instrumente noch eine Tenor-Posaune zugestellt werden.141 ‘The employment of another tenor trombone is necessary, because for most of the new operas, as well as for the French operas (in which only tenor trombones are scored) the alto trombone’s compass is insufficient, and the alto trombonist is therefore often forced to omit entire passages or play them up an octave. A tenor trombone must therefore be put at the disposal of the alto trombonist in addition to his usual instrument.’ Richard Wagner, Sämtliche Schriften und Dichtungen Band xii, Leipzig, 1846, p. 180-81. Would the tenor trombone be provided by the orchestra? According to Karl-Heinz Weber, ‘Die finanzielle Lage der meisten Musiker es gar nicht erlaubte, zwei Instrumente zu besitzen’ (‘The financial position of most musicians did not permit them to own two instruments’), Karl-Heinz Weber, personal correspondence with the author, 14.5.95.
Although Wagner’s Reformentwurf (Reform Plan) was rejected,142 Percy M. Young, ‘Wagner’, in Grove’s Dictonary of Music and Musicians, 5th edition, London, 1940, p. 99. Werner Berger states that:
Damit hatte der heute in allen Orchester bestehende Posaunensatz, also 1. und 2. Tenorposaune und Baßposaune seinen festen Platz in der Kapelle gefunden.143 ‘As a result the present-day trombone section in all orchestras, which consists of two tenors and a bass,found a permanent place in the Dresden orchestra’. W. Berger, op. cit., p. 41.
2:7 The Decline of the Alto Trombone
It is frequently stated that the advent in the mid 1820s of fully-chromatic valved trumpets sounded the death knell for the alto trombone. According to Widor:
Aujourd’hui, le premier de ces trois instruments, quoique de timbre magnifique (il sonne comme une Trompette en fa) est quelque peu délaissé précisément parce qu’il est à peu près du même étendue que cette magnifique Trompette, car il monte au fa, au sol, voire même en la, et fait par conséquence double emploi avec elle.144 ‘Despite its admirable timbre, akin to that of the Trumpet in F, the Alto Trombone has now become more or less obsolete, because its compass being much the same it is almost a duplicate of that magnificent instrument.’ Widor, op. cit., p. 95. Trans. Suddard, op. cit., p. 78; edited by Ken Shifrin.
Upon examination, however, we find a number of discrepancies in Widor’s argument. Although valve trumpets had been utilised in German cavalry bands as early as 1824,145 Baines, Brass, p. 252. ‘extremely conservative’146 Bate, op. cit., p. 277. trumpeters resisted abandoning their natural trumpets and not until the 1840s did the use of rotary-valve trumpets become widespread in Germany.147 Berlioz, Mémoires, vol. ii, pp. 68, 103. If Widor’s contention is valid we should logically expect to find that as the F valve-trumpet became more commonplace, the upper register of the first trombone parts would become less extreme as the alto was replaced by the tenor on the first part. Yet in 1840 Mendelssohn required an e” from the alto trombone in the ‘Lobgesang’ (Ex 1.34), and in 1846 in Elijah a d”. In the 1850s Schumann was writing d”s and eb”s for the alto trombone; in the 1860s Bruckner (in his F Minor Mass) and Dvořák (in his Symphony No. 1) demanded d” and eb” respectively; and Brahms wrote d”s for the first trombone in his Second Symphony (1876). Even at the end of the century, we find Strauss scoring a d” in Also sprach Zarathustra, as did Elgar in Froissart (1890) and the Enigma Variations (1899). Moreover, regarding the status of the F trumpet, the sound of which was ‘près du même étendu’ to that of the alto, according to Baines, ‘it seems fairly certain that by the 1850s the higher instrument [the Bb trumpet] had largely found its way in and became… the ordinary trumpet in Germany’.148 Baines, Brass, p. 232. In France, on the other hand, where as late as 1875 valve trumpets had not yet caught on,149 Koury, op. cit., p. 96. In October 1843 Berlioz noted how the immense popularity of the valve cornet had held back the introduction of valve trumpets into France. ‘Nous n’avons presque point encore en France de trompettes chromatiques (ou à cylindres); la popularité incroyable du cornet à pistons leur a fait une concurrence victorieuse jusqu’à ce jour.’ (‘We do not yet have in France chromatic trumpets (i.e. with valves); the incredibly popular piston-cornet prevails in the competition to this day.’) Berlioz, Memoires, vol. ii, p. 95. the alto trombone had already virtually disappeared nearly three decades earlier.150 Hector Berlioz, ‘De l’Instrumentation’, Revue et Gazette Musicale 10 (6 March 1842), Paris, p. 92. Kunitz points out:
daß es mit den Naturtrompeten und mit dem corno da caccia wie auch mit dem nach 1753 umgestalteten Naturhorn durchaus möglich und auch üblich war, im Hauptaktionsgebiet der Alt- (und der Sopran-) posaune… diatonische, ja sogar chromatische Bewegungen auszuführen. Es wäre also schon in jener Zeit ohne weiteres möglich gewesen, die Alt- und die Sopranposaunenstimmen mit der Trompete bzw. dem corno da caccia auszuführen, zumal diese Instrumente damals technisch sogar noch viel anspruchsvoller als die Posaunen eingesetzt wurden. [Der] Standpunkt… die Verwendung der hohen Posaunen sie nur auf ihre chromatischen Fähigkeiten zurückzuführen und daher mit der Erfindung der Ventiltrompete hinfällig geworden, ist also bereits aus diesem Grunde durchaus irrig.151 ‘that it was quite possible and also customary for the natural trumpets and for the corno da caccia as well as for the natural horn redesigned after 1753 to execute diatonic or even chromatic motions in the principal range of actions of the alto (and soprano) trombone… Thus already at that time it would have been possible without any trouble to play the parts of the alto trombone and soprano trombone on the trumpet or the corno da caccia respectively, particularly since these instruments were utilised at that time in technically even more demanding ways than trombones. The standpoint… that the high trombones were used only because of their chromatic potentials and that they therefore became footnoteerfluous with the invention of the valve trumpet, is thus totally erroneous on this basis.’ Kunitz, op. cit., p. 784. Trans. Helmut Braunlich.
What seems a more plausible explanation for the widespread demise of the alto trombone is that composers, eager to exploit the harmonic possibilities of the new, fully chromatic trumpet and horn, took advantage of the ‘practically free choice of notes [which] resulted in a much richer and more flexible brass-voiced harmony’;152 Carse, Beethoven to Berlioz, p. 249. the new combination of trumpets, horns and trombones in a unified brass section created a new timbral function for the trombone. Kunitz adds:
daß die Komponisten nach der Erfindung der Ventiltrompete (also gegen Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts) von deren außerordentlichen spieltechnischen Erleichterungen sofort weitestgehenden Gebrauch machten… Maßgebend war nunmehr bei allen satztechnischen Erwägungen die Tatsache, daß nunmehr die gesamte Tonskala der ‘scharfen’ Blechblasinstrumente, also der Posaunen und der Trompeten, vollchromatisch geworden war, so daß man dazu überging… deren Gruppen sowohl in thematischer Hinsicht als auch im Akkordsatz miteinander zu verschmelzen und als eine einheitliche Gruppe zu behandeln. Damit zugleich erfolgte auch eine engere Verbindung der Posaunen mit den nun ebenfalls chromatischen Hörnern, die infolge der gleichen Spieltechnik (d.h. der ‘Naturtechnik’) bisher satztechnisch mit den Trompeten verbunden waren. Dieses Verfahren stellte eine ganz erhebliche, ja grundlegende Veränderung des orchestralen Satzes und seiner spezifischen Klangfaktoren dar, die auch heute noch allgemein gültig ist. Es hatte vor allem zur Folge, daß die Komponisten von dieser Zeit, also von etwa Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts an, die Altposaune nicht mehr einsetzten.153 ‘Composers after the invention of the valve trumpet (that is, toward the middle of the 19th century) immediately made extensive use of its remarkable technical facility… The salient fact in all considerations of voicing was now that the whole range of ‘sharp’ brass instruments, the trumpets and trombones, had become chromatic throughout so that one proceeded to amalgamate these two instruments or their groups… This amalgamation came about concerning both thematic and chordal structures and the instruments were treated as a unified group. At the same time there also developed a tighter bond between trombones and horns, also now chromatic, which because of the same technique (i.e. a ‘natural’ technique) heretofore had been allied with the trumpets in compositional usage. This usage constitutes a quite important, even fundamental change of orchestral writing and of its specific sound components which generally persists even today. Its result is mostly that the composers from this time on, that is from about the middle of the 19th century, refrained from using the alto trombone…’. Heinrich Kunitz, Die Instrumentation: ein Handbuch-und-Lehrbuch, 3rd edition, Leipzig, 1970, pp. 779-780. Trans. Braunlich.
As usual the opera orchestra, eager to enhance its timbral palette, took the lead in incorporating the valved brass. Gevaert states that after 1830:
l’orchestre de théâtre, s’appropriant les cuivres chromatiques, nouvellement inventés, et exhibent des timbres spéciaux, s’est créé un cadre à lui et a réalisé des combinaisons sonores auparavant inconnues. Cette révolution musicale inaugurée en France par Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Halévy, eut en Allemagne son aboutissement provisoire dans les plus anciens opéras de Richard Wagner… Peu à peu le nouveau programme s’est répandu par toute l’Europe, et depuis une vingtaine d’années il est devenu celui de l’orchestre ordinaire de théâtre et de concert.154 ‘The theatre orchestra appropriated the newly-invented chromatic brass that possessed a unique timbre, giving rise to a new section capable of harmonic sonorities heretofore unknown. This musical revolution, inaugurated in France by Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Halévy, came to Germany initially in the earliest operas of Richard Wagner… Gradually this new instrumentation spread to all of Europe and after two decades became standard in the theatre and concert orchestra.’ Gevaert, Cours, p. 238.
A change of colour was taking place in the orchestral sound. It was becoming darker and weightier, and as the demands of the larger, louder romantic orchestras grew, the demise of the alto trombone was hastened.155 Bate, op. cit., p. 148. The diminutive alto, according to Lobe ‘etwas greller als der Bass- und Tenor-posaune und in den tiefsten Tönen schlecht’,156 ‘rather harsher than the bass and tenor trombone, and poor in the lowest register’. Lobe, Lehrbuch der musicalischen Composition, p. 385. was simply no match for the rest of the trombone section and ‘deshalb man diese lieber der Tenor-posaune überträgt’.157 ‘one preferred to use the tenor trombone on the first part’. Ibid., p. 385. Marx maintained that each facet of the trombone’s character – ‘erschütternde Macht, strenge Würde und Feierlichkeit… tritt stärker entwickelt hervor in den tiefen Posaunenarten, am stärkesten also in Bassposaune, am wenigsten entschieden in der Altposaune’.158 ‘trembling might, sheer dignity and solemnity – is more in evidence in the lower types of trombone, being most prominent on the bass trombone, least definitive on the alto trombone’. Marx, Lehre, p. 67. Flandrin added that ‘la disgrâce du trombone alto fait… motivée par la médiocre qualité de son qu’il donnait; objet de tentatives d’améliorations, il fait construit, tour à tour, sur fa, mi et réb, sans résultats appréciables, car la structure générale de l’instrument était seule fautive.’159 ‘The demise of the alto trombone was… due to its mediocre tone quality; subject to attempts at improvement, it was constructed in turn in F, E and Db, without appreciable results, because its general structure was inherently faulty.’ Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1655. The celebrity of trombone soloists such as Belcke and Queisser,160 See ‘Belcke and Queisser’, Chapter 1, p 42. gave added prominence to the larger-bored instruments of the section at the expense of the alto. Solo trombone pieces, heretofore almost exclusively for the alto,161 Whilst Dr David Mathie contends that ‘historically, the alto trombone was used in both solo and orchestral music until the early twentieth century’ (Mathie, op. cit., p. 132), he fails to provide a single example of the alto’s use in solo literature beyond the eighteenth century – or, for that matter, after 1769, the year Albrechtsberger composed his Concerto. were now being written for the tenor and bass trombone,162 Concertino by Ferdinand David, the leader of the Leipzig orchestra, was written for Queisser. Today it is the required solo piece for most German orchestral auditions for tenor and bass trombone. paving the way for the emergence of other (non-alto) trombone soloists.163 For example, a journalist for the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in 1830 reviewed a performance of a lesser-known trombonist: ‘Der Posaunist Herr M. Schmidt besitzt unstreitig eine höchtst bewunderungwürdige Bravour und Sicherheit, grosse Stärke und dann wieder Zartheit des Tones; er überrascht überdiess durch die kühnsten und schwierigsten Sprünge und Gänge insbesondere durch ein Schönheit des Trillers… [S]eines Gleichen auf diesen Instrument noch nich gehört zu haben’. (‘The trombonist Mr M. Schmidt possesses unquestionably the most admirable bravura and assuredness, great strength and also a tender sound; he astounds everyone with his artistry in the most difficult leaps and passages, especially with the beauty of his trills… No one has yet been heard who can equal him on the trombone’). Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 15 (14 April 1830), Leipzig, pp. 234-35. The increase in the size of the concert halls built in the nineteenth century to provide for the growing number of concert-goers may have also contributed to the alto’s demise. Daniel Koury states that:
it can be strongly argued that the increase in orchestra size in the nineteenth century is directly related to the… increasingly large size [of the halls] in order to accommodate a growing middle-class audience.164 Koury, op. cit., p. 327.
But the increase in the size of concert halls may also have been related to the need to accommodate a larger orchestral sound.165 Ibid., p. 329. According to Koury, ‘figures confirm that tremendous growth took place in romantic orchestras such as Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Leipzig and London during the nineteenth century’.166 Ibid., p. 162. For example, the old Leipzig Gewandhaus during Mendelssohn’s tenureship of 1835-47 had a seating capacity of about five hundred and seventy (Koury, op. cit., p. 327) with an orchestral capacity (circa 1844) of 40 to 41 players (Schreiber, op. cit., p. 106), while the Neues Gewandhaus, built in 1886, had 1,560 seats (Koury, op. cit., p. 328) and 98 musicians in 1890 (Ibid., p. 149, citing Henri Kling, Der Vollkommene Musik-Dirigent, Hannover, 1890, p. 276). As orchestras grew in size they would naturally have grown in volume, a factor that would have highlighted the alto’s shortcomings. Robert Sheldon advances another possible reason for the decline of the alto trombone: In the 19th Century orchestra the alto’s decline and disappearance can be similarly attributed to the ever increasing development of valve horns and the interest in the (compared to trombones) then relatively recent romantic sound of the horn. A woodwind history parallel would be that of increasing interest in the also relatively recent romantic sound of the clarinet. That can certainly explain the 19th Century diminished interest in the oboe as a chamber music treble woodwind participant.167 Robert Sheldon, personal correspondence with the author, 9.9.95. Nicholas Bessaraboff states that the widespread demise of the alto led:
trombonists to ask for instruments that would produce the tones of the upper register with greater ease. This meant a smaller bore and smaller bell, a development which eventually resulted in the ‘pea-shooter’, a miserable sounding, effeminate caricature.168 Bessaraboff, op. cit., p. 189. Berlioz’s famous trombonist, Dieppo, gave the dimensions of his tenor trombone in his Méthode as 10mm bore and 12cm bell (Dieppo, Méthode Complète pour le Trombone, Paris, c. 1840, p. 2) which are smaller dimensions than for a modern alto trombone. See also Introduction to Part II, n. 13.
Around 1850 Adolph Bernard Marx summed up the status of the alto trombone in Germany:
Die Altposaune, die in der tiefern Lage nicht die Klangfülle der Tenorposaune hat, in der Höhe gepresst und leicht schreiend wird scheint weniger geeignet, ist aber gleichwohl nicht immer zu entbehren.169 ‘The alto trombone, which in the lower register lacks the fullness of sound of the tenor trombone, and in the upper register easily becomes forced and blaring, seems hardly suitable, but at the same time, it is not always dispensable.’ Marx, Lehre, first edition, p. 69.
For the time being the alto trombone lingered on, mainly in those parts of Germany and the Austrian Empire where a more traditional style prevailed, ‘making its final surrender only in the last quarter of the century’.170 Bate, op. cit., p. 140. In the next chapter we will attempt to determine when and where that final surrender took place.

Part II: ‘The Alto Trombone is Rarer Than it Was’

Determining the Type of Instrument used as First Trombone by Bruckner, Brahms and Dvořák


Thus1‘The Alto Trombone is Rarer Than it Was’: Algernon Rose, Talks with Bandsmen, London, 1895, p. 113. 2 Dvořák’s Bohemia belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy until the dissolution of the Empire at the end of the First World War. during the second half of the nineteenth century, the alto trombone had all but vanished from the orchestras in France, Italy and England. As their military counterparts3 According to Curt Sachs, during the mid-1800s military bands replaced the alto with an additional tenor trombone because ‘das geringe Mehr an ungebräuchlichen höhen Tönen die Minderwertigkeit seines Klanges nicht rechtfertigt’. (‘its few additional upper harmonies did not make up for its inferior tone’.) Curt Sachs, Handbuch der Musikinstrumentenkunde, Leipzig, 1930 p. 298. had done previously, orchestral composers increasingly abandoned the alto and replaced it with the tenor trombone – ‘le meilleur de tous sans contredit4 See n. 1, Chapter 2, p. 51. – inevitably bowing to the advice given by Praetorius more than two centuries earlier: ‘Alt-Posaune, die Harmonie in solchem kleinem Corpore nicht so gut, als wenn auf der rechten gemeinen Posaune’.5 ‘The alto trombone, though agreeable for playing a melody, it is too insignificant in tone for concerted music’.  Michael Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum II, Wolfenbüttel, 1618, p. 31.  Trans. Charles Sanford Terry, Bach’s Orchestra, London, 1932, p. 39.  Led by Wagner’s example, even the composers of Germany and the Austrian Monarchy, ‘the former guardians of the traditional [ATB] trio’6 Anthony Baines, Brass InstrumentsTheir History and Development, London, 1976, p. 242. would abandon the alto.

Of all the major orchestral composers who wrote for the trombone, the works of Bruckner, Brahms and Dvořák are the most perplexing with regard to whether the alto or tenor instrument was intended for the first part. Scholarly editions and modern publications are often misleading; today’s experts are frequently inconsistent and contradictory. To a certain degree this is due to ambiguity on the part of music authorities contemporaneous with these composers, perhaps owing to the fact that this was a period of great flux, with divergent performance practice often dependent on locale. For example, whereas both Kastner (c.1840) and Adolph Marx (1847) concur that the alto was a commonplace fixture in German orchestras,7 ‘En Allemagne, les trois genres de trombones en usage’ (‘in Germany, the three types of trombone are used’). G. Kastner, Traité Général d’Instrumentation, Paris, 1837, p. 16. ‘Drei Arten für Posaune üblich sind’ (‘three types of trombone are customary’). Adolph Bernard Marx, Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition, praktisch pheoretisch part iv, Leipzig, 1847, p. 70. the latter adds that the tenor trombone would replace the alto ‘in the foreseeable future’.8 ‘abgesehen davon liegt es nahe’. Ibid., p. 70.  In 1850 Lobe stated that the orchestral trombone section could include either an alto or tenor on the first part.9 J.C. Lobe, Lehrbuch der musikalischen Komposition, Leipzig, 1850, pp. 309-10. According to Paul Hawkshaw, Bruckner, in the course of his studies, used texts by Marx and Lobe, most probably Die Lehre von der musikalischen Komposition, praktisch theoretisch and Lehrbuch der musikalischen Komposition respectively. However, ‘the degree to which Bruckner used these texts… is a matter for future study’. Paul Hawkshaw, The Manuscript Sources for Anton Bruckner’s Linz Works: A study of his Working Methods from 1856 to 1868, PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 1984, p. 101.  In 1863, although Gevaert informs us that the alto trombone ‘est peu usité hors l’Allemagne’,10 ‘is scarcely used outside Germany’. François Gevaert, Traité Général d’Instrumentation, Paris, 1863, p. 87. he is unclear whether German composers were still writing for the alto at that time.

On the other hand, around 1880 Ludwig Bussler reported that ‘die Alt-Posaune findet sich noch in den meisten deutschen Orchestern’.11 ‘the alto trombone is still found in most German orchestras’. Ludwig Bussler, Instrumentation und Orchestersatz, Berlin, 1879, p. 263.  According to Kunitz, ‘spätestens von dieser Zeit an begann man jedoch, die Altposaunestimmen, soweit technisch möglich, mit der Tenorposaune auszuführen’.12 ‘Starting no later than at this time, however, one began to execute the alto trombone parts on the tenor trombone, as far as was technically feasible’. Heinrich Kunitz, Die Instrumentation: ein Handbuch-und- Lehrbuch, 3rd edition, Leipzig, 1970, p. 780. Trans. H. Braunlich.  Montagu states that in German orchestras in which the alto had been replaced, the trombone section used tenor instruments of three different bore sizes: the narrowest bore was used by the first player, and the second player used a smaller version of the B flat/F used by the third.13 Jeremy Montagu, The World of Romantic and Modern Instruments, Newton Abbot, 1981, p. 104. The third could also have used a bass trombone in F (Anthony Baines, Brass Instruments: their History and Development, London, 1976, p. 245). The classic French narrow-bore designed by Courtois had a bore of 11.4 mm with the bell ‘widening’ to a mere 15 cm (ibid., p. 243), which was referred to by Bessaraboff as a ‘miserable sounding, effeminate pea-shooter’ (Chapter 2, n. 167, p. 88).  Baines maintains that up to 1930 the French ‘pea shooter’ was also played by the first and second trombonist of every British orchestra (ibid., p. 243): indeed, many British brass players contend that narrow bore trombones were still used up until the 1950s. According to Denis Wick, up to the time of the Second World War, the trombones ‘which had been in use for at least half a century generally had a very small bore (.450 in.) with bell sizes of about 6.5 in. for the first and second trombones… By the mid-50s the new large-bore trombones were coming into use because, I believe, of their great superiority as instruments, not only their broader sounds.’ (Denis Wick, Trombone Technique, second impression (revised), London, 1973, p. 79.) Compared with the French tenor trombones the larger German instruments would have been much heavier and darker-sounding. Hence the origin of the sobriquet ‘the dark, German trombone sound’ which persists today as something of a misnomer.  Although first trombone parts originally intended for the alto trombone could be managed on a small-bore tenor, the composer’s intention with respect to sound, colour and balance was lost, for it was not so much the tessitura of the first part that demanded the alto but its brighter, lighter sound.

[D]och ist stets zu bedenken, daß diese Stimmen früher in jedem Falle mit der etwas heller und leichter klingenden Altposaune ausgeführt worden sind, und daß die Komponisten diesen Klang bewußt eingesetzt haben… Wenn jedoch das höchste Register der Tenorposaune zur Ausführung der Altposaunenstimme verwendet werden muß, ergibt sich eine Klangwirkung, die mit der Notwendigkeit einer werkgetreuen Wiedergabe nicht vereinbar ist. Die höchsten Töne der Tenorposaune haben das Klangmerkmal einer enormen Spannung und Intensität und lassen erkennen, daß hier der Klang des schweren und ernsten Instrumentes bis in die äußerste Höhe getrieben worden ist, während die gleichhohen Töne der Altposaune selbstverständlicher, freier und auch heller klingen.14 ‘[But] one must always keep in mind that these parts formerly were, in each case, performed by the rather brighter and lighter sounding alto trombone, and that the composers knowingly utilised this sound… If the highest register of the tenor trombone has to be used to substitute for performance on the alto trombone, a sound quality is produced which is incompatible with an interpretation that is true to the performance of the work. The highest notes of the tenor trombone have a sound quality of enormous tension and intensity and give the impression that the sound of the heaviest and most serious of instruments has been pushed up into its very highest register, while the equivalent notes of the alto trombone obviously sound freer and also brighter’. Kunitz, op. cit., pp. 785, 619.

Walter Piston remarked that ‘occasionally notes for the alto trombone that are too high to be played on the tenor are most often given to the trumpet’,15 Walter Piston, Orchestration, London, p. 270. and cited the opening of the fourth movement of Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony as an example.16 Ibid., p. 270.  Hausmann agreed, stating that instead of the intended alto trombone ‘wird meistens die Tenorposaune – in Ausnahmefälle auch eine F-Ventil Trompete – verwendet’.17 ‘mostly a tenor trombone is used; or, in exceptional circumstances, an F valve-trumpet’. K. Hausmann, ‘Die Posaune’ in Emil Teuchert and E.W. Haupt, Musik-Instrumentenkunde in Wort und Bild, part iii, Leipzig, 1911, p. 89. ‘mostly a tenor trombone is used; or, in exceptional circumstances, an F valve-trumpet’. K. Hausmann, ‘Die Posaune’ in Emil Teuchert and E.W. Haupt, Musik-Instrumentenkunde in Wort und Bild, part iii, Leipzig, 1911, p. 89.  Similarly, Schweitzer wrote that ‘in den Mottetenchören die von Bläsern begleitet werden, wird man Sopran- und Alt-posaune wohl am besten durch Flügelhorn ersetzen’.18 ‘In the motet choirs that are accompanied by wind instruments it is best to employ the flugel horn in place of the [former] soprano and alto trombones’. A. Schweitzer, J.S. Bach, Leipzig, 1908, p. 796.  However, Del Mar asserted that this was ‘absolutely not the case anywhere in Europe’.19 Norman Del Mar, Anatomy of the Orchestra, London, 1981, p. 298.  In any event, Kunitz argued that this would be an unsatisfactory solution due to the difference in the sound produced by an instrument with valves as opposed to the slide:

[E]ine Ausführung der Alt- (und auch der Sopran-) posaunenstimmen mit einem Flügelhorn ist natürlich völlig abzulehnen, ebenso wie die Ausführung mit einer Trompete… Zusammenfassend ist nach alledem hierzu folgendes zu sagen: Der Klang der Altposaune entspricht nicht dem Klang der Trompete und ist durch diesen nicht zu ersetzen… [E]ine Klanggleichheit zwischen der hohen Posaune und diesen Instrumenten im übrigen auch infolge der nicht Verschiedenheit der Rohrform, der Mensur und der Bohrung des Mundstückes nicht möglich ist.20 ‘To perform an alto or soprano trombone part on a flugelhorn is of course totally to be rejected, just as much as the rendition on a trumpet… The sound of the alto trombone does not correspond to that of the trumpet and is not to be replaced by it… There cannot be any similarity of sound between the high trombone and these instruments as a result of the difference of the shape of the pipe, the bore, and the bore of the mouthpiece.’ Kunitz, op. cit., p. 785. Trans. H. Braunlich.

The statements by Piston, Schweitzer and Hausmann seem to indicate that with the ascendancy of the tenor, few trombonists doubled on the alto. Noting that violinists are rarely expected to double on viola, Kunitz maintained that trombonists:

immer mehr von der Altposaune abwandten und ihre Verwendung bisweilen sogar ablehnten, so liegt der Grund hierfür in der steigenden Spezialisierung der Instrumentalisten auf ein bestimmtes Instrument infolge der immer größeren spieltechnischen Anforderungen durch die Komponisten.21 ‘increasingly turned away from the alto trombone and have even rejected its use. The cause for this is to be found in the rising specialisation of instrumentalists on a specific instrument because of the constantly rising technical demands from composers’. Ibid., p. 780. Trans. H. Braunlich.

According to Jadassohn, by 1889 ‘die Altposaune wird immerseltener’,22‘the alto trombone is becoming rarer and rarer’. Salomon Jadassohn, ‘Lehrbuch der Instrumentation’, Musikalische Kompositionslehre vol. v., Leipzig, 1889, p. 278. and ‘Man wolle nicht auf drei verschiedene Instrumente, Alt-, Tenor- und Bass-Posaune, rechnen’.23 ‘one could no longer assume that the trombone section would consist of three different instruments – alto, tenor and bass’. Salamon Jadassohn, Ratschläge und Hinweise für die Instrumentation der Anfänger, Leipzig, 1899, p. 12.  Frederick Corder concurred, writing with regard to the orchestral trombone section that ‘until recently it was supposed to exist in three sizes called Alto, Tenor and Bass’,24 Frederick Corder, The Orchestra and How to Write for It, London, 1895, p. 58. and that for all intents and purposes it had become ‘the imaginary trombone trio’.25 Corder, ibid., p. 58. In 1895 Algernon Rose contributed, rather unhelpfully, that ‘the alto trombone is rarer than it was’. See note 1 of this introduction.  Finally, in 1900 Felix Weingartner concluded ‘daß die Tenorposaune überall an der Stelle der Altposaune getreten ist, die gar nicht mehr vorkommt’.26 ‘that the tenor trombone is used everywhere in place of the alto trombone, which is no longer used at all’. Charles Malherbe and Felix Weingartner (eds) Hector Berlioz Werke vol 1, Leipzig, 1900, p. xii. Notwithstanding, an 1899 brochure from Zimmerman’s of Leipzig announced the latest model of Eb alto trombone with the characteristic flared German bell. Also advertised was Robert Kitzer’s Schule für Altposaune zum Selbst-Unterricht geignet.

A common fallacy in assessing whether the first trombone part in works of these composers was intended for an alto or tenor is the tendency to evaluate the upper register by today’s standards. The inherent risk of error has already been demon-strated by Dr Glendening with the first parts by Schubert.27 See Chapter 1, ‘Tessitura, scorewriting and the erste Abschriftstimme’.  While there was not complete agreement among authorities during the second half of the nineteenth century as to the recommended range of the tenor trombone, the practical upper-most limit of the instrument was clearly thought to be considerably lower than it is today. We recall Kastner’s advice to composers around 1840 that, although ‘quelques artistes’ were capable of playing notes higher than g, ‘même Sib’, that:

on ne pas s’en servir parce que d’ordinaire l’exécutant ne serait pas à même de les donner.28 ‘some artists; ‘even bb”; ‘one should not use them because ordinarly the player would be incapable of playing them’. Kastner, Méthode, p. 54.

Berlioz wrote in 184429 Berlioz, Grand Traité, p. 200. that it was inadvisable to take the tenor trombone beyond bb’, yet he himself had taken the first (tenor) trombone to a b’ in the overture Le Carnaval Romain in the same year. In 1847, Marx argued that it was best to write for the tenor trombone between B and g’.30 Marx, Die Lehre, pp. 67-8.  Since Wagner had already scored a’ for the second trombone in Lohengrin four years earlier, Marx may have been overly cautious – or he may have heard performances in which the players struggled to reach these notes.31 It is worth recalling that Praetorius in 1618 stated that although a’ was considered the highest note on the trombone, with diligent practice one could learn to play even higher. Praetorius, op. cit., p. 35.  Lobe stated in 1859, somewhat more realistically, that the tenor’s range extended from E to as high as d”, ‘doch thut man wohl, sie nie höher als bis b zu schreiben’.32 ‘yet one should never write above bb” Lobe, op. cit., p. 384.  Similarly, Gevaert asserted that ‘le trombone ténor donc parcourir toute l’échelle chromatique comprise entre Mi and Sib’.33 ‘the tenor trombone is thus able to cover the entire chromatic scale between E and bb” Gevaert, Traité Générale, p. 86.  Yet almost a decade later Bussler wrote that the orchestral tenor trombone was capable of playing from F to ab’ ‘in gleichmässigen edelsten Klang’.34 ‘with the most noble sound equally throughout’, Bussler, op. cit., p. 58.  Curiously, he described the dance-band trombonist’s range as being from E to bb’, but with the ‘bevorzugte Lage’ (preferred range) of F to g’.35 Ibid., p. 6.  Very conservatively, Jadassohn judged in 1889 that since:

die hohen Töne der Posaune besser durch die Ventiltrompete, die tiefen durch die Tuba erlangen kann, so wird man gut thun, sich im Satze für die Posaunen auf die Tonreihe vom grossen G (allenfalls auch F) bis zum eingestrichenen a zu beschränken.36 ‘the upper register of the trombone is better handled on the valve trumpet, and the low notes can be better reached by the tuba, it is thus best to limit it to the range of G (perhaps F) to a”. Jadassohn, op. cit., p. 277.

Near the turn of the century, shortly before Strauss would require a d” in Zarathustra, Kappey cited the tenor’s range as Bb to c”.37 J.A. Kappey, Military Music – A Story of Wind Instrument Bands, London, 1894, p. 54.

In attempting to discern the species of first trombone for which Bruckner, Brahms and Dvořák wrote, it is important to bear in mind that, as Berlioz and Gevaert pointed out, the use of the term ‘alto trombone’, or the employment of an alto clef in the composer’s score is an unreliable indication of his intention. The most dependable and earliest source which can be traced directly to the composer is the first handwritten part. It is also worth recalling the words of Marx, who reaffirmed the statements of Sundelin, Kastner, Berlioz and Gevaert, and whose text Bruckner used as a student:38 See note 9 of this introduction.  ‘Die Alt-Posaune [ist] in Altschlüssel notiert’.39 ‘the alto trombone [part] is written in alto clef’. Adolph Bernard Marx, Allgemeine Musiklehre, Leipzig, 1853, p. 167. See also Chapter 1, nn. 114, 117.  In the absence of an erste Abschriftstimme (first hand-copied part), we must turn to the first trombone part from the earliest printed edition and seek out substantiating evidence, if possible, to arrive at an informed judgement.

Chapter 3: Bruckner

Among contemporary authorities there seems to be a consensus that Bruckner intended an alto for the first trombone in his works.

Robin Gregory writes:

The alto trombone practically disappeared from the orchestral scene, though Bruckner specified the instrument in his symphonies for parts which are comfortably within the range of the tenor and are nowadays usually played on that instrument without, perhaps, quite fulfilling the composer’s intentions with regard to tone colour.1 Robin Gregory, The Trombone, London, 1973, pp. 108-9.

Eric Crees, Co-Principal Trombone of the London Symphony Orchestra, comments that:

It is interesting to consider whether Bruckner’s conception of tone colour is ever correctly realised today as the first trombone part, designated to an alto instrument, is invariably played on a tenor.2 Eric Crees, ‘Trombone Evolution’ part 4, Sounding Brass and the Conductor (Autumn 1976), p. 73.

Karl-Heinz Weber, Principal Trombone of the Gürzenich Orchester (Köln) and Principal Trombone, Bayreuth Orchester, is more emphatic:

Ich kann nicht denken, dass Bruckner bei der Instrumentation seiner Messen bewusst an eine Tenorposaune (für die 1. Posaune) gedacht hat. Ich glaube vielmehr, dass er so geschrieben hat, wie er es für die Posaunen gewohnt war, nämlich vokaliter in den Stimmenlagen Alt, Tenor, Bass.3 ‘I cannot believe that Bruckner intended a tenor trombone (for the first trombone part) when orchestrating his masses. I also feel that he composed for the trombones as was customary with him, that is to say vocally, for parts in the ranges of alto, tenor and bass.’ Karl-Heinz Weber, personal correspondence with the author, 13.6.95.

And William Runyan:

It must be admitted that the utilization of the alto trombone in the nineteenth century may have been due more to tradition than to any feelings that its timbre was a necessity; yet, having chosen to use it… Bruckner certainly wrote parts that are uniquely suitable.4 William E. Runyan, ‘The Alto Trombone and Contemporary Concepts of Trombone Timbre’, Brass Bulletin 28 (1979), p. 47.

Thus speak today’s authorities.5 Mark Hartman, (The Use of the Alto Trombone in Symphonic and Operatic Orchestral Literature, DMA, Arizona State University, 1985, p. 47) incorrectly cites Anthony Baines in Brass Instruments in support of the claim that Bruckner specified the alto trombone for the Third Symphony. A closer reading reveals that Baines felt that, although Bruckner intended a tenor trombone, he feared that contemporary models had become over-large and thus too dark-timbred (Baines, Brass Instruments, pp. 245, 247). We shall examine their statements in the light of the existing evidence. (For a summary of Bruckner’s most significant works that include trombones, and the type of trombone used for the first part, see Table 3.1, p. 118.)

3:1 1845-1855: St Florian

From 1845 to 1855, one of Bruckner’s responsibilities as organist of the Stift of St Florian was to provide music for the Catholic church services. According to Nowak, ‘die erste Anregung zu eigenem kompositorischen Schaffen erhielt Anton Bruckner von der Kirchenmusik’.6 ‘Anton Bruckner got his first inspiration for his creative work through sacred music.’ Leopold Nowak, ‘Preface’ in Nowak (ed.), Anton Bruckner’s Sämtliche Werke: Messe in D moll, Vienna, 1957. Trans. Christl Schönfeldt.  Derek Watson adds that Bruckner was:

attracted to music of the Baroque era, and his love for it is echoed in the primitive lustre of his brass writing… The rich splendour of his symphonic brass writing is clearly a development of his early predilection for brass instrumentation. Something of the magnificence of antiphonal brass writing associated with St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice in the Renaissance era lives on in Bruckner’s early music.7 Derek Watson, Bruckner, London, 1975, p. 65.

As one might expect, Bruckner’s liturgical works often utilised trombones.

Having received virtually no formal instruction, Bruckner would have studied the examples of the old masters8 Crawford Howie, tutorial, 17.6.96. who, if they wrote for the trombone at all, scored for the ATB trio. According to Howie, Bruckner was also influenced by Schubert and Schumann,9 Ibid. both of whom wrote for the alto trombone; the latter, we recall, was at this time assigning the alto prominent thematic material in his symphonies. During this period it appears that Bruckner also intended an alto as the first trombone in his compositions.

Bruckner’s earliest extant choral works to include trombone parts are the ‘Kyrie’ movements from his incomplete Masses in G Minor and Eb Major, composed in 1846 and 1848 respectively. There are no surviving handwritten parts: only the autograph scores exist. In the 1846 ‘Kyrie’, orchestrated for SATB chorus, trombones and organ, Bruckner has included a blank stave for the ‘tromboni’. In the later work, similarly, the oboe, string, organ and ‘cello staves seem to have been completed, whereas by the trombone parts, named ‘Alt’, ‘Tenor’ and ‘Bass’ with their corresponding clef signs, there are three blank staves, possibly suggesting that the trombones were to be used colla voce.

According to P. Benedikt Wagner, the Seitenstetten Stiftsarchivar,10 Personal correspondence with the author, 14.1.95. Bruckner composed two Aequale for three trombones around 1847. Written in the style of Beethoven’s similarly entitled work,

dieses weniger der Trauer als dem Trost und der Hoffnung Ausdruck gebende Begräbnisstück mit seiner stellenweise weichlichen Sexten-Melodik ist eines jener damals beliebten Stücke, die in St. Florian beim äußeren Stiftstore, wo die Leichen abgesetzt wurden, erklangen, bis der Priester die Einsegnung vornahm.11 ‘This funereal work, with its gentle melody moving at times in sixths, is an expression less of mourning than of consolation and hope. It was then a most cherished piece, played at the outermost gates of the abbey, where the corpses would be placed until the time the priest carried out the sacraments.’ August Göllerich and Max Auer, Anton Bruckner: Ein Lebens- und Schaffens-Bild, Band II, 1 Teil, Regensburg, 1928, p. 63. Trans. A.C. Howie.

The three handwritten parts of the first Aequale specify ‘Alto’, ‘Tenor’ and ‘Bass’ written in their respective clefs. The compass of the alto trombone part extends from a to bb’. In the second Aequale (Ex. 3.1 and 3.2), the first two trombone parts are inscribed as in the former; the bass trombone part has been lost. Bruckner required a very modest range of g to g’ for the alto trombone.

Bruckner’s first major work for chorus with orchestra was the 1849 Requiem in D minor. Although the original parts apparently no longer exist, the compass and function of the first trombone strongly suggests an alto trombone. The trombones are used in the traditional manner of vocal support; the same can be said of Psalm 114 of 1852 (Ex. 3.3) and the Libera Me in F minor of 1854 (Ex. 3.4, 3.5, 3.6). The first trombone erste Abschriftstimme of the latter work (Ex. 3.4) is written in alto clef, and specifies ‘Alt Trombone’. In Bruckner’s 1854 Missa Solemnis in Bb12 The parts at St Florian were not available for examination. considered by many his most important early work, the trombone parts double the voices, though less slavishly than in the previous works and rather more in the style of Handel or Mendelssohn. The first trombone part ascends to eb” and falls within the range in which, according to Gevaert, the alto sounded best: ‘les deux octaves comprises entre mib4 and mib2’.13 ‘the two octaves between eb and eb”’. Gevaert, Nouveau Traité d’Instrumentation, Paris, 1855, p. 188.

During the mid-1850s Bruckner was often called upon to write dedicatory works, Gebrauchsmusik, in honour of the Prelates. The choral accompaniment was invariably scored for brass ensemble, the absence of strings suggesting these works were performed outdoors. One such composition, ‘Vor Arneths Grab’ (1854), was written for Männerchor with three accompanying trombones. According to the Göllerich score of 1928,14 Göllerich and Auer, op. cit., 2 Teil, pp. 184-188. Unfortunately, the autograph score was not available for examination, nor do there appear to be any existing original handwritten parts, hence confirmation was not possible. the first trombone functions as support for the first tenor and might have been intended for a tenor trombone. The 1855 ‘Auf Brüder auf die Saiten zur Hand’ from the Kantate für Prälat Meyer (Ex. 3.7) – scored for chorus, three horns, two clarini trumpets, bassoon and three trombones – is somewhat ambiguous in regard to the species of the first trombone. Although in the autograph score the first trombone is written in alto clef, the copyist Schimatschek15 Dr Rudolf Buchmeyer, Archivist and Librarian, Stift St Florian, personal interview, 10.4.96. has transposed the part to bass clef, as seen in Ex. 3.8.  Moreover, in the opening section of the piece, the first trombone supports the first tenor voice of the all-male chorus. It thus seems logical that Bruckner would have intended a tenor trombone for the part, as the evidence suggests. However, in the Schlusschor the men are joined by the women’s chorus and the first trombone now supports the altos in a tessitura that on one occasion reaches c#”. There are a number of possible explanations for this ambiguity. Perhaps Bruckner had wanted to use four trombones (ATTB) but another player was unavailable, and he judged that of the two sections of the chorus the tenors required the stronger reinforcement; or it may be that the tenor trombonist was to change to an alto for the Schlusschor, although there is no such indication. Despite the fact that the part is written in bass clef and that it would have been highly unusual, it is not inconceivable that an alto trombonist could have played from this clef. However, in light of the close working relationship between Bruckner and his copyist Schimatschek, whom Nowak described as an ‘ausgezeichneter und genauer Kopist’,16 ‘outstanding and exact copyist’. Anton Bruckner, Kleine Kirchenwerke 1835-1882, Revisionsbericht, ed. Leopold Nowak, Vienna, 1984, p. 65. it seems unlikely that he would have erred with a clef sign17 Especially because he was himself a brass player: according to Paul Hawkshaw he played French horn in the Linzer Theater Orchester (op. cit., p. 314). or conveyed an instrumentation contrary to Bruckner’s intention. According to Hawkshaw:

a large number of Schimatschek’s copies contain entries in Bruckner’s hand. In some sources the collaboration between the two was so close that their handwriting is evenly distributed throughout. In view of this intimate relationship, Schimatschek’s copies must be considered among the most important sources for Bruckner’s compositions.18 Ibid., p. 315.

Thus if the trombone part was intended for a tenor, as it indeed seems to be, it is apparently the first time Bruckner used the instrument as his first trombone with a mixed choir. Moreover, the c#” is probably the highest note that had been demanded of a tenor trombone at that date, although one must remain sceptical about the fulfilment of the extreme upper register demands placed on the first trombone when doubling the vocal line, as noted earlier for the works of Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn and others.19 See Introduction to Part I, n. 6, p. 3; Chapter 1, n. 101, p. 37.

3:2  1855-1863: Studies with Sechter and Kitzler

In November 1855, around the time Bruckner took up the position of Linz Cathedral organist, he began a period of intense study with Simon Sechter that would last until 1861. During these years Bruckner composed very little ‘other than exercises’.20 Hawkshaw, op. cit., p. 78.  One possible exception is the rather mysterious work Psalm 146. According to Paul Hawkshaw:

When it was written, for whom and why are all unanswered questions… Stylistically the Psalm’s cantata-like structure and compositional references to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Bach are consistent with other Bruckner works of the 1840s and 1850s… [Yet] difficult to reconcile with a St Florian date are the enormous dimensions of the work and the breadth of the fugal Finale. Would Bruckner have undertaken the latter without at least some influence from Simon Sechter? Some, if not all, work on the Psalm may well date from the early Linz years, 1856-58.21 Paul Hawkshaw, ‘Preface’ to Anton Bruckner, Sämtliche Werke: Psalm 146, Band 20/4, ed. Paul Hawkshaw, Vienna, 1996.

Psalm 146 is scored for double chorus with full orchestral accompaniment, including four trombones, which according to Hawkshaw consisted of an alto, tenor and two basses.22 Paul Hawkshaw, personal correspondence with the author, 18.6.96.  The trombones chiefly double the voices – though not always strictly colla voce; otherwise their role is to fill out the harmonies.  An exceptional use of the trombones occurs in the Recitative iia (Ex. 3.9).

Afferentur Regi (Ex. 3.10), written at the conclusion of Bruckner’s studies with Sechter, is scored for chorus and trombones. According to Nowak, Bruckner’s first sketch contained no trombone parts:

Es muss dahingestellt bleiben, ob Bruckner sein Afferentur zuerst als a-capella Chor gedacht hatte und die Posaune nachträglich hinzusezte oder ob er die Posaune fehlender Linien wegen nicht an der Entwurf schreib.23 ‘It must remain to be seen whether Bruckner had originally intended his Afferentur as an a capella choral work and added the trombones later, or whether he left the trombones out from the sketch on account of the lack of staves.’ Leopold Nowak (ed.), Anton Bruckner: Gesamtausgabe, Kleine Kirchenwerke 1835-1892, Revisionsbericht, Vienna, 1984, p. 65.

The original trombone parts are designated ‘Alto’(Ex. 3.11), ‘Tenor’, ‘Bass’, are written in the appropriate clefs, and reinforce the voices, though not strictly colla voce.

In 1862, soon after commencing composition and form studies under Otto Kitzler, Bruckner composed the Festkantate.24 Hawkshaw (The Manuscript Sources, p. 79) states that this work was not composed for Kitzler as an exercise. As with the ‘Auf Brüder auf die Saiten zur Hand’, but far less ambiguously, Bruckner almost certainly intended a tenor trombone for the first part. The unreliable nomenclature used for the trombones in the score is once more demonstrated, for although the first trombone in the autograph is called ‘Alt’ (but written in bass clef), its function and compass suggest a tenor trombone was intended. The Festkantate was composed for men’s chorus, and the first trombone, when it does not function independently, acts primarily to double the first tenor voice. Moreover, its range of d to a’ is well within that of the tenor trombone as prescribed by Berlioz, Lobe and Gevaert (among others). The tenor thus seems the most appropriate instrument for the first part. Unfortunately, conclusive evidence eludes us as there are no extant original parts.25 Ibid., pp. 270-71.   With perhaps one notable exception,26 The F Minor Mass (see p. 110). Festkantate appears to mark the beginning of Bruckner’s use of the TTB trio that would remain his standard section throughout his career.

Bruckner’s period of study with Otto Kitzler (1862-63) was instrumental to his formation as a professional composer. It was Kitzler, the Linz Theater Kapellmeister and adherent of Wagner, who introduced Bruckner to ‘modern scores and more up-to-date ways of writing for the trombone’.27 Crawford Howie, personal correspondence, 21/11/96. According to Hawkshaw, the exercises Bruckner carried out for Kitzler in the Kitzler Studienbuch (163 folios of manuscript) include on 115 r. – 125 v. practice in brass orchestration (The Manuscript Sources, p. 88).  In Linz, Bruckner also met Ignaz Dorn, the second Kapellmeister, another admirer of Wagner as well as of Berlioz and Liszt.  According to Manfred Wagner, Dorn gave Bruckner a further ‘Schaffenschub’ in this direction.28 ‘creative push’. Manfred Wagner, Bruckner, Mainz, 1983, p. 68.   Bruckner’s composition lessons culminated in the writing of his three most important student works: the Overture in G Minor, Symphony in F Minor and Psalm 112.

In the autograph score of the G Minor Overture (see Ex. 3.12), for which there are no original parts,29 Hawkshaw, op. cit., pp. 272-73. Bruckner designates the trombone section simply as ‘tromboni’, in bass clef. There is no indication that an alto trombone was intended. As with most of the symphonies he would later write, Bruckner called for a b’ from the first trombone, which occurs in the last bar of the first version.30 Anton Bruckner, Overture in G Minor, ed. Arthur D. Walker, (Eulenberg) London, 1971.  The opinions of some experts notwithstanding, by 1863 this would hardly have been an extreme demand. During a period when many tenor trombonists were having to cope with former alto parts, it is inevitable that the erstwhile ‘ceiling’ on the tenor’s upper register would be pushed constantly upwards and re-defined, as notes once thought of as solely within the domain of ‘quelques artistes’ became increasingly commonplace. Already, more than a decade earlier, Robert Schumann had required a b’ from the second trombone in his Fourth Symphony.

In the autograph score of Bruckner’s ‘student’ Symphony in F Minor (Ex. 3.13), the trombone section is once again referred to as ‘tromboni’ Apparently no parts were ever copied out by hand.31 Hawkshaw, The Manuscript Sources, pp. 273-5. Nowak writes that ‘Kitzler beurteilte die F-Moll Symphonie nicht sonderlich günstig, Bruckner hat sich daher nie wieder mit ihr beschäftigt, ihm war sie stets nur eine weggelegte “Schularbeit”’. (‘Kitzler’s opinion of the Symphony in F Minor was not particularly favourable, which is perhaps why Bruckner never returned to it; it remained a discarded “scholastic exercise”’ (Anton Bruckner, ‘Foreword’ to Sämtliche Werke Band II, Symphonie D-Moll, ‘Nullte’, Fassung von 1869, ed. Leopold Nowak, Vienna, 1968. Trans. Richard Rickett). Yet according to Hawkshaw the Symphony was the only one of these three student works which Bruckner tried to have performed (Hawkshaw, The Manuscript Sources, p. 103).  As with the Overture, Bruckner does not specify an alto trombone. Stylistically, the trombone writing is also very similar32 Work on the Symphony commenced a month after completion of the Overture (ibid., p. 89). – Bruckner again calls for an enharmonic b’ from the first trombone – and indeed the part is a fairly typical (if somewhat uninspired) example of Bruckner’s symphonic trombone writing.

According to the autograph score of Bruckner’s final assignment for Kitzler, a setting of Psalm 112 for double chorus and orchestra (Ex. 3.14), the ‘tromboni’ are assigned to one stave of bass clef with no differentiation of trombone types.33 Hawkshaw, personal correspondence, 18.6.96.  The first trombone, with a range from eb to an occasional a’, is largely independent and rarely doubles the alto voice. When it does double a vocal part – usually in unison with the tenors or in octaves with the sopranos – it is to emphasise the most important part in the chorus.

Two minor compositions, Drei Orchesterstücke (Ex. 3.15) and Marsch in D moll (Ex. 3.16) were also set as exercises for Bruckner by Kitzler.  In the former a single ‘trombone’ is used as the bass to the wind group of two flutes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns and two trumpets. With a range of E to c’ the part is suitable for either a bass trombone or tenor trombone. In the latter, a march for full orchestra, Bruckner wrote for three ‘tromboni’ which are notated for the most part on one system of bass clef (there are four bars in which they appear on a single system in tenor clef). The first trombone part has a range of a to c”.

Germanenzug, composed in July 1863, marked the beginning of Bruckner’s career as a professional composer.34 Leopold Nowak, ‘Preface’ to Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke, Kantaten und Chorwerken 1854-1893, Teil 1u.2, vorgelegt von Franz Burkhart, Rudolf H. Führer, Leopold Nowak, Vienna, 1987, p. viii.   Written for the first Oberösterreichisches Sängerfest composition contest in Linz,35 Bruckner was awarded second prize. Grasberger, op. cit., p. 76. which specified that the entries be scored for the male chorus of the Linzer Singakademie Fröhsinn with band accompaniment,36 Hawkshaw, The Manuscript Sources, p. 53. According to Hertha Gruber of the Linzer Singakadamie, the Musikkapelle des K.K. Husarenregiments Graf Radetzky performed at the Sängerfest the day before Germanenzug was presented and may have provided the accompaniment for Bruckner’s composition (Hertha Gruber, personal correspondence, 18.9.96). it uses the trombones in similar fashion to the Festkantate.  The first trombone part, with a range of d to bb’, when not functioning independently, usually doubles the first tenor voice. It was probably intended, like that of the Festkantate, for the tenor instrument, despite the misleading score designations of ‘Alt’, ‘Ten’ and ‘Bass’ trombones on separate staves of bass clef, as shown in Example 3.17.  (According to Hawkshaw, a set of parts listed in the St Florian catalogue cannot be located).37 Hawkshaw, The Manuscript Sources, p. 277.  Bruckner describes the instrumentation of the military band for which he had to write:

Der Chor ist (für Germanenzug) Militärsmusik zu instrumentieren. Ich habe bei meinem Chore Sopran Cornet in Es-Sopran Cornet in B (weil hier kein Alt Cornet vorhanden ist), Tenorhorn in Bassschlüssel, 2 Horn in F, 2 Horn in D, 2 Trompetten in B (haben aber die in Es hier in Linz lieber), 3 Posaunen sämtlich im Baßschlüssel, Basstuba.38 ‘The accompaniment (for Germanenzug) is to be orchestrated for military band. I have with my chorus a soprano cornet in Eb, a soprano cornet in Bb (because there is no alto cornet available here), a baritone cornet in bass clef, 2 horns in F, 2 horns in D, 2 trumpets in Bb (though they prefer the Eb in Linz), all three trombones in bass clef, bass tuba’. Letter of 25 February 1864, in Max Auer (ed.), Anton Bruckner: Gesammelte Briefe, Neue Folge, Regensberg, 1924, p. 54.
3:3 The Three Great Masses

From 1864 to 1868, ‘the volcanic eruption of Bruckner’s creative energy’39 Hans F. Redlich, ‘Foreword’, in Bruckner, Mass No 3 in F minor (revision of 1881), ed. Hans Redlich, London, 1967, p. 29. in the form of his three great Masses in D, E and F minor, coinciding with his Symphony No. 1 (the ‘Linzer’), signalled Bruckner’s breakthrough into his own stylistic terrain:

The three ‘symphonic’ masses… became the very sub-soil out of which the three ‘mass-symphonies’ I, II and III of 1865-78 were to grow.40 Ibid., p. 25.

Nowak adds that with the D Minor Mass, Bruckner’s development as a composer ‘gelangte damit an die Schwelle der Meisterschaft’.41 ‘reached the threshold of his artistic maturity’. Nowak, ‘Preface’ to Messe in D moll.  The 1864 D Minor Mass was first performed under the composer’s direction the same year in the Linz Cathedral. According to Dr Gunter Brosche, Bruckner used the traditional term ‘alto’ for the first trombone in the autograph score,42 Brosche, personal correspondence with the author, 2.2.96. although it appears that he intended it to be played by a tenor trombone. The original trombone part, copied by Schimatschek,43 Nowak, Messe in D Moll. is in the bass clef, has a tenor trombone range of B to a’, and is designated ‘1mo Trombone (alto)’. We may recall that sequential numbering of parts was fairly new at this time, and the use of the traditional term in brackets seems to bear this out.44 Bartlett, personal correspondence with the author, 21.12.95.

As with Psalm 112, the function of the trombones in the D Minor Mass (Ex. 3.18, 3.19, 3.20) differs significantly from that of the two St Florian masses, the Requiem and the Missa Solemnis. Except for sections of the ‘Kyrie’, this ‘symphonic’ mass, ‘revolutionary in the use of a descriptive orchestra’,45 Redlich, op. cit., p. 30. contains material for the trombones which is of a weighty, orchestral nature, with rhythms and voicings characteristic of Bruckner’s symphonic works (Ex. 3.19). The trombones are also used independently of the voices (see Ex. 3.19, 3.20).

The Mass in E Minor, composed in 1866 and first performed, with Bruckner conducting, at the dedication ceremony of the new votive chapel in Linz in 1869, was scored for full chorus with a wind ensemble accompaniment, consisting of two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets and three trombones. The wind players were drawn from members of the military band of the 14th infantry regiment of Ernst Ludwig, Grossherzog von Hessen und bei Rhein, Nr 14.46 Leopold Nowak, ‘Foreword’ in Nowak (ed.), Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke: Messe in E moll, Fassung von 1866, Vienna, 1957.   We are reminded by Kastner that already by the mid-1800s the alto appears to have been excluded from military bands:

‘Dans la musique militaire, on emploie rarement cet instrument’.47 ‘this instrument [is] rarely used in military music’. Kastner, Traité Générale, p. 53.

In 1850 Lobe observed that infantry bands are ‘of the fullest arrangement [and] the employment of the instruments of military bands in Austria and Germany are pretty much the same in regard to number, kind and nature’.48 Lobe, op. cit., p. 380. Ed. Kretzmar (German text not available).  According to research by Egg and Pfaundler, between 1850 and 1852:

erfolgte die grosse Reform der österreichischen Militärmusik durch den Armee-Kapellmeister Andreas Leonhardt… Die Leonhardtsche Reform legte die Stärke und Besetzung der Militärkapellen grundsätzlich für die folgenden Jahrzehnte und eigentlich bis in die Gegenwart fest.49 ‘The great reform in Austrian military music by Army Band Director Andreas Leonhardt was adopted… The Leonhardt Reform Plan established the basic strength and instrumentation of the military bands for the following decades and indeed up to the present time.’ Erich Egg and Wolfgang Pfaundler, Das Grosse Tiroler Blasmusikbuch, Wien, 1979, p. 57.

Included in the military instrumentation were two tenors and a bass trombone, but no alto trombone.50 Ibid., pp. 56-7.  Austrian military band specialist Dr Eugen Brixel adds that by the time of Bruckner’s E Minor Mass, ‘traditionally military bands included no alto trombones’.51 Eugen Brixel, personal correspondence with the author, 13.12.94. With the inclusion of a valved Alt-Flügelhorn in E flat,52 Egg and Pfaundler, op. cit., p. 57. Montagu takes this to mean an Eb alto horn (tutorial, 12.11.94). there would be no need for the less practical, less efficient alto trombone.

Bruckner’s prior experience writing for a Linzer military band included the Festkantate (1862), Germanenzug (1863) and Marsch in Es Dur (1865)53 Hawkshaw, The Manuscript Sources, p. 53. (Ex. 3.21), all of which used a tenor on the first trombone part. The last, composed for the Militär-Kapelle der Jäger-Truppe in Linz,54 Renate Grasberger, Werkverzeichnis Anton Bruckner, Tutzing, 1977, p. 129. had a low-brass section consisting of two tenor ‘tromboni’ of which the range of the first part extends from Bb to g’, and ‘Basso’.55 Bruckner has written two separate parts, most likely for bass trombone and tuba.  According to Grassmeyer (ibid), Bruckner’s instrumentation included ‘3 Posaunen’ and no tuba, but the autograph score clearly shows two distinct parts for the ‘Basso’. See Ex. 3.21.  Bruckner’s description of the make-up of the band’s trombone section for Germanenzug (see p. 105) – with three bass-clef trombones – suggests that there was no alto trombonist in the ensemble.  There is no indication that an alto trombone was intended on either the Niederschrift (see Ex. 3.22) or Widmungspartitur (Ex. 3.23) of the 1866 first version of the E Minor Mass. Unfortunately the original handwritten parts to this version appear to be lost. However, two sets of handwritten parts exist for the 1882 version: in one set the first trombone is labelled ‘Trombone 1mo (Alto)’ and in the other it is called ‘Trombone Alt’. According to Hawkshaw, it has not been possible to ascertain which of the two sets were the original hand-copied parts.56 Hawkshaw, personal correspondence with the author, 29.8.96. In one set the fermata at the end of the trombones’ first entry has been omitted. In the other set, in bars 19 and 21 of the Allegro following ‘Et Incarnatus’, the copyist has written which, according to Nowak (Anton Bruckner: Sämtliche Werke, Messe in E moll, Fassung von 1882, Band 17/2, Wien, 1959), should be:
On both handwritten parts the tie from the sixteenth to the seventeenth bar of the ‘Gloria’ is missing.
 Both first trombone parts were written in bass clef. With few exceptions, the first trombone parts in the 1866 and 1882 versions are the same. Neither the function nor the tessitura has been altered. What few changes there are occur chiefly in the ‘Credo’: in the second version some of the awkward voice-leading that appears in the original Et Incarnatus has been eliminated, as well as some of the heavier accompanying figures in the Allegro. As far as new material is concerned, Bruckner introduces a B-diminished seventh arpeggio in the first trombone part of the 1882 ‘Credo’ (Ex. 3.24), and the last four bars of the Adagio from the 1866 ‘Credo’ (Ex. 3.25) are developed into a solo chorale in the 1882 version (Ex. 3.26).

As in the D Minor Mass, the trombone writing includes elements of traditional doubling as well as independent usage. On the one hand, the first trombone serves at times to reinforce the alto voices, particularly in the ‘Gloria’ and ‘Agnus Dei’. However, in the ‘Kyrie’, ‘Credo’ and ‘Sanctus’ the treatment is very symphonic in nature – except at those times when it is doubling the tenors. The ‘Benedictus’ combines both roles. With the exception of a single excursion up to c” (which is in unison with the alto voices), the tessitura of the first part is otherwise within the limitations of an 1860 tenor trombonist, including those passages in unison with the altos. Indeed, even the b’ at the end of its initial entrance in the ‘Kyrie’ is in aid of the tenor voices.  Similarly, the frequently low tessitura of the first trombone in the 1866 version suggests a part for the tenor rather than the alto (see Ex. 3.27).  Perhaps Bruckner felt that by using a tenor on the first part he could get support for his altos at essential moments and still have the darker sound available for the more orchestral passages.57 According to Brixel, though the Ernst Ludwig Infantry Band may have lacked an alto trombonist, if Bruckner really wished to have this part played by the instrument the Linzer Theater Orchester could surely have provided the player.  (Brixel, personal correspondence with the author, 13.12.94.)  Also, one cannot discount the possibility that a tenor trombonist from the Band could have been capable of doubling on the alto.

It is intriguing that Bruckner intended an alto trombone in the F Minor Mass, but it is readily apparent from the first trombone erste Abschriftstimme that this is so. Composed between 1867 and 1868, the first performance was not given until 1872, in Vienna’s St Augustine’s Church. It is important to note that although the original first trombone part specifies ‘Trombone Alto’ (Ex. 3.28) and is written in alto clef, in the autograph score (Ex. 3.29, 3.30), according to Hofrat Brosche, Bruckner ‘lediglich “Tromboni” vorschreibt, die in Bass-Schlüssel notiert werden’.58 ‘merely inscribed “Trombones” which are written in bass clef’. Brosche, personal correspondence with the author, 30.12.94.  Contrary to Brosche, Hartman erroneously states that ‘Bruckner clearly indicated the alto trombone in his Messe in F Moll’ (Hartman, op. cit., p. 48).  Redlich contends that the F Minor Mass,

a work of stylistic transition… fall[s] between two stools. Taking the Missa Solemnis type of the Vienna classics as a model… [it] employed a full orchestra, enlivened by the harmonic audacities of Wagnerian Romanticism.59 Redlich, op. cit., pp. 35, 29.

This is clearly demonstrated in the writing for the first trombone, in which Bruckner attempts to extract two very different timbres from a single instrument. In the Gloria and Credo, in which the trombones generally reinforce the voices, the writing is well-suited to an alto trombone;60 The exception to this statement is this passage: (bars 278-281) in the Gloria, reinforcing the basses, which is unusually low for an alto. surely the choice of an alto was dictated as much by the Viennese classicism of the Mass as by the upper-register demands, which included d” and c#”. Indeed, not since the 1854 Mass in Bb had Bruckner written so high for the first trombone.61 In the Mass in Bb, Bruckner takes the first trombone up to eb”.   Moreover, the fact that the first performance employed a choir of eighteen with an orchestra that was accordingly small,62 Leopold Nowak, ‘Preface’ to Anton Bruckner’s Samtliche Werke: Messe in F moll, Vienna, 1990. ‘as were most of the performances during Bruckner’s lifetime, [which] were in the smaller setting of the Hofburgkapelle’,63 Crawford Howie, personal correspondence, 13.11.95. may also have made the alto a preferable choice. On the other hand, the ‘audacious’ Romantic harmonies of many of the purely instrumental passages, particularly the soli chorales – a foretaste of those which would adorn his symphonies – call out for the tenor.

According to Redlich, the perilous entrance in the ‘Credo’ (Example 3.31) was not doubled by the horns in the first version; they were only added in the second version (fourth revision) of 1881. He suggests (and the author concurs) that ‘when the trombones are of first-rate quality the horns can still remain silent’.64 Redlich, op. cit., p. 182, n. 5.

Throughout his career, Bruckner would continue to write high parts for the first trombone – his works are among the most strenuous in the orchestral repertoire – but never again as high as in the F Minor Mass, for this appears to be the last time Bruckner would call for the alto trombone, Bruckner’s offertorium Inveni David65 Although I have seen the autograph score, the original parts were either lost or unavailable. (Ex. 3.32), written during the same time as the F Minor Mass, appears to be scored for a trombone section of two tenors and a bass:  The first trombone, with a highest note of a’, supports the first tenor voice throughout.

3:4 The Symphonies

Coinciding more or less with the three great masses was Bruckner’s first mature symphony the ‘Linzer’ of 1866, which calls for a tenor trombone: the first trombone erste Abschriftstimme used in the 1868 Linz première is written in bass clef and labelled ‘Trombone 1mo (Alt)’ as seen in Ex. 3.33. In 1891, Bruckner reworked the symphony and dedicated the ‘Wiener’ version to the Vienna Philharmonic.66 The Vienna Philharmonic was initially rather unenthusiastic about this dedication due to the costs that would be incurred in having the parts copied. Indeed, Bruckner thus having offered to pay for the copying himself, an invoice was made out to the composer for the sum of 59 Gulden and 22 Kreuzer. Learning of this Richter became furious, declaring to the orchestra committee that it was ‘unerhört… Es wäre zu viel das Bruckner diess zahlen soll’ (‘unheard of… It would be too much that Bruckner would have to pay for this’) and offered to meet the cost personally (Clemens Hellsberg, Demokratie der Könige: Die Geschichte der Wiener Philharmonic, Mainz, 1992, p. 273).  The first trombone erste Abschriftstimme (Ex. 3.34) is also unequivocally for a tenor trombone.  It is written in tenor clef and has the appellation ‘Trombone 1mo’.67 Numerical ordering of parts must have been more commonplace by now, thus making the bracketed, traditional term superfluous.  The content of the original hand-copied ‘Wiener’ and ‘Linzer’ first trombone parts is essentially the same.  Paradoxically, according to Brosche, Bruckner uses the word ‘Alt’ on the later score (Ex. 3.36), whereas on the earlier ‘Linzer’ he does not68 Brosche, personal correspondence with the author, 30.12.94. (Ex. 3.35). This makes it abundantly clear that Bruckner’s use of the term cannot be taken at face value.69 This appears to hold true possibly from as early as ‘Vor Arneths Grab’ in 1854, but certainly from the year 1862 (Festkantate onwards).

One observes that in both versions the first trombonist is required to play a low A, which is the lowest (non-pedal) note attainable on the alto. We are reminded how Berlioz and Kastner cautioned composers to avoid writing for the alto below eb due to the poor quality of the sound,70 See n. 4 and n. 5, Chapter 2. and especially of the advice given by Kastner and Marx regarding the problems associated with seventh position on the alto.71 See n. 4, Chapter 2.  Significantly, Bruckner writes a c” for the first trombone in 1866, the highest note he had yet demanded from a tenor trombonist in a major non-choral work.72 Bruckner scored a c” in his student exercise Marsch in D moll in 1862. See Ex. 3.16.

With regard to modern publications of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1, which label the first part ‘Alto Trombone’, one notes that on the score of the first printed edition, by Doblinger, which was published in 1892, the term ‘alto’ does not appear.73 None of the parts from this edition exists according to Doblinger, the Austrian National Library, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

At one time believed to have been composed in 1864, the Symphony in D Minor (the ‘Nullte’) is now known to have been written in 1869, following the ‘Linzer’. According to Nowak, the score of the symphony, which was withdrawn (hence nullified) by the composer, indicated ATB trombones.74 Leopold Nowak (ed.) Symphonie D-moll, ‘Nullte’, Fassung von 1869, Vienna, 1968, p. 1.  However, Bruckner could hardly have meant that an alto be used, for not only does he require A from the first trombone but F and G# as well (Ex. 3.39), notes which are unplayable on the alto but possible on the tenor. The original hand-copied part states ‘Trombone 1mo (Alto)’ (Ex. 3.38).

Completed in 1872, the original autograph score of the Second Symphony does not designate ATB trombones but refers simply to ‘tromboni’.75 Bruckner again requires a c” from the first trombone. Similarly, the first publication of the score (of the second version76 Grasberger, op. cit., p. 274. ) by Doblinger, in 1892, calls for ‘Trombones 1, 2, 3’. According to Doblinger and the Austrian National Library, the original printed first trombone part and the erste Abschrift no longer exist.

Dr Mark Hartman suggests that an alto trombone might have been intended in the Third Symphony because, he states erroneously, Bruckner ‘wr[o]te the first trombone part in alto clef’.77 Hartman, op. cit., p. 47.  In fact, in the original autograph score the first trombone part is written in bass and tenor clefs. Nor does the first trombone appear in alto clef in Rättig’s first printed edition of the score of 1878, or the second publication of 189078 Moreover, the first trombone part of the 1890 edition, which is labelled ‘1. Posaune’, is written in tenor clef. (Ex. 3.39). Most importantly, the first handwritten part, which according to Otto Biba was used by the Vienna Philharmonic in the debut performance of 1877, is designated ‘Trombone 1mo’ and written in bass clef79 Biba, personal correspondence with the author, 29.11.95. (Ex. 3.40).

As in the ‘Nullte’, it is logical to assume that the first trombone part of the Fourth Symphony was intended for a tenor trombone, for in bar 297 of the Finale Bruckner requires an Ab in triple forte, a note unplayable on the alto, and shown in Ex. 3.41. The 1874 autograph score refers to the section both as ‘alto, tenor, bass’ and ‘tromboni’. The first printed score by Gutmann in 1889 lists the trombones as ‘1e, 2e, 3e’. Apparently the erste Abschriften and first printed parts no longer exist.

Bruckner is inconsistent in his use of trombone nomenclature in the 1876 autograph score of the Fifth Symphony, alternating between ‘alt, tenor, bass’ and ‘Tr[ombones]’. Although there are no extant original parts, the original printed part by Doblinger calls for ‘1. Posaune’ in tenor clef.

Throughout his 1881 autograph score of Symphony No. 6 Bruckner refers to the first trombone as ‘Alt’. This symphony also marks the first time that the part in a Bruckner first printed edition (Doblinger, 1899) is called ‘Alt Posaune’. There is no apparent need for an alto trombone – indeed the part is written in tenor, not alto, clef. As far as range (B to b’) and style are concerned, Bruckner’s treatment of the first trombone is virtually the same as in his previous symphonies. According to Nowak, the first publication of the Sixth Symphony contained many errors and contradictions, due to the fact that Bruckner died prior to publication and did not therefore participate in any way in the actual publication process:

Leider liessen die nachfolgenden Ausgaben bis zur Neurevision durch J.V. v. Wöss (Vienna 1927) die einander widersprechenden Verhältnisse bestehen, ja vermehrten gelegentlich noch die Fehlerzahl.80 ‘Unfortunately, succeeding editions, up to the New Revision by J.V. von Wöss (Vienna 1927) continued to include the contradictions, and indeed occasionally contributed yet more errors’. Leopold Nowak, ‘Foreword’ in Anton Bruckner, Sämtliche Werke, VI Symphonie A-Dur, Originalfassung. 2. revidierte Ausgabe, ed. Robert Haas, Vienna, 1952, p. 2.

Further evidence that a tenor was intended for the first trombone part is seen in the score used by Franz Schalk (Ex. 3.42) when conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. Schalk, a former pupil, close friend and early champion of Bruckner, amended the first trombone part in places to provide added weight and strength in the middle to low register, which would have been illogical if the part were being played by an alto.  It seems clear that Doblinger used the term ‘alto’ in the conventional sense of ‘high’ voice; unfortunately the original handwritten part, which could provide confirmation, no longer exists.

The first printed edition of the score of the Seventh Symphony, produced by Gutmann in 1885, came soon after the completion of the composition in 1883 and its first performance in Leipzig in 1884, which tends to give one increased confidence in its reliability and authenticity. There are no extant original printed or handwritten parts. However, the Gutmann score calls for ‘3 Posaunen’, without indicating separate species, in what was Bruckner’s heaviest, most ‘Wagnerian’ orchestra to date. The autograph score uses the terms ‘Alt’, ‘Tenor’ and ‘Bass’, but surely as ‘convention rather than deliberate choice’.81 Crawford Howie, personal correspondence with the author, 21.12.94. Although the first trombone part is very taxing, Bruckner does not take it as high as in either the First or the Second Symphony.

Like its immediate predecessor, Symphony No. 8 calls for a large, ‘Wagnerian’ orchestra in which the breadth and weight of a tenor trombone would be required on the first part. In the autograph score Bruckner once again calls the first and second trombones by the conventional names of ‘Alt’ and ‘Tenor’ respectively, while writing for them in the tenor clef on the same stave. According to Dr Clemens Hellsburg,82 Hellsburg, personal interview, Vienna, 26.4.96. the Vienna Philharmonic’s Archivar, the first publication of the Symphony by Carl Tobias Haslinger was used by the Orchestra in the first public performance in 1892. Most unusually, in what appears to have been a cost-saving measure, both first and second trombone parts are printed in the same part, with Bruckner’s score notation reproduced.

Displaying stylistic links to his last two symphonies as well as the D minor third symphony, and emerging from the same spiritual context, Bruckner uses a similarly large orchestra in his Symphony No. 9 in D Minor to depict the characteristic mix of Weltschmerz, devotion to God and the anxious disquietude brought on by the uncertainty of the hereafter.  The trombones are used predominantly and powerfully to convey Bruckner’s dark moods of anguish and weighty despair, rather than the elevated moments of the devout God-seeker.  As with the third, seventh and eighth symphonies, the tenor is better suited than the alto for the role.

Further evidence in favour of of the use of the tenor trombone comes from the fact that Bruckner requires a low A in fortissimo from the first trombone, which would sound extremely poor on the alto.83 Played with the slide dangerously fully extended, this is the lowest (non-pedal) note on the Eb alto trombone.  See also n. 4, Chapter 2. (See Ex. 3.43).

Crawford Howie adds:

It seems that right up to the end, Bruckner still wrote his first trombone part for the ‘alto trombone’ without necessarily expecting that an alto trombone would play it… I have no doubt… the tenor trombone is the instrument for the symphonies.84 Howie, personal correspondence, 14.12.94.

Chordal passages in close harmony, a hallmark of Bruckner’s trombone writing, recall Adolph Bernard Marx’s textbook, Die Lehre von der musikalische Komposition, praktisch theoretisch:85 See n. 9 in Introduction to Part II.

In enger Lage und im Forte wirken sie mit schmetternder Gewalt; die einzelnen Töne des Akkords dröhnen in einander zu härtestem Klang, und zwar um so heftiger, je höher und enger die Stimmen treten.86 ‘In close position and in forte [the trombones] have an effect of penetrating force; the separate notes of the chords resound to produce the hardest sound, and indeed, it becomes vehement as the parts ascend higher and closer together’. Marx, Die Lehre, p. 69. (See bars 121-124 of Ex. 3.44).

Marx continues: In close position, piano, the trombones produce an ‘unheimlicher Ausdruck’87 ‘mysterious expression’. Ibid., p. 69. (See bars 125-128 of Ex. 3.44).

To conclude this chapter the following table illustrates Bruckner’s use of the trombone section. It can be seen that during Bruckner’s early stage as a composer he favoured the ATB trio. Following a transitional period, from 1854 to about 1858, he came to rely almost exclusively on the tenor-led section, the exception being the surprising use of the alto trombone in the Mass in F Minor in 1868.

Table 3.1 Major Works of Bruckner with Trombone Parts

Year of compositionType of first completion*Trombone
1846‘Kyrie’ from Mass in G minorAlto?
1847Aequale IAlto
Aequale IIAlto
1848‘Kyrie’ from Mass in Eb MajorAlto?
1849Requiem in DAlto
1852Psalm 114Alto
1854Missa SolemnisAlto
Libera MeAlto
‘Vor Arneths Grab’Tenor
1855‘Auf Brüder auf die Saiten zur Hand’ from Kantate für Prälat MeyerTenor
1856Afferentur RegiAlto
1858(?)Psalm 146Alto
Drei OrchesterstückeTenor or Bass**
March in D MinorTenor
1863Overture in G MinorTenor
Symphony in F MinorTenor
Psalm 112Tenor
1864Mass in D MinorTenor
1865March in Eb MajorTenor
1866Mass in E MinorTenor
Symphony No. 1 (‘Linzer’)Tenor
1868Mass in F MinorAlto
‘Inveni David’Tenor
1869Symphony in D Minor (‘Nullte’)Tenor
1872Symphony No. 2Tenor
1873Symphony No. 3Tenor
1874Symphony No. 4Tenor
1876Symphony No. 5Tenor
1881Symphony No. 6Tenor
1883Symphony No. 7Tenor
Te DeumTenor
1885Ecce SacerdosTenor
1887Symphony No. 8Tenor
1891Symphony No. 1 (‘Wiener’)Tenor
1894Symphony No. 9Tenor

* refers to year of first version where applicable
** one trombone only

Chapter 4: Brahms

The German repertoire normally calls for one each of alto, tenor and bass trombone… a tradition which lasted until Wagner.1 Alan Lumsden, The Sound of the Sackbut: A Lecture in Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Collection of Musical Instruments, 1988, p. 9. (Alan Lumsden)
The Brahms Requiem is… a piece which works extremely well on the alto trombone.2 Donald Appert, ‘The Alto Trombone: Its Uses, Problems and Solutions’, ITA Journal 8 (March 1980), p. 13. (Donald Appert)
Brahms… used three trombones (none of which was an alto)… The trio of trombones, two tenors and a bass, was a combination which [was] eventually standardized during the period of Brahms and Chaikovsky.3 John Drew, ‘The Emancipation of the Trombone in Orchestral Literature’, ITA Journal 9 (1981), p. 2. (John Drew)
The large bore [tenor] does beyond doubt tend to a more solid tone… For such works as the symphonies of Brahms… wide-bored instruments [are] those for which the parts were originally conceived.4 Philip Bate, The Trumpet and Trombone, London, 1966, p. 56. (Philip Bate)
Johannes Brahms… used the three clefs in [his] scores and in most instances did not intend the alto to play the parts. Most composers made a special note or indication in the score if they required the alto trombone to play the first part.5 Hartman, op. cit., p. 38. Regarding Dr Hartman’s assertion on score notation, as will be shown, Brahms frequently did not use three separate clefs in his scores; as to the ‘special note’ used by composers, with the exception of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique and two short passages in Mahler’s sixth and seventh symphonies (see Coda), I have found no evidence of this whatsoever in the standard orchestral repertoire. (Mark Hartman)
The use of large-bore tenors, which are virtually tenor trombones built with the bore and bell of an F bass trombone, is post 1850 and began in military bands. It was for large-bore instruments that Brahms wrote, and out of consideration for this, leading English players of the early part of the twentieth century, notably Jesse Stamp and Arthur Falkner [BBC Symphony, first and second trombone respectively], though normally playing narrow-bore trombones, used to change to instruments of wider bore for the performance of works by Brahms, Richard Strauss and the later works of Wagner.6 Anthony Baines, ‘The Trombone’ in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians 5th edition, London, 1954, vol. 8, p. 555. (Anthony Baines)

As can be seen from the quotes above, the alto trombone is rarely associated with Brahms’ orchestral works. However, a re-examination of the existing evidence reveals a rather different picture in which the alto features prominently. One of the difficulties in assessing the make-up of Brahms’ trombone section is that, in contrast to Bruckner, no original hand-copied parts exist.7 Dr Michael Struck, personal correspondence, 22.2.96. Fortunately, the first published editions of his works appeared shortly after the completion of composition – invariably no more than a year later – and Brahms was critically involved in the publication process.

According to Margit McCorkle:

From the start of his career Brahms composed for eventual publication. With this end in view, he put his works through rigorous paces, normally progressing through three distinct stages. He first solicited the reactions of his trusted musical confidants. Then he sought opportunities for test performances… Moreover, he repeatedly insisted to his eager publishers that the release of his works must wait until he had had sufficient opportunity to hear them performed and make his final revisions… From the Violin Concerto on, all trial performances were played from ‘printed’ string parts (that is, pulled proofs); Simrock was willing to print these, even though Brahms reserved the right to make whatever changes might be necessary once he had heard the compositions… Orchestras testing the work would purchase the performing materials (parts other than those for the strings were still usually hand-written); these would at some point, according to circumstances, be returned either to the composer or the publisher and in due course were replaced with the published parts. When the last concert of a season was over, Brahms would collect the performing materials and revise, correct and refine the full score, based on his experience of conducting and hearing the pieces… Finally, when he was satisfied with the results of these semi-private (or even public) trial performances, he released the revised score, parts and other relevant manuscripts… to the publisher, together with appropriate instructions for editing and engraving.8 Margit McCorkle, ‘The Role of Trial Performances for Brahms’ Orchestral and Large Choral Works: Sources and Circumstances’, in George S. Bozarth (ed.) Brahms Studies: Analytical and Historical Perspectives, Oxford, 1990, pp. 296-97, 318.
4:1 Brahms and the Trial Performances of his Orchestral Works

To evaluate his compositions adequately, Brahms would insist on as many test performances as possible (‘Für die Herausgabe muss ich eine vollständige gute Aufführung hinter mir haben’9 ‘Before publication I must have a completely good performance behind me.’ Max Kalbeck (ed.), Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, erster Band, vol. ix, 1974, p. 105. Trans. McCorkle, op. cit., p. 312. ) and as many rehearsals as he required (‘Das Wichtigste an der Aufführung ist nur: so viel und oft probieren können, wie ich mag’). (See Table 4.1, p. 124 for a list of trial performance of Brahms’ large-scale works.)10 ‘The single most important thing with regard to the performance is to be able to rehearse as much and as often as I wish.’ Wilhelm Altman (ed.), Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, vol. iii, Berlin, 1908, p. 13. For example, for the premiere of the Second Symphony Brahms was allocated three ‘pre-rehearsals’, a Korrect-Probe (proof-reading session) and one full, regular rehearsal plus dress rehearsal.11 McCorkle, op. cit., p. 319. After Vienna the piece was tested in performances in Leipzig, Amsterdam, The Hague, Dresden and Düsseldorf before it went to the printer.12 Ibid., p. 300.

Brahms developed a special relationship with the Court Orchestra of Meiningen, which was conducted by his friend Bülow and where his compositions were often tested;13 Robert Pascall, ‘Playing Brahms: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Performance Practice’, Papers in Musicology, No. 1, Nottingham, 1991. p. 11. thus Brahms could be assured that his pieces would be prepared exactly as he wished14 Dr Michael Struck, personal interview, 4.9.96. :

Es war nämlich immer ein heimlich lieber Gedanke, das Ding zuerst in der kleinen Stadt, die einen guten Freund, guten Capellmeister und gutes Orchester, zu hören.15 ‘I always secretly preferred, of course, the thought of hearing the thing first performed in a small city which has a good friend, a good Kapellmeister, and a good orchestra.’ Karl Krebs (ed.), Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, vol. xvi, Berlin, 1920, p. 144. Trans. McCorkle op. cit., p. 315.

With regard to the Requiem, his colleague Joachim recommended that it be tested in Bremen because ‘die Mittel wären in Bremen herrlich, die Kirche von wunderbarer Akustik’, and, most importantly, ‘Fleiss würde dem Dirigenten jedenfalls nich fehlen, er wäre sehr hingenommen von deiner Partitur’.16 ‘the financial resources would be excellent in Bremen, the church has splendid acoustics’, and ‘in any case the conductor [Karl Reinthalter, Cathedral organist and Director of the Bremen Singakademie] would not fail to be diligent; he would be very taken with your score.’ Andreas Moser (ed.) Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, zweiter Band, vol. vi, Berlin, 1912, p. 49. Brahms was concerned not only that the work should be well rehearsed, but also that the musicians should be competent:

Mein Werk ist doch schwer und in Bremen geht man doch bedächtiger zum hohen a hinauf als in Wien… Ich schicke hierbei die Partitur der ersten Sätze, da ich herzlich wünsche und hoffe, Sie lassen das Streichquartett sich beteilen an den Singproben; es wäre sehr schön, wenn die Geiger hernach die Sache kennten. Sind wohl die Stimmen der übrigen Sätze fertig und recht korrekt?17 ‘My compositions are indeed very difficult and in Bremen one goes rather more cautiously up to high ‘A’ than in Vienna… I am now enclosing the score for the first [three] movements, as I sincerely wish and hope that you will have the strings take part in the chorus rehearsals; it would be very nice if the violinists were acquainted with the thing from now on. Are the parts for the other movements ready and fairly correct?’ Altmann (ed.), Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, vol. iii, pp. 15-16. Trans. McCorkle, op. cit., p. 305.

Brahms’ process for testing his compositions was painstakingly meticulous, and the slow ‘deliberate pace with which Brahms’ works progressed towards publication’18 McCorkle, op. cit., p. 318. must have severely tried the patience of his publisher Simrock. When Simrock beseeched Brahms to send the manuscript and parts of his First Symphony after the Vienna performance, it having already been performed in Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Munich, Brahms adamantly demanded further trial performances in Leipzig, Cambridge and London.19 Ibid., p. 298. Even after the release of the publication, Brahms corrected it three more times by letter.20 Pascall, op. cit., p. 287.

An example of Brahms’ ‘deliberate pace’ and attention to detail is demonstrated in his detailed pre-publication plan for the Third Symphony, as described to Simrock:

Nun habe ich aber noch die Grosse Bitte, das Sie mir für Pest neue Bratschen und erste und zweite Violinen abziehen lassen… Am 2ten April ist die Symphonie in Pest. Dann schicke Ihnen Partitur und Stimmen… Von Pest werde ich Ihnen den ganzen Ballast zuschicken. Die Stimmen müssen natürlich nach der Partitur revidiert werden… Das Überklebte in den ersten Quartettstimmen gilt nicht – ich werde es inder Partitur korrigieren.21 ‘Now I have yet the biggest request, that you run off a new viola and first and second violin parts for Pest… On 2nd April the Symphony takes place in Pest. Then I shall send you score and parts; the whole ballast, from Pest. The parts of course must be revised according to the score… The paste-over in the first string part does not stand – I shall correct it in the score.’ Max Kalbeck (ed.) Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, dritter Band, vol. xi, Tutzing, 1974, pp. 52-53, 54. Trans. Pascall, op. cit., p. 286, edited by John Wagstaff.

Brahms’ critical involvement in the supervision of the printing of the first editions is typified by the following letter to Simrock. After the penultimate trial performance in Dresden of the Second Symphony, Brahms had the parts sent to Simrock with these instructions:

Ich wollte Ihnen die Stimmen schön korrigieren, sehe aber, dass sie doch, ehe sie zum Stecher gehen, von kundigen Augen besehn werden mussen… lassen Sie mich ja eine Korrektur der Stimmen lesen.22 ‘I wanted to correct the parts for you nicely, but I see that they must be looked at by expert eyes before they go to the engraver… let me have a proof of the parts to read’. ‘ Max Kalbeck (ed.) Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, dritter Band, vol. x, Tutzing, 1974, p. 69. Trans. McCorkle, op. cit., p. 319.

During the rehearsals in Düsseldorf for the final test performance, Brahms hurriedly contacted Simrock, who was then in the process of a second printing for this performance, and urged him to desist because more mistakes had been found in the parts and score:23 McCorkle, op. cit, p. 319. ‘Es sind allerwärts sehr böse Fehler’.24 ‘There are very bad errors everywhere’. Kalbeck, op. cit., p. 75. Yet even after the Düsseldorf concert Brahms requested a small pre-publication printing to allow him to check for more mistakes:25 Pascall, op. cit., p. 287. ‘Sie lassen wohl die Symphonie möglichst wenig drücken – das man noch Fehler finden darf’.26 ‘Possibly you could carry out a small print-run – so that one might spot more errors’. Kalbeck, Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, vol. x, p. 75. Brahms’ perfectionism is summed up in his statement regarding the printing of the Triumphlied:

Ich muss durchaus die Erlaubnis haben, nachher alles Mögliche in den Platten ändern zu lassen! Das wird nun zwar wahrscheinlich nicht gefährlich sein, aber möglich ist es.27 ‘I must absolutely have permission to have all possible changes made on the plates afterwards! For sure, they probably won’t be serious, but it is possible.’ Kalbeck, Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, vol.ix, p. 102. Trans. McCorkle, op. cit., p. 312, edited by Ken Shifrin.

The ‘expert eyes’ to which Brahms refers were most assuredly those of Simrock’s ‘valued house editor’,28 Robert Pascall, ‘The Publication of Brahms’ Third Symphony: A Crisis in Dissemination’, in George S. Bozarth (ed.), Brahms Studies, p. 288. Robert Keller, known for his scrupulous attention to detail. As critical and meticulous as Brahms was, he could also rely on Keller’s superb proof-reading skills, and he paid tribute:

to Keller’s acute eye and systematic expertise as a corrector. [Keller] identified errors of all kinds, comment[ed] on suspected mistakes, and ma[d]e suggestions of his own for improvement… Keller’s method of work was to note discrepancies within the score and the parts.29 Ibid., p. 288.

Pascall adds that it was customary for the parts used in the trial performances ‘rather than the score, to be used as engravers’ Exemplaren for the printing of the set of parts’.30 Ibid., p. 286.

Table 4.1 Brahms: Chronology of Orchestral and Large Choral Works31 Source: Margit L. McCorkle, ‘The Role of Trial Performances’, pp. 298-302.

Work, OpusPublication
Performance prior to publication
Date, Place/Conductor, Soloist
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45Rieter-Biedermann/
Oct. 1868 (choral parts)
Nov. 1868 (score)
Dec. 1868 (piano-vocal score)
Jan. 1869 (orch. parts)
Before Mar. 1871 (organ part)
Mvts 1-3: 1 Dec. 1867, Vienna/J. Herbeck, R. Panzer
Mvts 1-4, 6, 7: 10 Apr. 1868, Bremen/Brahms, J. Stockhausen; also 27 Apr. 1868, Bremen/K. Reinthaler, F. Krolop (Brahms was present as a listener)
Mvt. 5: 17 Sept. 1868, Zurich/F. Hegar, I. Suter-Weber
Rinaldo, Op. 50N. Simrock/Aug. 1869
(score, parts, piano-vocal score)
28 Feb. 1869, Vienna/Brahms, G. Walter
Schicksalslied, Op. 54N. Simrock/Dec. 1871
(score, parts, piano-vocal score)
18 Oct. 1871, Karlsruhe/Brahms
Triumphlied, Op. 55N. Simrock/Nov. 1872
(score, parts, piano-vocal score)
Mvt. 1: 7 Apr. 1871, Bremen/Brahms
Complete work: 5 June 1872, Karlsruhe/H. Levi, J. Stockhausen
Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68N. Simrock/Oct. 1877
(score, parts, piano four-hand arrangements)
4 Nov. 1876, Karlsruhe/O. Dessoff
8 performances between 7 Nov. 1876 and 16 Apr. 1877 in Mannheim, Munich, Vienna, Leipzig, Breslau, Cambridge, London/Brahms or J. Joachim; A. Manns and W. Cusins (in England)
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73N. Simrock/Aug. 1878
(score, parts, piano four-hand arrangement)
30 Dec. 1877, Vienna/H. Richter
6 performances between 10 Jan. and mid-June 1878 in Leipzig, Amsterdam, The Hague, Dresden, Düsseldorf/Brahms, F. Wüllner (Dresden) and J. Joachim (Düsseldorf)
Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80N. Simrock/July 1881
(score, parts, piano four-hand arrangement)
Test performance: 6 Dec. 1880, Berlin/J. Joachim or Brahms(?) directed the Hochschule orchestra
4 Jan. 1881, Breslau/Brahms
7 Performances between 13 Jan. and 20 Mar. 1881 in Leipzig, Münster, Krefeld, Vienna/Brahms; H. Richter (Vienna)
Tragic Overture, Op. 81N. Simrock/July 1881
(score, parts, piano four-hand arrangement)
Test performance: same as Op. 80
26 Dec. 1880, Vienna/H. Richter
From Breslau to Haarlem same as Op. 80
Nänie, Op. 82C. F. Peters/Dec. 1881
(score, parts, piano-vocal score)
Test performance: 19 Oxt. 1881, Meiningen/Brahms or H. von Bülow? (without chorus)
6 Dec. 1881, Zurich/Brahms
Gesang der Parzen, Op. 89N. Simrock/Feb. 1883
(score, parts, piano-vocal score)
10 Dec. 1882, Basel/Brahms
7 performances between 17 Dec. 1882 and 18 Feb. 1883 in Zurich, Strasbourg, Bonn, Krefeld, Oldenburg, Schwerin, Vienna/Brahms
Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90N. Simrock/May 1884
(score and parts, two-piano arr.)
2 Dec. 1883, Vienna/H. Richter
13 performances between 4 Jan. and 2 Apr. 1884 in Berlin, Wiesbaden, Meiningen, Leipzig, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bremen, Amsterdam, Dresden, Frankfurt a. M., Budapest/J. Joachim (1st Berlin performance), Brahms
Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98N. Simrock/May 1886
(two-piano arr.)
Oct. 1886 (score and parts)
25 Oct. 1885, Meiningen/Brahms
23 performances between 1 Nov. and mid-June 1886 in Meiningen, Frankfurt a. M., Essen, Elberfeld, Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague, Krefeld, Cologne, Wiesbaden, Mannheim, Vienna, Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Hamburg, Hanover, Breslau, London/Brahms, H. von. Bülow (Meiningen), J. Joachim (1st Berlin performance), H. Richter (Vienna and London), F. Wüllner (3rd Cologne performance)

4:2 Brahms and Tone Colour

In his Third Symphony, Brahms demonstrated his awareness of the various nuances of tone colour that different species of the same instrument could provide. According to McCorkle, if one compares the conductor’s score used for the first performance in Vienna in December 1883 with Simrock’s first printed edition, there is a change from Bb to the more lyrical A clarinets32 According to M. Mimart, ‘la clarinette en la a le son légèrement voilé, ce qui lui donne un charactére un peu sombre, mais tendre et élégiaque’ (‘the A clarinet has a lightly veiled sound, which gives it a slightly sombre but tender and elegiac character’.) M. Mimart, ‘La Clarinette’, in Encyclopédie de la Musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire, Deuxième Partie: Technique-Esthétique-Pédagogie, Paris, 1925, p. 1653. in the second theme of the first movement, and ‘the addition or elimination of certain instruments, thus subtly influencing the coloration of various passages’.33 McCorkle, op. cit., p. 324. Similarly in the fourth movement of the First Symphony Brahms expressed his preference for (what some consider) the more majestic sounding Bb clarinet over the A clarinet: ‘Damit es nun mit der Confusion nicht weiter gehe muss Hr F. auch in der Part[itur] die Clarinetten nach B transponieren’.34 ‘So that the confusion goes no further, Herr F[uller, the copyist] should also transpose the clarinets in the score to Bb’. Carl Krebs (ed.) Johannes Brahms Briefwechsel, vol. xvi, Berlin, 1920, p. 150. Trans McCorkle, op. cit., p. 315.

An example of Brahms’ use of trombone tone colour to convey a particular mood is shown in the section’s first chordal entry in the Second Symphony. Despite the protestations in August 1879,35 An indication that Brahms solicited the opinions of his colleagues even after publication, as Simrock’s first edition had appeared a year earlier. of his colleague Vincenz Lachner who argued that the introduction of the trombones, with their ‘düstern, lugubrigen Töne’36 ‘dark, lugubrious sound’. Reinhold Brinkmann, ‘Die “heitere Sinfonie” und der “schwer melancholische Mensche” ’ in Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (ed.) Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, Stuttgart, 1989, p. 297. spoiled what was otherwise an ‘idyllisch heitere’37 ‘idyllic, cheerful’, Ibid., p. 297. symphony (Ex. 4.1), Brahms refused to delete the passage. According to Lachner:

Überhaupt möchte ich aus diesem Satz Pos[aunen] u. Tuba ausgeschlossen sehen, die mir zur Grundstimmung desselben nicht nöthig scheinen u. der Kraftfülle, wo sie in der Conzentrierung aller Tonmittel auftritt, kein wesentliches Element zuführen. Damit würden auch die Stellen wegfallen, wo diese Instrumente imitatorisch das Motiv des Basses (1ter Takt) in befremdlicher Weise aufgreifen und plötzlich eine Tonqualität blosstellen, die mit dem Adel der Umgebung kontrastirt, in ihrer gesteigerten Wiederholung aber bis zu einem grellen Ausbruch von Wuth u. Schmerz vorschreiten, der mein Ohr verletzt wenn auch mein Auge die thematische Verwendung des Motivs bewundert. Mit diesen Instrumenten, deren Intonation ja nie ganz reinlich, in dissonierender Übereinanderstellung so weit vorzugehen scheint mir verwegen, den Wohllaut schwer beeinträchtigend.38 ‘In general I would like to see trombone and tuba excluded from this movement, since it seems to me superfluous to the basic mood, and there is no element of strength in the register in which their notes are concentrated. Additionally, I would also delete the passage in which these instruments imitate the motif of the basses (first bar) in a disturbing fashion, because when they take up the theme, suddenly a tone quality that contrasts with the surrounding majesty appears in the repetition, intensifying yet striding forth in a shrill outbreak of rage and pain that hurts my ears, even if my eye beholds with admiration the thematic use of the motif. To give priority to the dissonant combination of these instruments, whose intonation is indeed never completely pure, seems to me seems to me to be too audacious and adversely affects the pleasant sound.’ Letter from Vincenz Lachner, Oberstdorf in Allgäu, August 6 1879, to Brahms. Cited by Brinkmann, ibid., pp. 297-98. Intonation difficulties can be more apparent when this passage is played with an alto on the first trombone part, due to the relatively low register and long slide positions required. Pitch dissonances are also easier to mask in the TTB trio because of the similarity of timbre.

Brahms replied rather cryptically that:

Ebenso flüchtig sage ich, daß ich sehr gewunscht u. versucht habe in jenem ersten Satz ohne Posaunen auszukommen. (Die e-moll-Stelle hätte ich gern geopfert, wie ich sie Ihnen also jetzt opfere.) Aber ihr erster Eintritt, der gehört mir u. ihn u. also auch die Posaunen kann ich nicht entbehren. Sollte ich jene Stelle vertheidigen da müßte ich weitläufig sein. Ich müßte bekennen daß ich nebenbei ein schwer melancholischer Mensch bin, daß schwarze Fittiche beständig über uns rauschen, daß – vielleicht nicht so ganz ohne Absicht in m[einem] Werken – auf jene Sinfonie eine kleine Abhandlung über das große ‘Warum’ folgt. Wenn Sie die (Motette) nicht kennen so schicke ich sie Ihnen. Sie wirft den nöthigen Schlagschatten auf die heitre Sinfonie u. erklärt vielleicht jene Pauken u. Posaunen.39 ‘Even though I say in passing, I earnestly wished and attempted to manage without the trombones in the first movement. (The E-minor passage I would have gladly sacrificed as you yourself would now thus sacrifice.) But their first entry belongs to me and to it, and therefore I cannot dispense with the trombones. If I should have to defend that passage I would need to go on at length. I must confess by the way that I am a deeply melancholy person, that black wings constantly rustle over us, that perhaps not quite unintentionally in my works [and] about the symphony a small discourse on the great ‘Why’ follows. If you do not know it (the Motet) then I’ll send it to you. It throws the necessary cloud over the cheerful symphony and explains perhaps the timpani and trombones.’ Letter from Brahms to Lachner, August 1879, cited by Brinkmann, ibid., pp. 301-302.

According to Reinhold Brinkmann, the profound sadness expressed in the Motet, ‘Warum ist das Licht gegeben den Mühseligen’ (No. 1 from Opus 74), which Brahms was working on concurrently with the Second Symphony, ‘die hier nicht nur zeitlich, sondern auch als innerer Kontrapost zur “heitren” sinfonie trit’,40 ‘which here is not only contemporaneous but also appears as an internal opposite to the “cheerful” symphony’. Brinkmann, ibid., p. 297. casts a ‘Schlagschatten’41 Brahms’ word for ‘shadow’. upon it. The initial entry of the trombones in the symphony produces a similar effect:

Geprägt vom Ausdruckscharacter der verminderten Septakkorde… bilden… den dunklen Gegenpol zur idyllischen Natursmetapher des Anfangs… ein nachdrückliches Infrage-Stellen der pastoralen Welt.42 ‘stamped with the expressive character of the diminished seventh-chord… form the dark, opposite pole to the idyllic metaphor of Nature at the beginning… an emphatic built-in questioning of the pastoral world.’ Ibid., p. 305.

This creates a sense of underlying tension and unease from the outset.

‘Schwarze Fittiche beständig über uns rauschen’: Aus diesem Geist sind die Posaunen-akkorde… [und] ‘die Partitur… mit Trauerrand’ geschaften.43 ‘”Black wings rustle over us”: From this spectre the trombone chords… [and] the score… are shaped with a black border’. Ibid., p. 305. Brinkmann quotes from Brahms’ letter to Simrock of 22.11.1877 regarding the Second Symphony: ‘Die neue Symphonie ist so melancholisch, dass Sie es nicht aushalten. Ich habe noch nie so was Trauriges, Molliges geschrieben: die Partitur muss mit Trauerrand erscheinen. (‘The new symphony is so melancholy that you will not be able to bear it. Never before have I written something so sad and steeped in a minor tonality: the score must appear with a black border around it.’) Brahms Briefwechsel, vol 10, Band 2, ed. Max Kalbeck, Tutzing, 1974, p. 56 f.

It is worth noting that, according to the autograph score, Brahms originally intended to use a fourth trombone in the outer movements44 The tuba was always intended for the second movement. Reinhold Brinkmann, ‘Johannes Brahms: Die Zweite Symphonie, Späte Idylle’, Musik-Konzepte vol. 70 (October 1990), Munich, p. 13. (Ex. 4.2), but decided to use a tuba instead, which according to Brinkmann could have been due to the fact:

dass die Bass-Posaune, wenn sie nicht allein auf die Fundierung des Posaunenchores beschränkt bleiben, sich nicht gut mit den tiefen Streichern mischten, vor allem eine Parallelführung mit den Kontrabassen war ein Problem.45 ‘that the bass trombone, when it is not limited to functioning as the foundation for the trombone section on its own, does not blend well with the lower strings; especially problematic is playing in parallel with the contrabasses.’ Ibid., p. 15.
4:3 Brahms’ Problematic Use of Trombone Nomenclature and Clef in his Scores

Like Bruckner, Brahms’ use of nomenclature and clef in his scores is an unreliable means of determining the choice of instrument for the first trombone part of his works. For example, in the Tragic Overture (Ex. 4.3), all three trombone parts – labelled ‘3 Posaunen’ – are on a single stave of tenor clef. On the first page of the Academic Festival Overture, Brahms places ‘3 Posaunen’ and ‘Bass Tuba’ together on the same stave of bass clef. But on page three of the autograph, while still in bass clef, he refers to the trombones as ‘Alt, Tenor, Bass’; by page 16 the trombones, now called ‘1, 2, 3’, are still on one stave but in tenor clef (See Ex. 4.4). The first trombone in Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 starts out in alto clef but changes to tenor clef at the soli-chorale at letter [c] (See Ex. 4.5).

According to the musicologist Dr Michael Struck, on the first page of the autograph score of the Schicksalslied the trombones are called ‘3 Posaunen’ and are written in tenor clef on a single system (Ex. 4.6); yet on page six the trombones appear as ‘Alt-/Ten.-Pos.’ on the same stave in tenor clef, and ‘Bass-Posaune’ in the bass clef.46 Michael Struck, personal correspondence with the author, 22.2.96. Hermann Levi’s Partiturabschrift (copy of the score), which also served as the Stichvorlage (engraver’s manuscript for the printing of the score), has the trombones labelled as ‘3 Posaunen’ in tenor and bass clef, and thus they appear in Simrock’s printed score.47 Ibid. Yet in Simrock’s printed parts:

lauten die drei separaten Stimmen: “Trombone Alto” + Altschlüssel, “Trombone Tenore” + Tenorschlüssel, und “Trombone Basso” + Baßschlüssel.48 ‘the three separate parts are called “Alto Trombone” in alto clef, “Tenor Trombone” in tenor clef, and “Bass Trombone” in bass clef’. Michael Struck, ibid.

In the autograph score of the Requiem (Ex. 4.7), the first trombone changes clef several times: for instance, it is in bass clef in the second movement (Ex. 4.8), tenor clef in the third movement, and at Feierlich in the seventh movement it is in alto clef.49 Dr Teresa Hrdlicka, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien, Archiv, personal correspondence with the author, 4.12.95. Anne Kathrin Mascus of Breitkopf & Härtel confirms that the first trombone part of their 1928 publication of the Requiem is designated ‘Alt-Posaune’, and is written in alto clef:

The original [printed] parts are still in our archive, and the orchestral material which is available on sale is almost identical to the original.50 Anne Kathrin Mascus, Breitkopf (Wiesbaden) sales department, personal correspondence with the author, 22.12.95.

Robert Pascall cautions that some scholarly editions can also be misleading:

Because the vast majority of Brahms’ works were published during his lifetime and with his close collaboration, it was widely assumed until recently that these published texts, unless revised or corrected in Brahms’ personal copies (the Handexemplare), represent the exact and final wishes of the composer. Indeed, the assumption lay behind the decision of Mandyczewski and Gál to base nearly all their editions for the Johannes Brahms Sämtliche Werke on the Handexamplare and to place little value on readings in the other primary sources – autographs, copyists’ manuscripts and other contemporaneous editions. Studies in textual criticism undertaken during the last few years… have shown this view to be erroneous for a number of Brahms’ compositions… However, issues from original plates of around 1897 should play an important part in establishing the definitive text of a Brahms work, since they should have picked up all the corrections Brahms made by letter (assuming that Simrock or Röder heeded Brahms’ requests, as in general they did).51 Robert Pascall, ‘Brahms’ Third Symphony’, pp. 283, 294.

The most typical kinds of errors are also those which happen to be of the greatest interest to performers: omission of performance signs; confusion over which stave performance signs apply to, over similar signs such as sf, rf, or staccato and accent; inaccurate extension of crescendo, decrescendo and slur marks (a most characteristic engraver’s error); inaccurate placement (including notes by the interval of a third); and inaccurate standardisation.52 Robert Pascall, ‘Playing Brahms’, p. 5.

4:4 Brahms and the Publication Process

Given Brahms’ critical involvement in the publication process and his demonstrated awareness of instrumental colour, the parts from the first printed editions can, according to Michael Struck,53 Michael Struck, personal interview, 4.9.96. be relied upon to indicate the make-up of his trombone section. George Bozarth concurs: ‘the score notation is a simplification and the parts leave no doubt about which instruments play what’.54 George Bozarth, personal correspondence with the author, 14.2.96. The conclusions reached by the present author as to whether Brahms intended an alto or a tenor for the first trombone part in his works are based on first-hand observation of both the first-printed parts and the later-issued parts cited by Pascall.55 As the trombone nomenclature used in the first and second printed editions is identical, for purposes of brevity the term ‘first-printed edition’ should be understood to include both. The author wishes to express his gratitude to Dr Michael Struck of the Johannes Brahms Gesamtausgabe of the Musikwissenschaftliches Institut der Universität Kiel, who made these parts available and who provided invaluable supervision. Also to be acknowledged is the kind assistance of Lothar Niefind, archivist from Anton J. Benjamin Verlag (formerly Simrock), and of Jürg Mullendorf, archivist of Peters Edition Germany, who provided confirmation in many instances.

4:5 Brahms’ Vocal Works with Trombone Parts

The small choral work, Begräbnisgesang (Ex. 4.9), composed in 1858, is apparently the first composition in which Brahms used a trombone section. The accompaniment also includes two oboes, two clarinets, two bass bassoons, two horns, tuba and tympani.56 Acording to Malcolm MacDonald, Brahms had originally intended to use low strings as well, but omitted them so that the ‘Burial Song’ could be performed outdoors. Malcolm MacDonald, Brahms, London, 1990, p. 114. In the first printed edition by J. Rieter-Biedermann (Ex. 4.10), the first trombone part is labelled ‘Alt-Posaune’. Although I have found no evidence of trial performances of Begräbnisgesang to suggest Brahms’ involvement in its publication as with his later works, one could surmise that it was written for the alto trombone as it is the most treble voice of the six-part brass choir and is frequently used to double the alto voice. Moreover, in the first printed edition of the Deutsches Requiem, of which there is ample evidence of Brahms’ central role in the publication process57 Trial performances took place in Vienna, in Bremen (twice) and in Zurich. McCorkle, op. cit, p. 298. and which he started to compose during the same period as the Begräbnisgesang (considered by many to be its precursor58 For example, Virginia Hancock, in her Brahms’ Choral Compositions and His Library of Early Music, Ann Arbor, 1977, p. 114. ), the parts for the low brass are specified as alto, tenor, bass and tuba.

In Begräbnisgesang, Brahms also features the alto trombone in melodic passages. In bars 17-24 the alto, in harmony with the tenor trombone, plays an obbligato in contrary motion to the horn solo before joining the alto voices in unison in bars 25-34 on ‘er und… von Erden wieder aufstehn, wenn Gottes Posaun’ wird angehn’59 ‘And he… will rise up from the earth again when God’s trombone sounds’. (See Ex. 4.11).

Soli-chorales, a hallmark of Brahms’ trombone writing, are used to create a sense of solemnity as well as dark moods of gloom and despair (Ex. 4.12); a soft, berceuse-type chorale of soulful resignation precedes the final melancholy coda in c minor, ‘nun lassen wir uns schlafen’60 ‘Now let us sleep’. (Ex. 4.13).

The listener is immediately struck by the similarities of mood and colour between this work and the Requiem; as in the Begräbnisgesang, the tuba in the Requiem helps Brahms achieve the dark Klangcharacter, especially in the second movement (‘Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras’61 ‘For all flesh is like grass’. ) as shown in Example 4.14. Although in the Requiem the alto trombone frequently fulfills its ‘traditional’ role of vocal support (Ex. 4.15, 4.16, 4.17), Brahms also uses it in ways where a less conservative composer might have used a tenor trombone as shown in Ex. 4.14, 4.18. Another atypical use for an alto trombone occurs in the third movement, in which Brahms assigns a D/d pedal point to the trombones and tuba which they sustain for thirty-five bars (Ex. 4.18).

According to Dr Michael Struck, Brahms employed the alto not so much because it was needed to reinforce the alto vocal line, but simply because the instrument was part of the Brahms orchestra.62 Michael Struck, personal interview, 4.9.96. Those who attribute to Brahms the use of a trombone section composed of two tenors and a bass demonstrate the tendency of contemporary musicians to mistakenly associate the more classical Brahms – ‘criticised in his lifetime for being a dry reactionary’63 Philip F. Radcliffe, ‘Brahms’, in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, op. cit., 5th edition, London, 1954, vol. 8, p. 888. – with the heavy romanticism of Wagner, post-Linz Bruckner, and Richard Strauss. Ron Barron, Principal Trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, states that many conductors feel that the alto trombone has the appropriate timbre for first trombone parts only for works composed ‘before 1840 or so’.64 Quoted in Hartman, op. cit., p. 86.

According to Pascall:

Brahms had his share of… conservative inclinations. For instance, [although] horns had had valves added from 1815 on… Brahms continued to write for valveless horns, and in this he was more conservative than his predecessor and friend Robert Schumann… As pianist too, Brahms preferred conservative-sounding instruments for his private use… Although there was a general tendency for the romantic orchestra to increase in size during Brahms’ time… there are however some clear indications that Brahms preferred smaller orchestras.65 Pascall, ‘Playing Brahms’, pp. 9, 11.

As choruses in Germany and Austria also became larger during this time, the need for different timbred trombones to support their vocal counterparts became superfluous. Pascall writes that ‘in the nineteenth century the choir would characteristically outnumber the orchestra, and this represented a change from the eighteenth century practice’.66 Ibid., p. 12. In Vienna, for example, the Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, which Brahms conducted for a short time, had 122 members in 1859; in 1869, around the time of the first Vienna performances of the Requiem, it had 297 members; by 1878 it had 360.67 Ibid. Significantly, Pascall adds that ‘the choir, in common with many others then… had problems with its tenor section’,68 Ibid. the tenors being too weak to balance the other voices. As Rober Sheldon states:

Brahms is relatively late stuff and his sporadic chorus-trombone doubling seems to be just orchestration for beauty’s sake and not due to any practical need of any sort69 Robert Sheldon, personal correspondence with the author, 19.9.95.

Brahms the traditionalist seems to have intended an alto trombone in his choral works, including Schicksalslied (1871), Triumphlied (1872), Nänie (1881) and Gesang der Parzen (1883), Ex. 4.6, 4.19, 4.20, 4.21, respectively. Only in Rinaldo (1869) in which the first trombone part of the first printed edition is in bass clef and labelled ‘Trombone 1’, does Brahms not designate an alto as the first trombone. Scored for men’s chorus and orchestra, the work employs trombones which operate largely independently of the voices. Appropriately, Brahms used the first trombone a number of times to double the first tenors (See Ex. 4.22).

4:6 Alto or Tenor Trombone?

Thus according to the parts from the respective first printed editions and confirmed by the later issues published around the time of his death in 1897, with the exception of Rinaldo noted above, it appears that Brahms was writing for an alto in all of his large orchestral works that used a trombone section. In all of these compositions, from the German Requiem in 186970 Although Simrock published the score in November 1868, the orchestral parts were not printed until two months later. McCorkle, op. cit., p. 298. through to the Fourth Symphony in 1886 (Ex. 4.23), which appears to be the last major work in the nineteenth-century standard symphonic repertoire that specifically demands the ATB trio, the trombone parts are called ‘Alt-Posaune’ (in alto clef), ‘Tenor-Posaune’ (in tenor clef) and ‘Bass-Posaune’ (in bass clef).71 Oddly, only in the Second Symphony does Simrock label the parts ‘Posaune I (Alt)’, ‘Posaune II (Tenor)’ and ‘Posaune III (Bass)’.

Using the score to decipher Brahms’ intentions regarding the use of the alto or tenor trombone for the first trombone part is inherently unreliable. For example, based on the range of the first trombone (g-a’) in Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and the integration of the trombone section with the trumpets and horns to create a brass choir (see Ex. 4.24), one might argue that a tenor trombone was intended for the first desk. Likewise, one might deduce that Brahms had a first tenor trombone in mind for his large choral works, given the not particularly demanding tessitura of the first parts and the fact that the first trombone is frequently independent of its would-be vocal counterpart, especially in the Requiem, Triumphlied and Gesang der Parzen, in all of which the alto would seem to be an unlikely choice to balance the tuba.

However, it remains to be seen whether Brahms’ wishes regarding the alto were always respected, even during his lifetime, for this was a period in which the tenor trombone was rapidly and conclusively eclipsing the alto. Surely, more often than he would have preferred, Brahms was compelled to accept the fact that the number of trombonists who could play or even owned an alto was rapidly dwindling, and resign himself to making do with the resources at hand. Indeed, even in Vienna, it appears Brahms could not always count on getting the trombone section he intended: Archival material strongly suggests that in the first performances of Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2, the trombonists used valved instruments.72 Haus-Hof-Stadt-Archiv, Wien: Oper/K80/1884/Nr. 557. It appears that from 1862-1883 the trombonists of the Vienna Philharmonic/Opera used valved tenor and bass trombones exclusively (ibid).

Chapter 5: Dvořák

Trombones1 The author wishes to express his immense gratitude to Dr Marketta Hallová, Director of the Dvořák Museum, Prague, and Dr Jarmil Burghauser for their invaluable assistance. I am particularly indebted to Dr Burghauser for the translations he kindly provided. … are made in several sizes… Dvořák usually had two altos and a bass.2 Annie O. Warburton, Score Reading, Form and History, London, 1959, p. 36. Although some scholars may consider Warburton’s work to have been superseded, to the best of my knowledge, her assertion about the composition of Dvořák’s trombone section has never been challenged in print; moreover, her view is still being propagated today by leading orchestral trombonists. (Annie O. Warburton)
Dvořák used the alto trombone in his Ninth Symphony.3 Jiří Kratochvíl, Dějiny A Literatur Dechových Nástrojů, Prague, 1992, p. 68. Trans. Dr Suzanna Petraškova. (Jiří Kratochvíl)
In Bruckner symphonies… Dvořák’s New World, and other pieces where a large volume of sound is now required, the alto trombone tends to be swamped and is less satisfactory.4 Ralph Sauer, ‘The Alto Trombone in the Symphony Orchestra’, ITA Journal , 7 (July 1984), p. 41. (Ralph Sauer, Principal Trombone, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra)
We recently performed Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6 in D Major. The conducting interpretation was classical, and we were encouraged to be more seen than heard. Partly with that in mind, I chose to use the alto on first.5 Ron Barron, personal correspondence with the author, 20.3.95. (Ron Barron, Principal Trombone, Boston Symphony Orchestra)
I would definitely use the alto [trombone] for a performance of the Dvořák Symphony No. 1.6 Milt Stevens, personal correspondence with the author, 1.3.95. (Milt Stevens, Principal Trombone, National Symphony Orchestra, Washington DC)

The above statements represent the received wisdom regarding the use of the alto trombone by Dvořák. In this chapter I wish to reassess this view and explore the hypothesis that Dvořák was writing for valve trombones.

In contrast to Bruckner’s case, the original handwritten parts to Dvořák’s works no longer exist;7 According to Dr Marketta Hallová (personal interview, 8.5.96) and Dr Holoček, Archivist, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (personal correspondence, 20.5.96), only the trombone parts to Symphony No.9 are extant, held in the New York Philharmonic Archives. nor did Dvořák enjoy the control over the publication process of his works that Brahms did.8 According to Otakar Šourek, Dvořák was unable to persuade his German publisher Simrock to use his proper name, Antonín, rather than Anton, on the title pages of his works. Otakar Šourek, ‘Dvořák’, in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians 5th edition, London, 1954, p. 834. N.B. The New Grove is not as specific with regard to this point. Nonetheless, one may still conclude, on the basis of other evidence, that Dvořák did not write for the alto trombone. For not only did Czech trombonists forego the alto in the early part of the nineteenth century, in part due to the difficulty in playing it in tune,9 According to Jarmil Burghauser, personal correspondence with the author, 30.4.96. but according to my research during Dvořák’s lifetime valve trombones, tenor and bass, were used almost exclusively in Bohemia.

5:1 Music Education and the Valve Trombone in Bohemia

According to Jan Branberger, slide trombones were not used in Bohemia from 1826 to 1861.10 Jan Branberger, Konservatoř hudby v Praze, Pamětní spis k stoletému jubileu založení ústavu, Nákladem Konservatoře, Prague, 1911, pp. 71-72. In 1826, the Prague Conservatoire of Music dismissed its professor of slide trombone, František Weiss, and replaced him with Josef Kail, a staunch advocate of the valve trombone11 Kail likened the sound of the slide trombone to a herd of elephants (Bohuslav Čížek, ‘Josef Kail (1795-1871), Forgotten Brass Instrument Innovator’, part 2, Brass Bulletin. 73 (1991), p. 28. and considered by some the inventor of the valve mechanism.12 According to Burghauser, Kail merely adapted Stözel’s invention. Personal correspondence, 10.5.96. According to Bohuslav Čížek, Curator of Musical Instruments at the Museum of Czech Music, Kail, in whose self interest was the study of valve trombone, ‘constantly found important benefactors’ and had great influence on musical opinion in Prague.13 Čížek, op. cit., p. 28. Weiss attempted to establish his own school for slide trombonists ‘but could not attract any pupils’.14 Branberger, op. cit., p. 38. The valve trombone offered not only enhanced technical capacity, but proponents such as Červený, a leading Czech instrument-maker, also maintained that ‘the intrinsic sound was no different from the slide trombone’.15 Čížek, op. cit., pp. 27-8, citing Václáv František, Slavou I, Prague, 1862, pp. 97-98. Study of the slide trombone continued to languish despite the efforts of the Conservatoire’s Director Kittl, who argued correctly, in the author’s opinion, that ‘only the slide trombone kept the true sound of the trombone’, and that valve trombones were ‘degenerate, just like big trumpets’.16 Čížek, op. cit., p. 27, citing Branberger, op. cit., pp. 71-2.

However, in 1860, and over the strenuous protests of Kail and his supporters, Director Kittl ‘imported’ the Berliner August Bolze from the Krakow Theatre Orchestra to teach slide trombone to a few of the valve-trombone pupils. Nonetheless, the slide trombone remained unpopular, and according to Jaroslav Ušák, the renowned Czech trombonist and pedagogue, ‘the introduction of the slide trombone was not accepted favourably by the whole of our music public’.17 Jaroslav Ušák, ‘Oddělení zest’ů na pražské Konservatoři’ (‘The Brass Instruments Department of the Prague Conservatoire of Music’), in 150 let pražské Konservatoře (150 years of the Prague Conservatoire), Prague, 1961, p. 157. The following year, the new Deputy Director discouraged the teaching of the instrument, which he considered ‘too strenuous for the pupils’.18 Branberger, op. cit., p. 73.

Following Bolze’s suicide in 1863, slide trombone instruction was placed in the hands of a second-year student, František Haužvic. Kail retired in 1867, after forty years’ service, and Václav Smita, bass trombonist with the German Estates Theatre Orchestra in Prague and a former student of Kail’s, was appointed to teach both valve and slide trombone19 Ušák, op. cit., p. 160. (see Table 5.1). However, according to Ušák, Smita was primarily a valve trombonist.20 Ibid. Although Hejda maintans that Smita’s Concertino for Trombone and Orchestra in Eb Major (1899) was written for a slide trombone (personal interview, Prague 22.11.96), given the non-idiomatic nature of the part for a slide trombone, the frequent omission of natural ‘break’ slurs in favour of step-wise slurs, the even greater technical demands than those in concerti written for Queisser or in solos composed by Arthur Pryor, the relatively nascent stage of slide pedagogy in Prague at the time, and Smita’s background as a valve player, the author is led to question this assertion. Finally in 190321 In 1901, Dvořák was appointed Professor of Composition, Instrumentation and Musical Form at the Prague Conservatoire. Šourek, op. cit., p. 834. the Conservatoire trombone class was taken over by a proper slide trombonist, Josef Hilmer, who abolished the study of valve trombone altogether,22 According to Miloslav Hejda, personal interview, Prague 22.11.96. According to Jaroslav Kummer, Professor of Trombone, Janáček Academy of Music, until 1906 only valve trombone was taught in Moravia. Personal interview, Olomouc, 9.11.98. and whom Karel Hoffmeister, Rektor of the Conservatoire, recognised as having distinguished himself by the fact that he did not play valve trombone, which up to that time was the standard instrument in the country.23 Ušák, op. cit., p. 160, citing Hoffmeister’s obituary speech for Hilmer in 1930. Ušák singles out for mention – probably due to its being so unusual – the fact that Hilmer ‘originally played an alto trombone’ (ibid.).

Table 5.1 Professors of Trombone at the Prague Conservatoire of Music, 1826-present24 Source: Hejda, personal correspondence, op. cit.

NameType of trombone taughtYears taught
Josef KAILvalve trombone1826-1867
August BOLZEslide trombone1860-1863
Aruosl TESKEslide trombone1864-1874
Václav SMITAvalve and slide trombone1874-1903
Josef HILMERslide trombone only1903-1934
Antonín KOULAslide trombone1934-1938
Jaroslav SIMSAslide trombone1938-1950/1952
Jaroslav UŠÁKslide trombone1940-1956
Miloslav HEJDAslide trombone1956-1986
Josef STÁDNÍKslide trombone[Unknown]
Jaroslav VÍTEKslide trombone[Unknown]
Joleník PULECslide trombone[Unknown]
Jaronín HAVELslide trombone1986-1989
Mastinvic PELCslide trombone[Unknown]
Jin JANDÍKslide trombone1988-1989
Jon SAILERslide trombone[Unknown]
Josef ŠIMEKslide trombone1986-
Václav FEREBAUERslide trombone1990-

In 1911, Branberger wrote that Kail’s valve system had been ‘used for a long time at the Prague Conservatoire, and such instruments were produced in Prague until recent times’.25 Bohuslav Čížek, ‘Josef Kail (1795-1871), Forgotten Brass Instrument Innovator’ part 1, Brass Bulletin 73 (1991), p. 70. Citing Branberger, op. cit., p. 38. Thus, according to Jaroslav Tachovsky, Principal Trombonist of the Czech Philharmonic:

Dvořák wrote for valve trombones which were played in his time. Slide trombones were first introduced in Prague in 1919 at the National Theatre at the insistence of the Chief Conductor Kovařovic.26 Jaroslav Tachovsky, personal correspondence with the author, 13.6.96.

Burghauser feels the date is more likely to have been closer to 1900,27 Personal correspondence, 10.5.96. while Hejda writes that slide trombones were introduced into the Czech Philharmonic around 1896.28 Personal correspondence, 5.2.97. According to Hejda, towards the latter part of Dvořák’s compositional career, the Czech Philharmonic trombone section could have consisted of both slide and valve players29 Personal interview, Prague, 22.11.96. Carl Wesecky, an Austrian who had studied at the Wiener Conservatorium and who became the principal trombonist of the Prague German Estates Theatre Orchestra around 1895, was an accomplished slide as well as valve trombonist. However, he left Prague in 1898 to take up the position of bass trombonist with the Vienna Philharmonic (correspondence with Gerhard Zechmeister, 29.1.98). A photograph of the Czech Philharmonic taken in 1908 on the occasion of the first performance of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony clearly shows at least one player holding a slide trombone (Gustav Mahler, Facsimile Edition of the Seventh Symphony, Amsterdam: Rosbeek, 1995, p. 41). Yet an indication that the valve trombone was still used in the first part of the twentieth century in Prague is given by the fact that the Czech Philharmonic trombonists were asked by Janáček in 1928 to perform his Capriccio on valve trombones (Burghauser, personal interview, 20.11.96). Bohemia was not the only place in which the valve trombone was still relied upon in the early twentieth century. In 1924 Falla was compelled to conduct Pulcinella, a work resplendent with trombone glissandi, with a valve trombonist ‘because only valve trombones [were] available in Seville’ (letter from Falla to Stravinsky, 2.1.1921, cited in Robert Craft (ed.), Stravinsky, Selected Correspondence, London, 1984, p. 163), a practice Stravinsky approved. ‘You can perform Pulcinella with a valve trombone’ (ibid., p. 164). . Yet generally speaking, with the exception of a few bars from the Eighth Symphony and Te Deum, some passages in the Rhapsodies and Symphonic Variations which at that time would have been considered technically difficult, and a number of exposed soft entrances involving slurred notes without natural ‘breaks’ in slow, step-wise motion,30 For example, in Symphony No. 4 and No. 5. The role dictated for the trombone by orchestral repertoire of this period usually ‘entailed executing block chordal work, rhythmic interjection and counterpoint and – where thematic material was presented – in a generally detached, marcato style’ (Simon Baines, The Evolution of Orchestral Brass in the Last Hundred Years: Organology, Trends in Performance Practice, and their Effect, PhD dissertation, Keele University, 1996, p. 11). So much so that in 1910 W. H. Stone wrote that ‘the quiet smooth legato method… is almost a lost art’ (W. H. Stone, ‘The Trombone’, Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, 1910, vol. v, p. 164). Sir Henry Wood wrote that in the same year Elgar ‘was delighted with the beautiful legato these instruments [i.e. valve trombones] produced in the Finale of his Symphony No. 2′. Sir Henry Wood, My Life of Music, first edition, London, 1946, p. 250. Dvořák’s writing does not appear unduly influenced by the fact that, in the main, only valve-trombones were available to him in Prague and is today considered well-suited to the slide trombone. The clearest evidence of Dvořák’s apparent use of the valve trombone occurs in the Finale of his 1889 Symphony Number Eight in G Major (Ex. 5.1) and in the fourth movement of the 1892 Te Deum (Ex. 5.2). Ironically, by this stage in his career Dvořák had conducted his works abroad on a number of occasions and must therefore have been well aware of the use of the slide trombone outside his homeland. For example, Stabat Mater, the D Major Symphony and the D Minor Symphony were all conducted by Dvořák in Britain during the years 1884-85, the latter being composed for the Philharmonic Society of London.

5:2 Survey of Trombones

The oldest inventory of the Prague Conservatoire’s musical instruments, compiled by František Tadeás Blatt in 1843, includes a tenor valve-trombone in Bb (Fig. 5.1) and a three-valve bass trombone in F, both built by the Prague instrument-maker Václáv Šamal (also known as Wenzel Schamal)31 Čížek, part i op. cit., p. 75. in 1834. The Brno brass instrument manufacturer, Lídl, also produced valve trombones, certainly of the tenor and bass type, but there is no documentation of an alto valve-trombone,32 Burghauser, personal correspondence, 10.5.96. in contrast to the Leipzig firm of J.H. Zimmermann, with agencies in St Petersburg, Moscow, Riga and London33 J.H. Zimmermann, Musik Instrument Katalog, Leipzig, 1899, p. 114. (see Fig. 5.3), which was manufacturing two different models of alto valve-trombone, at least as late as 1899. Neither Čížek, Pavel Szturc,34 Personal interview with Čížek and Szturc, Prague, 26.6.96. (chief instrument restorer at the Museum of Czech Music), nor Hejda,35 Personal interview, Prague, 20.11.96. Heidrun Eichler, Curator of the Markneukirchen Museum, in whose workshop in Saxony was produced one of the earliest tenor/bass valve trombones in the mid-nineteenth century (Heyde, op. cit., p. 240) – also had no knowledge of an alto valve-trombone in trompetten form used in Bohemia (personal interview, Markneukirchen 19.11.96). know of any such instrument ever being used in Bohemia, with the exception of what is catalogued as an ‘Army Alto Trombone in Eb’ (Fig. 5.2), which they unequivocally state was never used in Czech orchestras.

Figure 5.1: Kail’s valve trombone (tenor)36 Source: Čížek, part i, op. cit, p. 75.

Figure 5.2: Červený’s Armée Alto Posaune in Es37 Courtesy of Čížek.

Figure 5.3: pages from Zimmermann’s 1899 Musik Instrument Katalog38 Zimmermann, op. cit., pp. 112-17.

5:3 The Trombone in Dvořák’s Orchestral Works

The eb” for the first trombone which Dvořák calls for in the Scherzo of the 1865 Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Ex. 5.3) – a note one would customarily see only in an alto trombone part – appears to the present writer also to be one of the ‘traces… of the author’s lack of experience’.39 František Bartoš, ‘Preface’, Bartoš (ed.) to Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Complete Edition, Prague, 1961, p. xvii. Trans. Dr J. Fiala. Dvořák entered the manuscript (Ex. 5.4, 5.5), his first attempt at writing a symphony, in a German competition, after which he never saw it again. He did not return to the C Minor Symphony, and thus it was never performed in his lifetime.40 According to Tachovsky (op. cit.) the Symphony’s first trombone part has always been played on tenor trombone in Prague. The fact that Dvořák did not include the C Minor Symphony, amongst his symphonies shown on the list pictured in Fig. 5.4, indicates that he apparently did not consider it a proper work of professional merit.

Figure 5.4: List of Dvořák’s symphonies, written in his own hand (with the C Minor Symphony omitted)41 Courtesy of Dr. Hallová, Dvořák Museum, Prague.

Dvořák’s Second Symphony of 1865, which he commenced almost immediately upon completing the C Minor, also appears to bear ‘traces… of the author’s lack of experience’.42 For example, from page 187 of the autograph (bar 166 of the fourth movement) to the end of the Symphony, Dvořák inadvertently uses an alto clef sign for the second trombone, although he continues to write as if in tenor clef. Before submitting it to Simrock for consideration in 1887 – at which time the publisher rejected the work – Dvořák ‘carried out a new and thorough revision of the work’,43 František Bartoš, ‘Preface’, Bartoš (ed.) to Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No. 2 in Bb Major (op. 4), Complete Edition, Prague, 1959, pp. xiv-xv. Trans. R. Finlayson-Samsour. and in 1888, during rehearsals for the first performance, ‘once again Dvořák went through the work [and] made various changes’.44 Ibid., p. xv. Whether Dvořák originally made as severe upper-register demands on the first trombonist as those of his C Minor Symphony is difficult to ascertain because:

a complete reconstruction of the original text is impossible owing, on the one hand, to the loss of manuscript material (sheets removed from the original score and, today, no longer extant) and, on the other, to the fact that it is not possible in many cases to discover the original version even from the autograph as it was usually carefully scratched out.45 ‘Editor’s notes’, ibid., no page number.

Nonetheless, it is possible to discern from the autograph score that Dvořák originally included a number of very taxing passages for the first trombone that were eventually modified or eliminated in the final published form (see Ex. 5.6).

5:3:1 Dvořák’s score writing

In examining the notation of the trombone parts in the scores of Dvořák’s symphonic works, a pattern appears to emerge. In his first five symphonies, between 1865 and 1875, Dvořák uses three staves, indicating ‘alto’, ‘tenor’ and ‘basso’ with their corresponding clefs;46 The trombone clef notation that Dvořák employed, as well as his concept of first trombone range, may have been influenced by his early study of Mendelssohn’s works. Jarmil Burghauser, personal correspondence, 30.4.96. this occurs as well in his first four operas and the first version of Patriotic Hymn.47 Burghauser, personal correspondence, 10.5.96. Burghauser writes that:

separately stands his 1874 Rhapsody in A Minor in which the trombones, coupled with the tuba for the first time in his output, are written on two staves, the upper one for ‘tromboni I, II’ in the tenor clef.48 Ibid.

However, any evidence one might wish to find of a difference in the style of trombone writing in the Rhapsody, or of a lower tessitura for the first trombone, is not present.

Beginning with the 1877 Stabat Mater49 Premièred in Prague in 1880, this is apparently the first work in the standard repertoire in which a tenor trombonist is required to play as high as d”. Dvořák demanded this note in only two other instances: the Finale of Symphony No. 6 in D Major, and his First Symphony. (Ex. 5.7, 5.8) and continuing with his Symphony No. Six in 1880 (Ex. 5.9) through to 1885, Dvořák, in common with a number of Russian composers, (see n. 117, Chapter 2), uses two-stave writing for the trombones, scoring the ‘alto’ and ‘tenor’ on a single stave of alto clef 50 Burghauser, personal correspondence, 10.5.96. In the Finale of his First Symphony Dvořák writes the first two trombone parts on a single stave in alto clef. See also Chapter 1, nn. 106, 147; Chapter 2, n. 117. (for instance, see Hutsiská, autograph score, Ex. 5.10). Exceptions to this manner of notation occur in the 1878 Slavonic Dances (Dvořák refers to the section merely as ‘3 Posaunen’ as shown in Example 5.11), and the minor 1879 work, Polonaise in Eb (all three trombones are placed on one staff of bass clef.51 Ibid. ) As with the Rhapsody in A Minor mentioned above, the changes of nomenclature and clef are not reflected by any variance in the style of writing. The first symphony in which Dvořák does not designate the trombones by their traditional names is No. 8 in G Major of 1889, but with trombones ‘1’ and ‘2’ still sharing a stave in alto clef.52 Consequently, in some publications of Dvořák’s works in which the engraver has copied the trombone parts without changing the composer’s clefs, both the first and the second trombone appear in alto clef. In the Preface to the critical edition of Symphony No. 5 in F Major the editor states that: ‘Simrock’s proof-reader, Robert Keller’s… editorial changes affect the autograph, insofar as… the second trombone, which in the autograph has its own stave in tenor clef… is inscribed in the stave for first trombone (in alto clef)’. František Bartoš, ‘Preface’ to Antonín Dvořák, Symphony Five in F Major, Complete Edition, Prague, 1960, p. xvii. With the help of data collected by Otakar Šourek. Trans. George Theimer.

Although in his Ninth Symphony (1893) Dvořák again refers to the trombones by numeral (Ex. 5.12), the first-printed edition by Simrock calls them ‘alto’, ‘tenor’ and ‘bass’.53 Niefend, Simrock archivist, personal correspondence with the author, 16.4.96. The fact that Dvořák did not proof-read the galleys but left this up to Brahms and Simrock may account for this,54 Burghauser, personal correspondence, 28.4.96. as well as for the fact that in the Simrock edition the tuba joins the trombones in the chorale at the end of the second movement. In the autograph this is not indicated (see Ex. 5.13); the original, handwritten first trombone part is in alto clef but labelled ‘trombone 1’ (see Ex. 5.14).

In all of Dvořák’s post-1893 autograph scores that were available to view, comprising the Carnival Overture, the Wild Dove (Ex. 5.15) and his last work, Armida (Ex. 5.16), the trombones continue to be designated sequentially55 Or ‘tromboni [and] bass tromboni’. – the first two trombones sharing a stave in alto clef – with no divergence in the style of trombone writing. Perhaps it is this score notation that led Warburton erroneously to assert that Dvořák wrote for two alto trombones.56 See Chapter 1, nn. 148, 149.

5:4 Dvořák: The Historical Context

Nor does it appear that Dvořák, as often contended by leading orchestral trombonists, ever wrote for a single alto trombone. Historical evidence points to the conclusion that Dvořák composed for a trombone section consisting of two Bb tenor valve-trombones and a bass valve-trombone, probably pitched in F. Given the lack of surviving erste Abschriftstimmen, the value of examining a composer and his works in a historical context to arrive at an understanding of his writing is aptly demonstrated above. Without this perspective one might assume that the young Dvořák, who knew only valved tenor and bass trombones, and given the lack of extensive brass-choir writing and the tessitura demanded of the first trombone, composed the C Minor Symphony with an alto (slide) trombone in mind. Moreover, because Dvořák’s trombone writing does not in general reflect an obvious bias towards valves, it would not be readily apparent to someone unaware of the enormous advances made in trombone technique and especially legato playing during the last century that Dvořák was in fact writing for the valve trombone. As with Bruckner and Brahms, the nomenclature and clefs Dvořák used in his manuscripts, as well as the manner in which he wrote, are too often unreliable indicators of the type of first trombone for which he composed.

Coda: The Orchestral Alto Trombone in the Twentieth Century

Generally speaking, after Brahms’s Fourth Symphony the alto trombone seems to have disappeared rapidly from view. It would still see service in the Church in the Posaunenchor or as a Kirchenchorzugposaune, but as far as the symphony orchestra was concerned, by 1914 Cecil Forsyth would declare the alto trombone ‘obsolete’, placing it in the same category as the serpent, tenoroon and Zink.1 Cecil Forsyth, Orchestration, London, 1914, pp. 4-5, 89, 137. However, on p. 135 he appears to make some concession, declaring the instrument merely ‘practically obsolete’. Yet only a year earlier Schoenberg had included an alto trombone part in the première of his massive tone-poem Gurrelieder,2 Composed between 1900 and 1901, Gurrelieder was not orchestrated until the years 1910-11. Robin Gregory, The Trombone: The Instrument and its Music, London, 1973, p. 9. as well as in Pelleas und Melisande which had received performances in Vienna3 The Vienna Vereinigung Schaffender Tonkünstler put on the first performance under the direction of the composer: O. W. Neighbour, ‘Schoenberg’ in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, 1980, vol. 16, p. 703. and Berlin4 Charles Rosen, Schoenberg, London, 1976, p. 12. in 1905 and 1907 respectively. Around the same time, Mahler had suggested the alto trombone be used in passages of his Sixth and Seventh Symphonies, and in 1911 Bartók employed no fewer than four altos in the stage band for his opera Bluebeard’s Castle5 Forsyth’s statement would have pre-dated the 1918 première in Budapest, as well as the first issue of the full printed score in 1925 by Universal Edition. (Ex. C.13). Most likely influenced by Schoenberg, Alban Berg6 The ‘Altenberglieder’ were not published until 1966; movements I and II of Drei Orchesterstücke were first performed in 1923; and Berg’s revised version was published in 1929 by Universal Edition (the original version has never been published) with the first full performance taking place the following year. also called for an alto trombone in his Fünf Orchesterlieder nach Ansichtskartentexten von Peter Altenberg (completed in 1912) in the original 1914 version of Drei Orchesterstücke (Ex. C.1, C.3) and in his 1925 opera Wozzeck (Ex. C.5).

The manner in which these composers employed the alto, however, was a clear departure from the way it had been used in the past. Berg, for example, used the instrument not so much for its tone colour but, taking up where Berlioz left off, as a means of extending the trombone section’s upper range. The statement by the former Universal Edition editor H. E. Apostel that appears in the score of the 1929 version of Drei Orchesterstücke (Ex. C.2, C.4), reveals that for Berg the alto was merely one of two options in this regard:

Die 1. Posaune war ursprünglich im Alt-Schlüssel notiert. Aus technischen Gründen und mit Einverständnis des Autors wurde die 1. Posaunenstimme nachträglich in den Tenorschlüssel transponiert. Die mitunter exorbitante Höhenlage erfordert daher die Hinzuziehung einer Alt-Posaune oder einer Trompete in tief Es.7 ‘The first trombone part was originally written in alto clef. Due to technical reasons, and with the permission of the composer, the first trombone part has been subsequently transposed into tenor clef. The occasional extreme upper register therefore necessitates the employment of either an alto trombone or an Eb bass trumpet.’ H. E. Apostel, Alban Berg: Drei Stücke, Op. 6, Neufassung von 1929, Universal Edition, Vienna, 1954.

Moreover, in Berg’s Wozzeck (Ex. C.5), although the autograph8 Claudia Patsch, Copyright Editor, Universal Edition (Vienna), personal interview 20.11.96. and the Universal Edition score9 Alban Berg, Wozzeck, Oper in 3 Akten (composed 1926), revised by H. E. Apostel according to the final corrections and amendments left by the composer, Universal Edition, Vienna, 1955, p. viii. specify that the first trombone is to be played on an alto, most of the part is better suited to the tenor; indeed the composer has written some notes that are too low to be played on the alto.10 Examples C.5 and C.6 show how these passage can be executed by having the second trombone cover for the alto trombone. Nonetheless, this appears to be the last time in the standard orchestral repertoire that the alto instrument is specifically indicated. Oddly, there is no indication on the trombone part itself (‘1. Posaune’) that an alto is required.

Lulu, composed more than a decade later, includes similar upper-range parts for the first trombone, yet significantly the autograph does not specify an alto trombone.11 Although Berg’s untimely death from an insect bite in 1935 prevented him from completing the orchestration, he was clearly the author of these upper register sections, which occur in the second act. Not only did Berg have ‘a complete and very carefully worked out preliminary score for Lulu’ (Willi Reich, ‘Alban Berg’s Lulu’, Musical Quarterly 12 (October 1936), p. 401n: trans. M.D. Herter Norton) but, according to George Perle, he had finished the instrumentation through the first 286 bars of Act III scene i (George Perle, ‘Berg’ in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. ii, p. 537); indeed, the highest passages also occur in Berg’s 1934 Lulu Suite. Notwithstanding this, the instrument is frequently used by modern performers in at least the two passages shown in Ex. C.6.

As in Wozzeck, Berg combines both extremities of the trombone range within the same passage, thus technically precluding the use of the alto.12 See Examples C.5 and C.6. Unlike in Wozzeck, however, the highest sections of Lulu are either doubled by the trumpets or cued into their parts ‘falls für 1. Posaune unspielbar’,13 ‘in case it is unplayable by the first trombone’, autograph score. because ‘die 1. Posaune die Höhe nicht hat’14 ‘the first trombone cannot play that high’, ibid. See Examples C.2, C.3. (see Examples C.5 and C.6). Paradoxically, in the Altenberg Lieder (op. 4), which do not ascend as high as Lulu, Berg did specify an alto trombone, although there are discrepancies between the autograph score and the Universal Edition publication regarding its usage. According to Dr Regina Busch of the Alban Berg Institute, Berg specifies four trombones, ATTB, in the general Besetzungsliste of the autograph.15 Regina Busch, personal correspondence with the author, 27.8.96. The Universal Edition score it is simply ‘4 Posaunen’. Moreover, the alto trombone in the published score is indicated on only two occasions: in Lied II (bars 6-7 and presumably 9, as shown in Ex. C.7) and in Lied IV (at bar 12, ending at bar 22, in Ex. C.8). According to Dr Busch, however, Berg calls for the alto trombone in all movements on the autograph score.

In the fifth Lied of the UE edition (Ex. C.9), the F and Ab in the first trombone part of bar 24 are bracketed, meaning that they can be omitted. As these notes are impossible (i.e. too low) to play on an alto, this seems to imply that the alto trombone, though not specified for this movement, was nevertheless intended. The autograph is equally ambiguous.16 The original first trombone part (erste Abschriftstimme) is identical to the autograph in this respect. Designating the first trombone ‘Alt (Tenor)’ in the fifth Lied, Berg brackets the F and Ab in bar 24 and thus seems to suggest that if an alto is used rather than a tenor, the first two notes should be omitted. Yet a trombonist would hardly choose to perform this passage on an alto as it ascends only to the note e and is far more practical for a tenor trombone.17 Similarly, Berg brackets an E in Drei Stücke. However, unlike the Altenberglieder, the note occurs in a context in which the trombonist may prefer to use the alto. In the UE publication of Wozzeck, as mentioned above, notes that are unplayable on the alto trombone are left unbracketed. Indeed, the same can be said for all but five bars of the entire piece, including passages in the second and fourth movements. Since much of the trombone part is either muted or in a nearly inaudible pianissimo, it seems unlikely that Berg was utilising the instrument for the sake of its tone colour. Berg’s curious scoring for the alto in this, his earliest work for large orchestra, suggests perhaps that he was uncertain whether a trombonist could be asked to double on the alto and tenor during the same work.18 See n. 21 in Introduction to Part II, p. 92. In Pfitzner’s 1917 opera Palestrina the following solo for tenor trombone appears.
B. Schott’s Söhne: If the player finds the highest notes too difficult, it is suggested that the first horn play these notes instead. If alto ‘doublers’ were commonplace, a more obvious solution would surely have been to score the solo for the alto trombone.
Moreover, according to Kunitz:

Solo for tenor trombone in Pfitzner's Palestrina

Ganz allgemein ist zu beachten, daß heute kein Spieler mehr ausschließlich auf die Alt-posaune spezialisiert ist. Die Altposaune wird vielmehr nur im Bedarfsfälle von den Tenorposaunisten übernommen, wobei sich diese jedesmal auf die kürzeren Positionsabstände der Altposaune umstellen müssen. Welche technischen Ansprüche hierbei an die Posaunisten gestellt werden, zeigt sinngemäß die Tatsache, daß nur sehr selten ein Spieler zwischen der Violine und der Bratsche alterniert.19 ‘Quite generally one has to realize that today no player is exclusively specialising in the alto trombone any more. The alto trombone is, rather, taken over when the need arises by tenor trombonists, at which time they always have to readjust to the alto trombone’s shorter distance between positions. The technical demands which are thus put on the trombonists are fittingly highlighted by the fact that only rarely has a player to alternate between violin and viola.’ Hans Kunitz, Die Instrumentation: ein Handbuch-und-Lehrbuch, 3rd edition, Leipzig, 1970, p. 794. Translation H. Braunlich.

Kunitz’s opinion notwithstanding, the statement by Del Mar in regard to the first trombone part of the Drei Orchestertücke that ‘the player… will use either the alto or tenor according to range’20 Norman Del Mar, Anatomy of the Orchestra, London, 1981, pp. 298-99. is equally applicable to other works by Berg.

One might regard with surprise Dr Mark Hartman’s contention that ‘there is no indication in the score’21 Mark Hartman, ‘The Use of the Alto Trombone in Symphonic and Operatic Orchestral Literature’, DMA thesis, Arizona State University, 1985, p. 48. of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony of the use of an alto trombone, since Mahler specifically wrote in the autograph score that a four-bar ‘sehr weich geblasen’22 ‘very softly played’. Mahler, Seventh Symphony, facsimile edition, Book II, Rosbeek Publications, 1995, p. 42. passage in the first movement could be played ‘eventuell auf Alt Posaune’.23 ‘perhaps on the alto trombone’. Ibid. In the present author’s opinion, this suggestion was thought by the composer to facilitate soft, delicately legato playing in the upper register24 Today it is unlikely that a professional trombonist would consider this a useful suggestion. (see Ex. C.10).

The following passage, occurring at bar 146 in the last movement of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, includes the rather curious instruction ‘auf Alt-Posaune zu blasen’,25 ‘to be played on the alto trombone’. These instructions appear in the autograph score (Otto Biba, Director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien Archives, personal correspondence with the author, 23.9.96). presumably to facilitate reaching the a’ in pianissimo, although Mahler required higher notes from the tenor trombone in this and earlier symphonies. Moreover, since the trombone part is played in octaves with the first trumpet, both con sordino, one does not feel the composer was using the alto in order to exploit its unique timbre (Ex. C.11).

A number of professional trombonists oppose using the alto as an upper-register aid. Glen Dodson, former Principal Trombonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, is one. Dr Hartman reported that Dodson:

believes that trombonists many times use it because it makes notes in the high register easier. Some trombonists have difficulty, and they resort to the alto trombone. He maintains that this is not a good reason for the use of the alto trombone.26 Mark Hartman, op. cit., p. 93.

Schoenberg, on the other hand, used the alto trombone primarily to add to the panoply of orchestral tone colours. Yet the powerful dynamics that he frequently demanded of the alto trombone within a large orchestral context – a function for which the instrument was not designed – often leads to a forced shrillness, resulting in a distortion and loss of its unique timbre (Ex. C.12, C.13, C.14).27 According to Flandrin, ‘notre époque, en son esprit d’art nouveau, a […] introducé l’abus du trombone;… beaucoup de compositeurs, comptant en obtenir des effects grandioses, n’en tirent que de bruit… souvent, le trombone perd ses effects de grandeur et de son coloris… car la prédominance de la rudesse et de la vulgarité à l’orchestre, et devient bientôt fatigante pour les auditeurs’ (‘Our age, with its spirit of art nouveau, has introduced the abuse of the trombone… many composers, counting on obtaining grandiose effects, produce only noise… often, the trombone loses its effective grandeur and its colour… because of the predominance of its roughness and vulgarity in the orchestra, it soon becomes fatiguing for the audience.’ Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1659). Over a century earlier, John Marsh expressed similar sentiments about trombone playing in general. See John Marsh, Hints to Young Composers of Instrumental Music, London, ca. 1807; reprinted in the Galpin Society Journal 18 (1965), pp. 57-71 and ‘Introduction to Part I’, n. 23. Similarly, one must question Bartók’s call for four alto trombones in Bluebeard’s Castle, not only in a register but in a dynamic more suited to tenor trombones,28 Dr Edward Higginbottom’s suggestion that Bartók ‘may have had the alto’s shrillness in mind’ (personal correspondence 24.11.98) is highly unlikely given that the four alto trombones are reserved for the warmest, most luxuriant moment of the opera, when Bluebeard’s immense wealth is portrayed (the opening of the fifth door). Harshness hardly seems likely to have been the sound Bartók would have been deliberately seeking for this scene. Moreover, it is the alto’s upper register which is associated with shrillness. In the register and dynamic in which the alto trombones are written, there would be a tendency to blat – also unsuitable. Bartók’s scoring remains open to speculation, as it appears that the altos were used for practical rather than musical reasons. as seen in Ex. C.15.

The slide technique and the instinctive familiarity with alternate positions that Schoenberg requires – unlike anything previously written for the alto29 Schoenberg wrote alto trombone parts that were more technically demanding than the colla voce passages of Bach and Mozart, and indeed far more so than any alto trombone concerto or obbligato. The same can also be said of Berg’s Wozzeck. – calls for a virtuoso command of the instrument. Given the disuse into which the alto had fallen,30 As late as 1958 Stravinsky lamented the dearth of alto trombonists: ‘I wish there were more good players… for the alto trombone’. Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Conversations with Igor Stravinsky, London, 1958, p. 30. one wonders whether first trombonists originally performed these parts entirely on an alto, or whether the instrument was reserved for the occasional high note.31 In 1925 the Encyclopédie de la Musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire stated that ‘passé l’ut aigu, le trombone ténor ne s’écrit plus sans danger’ (‘it is risky to write above c” for the tenor trombone’. Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1654, n. 12.

However, the following passage from Gurrelieder (Ex. C.16) could not be played on a tenor trombone, as Schoenberg clearly realised, because a glissando between eb’ and a is only possible on the Eb instrument. Schoenberg explains in the score:

Glissando der Posaunen wird folgendermassen ausgeführt: das Es wird als Oktav des ‘geschlossenen Zuges’ mit den Lippen fixiert und dann das Rohr ausgezogen respektive wieder zusammengeschoben.32 ‘The trombone glissando is to be executed in the following manner. The eb’ as the fundamental [of the octave] is set with the embouchure in first position and the slide is extended and then retracted anew, respectively.’ Arnold Schoenberg, Gurrelieder, Universal Edition, Vienna, 1920.

In Pelleas und Melisande (composed 1902-1903) Schoenberg used the alto rather curiously, rarely assigning it passages in the upper register, its distinct tone colour further obscured by frequent doublings. Robin Gregory states that Schoenberg used the alto trombone in Pelleas und Melisande ‘as if uncertain of its capabilities… It is not clear why it is used’33 Gregory, op. cit., pp. 109-110. (Ex. C.17).

Thanks to the creative use of the instrument in chamber works, such as Stravinsky’s Threni (1957-58) and The Flood (1961-62), Benjamin Britten’s Burning Fiery Furnace34 According to Sluchin, ‘Britten presents an example of alto trombone use that culminates in the many functions of the instrument over the past three centuries. The alto trombone doubles vocal lines much as it did in the late eighteenth century… [and] is used soloistically and as a unique colour in the heterogeneous orchestra much like the late nineteenth and twentieth-century composers’ music.’ (Benny Sluchin, ‘The Alto Trombone in the Twentieth Century Orchestra’, Brass Bulletin 75 (18 November 1994), pp. 56-7). Britten also introduces timbral innovations such as muted forte passages, pedal tones and sweeping, two-octave ‘against the grain’ glissandi. In his 1967 work for orchestra and chorus, The Building of the House, the ATB trombones are employed in the traditional Viennese fashion as colla voce accompaniment for the voices. Apparently for marketing purposes, Britten indicated that not only could the first trombone part be played on a tenor trombone, but that the work could be performed without a trombone section. (Benjamin Britten, The Building of the House, op. 79, Overture with or without Chorus, London, Faber Music, 1968.) Other composers who have written for the alto in chamber works include Boulez (Domaine, 1968), H.J. von Bose (Three Songs, 1978), E. Nunes (Musik der Frühe, 1980) and G. Amy (La Variation Ajoutée, 1984). All cited in Sluchin, op. cit., p. 57. Since around 1979 there has been a plethora of concertos written for alto trombone including Robert Hall Lewis’s Monophony VIII (Doblinger, 1979), Cesar Bresgen’s Konzert für Altposaune und Orchester (Breitkopf & Härtel, 1980), and Soli(solo)Loquy for Alto and Tenor Trombone with Piano by David Uber (Virgo Music, 1987). (1966) especially and to the growing appeal of the eighteenth century solo repertoire (not to mention orchestral doubling fees), the alto trombone has experienced a resurgence of interest on both sides of the Atlantic. The past decade or so has witnessed increasing use of the alto in those orchestral works which are perceived to have been written for it.35 Principal Trombonist Jay Friedman of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for example, relates how he now uses the alto far more extensively than he did ten years ago: ‘These days I like to use the alto on everything that was written for it’. He has had the Orchestra purchase a set of Glassl alto, tenor and bass trombones for the section. Personal interview, 9.9.96.

Modern Performance Practice

Eric Carlsen, Philadelphia Orchestra:

I like the alto very much in a small orchestra or choral setting. In a good 95+ piece orchestra, though, the sound is out of place.36 Cited in David Mathie’s, The Alto Trombone: Current Use and Performance Trends, University of Georgia, DMA, 1993, p. 166.

One of the factors most often cited by orchestral trombonists as a consideration in their choice of alto trombone is how well it blends with the rest of the section. Since the abandonment of the alto, and especially since the adoption of similar large-bore tenor trombones on the first and second parts, the concept of good section blend has come to mean matching sounds that produce a single, homogeneous, dark tone-colour, the complete antithesis of its original meaning, i.e. a balance among the three distinct trombone timbres of alto, tenor and bass, ‘bringing forth full harmony’.37 ‘Da dieses Instrument, wie die 3 Singstimmen Alt, Tenor, und Bass gebraucht wird, so ist es geeignet, eine ganz vollstimmige Harmonie hervorzubringen, die um so bestimmtere Effecte erzeugt…’: Joseph Fröhlich, Vollständige Theoretische-Pracktische Musikschule, vol. iii, ‘Von der Posaune’, Bonn, 1811, p. 27. (‘Because this instrument is used in three voices, alto, tenor and bass, it is suitable for bringing forth full harmony, which produces such a definite effect..’). Translation Guion, The Trombone, op. cit., p. 95. Thus when today’s player speaks of an alto trombone that ‘blends well with the section’, one might consider this a contradiction in terms.

The modern concept of orchestral alto trombone sound, as described by Ralph Sauer, Principal Trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is fairly typical:

The sound I try to produce is closer to the small bore tenor trombone than that which was probably traditional for the alto of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.38 Raph Sauer, ‘The Alto Trombone in the Symphony Orchestra’, ITA Journal 7 (July 1984), p. 41.

Amongst his reasons is the fact that ‘the second and bass trombones are larger than their earlier counterparts’.39 Ibid., p. 42. In order to produce this sound – a sound that matches the tenor and bass of the section – players look for large-bore alto trombones. According to Miles Anderson, ‘the alto trombones generally used today are larger than my tenor trombone in bore size. I was never interested in a 0.500″ bore alto. That’s a tenor in Eb’.40 Cited in Mathie, op. cit., p. 166. Thus John Kitzman, Principal Trombonist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, quite logically decides that ‘on piece[s] for which many would use an alto, I choose to use a Bach 36B [small bore] tenor trombone’,41 Cited in Hartman, op. cit., p. 102. for, as Larry Campbell of the Baton Rouge Symphony contends, today ‘a small-bore tenor with a small mouthpiece almost equals an alto’.42 Cited in Mathie, op. cit., p. 166.

One can only agree with Kunitz that:

da die klassischen Werke heute stets mit stärkerer Streicherbesetzung als zu ihrer Zeit aufgeführt werden… es ist auch an dieser Stelle darauf hinzuweisen, dass die Altposaune heute weiter mensuiert sein muss als in der vorklassischen und klassischen Zeit.43 ‘since today classical works are always performed with a stronger complement of strings than during the period of their origin… one must here also point out that today the alto trombone has to be wider than during the pre-classical and classical eras’. Kunitz, op. cit., pp. 619, 781. Trans. H. Braunlich.

However, one wonders if he imagined the alto would assume the overall dimensions which it has today,44 Kunitz’ estimate of a 13.24mm alto trombone bore ‘als Norm’ (Kunitz, op. cit., p. 781) appears to be a misprint, as this is nearly the size of some professional large-bore trombones used today. Indeed, Yamaha’s ‘standard trombone’, a medium-bore tenor, measures 12.77mm. Source: Yamaha Trombone Specifications Table 1996. with its trend towards ever greater proportions. Even when a player prefers a smaller sound for the alto, the choice may not be his, for the final decision is often left with the conductor. According to Richard Meyers, ‘most of the conductors that I have played for in thirty-five years seem to prefer the sound of the tenor over the alto’.45 Cited in Hartman, op. cit., p. 103. Kevin Price, Principal Trombonist of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, relates how a conductor once requested he play tenor trombone rather than the authentically appropriate alto for Mendelssohn’s Elijah.46 Kevin Price, personal correspondence with the author, 15.11.94. On one occasion the author was requested by Sir Simon Rattle to use a small-bore tenor trombone rather than an alto for Brahms’s Schicksalslied. Instead, unbeknown to Sir Simon, I used the new prototype Yamaha large-bore alto and Sir Simon praised my ‘small-bore tenor sound’.

The requirement that the alto should ‘fit in’ with the rest of the section is nowhere more evident than in the common practice of employing smaller-bore tenor and bass trombones in conjunction with the alto,47 Among those who advocate this practice are Principal Trombonists Ralph Sauer, Ron Barron, Dennis Smith (Toledo Symphony Orchestra), Bernard Schneider (formerly St Louis Symphony Orchestra), James Olin Jr. (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) and Milt Stevens (National Symphony Orchestra, Washington, DC – all cited in Hartman, op. cit., pp. 106, 86, 109, 107, 104, 111 respectively); Eric Crees (personal correspondence, 30.11.94); M. Wilson (Ulster Symphony Orchestra, personal correspondence, 12.11.94); Chris Mowat (BBC Symphony Orchestra, personal correspondence, 1.12.94); Brian Raby (formerly Welsh National Opera, personal correspondence, 22.11.94); Lance Green (Royal Scottish National Orchestra, personal correspondence, 15.12.94); Chris Houlding (English Northern Philharmonia, personal correspondence, 10.11.94); while Alan Pash (Orchestra of Scottish Opera, personal correspondence, 20.12.94); Dudley Bright (Philharmonia Orchestra, personal correspondence, 20.1.95); Warwick Tyrell (London Philharmonic, personal correspondence, 15.1.95) and Mike Hext (Royal Opera, Covent Garden, personal correspondence, 19.1.95) suggest small equipment be employed by the tenor and bass trombonist in earlier works such as those by Mozart. On the other hand, Jay Friedman and Mike Mulcahey (both Chicago Symphony Orchestra, personal interview, 9.9.96); William Gibson (formerly Boston Symphony Orchestra), Dave Fetter (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) and Robert Boyd (formerly Cleveland Symphony Orchestra – all cited in Hartman, ibid., pp. 99, 94, 89 respectively) and Peter Oram (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, personal correspondence, 31.1.95) are among those who disagree with this practice. due to the fact that ‘the second and bass trombones are larger than their earlier counterparts’, but losing sight of the fact that today’s alto is also larger than its predecessors. The result can be a further minimizing and blurring of the alto trombone’s timbral distinctiveness. The following statement by Schweitzer demonstrates that the proportional relationship maintained between the individual trombones is analogous to the size of the choirs which they traditionally accompany:

Zu bemerken ist, das die damaligen Posaunen, weil sie enger mensuriert waren, nicht so stark, dafür aber heller klangen als die unsrigen da unsere Chöre auch bedeutend stärker sind als die Bachschen, so ist die Proportion dennach gewahrt.48 ‘It should be noted that the trombones of that time, due to their narrower dimensions, were not so strong as today’s and had a brighter sound; since our choirs are decidedly stronger than those in Bach’s time, the proportional relationship is maintained.’ Albert Schweitzer, Johann Sebastian Bach, Leipzig, 1908, p. 796.

We appear to be at a pivotal juncture in the alto trombone’s history. On the one hand, the use of the alto is more widespread than at any time previously, as composers such as Britten have successfully maintained the essence of its traditional character while at the same time introducing it to contemporary innovations. On the other hand, instrument manufacturers, responding to the demands of players and conductors, are producing alto trombones with increasingly larger dimensions and are thus departing significantly from the historical concept of alto trombone sound. In this respect, it seems we have come full circle. At one time, non-alto-playing trombonists frequently used a small-bore tenor trombone to facilitate the upper register demands of works of earlier composers and to approximate the sound of the alto. Now players appear to be turning to large-bore alto trombones that sound like small-bore tenors and using them as an upper-register aid in pieces by contemporary composers. Moreover, the intrinsic beauty of the alto trombone sound is frequently forfeited when the instrument is played as part of large orchestrations, in immense concert halls and at the dynamic levels demanded by some twentieth-century composers. Having nearly slipped into obsolescence through disuse, it would indeed be ironic if the resurgence of interest enjoyed by the alto trombone today led to its eventual extinction as a perceptibly distinct timbral entity.


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La Coruna d’Italia, in Carl Boosé (ed.), Military Journal, series 46, no. 2, Bossey & Co., London, 1880.

Schoenberg, Arnold, Gurrelieder, Universal Edition, Vienna, 1920.

Schubert, Franz, Des Teufels Lustschloss in Franz Schubert’s Werke: Kritische durchgesehene Gesamtausgabe: Dramatische Musik, Serie 15, erster Band, Leipzig, 1888.
Messe in As. Erste Fassung in Doris Finke-Hecklinger (ed.), Franz Schubert, Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, Serie 1, Kirchenmusik, Band 3: Teil a, Kassel, 1980.
Messe in As. ZweiteFassung in Doris Finke-Hecklinger (ed.), Franz Schubert, Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, Serie 1, Kirchenmusik, Band 3: Teil b, Kassel, 1980.
Symphony No. 9 in Roger Fiske (ed.), Symphony No. 9, C-Dur, D.944 by Franz Schubert, London (Eulenburg), 1984.
C Major Symphony in Franz Schuberts Werke Kritische durchgesehene Gesamtausgabe: Symphonien für Orchester, Serie 1, zweiter Band, Leipzig, 1885.

Schumann, Robert, Symphonien für Orchester, Partituren, Serie I, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1967.

Shifrin, Ken (ed.), The Orchestral Doubler’s Handbook: Alto Trombone Orchestral Excerpts, Nottingham: Virgo Music Publishers, 1987.

Thomas, Ambroise, Hamlet, Opéra en cinq actes, Paris: Heugel, 1869.

von Weber, C. M., Der Freischütz, Romantische Oper in drei Aufzügen, Broude Bros, New York [no date given].
Euryanthe, Grosse Romantische Oper in 3 Akten, Breitkopf & Härtel, Berlin, 1866.
Oberon, Romantische Oper in drei Akten, Breitkopf & Härtel, Berlin [no date given].

Wagner, Richard, Rienzi der letzte der Tribunen in Reinhard Strohm and Egon Voss (eds), Sämtliche Werke, Band 3, v, 1991; Band 3, ii, 1975; Band 3, ii, 1976; Band 3, iv, 1977, Mainz.
Rule Britannia, erste Ausgabe, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1908.
Konzert-Ouverture in C Dur, erste Ausgabe, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1926.

Manuscript Sources
Chapter 1

[Sweden] Stockholm, Kungliga Musikaliska Akademiens Bibliotek, Eggert, Symphony in Eb Major, autograph score.

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of Mag. Ingrid Lies of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien, Schubert, C Major Symphony, original handwritten alto and tenor trombone parts.

Chapter 2

[France] Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Opéra de Paris,MS.3968[I], Thomas, Hamlet (1868), autograph score.

[France] Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Opéra de Paris,A.531.a[I], Thomas, Ouverture du Compte de Carmagnola, 1841, autograph score.

[France] Paris, courtesy of Bibliothèque de l’Opéra de Paris, Halévy: Guido et Ginévra, 1838, autograph score.

[France] Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Opéra de Paris, MAT.19, Halévy, Le Juif Errant, 1852, original handwritten part.

Chapter 3

[Austria] St Florian, courtesy of Dr. Buchmeyer, Librarian, Stift St. Florian Archives, Bruckner, Eb Messe Kyrie.

[Austria] St Florian, courtesy of Stift Seitensletten Archivist, P. Wagner, Bruckner, Aequale, autograph score.

[Austria] St Florian, Stift St. Florian Archives (20/26), Bruckner, Aequale, original handwritten trombone parts.

[Germany] Regensburg, Bruckner, Psalm 114, autograph, in August Göllerich and Max Auer, Anton Bruckner: Ein Lebens- und Schaffens-Bild, Band II, 2 Teil, 1928.

[Austria] St Florian, Stift St. Florian Archives (20/34), Bruckner, Libera Me, original handwritten trombone parts.

[Austria] St Florian, Stift St. Florian Archives (19/8), Bruckner, ‘Auf Brüder auf die Saiten zur Hand’ from the Kantate für Prälat Meyer, autograph score.

[Austria] St Florian, Stift St. Florian Archives (19/8), Bruckner, ‘Auf Brüder auf die Saiten zur Hand’ from the Kantate für Prälat Meyer, original first trombone part.

[Austria] St Florian, Stift St. Florian Archives (20/52), Bruckner, Afferentur Regi, autograph score.

[Austria] St Florian, Stift St. Florian Archives (20/52), Bruckner, Afferentur Regi, original alto trombone part.

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of the Wiener Stadtbibliothek, Bruckner, Overture in G Minor, Abschrift of score.

[Austria] Stift Kremsmünster Archives [c. 56.7], Bruckner, Symphony in F Minor, autograph score.

[Austria] Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek [MUS Hs 3156], Bruckner, Psalm 112,autograph.

[Austria] StiftKremsmünster Archives [c. 56.6], Bruckner, Germanenzug, autograph score.

[Austria] Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek [MUS Hs 6074(97)], Bruckner, D Minor Mass, original alto trombone part.

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of the Wiener Stadtbibliothek, Bruckner, Drei Orchestersätze, ‘Nr 3’ 1862, autograph score.

[Austria] Vienna, Wiener Stadtbibliothek [MH3794/c], Bruckner, Marsch in D moll, 1862, autograph score.

[Austria] Vienna, ÖsterreichischeN ationalbibliothek [MUS Hs 3168], Bruckner, Marsch in Es dur, 1865,autograph score.

[Austria] Linz, courtesy of Prälat Gottfried Schicklberger, Domdechant u. Ordinariatskanzler, Maria Empfängnis Dom in Linz, Bruckner, E Minor Mass, 1882 version, manuscript score.

[Austria] Linz, courtesy of Prälat GottfriedS chicklberger, Domdechant u. Ordinariatskanzler, Maria Empfängnis Dom in Linz, Bruckner, E Minor Mass (Niederschrift), 1866 version, manuscript score.

[Austria] Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek [MUS Hs 2106], Bruckner, E Minor Mass, 1866 version, autograph score.

[Austria] Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek [s.m. 6075], Bruckner, E Minor Mass, 1866 version, original alto trombone part.

[Austria] St Florian, courtesy of Dr Buchmeyer, Librarian, Stift St. Florian Archives, Bruckner, Inveni David.

[Austria] Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien Archiv [XIII 38029], Bruckner, Sinfonie Nr. 1, ‘Linzer’, 1866version, original handwritten first trombone part.

[Austria] Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien Archiv [XIII 45.468], Bruckner, Sinfonie Nr. 1, ‘Wiener’, 1891version, original handwritten first trombone part.

[Austria] Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, [MUS Hs 40.400], Bruckner, Sinfonie Nr. 1, ‘Linzer’, 1866 version, autograph score.

[Austria] Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, [MUS Hs 19.473], Bruckner, Sinfonie Nr. 1, ‘Wiener’, 1891 version, autograph score.

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of Dr Clemens Hellsberg, Vienna Philharmonic archivist and librarian, Bruckner, Symphonie No 1, ‘Wiener’,1891 version, dedication score.

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of Mag. Ingrid Lies of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien, Bruckner, Symphony in D Minor, ‘Nullte’, original, first trombone part.

[Austria] Vienna, Gesellschäft der Musikfreunde in Wien Archiv [III 26428], Bruckner, Symphonie No 3, original first trombone part.

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of Dr Clemens Hellsberg, Vienna Philharmonic archivist and librarian, Bruckner, Symphonie No 3, 1890.

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of Dr Clemens Hellsberg, Vienna Philharmonic archivist and librarian, Bruckner, Symphony No.4.

Chapter 4

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of Dr Clemens Hellsberg, Vienna Philharmonic archivist and librarian, Bruckner, Symphony No 6.

[USA] New York, courtesy of J. Rigbie Turner, Mary Flagler Cary, Curator of Music Manuscripts and Books of the Pierpont Morgan Library, Brahms, Symphony No. 2.

[Austria] Vienna, courtesy of Dr Otto Biba, Archivdirektor, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien, Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, autograph score.

[USA] New York, courtesy of J. Rigbie Turner, Pierpont Morgan Library, Brahms, Symphony No. 1.

[Germany] Berlin, courtesy of Stadtbibliothek zu Berlin, Brahms, Akademische Festouvertüre, autograph score.

[USA] Standford CA, courtesy of Eleanore Stewart, Department of Special Collections, The Stanford University Libraries, Brahms, Tragische Ouvertüre, autograph score.

[USA] Washington DC, Library of Congress [ML30,8bCase], Brahms, Begräbnisgesang, autograph score.

[USA] Washington DC, Library of Congress [ML96.B68 Case], Brahms, Schicksalslied, autograph score.

[Germany] Krefeld, courtesy of Stadtarchivardirektor Schalte, Stadtarchiv Krefield, Brahms, Parzengesang, autograph score.

[Switzerland] Zürich, Johannes Brahms, 4.Symphonie in E-moll, op. 98, Facsimile (Edition Eulenberg), Adliswil-Zürich, 1974, autograph score.

Chapter 5

[Czech Republic] Prague, courtesy of Dr Hallová, Director, Dvořák Museum, Dvořák, Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, autograph score.

[Czech Republic] Prague, Dvořák Museum, [8232], Dvořák, Stabat Mater, autograph score.

[Czech Republic] Prague, Dvořák Museum, [8786], Dvořák, Slavonic Dances, autograph score.

[Czech Republic] Prague, courtesy of Dr Hallová, Director, Dvořák Museum, Dvořák, Symphony No. 6 in D Major, autograph score.

[Czech Republic] Prague, courtesy of Dr Hallová, Director, Dvořák Museum, Dvořák, Husitská, autograph score.

[Czech Republic] Prague, courtesy of Dr Hallová, Director, Dvořák Museum, Dvořák, New World Symphony, autograph score.

[USA] New York, courtesy of Richard Wandel, Project Archivist, New York Philharmonic, Dvořák, New World Symphony, original handwritten first trombone part.


[Austria] Vienna, Lehmann Collection, courtesy of Regina Busch, Alban Berg Gesamtausgabe, Berg, Drei Orchesterstücke, original autograph (1913).

[Austria] Vienna, Universal Edition, courtesy of Claudia Patsch, Berg, Drei Orchesterstücke, edited version(1923).

[USA] New York, Universal Edition, Vienna, © 1923[U.E. No. 7396] from Pierpont Morgan Library, Berg, Drei Orchesterstücke, autograph score with corrections and revisions.

[Netherlands] Amsterdam, Mahler, Facsimile Edition of the Seventh Symphony, Rosbeek, 1995.

Appendix 1

Benjamin Britten: The Burning Fiery Furnace

Humphrey Carpenter describes Britten’s use of the alto in his parable for church performance thus:

Melodrak, the heathen image raised up by the Babylonians, is musically characterised by glissandi, which sounds especially gross because Britten has added, to the instruments used in Curlew River, an alto trombone representing the ‘sackbut’ mentioned in the biblical text. It slides about the notes grotesquely in the Melodrak music and also emphasises the pomposity of the ‘Empire’ passages.1 Humphrey Carpenter, Benjamin Britten, London, 1992, p. 461.

Example A.1.1: Britten, The Burning Fiery Furnace, alto trombone extracts, Faber2 Source: Ken Shifrin, The Orchestral Doubler’s Handbook: Alto Trombone Orchestral Excerpts, Nottingham: Virgo Music, 1987, pp. 14-20.

Alto trombone extract 1 Alto trombone extract 2 Alto trombone extract 3 Alto trombone extract 4

In the following correspondence, Britten discusses with Roger Brenner (the trombonist who was to première the work) the glissandi, pedal tones, and other facets of the work that the composer was in the process of developing.

Figure A1.1

Britten-Brenner correspondence 1 Britten-Brenner correspondence 2

Figure A1.2

Britten-Brenner correspondence 3

Appendix 2

I. Alto Trombone Technical Innovations: Gadgets, Gimmicks and Gizmos?

In 1925 M. G. Flandrin wrote that since the Eb alto had inherent structural defects that had existed since its inception1 Flandrin, op. cit., p. 1655. , it had become necessary to construct a new model pitched in Db.2 ‘a bell in better proportional relationship to the instrument’, ibid. The new alto was equipped with a semi-conical bore, a longer slide and ‘un pavaillon plus en rapport avec l’instrument’3 ‘a bell in better proportional relationship to the instrument’, ibid. , the Db alto never enjoyed widespread popularity even in France.4 ‘modern alto trombone in the key of Db’. Charles Kœchlin, Traité de l’Orchestration vol. ii, Paris, 1949, p. 93.

Among the recent innovations in Eb alto trombone design, the most significant has been the introduction of the valve attachment5 In 1920 the Leipzig trombonist Franz Seratin Alschausky patented a Bb tenor trombone with an Umschaltventil für F-Alt, a valve attachment that would raise the pitch of the tenor instrument up a fifth to F-Alto trombone, the purpose of which was two-fold: to eliminate difficult, long slide positions on the tenor, and to make a separate alto instrument superfluous (Heyde, op. cit., p. 241). While the absence of two distinct tone colours from this ‘double instrument’ allowed it to serve the first purpose admirably, the missing bright, alto timbre was a drawback in the latter case. Schmidtke and Dröse of Königsberg addressed this problem in 1929 with the construction of a double-belled trombone (ibid.). . This was developed by Thein at the end of the 1970s for the eminent trombonist Armin Rosin, the author’s colleague in the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra. I had an opportunity to test this instrument in its prototype phase. Fitted with two valves (one of which is detachable), it enables the performer to execute all the major and minor second trills that regularly appear in the alto trombone solo compositions of Leopold Mozart, Eberlin, Reutter, Wagenseil, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Albrechtsberger, among others. According to Thein:

wenn es sich hierbei auch nicht um eine instrumentenbauerische Lösung im Sinne der historischen Aufführungspraxis handelt, so entspricht diese Lösung der musikalischen Auffassung moderner Solo- und Orchesterposaunisten… sehr.6 ‘although this is a mechanical solution not in keeping with historical performing principles, it nevertheless suits the musical approach of modern solo and orchestral trombonists… very well’. Max and Heinrich Thein, ‘Neues uber Alt-Posaune’, Brass Bulletin 40 (1982), p. 33. Trans. Brass Bulletin.

Utilising just the fixed valve enables the player to lower the trombone’s pitch from Eb to Ab, which, although extending the range down to Eb, requires the player to learn an entire new set of positions and is thus of rather dubious benefit.

II.1 The Yamaha YSL673 alto trombone with detachable Bb valve

In 1994 I had the opportunity to test the prototype of this instrument. The following is extracted from the report I submitted.

To: Matthew Pollack and Fuji Ozawa, Yamaha Music Atelier, Research and Development, London

From: Ken Shifrin, Principal Trombone, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Date: 27 February 1994

Re: Preliminary evaluation report of the Yamaha Alto Trombone prototype YSL673 with detachable Bb valve.

The Yamaha YSL673 has a warm, full-bodied sound that matches well with the tenor and bass trombone of the orchestral section. It has the mellifluous, rich tone generally associated with the tenor trombone – indeed it has a tendency to sound somewhat like a small-bore tenor – which should make it attractive to many conductors. The YSL673’s lovely timbre makes it an excellent choice as a solo instrument. However, whether an alto soloist is looking for a brighter, smaller (more ‘authentic’?) sound is naturally subjective.

As far as the Bb valve is concerned, I have sketched out a number of examples from the orchestral repertoire that are less awkward (and probably better in tune) when the Bb valve is utilised. As one can observe, the main reason to use the Bb valve is to avoid 7th position e on the Eb alto, by providing alternative Trigger 2 (T2)7 7th position e is often played sharp for fear of losing the slide. . However, this note is relatively low for the alto register and does not often occur in the alto solo or orchestral repertoire. In this respect the YSL is superior to the non-detachable Bb valve of its counterpart, the Conn alto trombone, for although the Bb valve renders a good number of orchestral passages more fluid (and indeed some passages, as from Berg’s Lulu, are not even playable without it as the notes descend below the Eb’s register), it is an option that I feel many players will want but will not need most of the time.

As I have remarked previously, of more obvious value is the double-valve trill mechanism which permits one to trill minor and major seconds. (I mentioned that in Stuttgart I tried such an alto while it was being developed for Armin Rosin.) Even a single valve that enabled one to trill a half-step would be keenly sought, as it is the one interval that is impossible to produce by lip-trilling.

However, the exception to this statement is the fact that the Bb valve apparently enables the player to execute virtually all major and minor 2nd trills – either by availing oneself of alternative slide positions with the Bb horn and lip-trilling, or by using the Bb valve as a piston, thus filling the gap that exists on the Eb horn. (A chart is enclosed.) Problematic trills in the Albrechtsberger Concerto, the Wagenseil Concerto, the Leopold Mozart Concerto and Wolfgang Mozart’s ‘Jener Donnerworte Kraft’ – mainstays of the alto trombone solo repertoire – are thus rendered properly playable, where even the most masterful lip-triller was previously forced to ‘disguise’ them. (And bear in mind that there are a lot more less-than-masterful lip-trillers than there are masters!)

Analogous to the F horn on the Bb/F tenor trombone, the Bb valve on the Eb alto trombone provides only six positions as each succeeding position on the Bb horn is progressively longer than its Eb horn counterpart. Therefore, the lowest note available (non-pedal tone, that is) with the Bb valve is F in long-6th position or Trigger 6 (T6).

The low E in the passage from Berg’s Lulu should be playable in T6 by retuning the Bb valve to A, simply by fully extending the Bb tuning slide. Presently, however, the Bb tuning-slide is not long enough to lower the pitch a full half tone. Also, the ‘authentic’ execution of several trills – including the famous opening a’ to bb’ trill in the Albrechtsberger – requires the tuning-slide of the Bb horn to be lowered a semi-tone. Compared to the comparable Conn alto trombone, I found more resistance with the Yamaha in the crucial upper-register.

Therefore, since we are dealing with a prototype, I suggest you consider the following possibilities.

    The Bb valve tubing be made open-wrap.

    A Thayer-type valve be installed in order to reduce resistance and produce a better match between Bb horn and Eb horn timbres. I am not convinced that such a valve would create too little resistance in the upper register. Recall that the YSL671 straight horn seems to have more upper-register stuffiness than the Conn with Bb valve.

    The valve mechanism is presently positioned too low. It digs uncomfortably into the player’s neck. The accompanying sketch shows one way the above suggestions 1 and 2 could be designed and implemented, thus eliminating stuffiness and discomfort and providing the option to retune the Bb valve to A.

    So that one can take full advantage of the trill option, I suggest that the valve beredesigned for maximum trilling speed and comfort: a French Horn type valve, with minimum distance to travel (like the Conn valve), that can be operated by one’s strongest left-hand finger (i.e. the first or second finger) and positioned as the E-valve on the Bach bass trombone. The present valve is rather clumsy, slow and impractical as a trilling mechanism, and is very uncomfortable on the hand and the wrist.

    So that the crucial notes of eb” (e.g. Schumann III) and f” (e.g. Beethoven V) are always available in first position (no matter how sharp one’s colleagues may be playing), I suggest extending first position to an auxiliary quarter position with spring bumpers.

A possible alternative for the attachment of the two separate ‘horns’ (the Eb or straight horn and the Bb horn) is to have them share the same tuning slide (I believe the Bach Bb/F tenor trombone is connected in a similar way). The valve would be positioned higher than it currently sits, thus preventing it from digging into the player’s neck. Space is available for open-wrap which would eliminate the stuffiness of the Bb-valve notes. And now space is provided for the superior Thayer-type valve system. Likewise, the open-wrap permits the attachment horn to have the same resistance as the straight horn. Also, the necessary tubing would now exist to enable the player to retune the Bb horn to A when it is needed.

II.2 The trill valve for the Yamaha YSL-671/673: the Yamaha Eb alto trombone with detachable Db valve.

First produced in 1995, this mechanism enables the alto trombonist to produce half-step trills which are otherwise impossible to produce by lip-trilling. It also allows one to trill intervals of a major second in the fourth and fifth harmonic series. For example:

eb’ – f’ – eb’ = fifth position

d’ – e’ – d’ = sixth position

db’ – eb’ – db’ = seventh position

The major second trill on ab’ was superior to the lip trill in third position, and a full-step trill starting on g’ no longer has to be produced by lip-trilling in seventh as one can use the valve in first position. The quality of sound of the ‘straight horn’ notes and valve notes was fairly equal. The biggest drawback is the inefficient and awkward trilling mechanism, unchanged from the Eb-Bb prototype, which is counter-productive as it militates against achieving a good speed of trill. Also, major second trills on c’, common to so many eighteenth-century alto trombone solo and obbligato works, are still not possible to produce.

Figure A.6 Trill valve for the Yamaha YSL-671/673 alto trombones8 Courtesy Fuji Ozawa, Yamaha Research and Development, Frankfurt (personal correspondence with the author, 22.8.96).

Trill valve for the Yamaha YSL-671/673 alto trombones
II.3 The Conn 38H Alto Trombone

This instrument, first manufactured about three years ago according to Kerry Long of the UK Conn distributor Rosetti9 Kerry Long, personal correspondence with the author, 4.11.96. , is a large-dimensioned Eb alto (178mm bell, dual bore, .491mm and .500mm) with a fixed Bb valve. Although undetachable, the valve appears not to cause undue stiffness in the sound of the instrument. The valve action is far better than that of Yamaha’s, but a design in which the forefinger operated the trigger would probably be superior still. The question, as with the Yamaha Eb-Bb model, is whether the Bb valve is really necessary given its limited usefulness and application.

Appendix 3

In October 1994 the following survey was addressed to the Principal Trombonist of every professional symphony and opera orchestra in Great Britain1 For the sake of continuity, a number of questions were intentionally similar to those posed by Dr Mark Hartman in his survey of US trombonists conducted in 1985 (see Hartman, The Use of the Alto Trombone in Symphonic and Operatic Orchestral Literature, DMA dissertation, Arizona State University, 1985). While responses regarding performance practice were generally not unalike on both sides of the Atlantic, the salient difference appears to be the greater acceptance of the alto by the British players surveyed in 1994 as opposed to the US players surveyed in 1985, or even those questioned by David Mathie in 1993 (see Mathie, The Alto Trombone: Current Use and Performance Trends, University of Georgia DMA, 1993). . The same survey was also completed by Denis Wick, former London Symphony Orchestra Principal Trombone, and Jay Friedman and Michael Mulcahy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in October 1996. The author wishes to express his gratitude to all those who responded for their assistance and their valued input.

TrombonistOrchestraModel of Alto TromboneAlto Trombone Mouthpiece
(Principal unless otherwise stated)(as of 1/10/94)
Dudley Bright (DB)Philharmonia (London)Bach 39 (1980)Wick 6BS (old)
Eric Crees (EC)*London Symphony OrchestraGlassl Gold Bell (1983?)From 6-10 size, larger for Brahms etc, smaller for classical repertoire
Mark Eager (ME)BBC National Orchestra of WalesBach 39 (1981)Most of the time I use a Bach 12C which gives a well-centered ‘lightish’ sound, but it needs to be treated with care or overblowing causes a harsh sound.
Lance Green (LG)Royal Scottish National OrchestraYamaha YSL671 (1980)Adjustable cup Hablowitch (from B. Free’s collection!)
Michael Hext (MH)Royal Opera House, Covent GardenYamaha YSL671 (1980)Bach 9. For me it works, but larger mouthpieces tend to make the alto sound like a large bore.
Chris Houlding (CH)English Northern PhilharmoniaConn 38H (1991?)Wick 9C
Kevin Morgan (KM)Bournemouth Symphony OrchestraMiraphone (19?)I’m still experimenting and if I ever find a combination I’m happy with I’ll let you know. Currently a Wick 6.
Chris Mowat (CM)BBC Symphony Orchestra (London)Yamaha YSL671 (1982?)Bach 6 1/2 AL or 1/4
Peter Oram (PO)BBC Scottish Symphony OrchestraLätzsch (1973)Custom built
Anthony Parsons (AnP)*BBC Symphony Orchestra (London)Yamaha YSL671Bach 6 3/4 C. Best of a haphazard selection tested.
Alan Pash (AP)Orchestra of Scottish OperaLätzsch (1964)Various depending on period of work and type of mix I want with other instruments. Generally Giardinelli 4M for early works, Bach 7, 6 1/2 AL, 5 and 4 for large romantic and 20th century works. All these mouthpieces have been personalised and are not standard.
Kevin Price (KP)Royal Liverpool PhilharmonicGlassl 49 and Yamaha 671Bach 6 1/2 AL. It’s the only one that my lips fit into! My high register becomes restricted by anything smaller.
Bryan Raby (BR)Welsh National OperaPfitznerSchilke 47
Paul Reynolds (PR)BBC Philharmonic (Manchester)Whatever I can borrowWhatever works at the time
Ken Shifrin (KS)City of Birmingham Symphony OrchestraYamaha YSL (large bore) 673 with detachable Bb valve.
Bach 39 for concerto work
Bach 12C with my tenor mouthpiece rim
Warwick Tyrell (WT)London PhilharmonicBach small bore, Glassl medium bore.I consider mouthpiece change a major factor in getting the required sound for a particular style. I use 4 different mouthpieces on my 2 altos, depending on what I’m doing, solo or concerto. An old Besson (very small) gives a beautiful crisp bright sound. Brahms 1 I would use a Denis Wick 5 for a larger fuller sound.
M Wilson (MW)Ulster Symphony OrchestraBach 39Bach 11 (slightly large but it suits me)
Denis Wick (DW)Yamaha CustomMy own mouthpiece that was developed specifically for that instrument.
Jay Friedman (JF)Chicago Symphony OrchestraLätzsch (1966) and Glassl (1992)Similar to a 6 1/2 AL

Question 1: What factors determine your use of the alto trombone?

DB Basically tessitura + blend + general strength of orchestration. My alto has too bright a voice to play anything too heavy – it (or I) sound like a trumpet and doesn’t blend with the section!

EC Blend of sound. Much alto writing is above 2nd trumpet. Many pieces all of a sudden sound ‘right’ when the alto is used. Heavyweight Bruckner symphonies sometimes feel underweight.

ME Using the alto is determined by a number of things, mainly period, texture within the orchestra and whether or not any ‘cutting through’ is required in heavily orchestrated passages. I personally feel it is vital when doubling an alto part in a choral piece – this is both logical and sensible. I would also advocate using both tenor and alto in the same piece whenever necessary. I would stress however that it would not be to facilitate an easier top register but mainly for reasons of sound and clarity (this is quite rare of course). Sometimes the alto is used as a ‘3rd Trumpet’ playing a middle part between top and bottom and thus if played on the tenor would be the wrong sound.

LG (1) Timbre (2) Composer’s intention (3) Historical correctness, i.e. I think the alto was played for the majority of the classical period.

MH Usually a combination of composer’s intent and ease of high register. Blend depends on the composer being played.

CH I try and use the alto as often as possible when requested. Only when the tessitura goes too low to be practical do I choose to use the tenor throughout. Certainly a section of medium bore on 2nd and ordinary large bore tenor on bass makes a suitable blend for Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

KM Primarily by composer’s intent but depending on my personal preference for blending with the section – e.g. Bruckner would be played on the tenor. Having said this, I have quite often tried something different if the section has requested it. Symphonie Fantastique I have tried with alto but have since only used the tenor – the alto just created more tuning problems, while the top Eb in ‘March to the Scaffold’ is more often than not covered by the second trumpet anyway.

CM Mainly reliability and stamina in high register, but in classical works to give a lighter sound especially when doubling voices.

PO (a) When lightness and clarity in high register is necessary. (b) Most classical works simply ‘feel’ better.

AnP Musical suitability and technical safety factor.

AP I weigh up all the above but particularly blend of sound and colour. Many works are played on too large a scale (too many strings) and the alto doesn’t always cope with weight of sound without overblowing, which is why I often use the tenor at a quieter dynamic, but will use a 4 with shank.

KP Timbre mainly – always when doubling vocal parts or when scoring is especially light. Sound is my only reason for ever using the alto – I use it whenever it helps to bridge the gap between trumpets and trombones as well as to fulfil a similar role between choir and orchestra.

BR Variety.

PR Only when extremely desperate

KS Composer’s intent

WT I try to keep in mind the composer’s intent as the basis on what instrument to play. I use two altos and two tenors as Principal of the LPO. I would use my Bach alto (small bore) for Mozart, but my Glassl (large bore) for Schubert. There are so many factors involved – size of the orchestra, style of the orchestra (90 LPO players play differently to 90 baroque players), what the trumpets use, composer’s intent, conductor’s wishes, etc., etc., etc. This also applies for my tenor equipment.

MW I don’t play the alto when the part is printed in the tenor clef! Also I use it when I think it’s authentic.

JF Composer’s intent.

DW Sound quality and texture; ease of register (e.g. Berg op. 6).

MM Composer’s intent.

Question 2: What role (if any) does the conductor play in your use of the alto?

DB Harnoncourt – Beethoven! Authenticity.

EC Most are ignorant. Abbado asked me to use the alto in Beethoven 9 when I was actually already using it! When I used the alto in the Fantastic Symphony he asked me why I was using it. I showed him the title page where Berlioz specifically asks for an alto (‘I do not want a large instrument’). Presumably he now goes round the world insisting that the alto is used in it. Most don’t seem to notice. I have never been asked specifically.

ME If I felt the piece needed an alto I would choose it myself before the conductor needed to request it.

LG No. If requested, will use.

MH I’ve never been asked by a conductor. I think that most of them wouldn’t know the difference!

CH Nobody has ever requested either tenor or alto. I have always made my own decision.

KM No.

CM No.

PO In a symphony by Berwald I was requested by Norman del Mar to use alto: music in the style of Mendelssohn.

AnP Never.


KP Conductor asked for alto and small bore tenor/bass in Beethoven symphony recording (Mackerras), wanting a very bright sound.


PR No.

KS Maurice Perez: Schubert’s 9th Symphony; some German conductor in Stuttgart : Schubert’s Unfinished.

WT I have never had a conductor specifically request a particular instrument, alto or tenor, in eleven years in the profession.

MW Conductors don’t seem to mind which instrument is used.

DW Rarely. They usually left it for me to decide.

JF Only Szell – he even requested the make (Lätszch).


Question 3: In your opinion should the second and bass trombonists use trombones of narrower dimensions when playing in conjunction with the alto?

DB Depending on the conductor in earlier works.

EC It can be nice for the second to use a medium bore and the bass a Bb/F tenor, but they usually ‘lighten up’ naturally if they are intelligent players.

ME Not always. On most occasions they will naturally lighten up the sound, on others the alto can be played to match their bigger instruments.

LG Sort of, if they feel happy to, i.e. bass trombonist could use a Conn 88H, second trombone a medium bore such as Bach 36. These would sound good, but intonation can be suspect.

MH Occasionally, for Mozart, second on medium bore, bass on large bore [tenor] (88H or 42B) perhaps.

CH Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven. We all use smaller instruments for Bellini, Donizetti, Bizet and Massenet, etc.

KM Depends upon the composer and the wish to experiment. We recently did Beethoven Nine with alto, peashooter and ‘G’, although I’m not sure anyone noticed the difference! It’s nice, however, to play and listen to well developed, well-made modern trombones.

CM Yes.

PO No.

AnP In some cases yes. But ideally extra section practice is needed, and usually there’s not time or enthusiasm for this. Players in general do not like swapping instruments. If I use alto, second and bass assume it’s to make me feel safer and more comfortable. They carry on as usual.

AP Yes. But I feel this in general that bass trombonists are trying to sound like tubas. The section should be a much lighter sound. We use a smaller bore mouthpiece on second with 8H to match, and single plug Bach (New York) on bass.

KP Depends what you are playing. Smaller instruments worked well in the Mackerras Beethoven recordings but Haydn Creation (for example) worked better on larger instruments. Vocal pieces are dictated by the nature of the choir – you have to match their sound.

BR Yes. Medium bore for second, 88H type for bass trombone.

PR Could try Conn 88H and a Bach 36.

KS Tends to defeat the purpose, as the alto is larger than yesteryear’s. Perhaps if the bass trombonist customarily uses a humungous model he should use something slightly smaller.

WT It very much depends on the work being played and the orchestra. For Mozart I would use Bach alto, small bore tenor, large bore tenor. However for Brahms’ First maybe large bore alto, large tenor and F bass trombone.

MW Yes. Bach 36B or even Conn 6H on second.

DW Sometimes – in lightly scored pieces (e.g. Mozart); in Berlioz “Symphonie Fantastique”, with ff levels predominating, normal instruments worked better.

JF Generally speaking no.

MM The Glassl alto we use has a warm sound that blends well with modern tenors and basses.

Question 4: Do you agree that over the past decade or so there has been a resurgence of interest in the alto trombone? If yes, to what do you attribute this?

DB I have too much difficulty playing one instrument properly to play another more than occasionally.

EC This needs a PhD! Essentially it is more musically appropriate. Trumpet players don’t use Bb instruments for D parts, even though they might get the notes on the Bb. Twenty years ago there was a certain macho bias against the alto, implying that you can’t get the notes on the tenor. Thankfully through better teaching and availability of instruments this is no longer the case.

ME I’ve always been very keen on playing the alto whenever necessary and would never dream of playing anything else for Mozart/Beethoven. The quality of the instruments are excellent these days and apart from having the right sound for certain pieces it also makes life a lot easier.

LG Yes. I believe in correct sound, timbre etc. I feel it helps (1) me, (2) the section to get the right sound, and (3) the appearance for the audience.

MH I’m all for it. Yes, it has affected my use. I use it more now.

CH Yes. General quest for authentic performance, availability of instruments and doubling fees.

KS Yes. Influence of trumpet players who ‘specialise’, popularity of the 18th century solo repertoire, availability and choice.

WT I have always considered the use of the alto important so this increase has not affected my own usage of the instrument. I do agree that there is a resurgence of the alto – I feel it’s because more young players are getting into the swing of what composers wanted. Many older principals still do not use it.

MW The increased use is due to the demand for authentic-sounding performances.

DW Availability of better instruments (Lätsch, Yamaha, later Conn).

JF I’ve always played alto on appropriate literature (since 1966), now more than ever because of my own interest in musicology.

MM I’m happy this beautiful timbre has not been lost.

Question 5: Does your orchestra pay a special instrument or doubling fee for playing the alto trombone?


EC No.

ME No.

LG Yes.

MH Yes.

CH Yes.

KM Included in salary.


PO No.

AnP No.

AP Bought out.

KP Built into contract.

BR Yes.

PR No.

KS Yes.


MW Yes.

DW Yes.

JF Yes.

MM Yes.

Question 6: Of the following repertoire please indicate

  • A: works you play on the alto trombone
  • A + T: works you play on either instrument
  • A/T: works in which you use the alto for some passages and the tenor for others
  • T: works you play on the tenor trombone
CantatasDB, EC, ME, CH, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, KS, JF, MM
Leonora Overture no. 2DB, EC, ME, LG, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, KS, WT, MW, DW, JF, MMMH, PR
Leonora Overture no. 3DB, EC, ME, LG, CH, KM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, KS, WT, MW, DW, JF, MMMH, CM, PR
Missa SolemnisDB, EC, ME, LG, CH, MH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, KS, WT, MW, DW, JF, MMPR
Symphony no. 5DB, EC, ME, LG, CH, MH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, KS, WT, MW, DW, JF, MM
Symphony no. 6DB, EC, ME, LG, CH, MH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, KS, WT, DW, JF, MMPR, MW
Symphony no. 9DB, EC, ME, LG, CH, MH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, KS, WT, DW, JF, MMPR, MW
Symphony FantastiqueEC, LG, CH, AP, DWME, MMDB, MH, KM, CM, PO
KP, PR, KS, WT, MW, JF**
**uses small-bore tenor
Les Francs JugesEC, PO, JF, MMDB, ME, LG, CH, KM, AnP, KP, PR, KS, WT
Wozzeck/Drei BruchstückeECEC, ME, MH, CM, KP, AnP, AP, KS, WT, DWDB, JF, MM
Lulu/Lulu SuiteEC, ME, MH, AnP, AP, KP, BR, KSDB, CH, KM, CM, WT, DW, JF, MM
Three Orchestral PiecesECEC, ME, MH, AnP, KP, BR, PR, KS, WT, DW, JF, MMDB, KM, CM
Symphony no. 1EC, LG, CH, WT, KS, JF, MMCMDB, ME, MH, KM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, MW, DW
Symphony no. 2LG, WT, JFEC, ME, KSEC, MMDB, MH, CH, KM, CM,PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, MW, DW
Symphony no. 3LG, JF, MMDB, EC, ME, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, WT, MW, DW
Symphony no. 4LG, JFKSMMDB, EC, ME, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, KS, WT, MW, DW
RequiemEC, LG, CH, PO, KS, JF, MMME, CMDB, MH, KM, AnP, AP, KP, WT
Building of the HouseEC, KP, KS, DWDB, ME, CM, AnP, WT
Mass in E MinorPO, KS, MMECECDB, ME, MH, CH, KM, CM, AnP, AP, KP, DW, JF
Mass in F MinorEC, PO, KS, MMWTDB, ME, MH, CH, CM, CM, AnP, AP, KP, PR, DW
SymphoniesAll respondents
Stabat MaterAll respondents
Te DeumAll respondents
Israel in EgyptDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, AnP, AP, KP, KS, WT, DW, JF, MM
SaulDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, AnP, AP, KP, WT, DW, JF, MM
CreationDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, MW, DWCM
SeasonsDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, PO, KP, KS, WT, MW, JF, MMCM, AnPDW
Midsummer Night’s DreamDB, EC, LG, CH, KM, PO, KS, JF, MMWTME, MH, KP, AnP, DW
Hymn of PraiseDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, PO, KS, WT, JF, MM, DWKP, AnP, PR
Overture ‘Ruy Blas’DB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, BR, PR, KS, MW, JF, MM, DWKP, WT
Symphony no. 5 ‘Reformation’DB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, PO, AnP, AP, KS, JF, MM, DWWTKP
Davidde PenitenteDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, AnP, AP, KP, KS, WT, JF, MM
Don GiovanniDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, DW, JF, MMDWAnP
IdomeneoDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, DW, JF, MMDWAnP
Magic FluteDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, PO, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, MW, DW, JF, MMDWCM, AnP, PR
Mass in C MajorDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, AnP, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, MW, DW, JF, MMPR
Mass in C MinorDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, MW, DW, JF, MMPR
RequiemDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, MW, JF, MMPR
VespersDB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, MW, DW, JF, MMPR
‘Waisenhauskirche Mass’DB, EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, AnP, AP, KP, BR, WT, DW, JF
GurreliederEC, ME, LG, CH, CM, AP, KS, JF, MM, DWWTAnP, KP
Pelleas und MellisandeEC, ME, LG, CH, AP, KS, DWWTMH, KPAnP, PR
Mass No. 1EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, WT, JF
Mass No. 5EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, WT, DW, JF, MM
Mass No. 6EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, WT, DW, JF, MM
‘Unfinished’ SymphonyLG, KM, KS, MW, JF, MMDB, EC, ME, MH, CH, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, WT, DW
Symphony no. 9LG, CH, KM, BR, KSEC, MEEC, MMDB, MH, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, WT, DW, MW, JF
Overture ‘Rosamunde’EC, LG, CH, KM, CM, KS, JF, MMME, WTDB, MH, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, DW
Overture ‘Zauberharfe’EC, LG, KM, KS, JF, MMME, WTMH, CH, PO, KP, PR, DW
Symphony no. 1ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, PO, KP, KS, WT, MW, JF, MMECECDB, CM, AnP, AP, PR, DW
Symphony no. 2EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, PO, KP, KS, WT, MW, JF, MMDB, CM, AnP, AP, PR, DW
Symphony no. 3EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, BR, KS, WT, DW, MW, MMPRDB, JF
Symphony no. 4EC, ME, LG, MH, CH, KM, PO, AP, KP, KS, WT, MW, JF, MMCMDB, AnP, PR, DW
Richard Strauss
Die Frau ohne SchattenME, BRDB, EC, MH, CH, AnP, KP, WT, JF, MM, DW
Overture ‘Euryanthe’EC, LG, AP, KS, JF, MMMEDB, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, KP, PR, WT, DW
Overture ‘Der Freischütz’EC, LG, KS, JF, MMMEDB, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, AP, KP, PR, WT, DW
Overture ‘Oberon’EC, LG, AP, KSMEDB, MH, CH, KM, CM, PO, AnP, KP, PR, WT, DW

Music Examples

The printed edition of this thesis includes printed music examples. The following is a listing of the examples used.

  • Ex. I.1 Franz Beck, Sinfonie in Es Dur, third movement: Funèbre; bars 1-30
  • Ex. I.2 Eggert, Symphony in Eb Major, opening, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. I.3 Eggert, Symphony in Eb Major, ‘Fugue’ from rehearsal [69], Edition Bertil von Boehr: The Symphony in Sweden
Chapter 1
  • Ex. 1.1 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, Finale; bars 1-16
  • Ex. 1.2 Beethoven, Symphony No. 5, Finale; bars 107-131
  • Ex. 1.3 Beethoven, Symphony No. 6, Finale; bars 52-56
  • Ex. 1.4 Beethoven, opening of Presto from Overture to Fidelio (Gevaert, Cours Méthodique d’Orchestration)
  • Ex. 1.5 Beethoven, ‘Choral Symphony’, fourth movement, allegro energico sempre ben marcato; bars 1-76
  • Ex. 1.6 Beethoven, Drei Equali, movements ii and iii in full
  • Ex. 1.7 Weber, Freischütz, Act II, Finale (pianissimo entry of trombones); bars 1-13
  • Ex. 1.8 Weber, Euryanthe, Act III, No. 23, scene v; bars 108-112
  • Ex. 1.9 Weber, Freischütz Ouvertüre; bars 196-200
  • Ex. 1.10 Weber, Euryanthe, Finale to Act III, No. 23, scene vii; bars 51-59 11
  • Ex. 1.11 Weber, Euryanthe, Act II, Finale, con tutto fuoco ed energia; bars 30-33 11
  • Ex. 1.12 Weber, Euryanthe Ouvertüre; bars 1-9
  • Ex. 1.12a Hypothetical Beethoven version of above example; bars 1-8.
  • Ex. 1.13 Weber, Overture to Oberon; bars 211-214
  • Ex. 1.14 Weber, Freischütz Ouvertüre, molto vivace; bars 170-174 12
  • Ex. 1.15 Schubert, C Major Symphony, first movement; bars 29-49
  • Ex. 1.16 Schubert, C Major Symphony, first movement; bars 102-109
  • Ex. 1.17 Schubert, C Major Symphony, first movement; bars 195-222
  • Ex. 1.18 Schubert, C Major Symphony, first movement; bars 319-332
  • Ex. 1.19 Schubert, C Major Symphony, first movement; bars 304-318
  • Ex. 1.20 Schubert, C Major Symphony, second movement; bars 144-146
  • Ex. 1.21 Schubert, C Major Symphony, second movement; bars 320-330
  • Ex. 1.22 Schubert, C Major Symphony, Trio; bars 335-361
  • Ex. 1.23 Schubert, Mass in Ab Major: Gloria (first version); bars 422-434
  • Ex. 1.24 Schubert, C Major Symphony, erste Abschriftstimme: alto trombone
  • Ex. 1.25 Schubert, C Major Symphony, erste Abschriftstimme: tenor trombone
  • Ex. 1.26 Mendelssohn, Overture in C Major; bars 1-11
  • Ex. 1.27 Mendelssohn, Symphony in D Minor; bars 1-18
  • Ex. 1.28 Mendelssohn, Symphony in D Minor; conclusion, extracts for the alto trombone; bars 63-68; 87-92; 141-163; 229-239; 246-253; 306-326
  • Ex. 1.29 Mendelssohn, Overture ‘Ruy Blas’; alto trombone; bars 97-100 23
  • Ex. 1.30 Mendelssohn, ‘Hymn of Praise’; bars 1-3 as embellished by Queisser 24
  • Ex. 1.31 Mendelssohn, ‘Hymn of Praise’, opening; bars 1-15
  • Ex. 1.32 Mendelssohn, ‘Hymn of Praise’, No. 2, Allegro moderato maestoso, alto trombone; bars 5-8
  • Ex. 1.33 Mendelssohn, ‘Hymn of Praise’, No. 2; bars 128-132
  • Ex. 1.34 Mendelssohn, ‘Hymn of Praise’, No. 7; bars 25-32
  • Ex. 1.35 Schumann, Symphony No. 3, fourth movement; bars 1-8; 18-23; 30-54
  • Ex. 1.36 Schumann, Symphony No. 4, Romanza; bars 393-396
  • Ex. 1.37 Schumann, Symphony No. 4, fourth movement; bars 3-6
  • Ex. 1.38 Schumann, Symphony No. 4, first movement; bars 177-194
  • Ex. 1.39 Schumann, Symphony No. 4, fourth movement; bars 79-82
Chapter 2
  • Ex. 2.1 Berlioz, Roméo et Juliet, first trombone part from Fête chez Capulet, composed in 1839; bars 240-256
  • Ex. 2.2 Berlioz, Te Deum, ‘Judex Crederis; bars 155-157; 205-208. Transcript of autograph score by Ian Rumbold
  • Ex. 2.3 Berlioz: Oraison Funèbre, tenor trombone solo, complete
  • Ex. 2.4 Halévy: Guido et Ginévra (1838) Act II, No. 7, soprano trombone à piston en fa, first printed edition (Schlesinger)
  • Ex. 2.5 Halévy: Guido et Ginévra (1838) Act III, No. 14, solo for soprano trombone à pistons en Mib, autograph score
  • Ex. 2.5a Halévy: Guido et Ginévra (1838) Act III, No. 14, solo for soprano tromboneà piston en Mib, autograph score; inset of first page of Ex. 2.5
  • Ex. 2.6 Halévy: Guido et Ginévra (1838) Act III, No. 14, solo for soprano trombone à pistons en Mib, first printed edition (Schlesinger)
  • Ex. 2.7 Thomas, Ouverture du Compte de Carmagnola (1841), alto valve-trombone in E, autograph score; pp. 1, 15-25
  • Ex. 2.8 Meyerbeer: “Coronation March” from 1849 Paris Opera production of The Prophet, first trombone; bars 1-17
  • Ex. 2.9 Berlioz, Marche Hongroise, first trombone; bars 96-114
  • Ex. 2.10 Thomas, Hamlet (1868) Act 1, trombone solo, autograph score; pp. 7, 13-24, 30-31
  • Ex. 2.11 Thomas, Hamlet (1868) Act 1, tableau premier, trombone solo, first printed edition (Heugel); bars 1-10
  • Ex. 2.12 Halévy, Le Juif Errant (1852) Act 4, No. 20, trombone solo, original handwritten part
  • Ex. 2.13 Rossini, Overture to Guillaume Tell; bars 92-123
  • Ex. 2.14 Wagner: Konzertouvertüre Nr. 2, first printed edition (Breitkopf & Härtel)
  • Ex. 2.15 Wagner, Rule Britannia, first printed edition (Breitkopf & Härtel); last nine bars
Chapter 3
  • Ex. 3.1 Bruckner, Aequale, No. 2, original handwritten alto trombone part
  • Ex. 3.2 Bruckner, Aequale, No. 2, original handwritten tenor trombone part
  • Ex. 3.3 Bruckner, Psalm 114, opening, autograph score
  • Ex. 3.4 Bruckner, Libera Me, original handwritten alto trombone part
  • Ex. 3.5 Bruckner, Libera Me, original handwritten tenor trombone part
  • Ex. 3.6 Bruckner, Libera Me, original handwritten bass trombone part
  • Ex. 3.7 Bruckner, Auf Brüder auf die Saiten zur Hand from the Kantate für Prälat Meyer, autograph score; first and last pages
  • Ex. 3.8 Bruckner, Auf Brüder auf die Saiten zur Hand from the Kantate für Prälat Meyer, original first trombone erste Abschriftstimme
  • Ex. 3.9 Bruckner, Psalm 146, Recitative iia; bars 1-4
  • Ex. 3.10 Bruckner, Afferentur Regi, opening, autograph score
  • Ex. 3.11 Bruckner, Afferentur Regi, opening, original alto trombone part
  • Ex. 3.12 Bruckner, Overture in G Minor, Abschrift of score; page 1
  • Ex. 3.13 Bruckner, Symphony in F Minor, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 3.14 Bruckner, opening of Psalm 112 (Universal Edition)
  • Ex. 3.15 Bruckner, Drei Orchestersätze, ‘Nr. 3’ (1862), opening, autograph score
  • Ex. 3.16 Bruckner, Marsch in D moll (1862), complete, autograph score
  • Ex. 3.17 Bruckner, Germanenzug, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 3.18 Bruckner, D Minor Mass, original first trombone part; page 1
  • Ex. 3.19 Bruckner: D Minor Mass, Agnus Dei, trombones in unison; bars 107-111
  • Ex. 3.20 Bruckner: D Minor Mass, Credo (Musikwissenschaftlicher Verlag der internationalen Bruckner-Gesellschaft)
  • Ex. 3.21 Bruckner, Marsch in Es dur (1865), autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 3.22 Bruckner, E Minor Mass Niederschrift (1866 version); pages from manuscript score:
    • (a) first page of Kyrie
    • (b) last page of Credo
    • (c) last page of Agnus Dei
    • (d) first page of Benedictus
  • Ex. 3.23 Bruckner, E Minor Mass (1866 version), Kyrie, Widmungspartitur (Dedikationsexemplar), page 1
  • Ex. 3.24 Bruckner, E Minor Mass (1882 version), Credo; bars 138-142
  • Ex. 3.25 Bruckner, E Minor Mass (1866 version), Credo; bars 83-87
  • Ex. 3.26 Bruckner, E Minor Mass (1882 version), Credo‘; bars 89-93
  • Ex. 3.27 Bruckner, E Minor Mass (1866 version), Credo; bars 171-175
  • Ex. 3.28 Bruckner, F Minor Mass, Kyrie, original handwritten alto trombone part; title page and pp. 1-2
  • Ex. 3.29 Bruckner, F Minor Mass, Kyrie, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 3.30 Bruckner, F Minor Mass, Credo, autograph score
  • Ex. 3.31 Bruckner, F Minor Mass, Credo; bars 183-189
  • Ex. 3.32 Bruckner, extracts from Inveni David, autograph score; title page, pp. 1, 4-6
  • Ex. 3.33 Bruckner, Sinfonie Nr. 1, ‘Linzer’ (1866 version), original handwritten first trombone part; title page and page 1
  • Ex. 3.34 Bruckner, Sinfonie Nr. 1, ‘Wiener’ (1891 version), original handwritten first trombone part; title page and page 1
  • Ex. 3.35 Bruckner, Sinfonie Nr. 1, ‘Linzer’ (1866 version), autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 3.36 Bruckner, Sinfonie Nr. 1, ‘Wiener’ (1891 version), autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 3.37 Bruckner, Symphony in D Minor (‘Nullte’), extracts from Finale (Universal Edition)
  • Ex. 3.38 Bruckner, opening from Symphony in D Minor (‘Nullte), original handwritten first trombone part
  • Ex. 3.39 Bruckner, Symphony No. 3, 1890 publication, (Jos. Eberle & Co); page 1
  • Ex. 3.40 Bruckner, Symphony No 3, first trombone erste Abschriftstimme; title page and page 1
  • Ex. 3.41 Bruckner, Symphony No. 4, Finale, first trombone; bars 295-301
  • Ex. 3.42 Bruckner, Symphony No. 6, score used by Schalk with his notations; first movement
  • Ex. 3.43 Bruckner, Ninth Symphony, third movement: Langsam; bars 145-148
  • Ex. 3.44 Bruckner, Ninth Symphony, third movement; bars 121-128
Chapter 4
  • Ex. 4.1 Brahms, Symphony No. 2, first movement, trombone entry that Lachner advocated deleting; bars 33-45
  • Ex. 4.2 Brahms, Symphony No. 2, autograph score; first and last movements
  • Ex. 4.3 Brahms, Tragische Ouvertüre, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 4.4 Brahms, Akademische Festouvertüre, autograph score; pp. 1, 3, 16
  • Ex. 4.5 Brahms, Symphony No. 1, autograph score; pp. 1, 5, 7
  • Ex. 4.6 Brahms, Schicksalslied, autograph score; pp. 1, 12
  • Ex. 4.7 Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 4.8 Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, autograph score; second movement
  • Ex. 4.9 Brahms, Begräbnisgesang, autograph score; title page and page 1
  • Ex. 4.10 Brahms, Begräbnisgesang, first printed edition (Winterthur, J. Rieter-Biedermann), trombone parts
  • Ex. 4.11 Brahms, Begräbnisgesang, autograph score; bars 13-35
  • Ex. 4.12 Brahms, Begräbnisgesang, autograph score; p. 8
  • Ex. 4.13 Brahms, Begräbnisgesang, autograph score; pp. 14-15
  • Ex. 4.14 Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, second movement, first trombone with basses; bars 54-65
  • Ex. 4.15 Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, sixth movement, alto trombone in unison with altos; bars 99-104
  • Ex. 4.16 Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, second movement, trombones doubling corresponding voices, nearly colla voce; bars 255-261
  • Ex. 4.17 Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, sixth movement, trombones doubling voices; bars 341-344
  • Ex. 4.18 Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, third movement; bars 173-208
  • Ex. 4.19 Brahms, Triumphlied; Part 1: bars 5-10; 128-133; Part 3: bars 6-13
  • Ex. 4.20 Brahms, Nänie (Johannes Brahms, Sämtliche Werke: Chorwerke mit Orchester, II)
  • Ex. 4.21 Brahms, Gesang der Parzen, autograph score
  • Ex. 4.22 Brahms, Rinaldo, first movement (Simrock)
  • Ex. 4.23 Brahms, Symphony No. 4, fourth movement, autograph score
  • Ex. 4.24 Brahms, Symphony No. 1, fourth movement; bars 407-416
Chapter 5
  • Ex. 5.1 Dvořák, Symphony No. 8, Finale; bars 360-364
  • Ex. 5.2 Dvořák, Te Deum (1892), fourth movement; bars 57-69
  • Ex. 5.3 Dvořák, Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Scherzo (Supraphon)
  • Ex. 5.4 Dvořák, Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 5.5 Dvořák, Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, autograph score; last page
  • Ex. 5.6 Dvořák, Symphony No. 2; bars 160-172, (a) original version, (b) as it appears in the Bartoš Collected Edition version
  • Ex. 5.7 Dvořák, Stabat Mater, opening, autograph score
  • Ex. 5.8 Dvořák, Stabat Mater, first movement (Souborné Vydáni Díla)
  • Ex. 5.9 Dvořák, Symphony No. 6 in D Major, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 5.10 Dvořák, Husitská (1883), opening, autograph score
  • Ex. 5.11 Dvořák, Slavonic Dances, autograph score; title pages and page 1
  • Ex. 5.12 Dvořák, New World Symphony, autograph score; page 1
  • Ex. 5.13 Dvořák, New World Symphony, autograph score, original ending of second movement without tuba
  • Ex. 5.14 Dvořák, New World Symphony, original handwritten first trombone part, first movement
  • Ex. 5.15 Dvořák, The Wild Dove, opening, autograph score
  • Ex. 5.16 Dvořák, Armida, opening, autograph score
  • Ex. C.1 Berg, Drei Orchesterstücke, 1913 autograph score; last page
  • Ex. C.2 Berg, Drei Orchesterstücke, edited, pre-publication proof copy of the 1929 published version; same passage as Ex. C.1
  • Ex. C.3 Berg, Drei Orchesterstücke, 1913 autograph score; bars 8-11
  • Ex. C.4 Berg, Drei Orchesterstücke, edited, pre-publication proof copy of the 1929 published version; bars 8-11
  • Ex. C.5 Berg, Wozzeck, Act III; bars 97-98
  • Ex. C.6 Berg,Lulu, Act II; bars 1109-1111; 1147-1150
  • Ex. C.7 Berg, Altenberg Lieder, Lied No. 2, first trombone in full (Universal Edition)
  • Ex. C.8 Berg, Altenberg Lieder, Lied No. 4, first trombone in full (Universal Edition)
  • Ex. C.9 Berg, Altenberg Lieder, Lied No. 5, first trombone (Universal Edition)
  • Ex. C.10 Mahler, Seventh Symphony, first movement, autograph score
  • Ex. C.11 Mahler, Sixth Symphony, first trombone, [146] (C.F. Kahnt)
  • Ex. C.12 Schoenberg, Gurrelieder, I. Teil, alto trombone; bars 419-420; 430-437
  • Ex. C.13 Schoenberg, Gurrelieder, II. Teil, alto trombone; bars 19-22
  • Ex. C.14 Schoenberg, Gurrelieder, III. Teil, alto trombone; bars 58-59
  • Ex. C.15 Bartók, Bluebeard’s Castle; bars 766-771; 782-787; 798-801
  • Ex. C.16 Schoenberg, Gurrelieder, III. Teil, alto trombone; bars 110-112
  • Ex. C.17 Schoenberg, Pelleas und Mellisande, alto trombone (Universal Edition)


This thesis would not have been possible without the assistance and encouragement of many individuals to whom a debt of gratitude is owed. While I have tried to acknowledge in the text all those who provided source material and shared their expertise, there are a number of individuals who deserve special recognition:

  • The eagle-eyed, razor-sharp John Wagstaff, my friend and head librarian of the Music Faculty, Oxford University, who led me out of the darkness;
  • the patient, understanding Dr Peter Franklin, without whose help the pages that follow would not have been written;
  • Professor Brian Trowell for believing in me and the inspiration I derived from that;
  • Jeremy Montagu, for not believing in me and the inspiration I derived from that;
  • Dr Hélène La Rue, my academic supervisor;
  • Bruckner expert Dr Crawford Howie from Manchester University;
  • Fiona White, for whom the small fortune she received was meagre recompense for her word-processing skill and advice;
  • graphic-artist Nigel Pennington;
  • calligrapher David Cunningham;
  • Dr Joanna Archibald for her meticulous proof-reading;
  • Robert Parker, music librarian of the British Library, who sang to me in Czech over the telephone;
  • Berlioz specialist, Dr Hugh MacDonald;
  • Andrew Knowles of Alfred A. Kalmus/Universal Edition (UK) who moved mountains to procure unprocurable autograph scores and first edition publications;
  • Wolfgang Penzias and Anna Azmi of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce who ran interference for me whenever I came up against Austrian bureaucratic red tape;
  • Helmut Braunlich who untangled some of the knottier German text and provided translations;
  • William McElheny and librarian Clement Hellsburg of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra;
  • Rudolph Buchmeyer, librarian of the St Florian Stift;
  • Klaus and Elisabeth of Thomi-Berg Musik Verlag in Munich;
  • Dr Michael Struck, Head of the Brahms Institute at Kiel University, for his time, patience, expertise and lunch;
  • the librarians and staff of the National Library and Gesellschaft Library in Vienna (especially Frauen Liess and Hrdlika);
  • Director Marketta Hallová of the Prague Dvořák Museum and her assistant ‘Mrs E’, so dubbed because her surname is unpronounceable even to her Czech colleagues;
  • Zuzana Petrášková, Music Librarian of the Czech National Library;
    the British Academy of the Humanities, Linacre College and the Music Faculty for their generous financial assistance;
  • Edward Solomon, Webmaster of the British Trombone Society, for his constant encouragement and expertise, proofreading the French and German language extracts, consultative advice and inspiration for the title and ultimately publishing the current work on the Internet;
  • and above all my parents for their unstinting support and who still cannot get over the fact that someone could write an entire thesis just about the trombone. ❦