Use of Trombones in Orchestra

ttf_trombiano
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_trombiano » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:54 am

First of all, I’m a high school sophomore in a Japanese high school, and I belong to the orchestra of the school. I started playing the trombone when I entered high school, so it’s been just over a year since I started playing it.

This year my orchestra decided to do Beethoven Symphony 5. I love the symphony, and that’s probably why I felt kind of disappointed to find out that there were trombones only in the fourth movement. I know this is because trombones were used in churches and all, but it’s still kind of sad. At one point I was seriously considering switching to horn, not because I like the instrument more but just because it’s used more. My mates keeps saying that the melody is the most important part of music, and I'm starting to agree with them during the wait for my part... I mean, I know there are so many symphonies where trombones are essential, but in general it feels like trombone is the least used instrument in symphonies (except exceptions).

Don't get me wrong, I love trombones, but if they're not used much or if nobody can notice that trombones are playing... what's the point of me practicing so much...?

That's what I've been thinking recently. I know it doesn't make any sense, but I'm begging to hear someone's opinion about this.
ttf_Dombat
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Post by ttf_Dombat » Wed Apr 20, 2016 6:07 am

Yeah... we don't get to play 100 000 notes per symphony and sometimes counting rest can get boring but it just means that when we do get to play it is even more special. Playing in an orchestra is really just a giant version of chamber music, every part is important and the your job is to find how to make your part contribute to the whole.
Beethoven 5 is a really fun piece when you think about it. You do sit around for the first 30 minutes but then suddenly the brass are unleashed in their full setting, a triumphal fanfare bringing the symphony home. What would the piece be without the build up before it... pretty boring I think.
Some of my favourite playing is having a section emerge from nothing, moving in and out of the different voices of the orchestra and creating the beautiful colours that make the melody actually interesting (let's face it... alone the melodies could be played by a bunch of computers). We work to make everyone around us sound not just good but amazing.
ttf_harrison.t.reed
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_harrison.t.reed » Wed Apr 20, 2016 6:12 am

The orchestra gig is NEVER about the trombones. Or the horns. Or even the violins. It's about making the composer's vision come to life in a unique way through the interpretation of the conductor, and the whole symphony as a group. If you want to play in an orchestra, you can't be thinking that it should be all about you. If every piece was a trombone concerto, the music would get so boring.

That said, have a listen to some pieces that DO feature the trombone:

https://www.youtube.com/v/bKOj8cZlCJQ

https://www.youtube.com/v/hQjDXgxMvD8




ttf_hyperbolica
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_hyperbolica » Wed Apr 20, 2016 6:20 am

Play some Bruckner, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky symphonies with brass chorales. Glorious stuff. Then of course there is trombone quartet and trombone choir. To me these make the world go round. French Horn is such a nasty instrument. Tiny little hole to blow into, all that back pressure causes brain damage, you know. You have to wind it up every 64 bars or so, and it sounds like a trombone with a week's worth of dirty laundry in it. F/Bb? No, Bb/F. Plus, you thought one trigger mechanism was a lot to worry about, they have 4. Plus, any instrument you tune with your fist cannot be right.  Image
ttf_MoominDave
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_MoominDave » Wed Apr 20, 2016 6:24 am

Beethoven 5, while excellent music, is never going to have the trombone section jumping for joy at playing it; the parts just aren't that musically exciting, and the 1st part has some perilously high stuff to boot.

There are other symphonies that make the trombones wait for their entry that you will enjoy much more than this one - Brahms 1 and Brahms 4 both save you for the final movement, but give you some really satisfying section parts to play once they do call you in. And then there are many works that have trombones play more important roles throughout - too many to list. But look out for the opportunity to play Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, R. Strauss, Shostakovich, to pick a handful.

I would suggest that you make sure that you play well enough that your director knows that they ought to pick repertoire that will keep you entertained. And that if they then don't, you seek out a local amateur group that does play stuff that satisfies more.

By the way, your English is very good for a Japanese high school student - good work.
ttf_trombiano
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_trombiano » Wed Apr 20, 2016 7:25 am

Guess what, I have to play the first Image

It's fantastic to see that this trombone forum is such an active community. Should have asked for help earlier!

Yeah, I've been thinking about this for a while, with nobody to ask about it. Even though I love the trombones (in fact if I didn't I would've quitted a long time ago), I got a terrible feeling when trumpets and horns got all the solos and melodies while I had nothing to play. Oh well. I guess Beethoven saved the best for last. I'll work on making the music sounding better (and also hitting that really high F).

I do have a chance to play one more piece. This one should be supposed to be about 5-10 minutes long (an overture or something) and we'll play it before the symphony. I'm not sure if it's the right place to ask this, but what are compositions that's fun for the trombone part? I might be able to make it a candidate. Maybe.
ttf_BGuttman
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_BGuttman » Wed Apr 20, 2016 7:43 am

Just a couple of pieces that have tasty trombone parts:

Copland, "4 Dance Episodes from Rodeo" (Buckaroo Holiday, Saturday Night Waltz, Hoedown, and Corral Nocturne)  1st trombone gets a solo in Buckaroo Holiday and in Hoedown.
Any symphony by Dvorak, but particularly 8 and 9.
Tchaikovsky symphonies 4, 5, and 6.
Berlioz, Symphony Fantastique.
Mahler symphonies, particularly 3 but 1 is pretty good as well.
Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue (it's really a piano solo with orchestra accompaniment)
Sibelius symphonies have a lot of trombone chorale sections.
Shostakovich Symphony 5
Britten "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra"
Richard Strauss tone poems (Ein Heldenleben, Death and Transfiguration, Don Juan, etc.)

Beethoven's 6th and 9th also use trombones (I joke that Beethoven wrote 3 symphonies: 5, 6, and 9).  Again, sparingly.  You need a chorus and 3 soloists for 9.

It's too bad that the trombone was not popular during the development of the symphony and thus is not featured (or even used) by Haydn, Vivaldi, Bach, etc.

ttf_Baker
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_Baker » Wed Apr 20, 2016 8:06 am

and if I can add the monumental brass of the Gate  Image
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FncXqa14ANE

ttf_sf105
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_sf105 » Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:16 pm

I think it was John Swallow who said, playing orchestral trombone is like flying a Jumbo Jet: hours with nothing much going on, then you get to land the plane. Image
ttf_robcat2075
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Post by ttf_robcat2075 » Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:40 pm

I've only done Beethoven's Fifth once.  I enjoyed the rehearsals very much, even my tacet movements. I enjoyed being able to sit and observe the other musicians put their part of the show together without having to be on the edge of my seat ready for my next entrance.

I had never given much thought to the two middle movements until those rehearsals but I came out of it with a great appreciation for them.

There's a lot to be learned from seeing other musicians work up close.  Even if they are weak performers; seeing other people's mistakes can be very instructive. Get what you can from it rather than fretting that you are not the center of attention.


If you absolutely have to play from beginning to end to feel like your time is being used well... there is such a thing as marching band.  Image
ttf_anonymous
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_anonymous » Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:55 pm

Quote from: robcat2075 on Apr 20, 2016, 12:40PMI've only done Beethoven's Fifth once.  I enjoyed the rehearsals very much, even my tacet movements. I enjoyed being able to sit and observe the other musicians put their part of the show together without having to be on the edge of my seat ready for my next entrance.

I agree with this. I've "done" Beethoven 5 twice, and the second time we only played the last movement. I enjoyed it much more when I had three movements of waiting before I got the chance to play, it means so much more in the context of the entire piece.
ttf_BGuttman
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_BGuttman » Wed Apr 20, 2016 1:52 pm

I first played Beethoven 5 when I was in college and with a community orchestra.  At the time they only had one horn player, and I played the 2nd horn part in that big duet at the beginning of the 3rd movement. 

I was in it with a college friend and his brother.  The brother played cello and we all used to work on that cello part from the 2nd movement.  I was even able to play the part that goes like the wind.  Never in public, though.
ttf_Dombat
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_Dombat » Wed Apr 20, 2016 2:01 pm

Quote from: trombiano on Apr 20, 2016, 07:25AM
I do have a chance to play one more piece. This one should be supposed to be about 5-10 minutes long (an overture or something) and we'll play it before the symphony. I'm not sure if it's the right place to ask this, but what are compositions that's fun for the trombone part? I might be able to make it a candidate. Maybe.

Wagner overtures (Rienzi, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Holländer)
Verdi Nabucco


I'll have a think.
ttf_BillO
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Post by ttf_BillO » Wed Apr 20, 2016 3:11 pm

Asking a 2nd year student to play 1st on Beethoven #5 is just really mean!

Starts with grabbing a high C - cold, then about halfway through you get to play a sustained D above the high C, another sustained high C, then a sustained F above the C near the end.  Then repeat.  Then finish off with a high B held for 4 bars at ff!

If you can play that part after just one year, you are a very unusual student indeed.  Alessi, watch out!
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Post by ttf_BillO » Wed Apr 20, 2016 3:31 pm

Quote from: Baker on Apr 20, 2016, 08:06AMand if I can add the monumental brass of the Gate  Image
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FncXqa14ANE


What, no cannons?

You can add to the orchestral pieces with trombone:

Ravel's Bolero
Holst's Planets - BTW, Holst was a trombonist.
Mozart's Requiem
ttf_BGuttman
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Post by ttf_BGuttman » Wed Apr 20, 2016 3:56 pm

If you really want a piece that features trombones and is an overture, the Overture to Nabucco by Verdi (mentioned before) opens with a trombone chorale -- SOLO.  Can't get more featured than that!
ttf_BillO
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Post by ttf_BillO » Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:23 pm

I'm pretty sure Beethoven's Edgmont overture and his Leonora overture are scored for trombones as well.

Tons of stuff out there.

BTW, Mozart's requiem has a trombone solo too (actually a duet with voice).  It is usually required reading for any orchestral audition.  Tuba Mirum.
ttf_Torobone
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Use of Trombones in Orchestra

Post by ttf_Torobone » Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:40 pm

The earliest date for trombone in orchestra is about 1830, give or take. Beethoven included trombone parts for the 5th (last movement as noted), the 9th and Wellington's Victory. Sorry, not in Egmont (sitting this out this spring  Image).

Mendelssohn used trombones in at least Hebrides (Fingal's Cave), and Ruy Blas.

By 1860 or so, trombones found their place.
ttf_BGuttman
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Post by ttf_BGuttman » Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:56 pm

We actually discussed this before.  I believe there was a Swedish piece that predates the Beethoven symphonies with trombones.

There are some nice trombone parts in Classical period operas and oratorios.  Haydn wrote some neat stuff in The Creation.  Mozart Requiem, etc.

Earlier there was Monteverdi, but he was writing for a different instrument.
ttf_Eastcheap
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Post by ttf_Eastcheap » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:07 pm

Quote from: BillO on Apr 20, 2016, 03:11PMAsking a 2nd year student to play 1st on Beethoven #5 is just really mean!

I'd guess that he's playing a defanged arrangement.
ttf_BillO
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Post by ttf_BillO » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:36 pm

Quote from: Torobone on Apr 20, 2016, 04:40PMThe earliest date for trombone in orchestra is about 1830...

The Requiem was written in 1791.  There are definitely trombones in it.  That's quite a bit of give on 1830.
ttf_BGuttman
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Post by ttf_BGuttman » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:40 pm

Quote from: BillO on Apr 20, 2016, 05:36PMThe Requiem was written in 1791.  There are definitely trombones in it.  That's quite a bit of give on 1830.

Monteverdi wrote trombones into his opera "L'Orfeo" in 1599.  But trombones were only used in sacred music and opera until the early 19th Century.
ttf_BillO
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Post by ttf_BillO » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:43 pm

Quote from: Torobone on Apr 20, 2016, 04:40PMSorry, not in Egmont (sitting this out this spring  Image).

You're right.  I just checked my score.  Trumpets and horns - no trombones.  Sad, really.
ttf_BillO
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Post by ttf_BillO » Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:52 pm

Quote from: BGuttman on Apr 20, 2016, 05:40PMBut trombones were only used in sacred music and opera until the early 19th Century.

So it seems.

I once read a bit about Bach not scoring for trombones in his orchestral work because those at his disposal were in such disrepair they had to be kept only for his sacred choral work.  Apparently there was no budget for new trombones (sackbuts).  Hence, those that followed did not use them because Bach did not use them.  Probably apocryphal.  Image
ttf_robcat2075
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Post by ttf_robcat2075 » Wed Apr 20, 2016 6:33 pm

We have another thread here somewhere that has a fuller treatment of the whys and why nots of trombones over history.

What I recall:


-After the renaissance there seems to have been a vicious cycle of

more music written not needing it  -> fewer players taking it up -> composers having fewer players available -> more music written not needing it

-For most of Bach's career it wasn't commonly available in his locale and would have been an extra cost item when it was available.
-It wasn't as if Bach needed the trombone. He wrote just fine without it.

- the trombone generally declined across Europe but hung on in Vienna (attached to a court theater?). Several composers who turned out to be very influential (like Mozart and Beethoven) worked in Vienna and started using the available trombones.  As their music spread, the call for trombones rebounded. Vicious cycle reversed.



That said, if you take a look at Will Kimball's very extensive Trombone History Timeline you can see evidence of trombones being used for just about every purpose (church, civic functions, theater, dance ensembles, military bands...) from not long after it was invented down to the present day. It never completely died out and was never just for a certain kind of music.
ttf_SilverBone
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Post by ttf_SilverBone » Thu Apr 21, 2016 12:13 am

Quote from: sf105 on Apr 20, 2016, 12:16PMI think it was John Swallow who said, playing orchestral trombone is like flying a Jumbo Jet: hours with nothing much going on, then you get to land the plane. Image

Hadn't heard it phrased that way before.  Way I always heard it:

Definition of playing orchestra trombone: Hours of tedious boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror.

ttf_SilverBone
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Post by ttf_SilverBone » Thu Apr 21, 2016 12:16 am

Quote from: Eastcheap on Apr 20, 2016, 05:07PMI'd guess that he's playing a defanged arrangement.

Wouldn't surprise me.  I had to lobby to perform the original.  And then make sure the trumpets and horns weren't playing the parts that matched the emasculated trombone part.
ttf_harrison.t.reed
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Post by ttf_harrison.t.reed » Thu Apr 21, 2016 2:46 am

Quote from: Torobone on Apr 20, 2016, 04:40PMThe earliest date for trombone in orchestra is about 1830, give or take. Beethoven included trombone parts for the 5th (last movement as noted), the 9th and Wellington's Victory. Sorry, not in Egmont (sitting this out this spring  Image).

Mendelssohn used trombones in at least Hebrides (Fingal's Cave), and Ruy Blas.

By 1860 or so, trombones found their place.

Mozart requiem?? 1791

 Image

Am I just on another planet? There are plenty of orchestral works going back decades before that that call for 3 trombones.
ttf_MikeBMiller
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Post by ttf_MikeBMiller » Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:33 am

If there were so few trombones and presumably trombone players around, I wonder where old Ludwig managed to find a guy who could sit out for 30 minutes and then come in on a high C (5th symphony). And then play that high F a bit later on.
ttf_robcat2075
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Post by ttf_robcat2075 » Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:43 am

Quote from: MikeBMiller on Apr 21, 2016, 07:33AMIf there were so few trombones and presumably trombone players around, I wonder where old Ludwig managed to find a guy who could sit out for 30 minutes and then come in on a high C (5th symphony). And then play that high F a bit later on.

Vienna.

There is an account of Beethoven tracking down a trombone player and explicitly asking what the range limits were.

The guy must have said he could play a high F.  So it was written and so it was done.
ttf_trombiano
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Post by ttf_trombiano » Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:58 am

I am playing (not that I actually can play it but) the legit original alto-trombone part written by Beethoven. That's why I have to play that F above High Bb (which mine currently sounds like an annoying mosquito or someone scratching a blackboard).

I'm starting to think that waiting might be fun too, after all. I do have to attend all the ensembles though, (including the first three movements) since I'm the leader of the brass.

By the way, thank you for all your suggestions. It's really helpful, and I'll take all of them into consideration. If there are more, I'd really appreciate it if you could keep them coming Image
ttf_MikeBMiller
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Post by ttf_MikeBMiller » Thu Apr 21, 2016 8:17 am

Quote from: robcat2075 on Apr 21, 2016, 07:43AMVienna.

There is an account of Beethoven tracking down a trombone player and explicitly asking what the range limits were.

The guy must have said he could play a high F.  So it was written and so it was done.

Leaving generations of trombone players to wish the guy could only play a high C Image
ttf_BGuttman
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Post by ttf_BGuttman » Thu Apr 21, 2016 8:22 am

Quote from: MikeBMiller on Apr 21, 2016, 08:17AMLeaving generations of trombone players to wish the guy could only play a high C Image

What did Beethoven know?  He was going deaf and could only use the synthesizer between his ears Image
ttf_BillO
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Post by ttf_BillO » Thu Apr 21, 2016 8:36 am

Quote from: trombiano on Apr 21, 2016, 08:04AMI am playing (not that I actually can play it but) the legit original alto-trombone part written by Beethoven.

Using an alto makes it easier, but not easy.  It was the main reason I bought my Bach 39 so many years ago.  See if you can get a hold of an alto to play this thing on and give yourself a fighting chance.
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Post by ttf_HowardW » Fri Apr 22, 2016 1:06 am

Quote from: BGuttman on Apr 20, 2016, 05:40PMMonteverdi wrote trombones into his opera "L'Orfeo" in 1599.1607. And that wasn't it's first appearance in "serious" music by any means.

QuoteBut trombones were only used in sacred music and opera until the early 19th Century.The trombone was widely used in all types of music -- sacred and secular, instrumental and with voices -- until the middle of the 17th century, but then musical tastes and styles changed, and the trombone just didn't fit in any more. Which isn't to say that it disappeared completely, although that was indeed the case in many places.

Howard
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Post by ttf_HowardW » Fri Apr 22, 2016 2:00 am

Quote from: BillO on Apr 20, 2016, 05:52PMI once read a bit about Bach not scoring for trombones in his orchestral work because those at his disposal were in such disrepair they had to be kept only for his sacred choral work.  Apparently there was no budget for new trombones (sackbuts).  Hence, those that followed did not use them because Bach did not use them.  Probably apocryphal.
This is not apocryphal, it's simply wrong! Bach's predecessor in Leipzig, Johann Kuhnau, did report to the city council in 1702 that the trombones were in bad repair, but they were then replaced.

Leipzig, where Bach was active from 1723 to his death in 1750, was one of the places where the trombone continued to be used throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and indeed without a break to the present day. Bach used trombones in 14 of his cantatas performed during his first two years in Leipzig -- some had been written earlier without trombone parts, which were then added, others were composed with trombone parts during this short period. When Bach performed these cantatas in later years, he invariably left out the trombones and often made other changes in the instrumentation.

The only outlier was cantata BWV 118 (actually a motet), which was apparently written ca. 1739 for performance outdoors at a funeral, and scored for cornetto, two horns, and three trombones along with the voices. That is to say, for instruments that could play outdoors irregardless of the weather. (Here, too, Bach later revised this cantata, with strings and basso continuo in place of the winds.)

We know that as late as 1769, almost 20 years after Bach's death, the candidates for the position of town musician were required to play all four sizes of trombone, from soprano down to bass. And the Kantor at that time, a former pupil of Bach's by the name of Johann Friedrich Doles, composed a large number of works with trombones (most of which were unfortunately destroyed in the closing days of World War II).

After his first two years in Leipzig, Bach probably had his singers trained well enough that they no longer needed to be supported by trombones. And he probably also wanted the town musicians, who were required to play other instruments besides trombone, for other duties in the orchestra.

Moreover, outside the realm of church music, the trombone was simply not appropriate for the prevailing musical styles of the time.

Howard
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Post by ttf_HowardW » Fri Apr 22, 2016 2:15 am

Quote from: MikeBMiller on Apr 21, 2016, 07:33AMIf there were so few trombones and presumably trombone players around, I wonder where old Ludwig managed to find a guy who could sit out for 30 minutes and then come in on a high C (5th symphony). And then play that high F a bit later on.

Vienna was another of the places where the trombone remained in use throughout the centuries and up to the present day. Especially in the late 17th and 18th centuries, there was a whole series of virtuoso trombonists employed at the imperial court in Vienna. And the high F was not unprecedented there: Christoph Willibald Gluck required the high F from the first trombone in his operas Alceste (1767) and Iphegenie auf Tauris (1781). (It is not found, however, in the later Parisian versions of these works.) And high F is also found in the 1827 trombone method by Andreas Nemetz, who was a trombonist in the Vienna court opera orchestra.

Howard
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Post by ttf_HowardW » Fri Apr 22, 2016 2:43 am

Quote from: robcat2075 on Apr 20, 2016, 06:33PM- the trombone generally declined across Europe but hung on in Vienna (attached to a court theater?). Several composers who turned out to be very influential (like Mozart and Beethoven) worked in Vienna and started using the available trombones.  As their music spread, the call for trombones rebounded. Vicious cycle reversed.
The trombone's main place of use in Vienna was in the court chapel, both as a doubling and as a solo instrument. It found it's way into the theater only toward the end of the 18th century.

Mozart knew and composed for the trombone already as a child in Salzburg, where between 1756 and 1769 a trombone virtuoso by the name of Thomas Gschlatt was employed at the archiepiscopal court alongside Mozart's father Leopold. And where the town musicians still played trombones in the church, doubling the alto, tenor, and bass voices of the choir.

Beethoven, on the other hand, grew up in Bonn in western Germany, where the trombone was apparently unknown at that time. That is probably why he employed the trombone so seldom and so cautiously (well, except for that high F in the 5th  Image ) when he finally had it at his disposal in Vienna. In any case, he was not a typical Viennese composer when it came to the trombone.

BTW, Beethoven undoubtedly put the high F in the first trombone part because he wanted it played by a brass instrument, and f2 was very out of tune on the valveless trumpets of the time. So he didn't have any other choice...

Howard
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Post by ttf_svenlarsson » Fri Apr 22, 2016 3:59 am

Howard I always like to read your post, you really know what you are talking about.

When people say "the trombones did not appear in the orchestra before Beethoven #5 they simply did not consider all the orchestras that did not play "symphonies" being orchestras. And even so they are wrong since Beethoven was not the first writing for trombone i Symphonie orchestra.
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Post by ttf_robcat2075 » Fri Apr 22, 2016 8:04 am

Thank you, Howard, yours is the discussion I was trying to recall details of.

QuoteAnd the high F was not unprecedented there: Christoph Willibald Gluck required the high F from the first trombone in his operas Alceste (1767) and Iphegenie auf Tauris (1781). (It is not found, however, in the later Parisian versions of these works.) And high F is also found in the 1827 trombone method by Andreas Nemetz, who was a trombonist in the Vienna court opera orchestra.
Can we presume that those high Fs of olden days were something expected of alto trombones and not tenors? An F alto maybe?
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Post by ttf_MoominDave » Fri Apr 22, 2016 8:21 am

Howard's monograph on the subject is available online here.

Pages 59-65 deal with "The Viennese "alto" trombone", explicitly referencing those high Fs among other things. The contention is that all would have been played on a tenor-length instrument.

Small bores, small mouthpieces, professional players... No reason that F couldn't have been comfortable enough.
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Post by ttf_HowardW » Fri Apr 22, 2016 8:35 am

Quote from: robcat2075 on Apr 22, 2016, 08:04AMCan we presume that those high Fs of olden days were something expected of alto trombones and not tenors? An F alto maybe?

No, as far as I've been able to determine, the alto trombone in E-flat wasn't introduced to Vienna until 1883.

During most of the 18th century, Viennese composers tended to call for only two trombones in the alto and tenor ranges, respectively, with both parts being played on tenor instruments. When a third trombone was called for in the bass range, it too was played on a tenor.-- The only difference would have been in the size of the mouthpieces.

When the Vienna court opera orchestra adopted valve trombones around the mid 1830s, the standard trombone section was soon made up of two tenor valve trombones in B-flat and one bass valve trombone in F. Until 1883, when the slide trombone was reintroduced.

The alto trombone in F is a product of the 20th century -- but that's another story.

Howard
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Post by ttf_Posaunus » Fri Apr 22, 2016 12:29 pm

Quote from: MoominDave on Apr 22, 2016, 08:21AMHoward's monograph on the subject is available online here.

Howard,

This was a terrific, informative review of the 18th-19th century history of the trombone, and does a credible job of debunking much of the revisionist views of the alto trombone.  It should be required reading for all alto trombone proponents - at least to put things in perspective.  Congratulations on your thorough work. 

By the way, Beethoven's 5th has been played pretty continuously since its debut in 1808.  For most of that time, the trombones used have all been standard tenor trombones - rather similar to the tenor trombones we play today, but with smaller bores and mouthpieces for most of that time.  I'm old enough to remember not seeing an alto trombone used until perhaps 45-50 years ago, and then pretty infrequently.  And brave/stupid enough to have played Beethoven 5 on my Conn 88H (when I was young enough to hit the high F - though perhaps not so musically as I would have wished!).   
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Post by ttf_robcat2075 » Fri Apr 22, 2016 12:58 pm

Will Kimball's "Alto Trombone Timeline" documents numerous mentions and depictions of alto trombones through history. 

I suppose many "alto trombone" mentions may be nominally "alto" but played on a tenor but others are clearly a distinct instrument from the tenor.


These got my attention...

Quotec. 1755—Vienna, Austria: Georg Wagenseil, court composer at the Imperial Court, writes Concerto for alto trombone (Wigness 19).Quote
1769—Vienna, Austria: Johann Georg Albrechtsberger writes Concerto for alto trombone (Wigness 22).
Don't we pretty much agree those are real alto trombone works?

There are other mentions of alto trombones in Vienna after those also.

Quote1812—Linz, Austria: Beethoven writes his Drei Equale for 4 trombones, a work commissioned by Kappelmeister Glöggl of the Linz cathedral. Glöggl’s son, who later becomes a music publisher in Vienna, verifies that alto, tenor and bass are the instruments commonly in use, mentioning that in his father’s “collection of old instruments he had a soprano and a quart trombone, whereas only alto, tenor and bass trombones were commonly used.” He continues, “Beethoven wanted to hear an Aequale such as was played at funerals in Linz, and one afternoon when Beethoven was expected to dine with us, my father appointed three trombone players and had them play an Aequale as desired…” (Thayer 541)
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Post by ttf_HowardW » Sat Apr 23, 2016 3:41 am

Quote from: Posaunus on Apr 22, 2016, 12:29PMHoward,
This was a terrific, informative review of the 18th-19th century history of the trombone, and does a credible job of debunking much of the revisionist views of the alto trombone.  It should be required reading for all alto trombone proponents - at least to put things in perspective.  Congratulations on your thorough work.Thanks! But unfortunately not everybody -- especially alto trombone proponents -- has understood, or wanted to understand what I was getting at in my article. See my next posting.

Quote By the way, Beethoven's 5th has been played pretty continuously since its debut in 1808.  For most of that time, the trombones used have all been standard tenor trombones - rather similar to the tenor trombones we play today, but with smaller bores and mouthpieces for most of that time.  I'm old enough to remember not seeing an alto trombone used until perhaps 45-50 years ago, and then pretty infrequently.
Exactly! I studied with Frank Crisafulli, who as most people here know, was principal trombone of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1938/39 to 1955, before he moved down to the second trombone chair. Crisafulli never played alto trombone, never even had one as far as I know. It was his successor as principal, Robert Lambert, who introduced the alto to the CSO. For a long time, Lambert's was the only alto trombone in the city (again, as far as I know). When I was at Northwestern in the early 1970s, I was able to borrow an alto sackbut in F from an organist/choir director working on a doctorate at NU. That made me one only three people in Chicago who played alto trombone at that time (one of the other two was Jay Friedman).

Howard


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Post by ttf_Posaunus » Sat Apr 23, 2016 4:23 am

In the early 1970s I remember Boston Symphony principal trombonist Will Gibson playing Beethoven's 5th on what I believe was a "cut down" Conn 6H.  It must have allowed him to easier reach the high notes.  (I'm sure some Bostonians - perhaps Ron Barron, who sat next to Gibson as 2nd trombonist at the time - can provide additional information.)  It was a curiosity to other trombonists at the time - we had never seen a real alto trombone.  Most players - even top professionals - then made do with what they had, and didn't spend much time changing equipment. 
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Post by ttf_HowardW » Sat Apr 23, 2016 6:03 am

Quote from: robcat2075 on Apr 22, 2016, 12:58PMWill Kimball's "Alto Trombone Timeline" documents numerous mentions and depictions of alto trombones through history.I have the distinct impression that Will Kimball created his alto trombone timeline and his list of alto trombone sources in answer to my article on the "makeup of the trombone section in 18th- and early 19th century orchestras." I'm not a 100% sure about this, but it is conspicuous that he largely avoids referring to me and my publications.

Be that as it may, Kimball is obviously someone who did not or did not want to understand what I was getting at in the abovementioned article and was therefore rather irritated by it. I remember him referring at one point to "people who don't think the alto trombone ever existed" or words to that effect. This was news to me since I had never heard of anybody denying the existence of the alto trombone, so I had to assume that, in spite of his use of the plural "people," he was talking about me. I also had to assume that he didn't understand what I wrote, because I never said that the alto trombone hadn't existed, but rather had attempted to show that it's use and distribution in earlier times was nowhere nearly as widespread as most people today believe, that there were times and places where it was used, but also times and places where it was not used. One of my conclusions was that the alto trombone was most probably not used in Vienna and the rest of the Habsburg monarchy between the early 17th century and 1883, which of course would mean that what most people today consider the "core" alto trombone repertoire was never actually played on alto trombone. For somebody like Kimball, whose DMA dissertation deals with the alto trombone, this must have represented a threat, so to speak.

Back to Kimball's "alto trombone timeline": Not all of the sources that Kimball cites are relevant to the research that went into my article, which deals with a relatively limited timeframe -- 18th to early 19th century. In order to provide a fundament for my arguments, I did go back further in time to the early 17th century, and after my actual conclusions I added an epilogue with a hypothesis and suggestions for possible future research into the period after the one covered in my article. Especially at the beginning of his compilation of the timeline, most of what Kimball brought forth as evidence for the existence of the alto trombone (which again, I had never called into question) was from the mid to late 19th century, evidence that had no relevance to my arguments. Later Kimball started adding sources that I had already dealt with in my previous publications. So there is really nothing in his alto trombone timeline that has any affect on my findings one way or the other.

Quote I suppose many "alto trombone" mentions may be nominally "alto" but played on a tenor but others are clearly a distinct instrument from the tenor.
Yes! And exactly the point I tried to make in my article.

QuoteThese got my attention...

c. 1755—Vienna, Austria: Georg Wagenseil, court composer at the Imperial Court, writes Concerto for alto trombone (Wigness 19).

1769—Vienna, Austria: Johann Georg Albrechtsberger writes Concerto for alto trombone (Wigness 22).

Don't we pretty much agree those are real alto trombone works?

No, we don't agree. The principle argument employed for assigning these and other works to the alto trombone is that they are in alto clef. But clefs are merely notational devices. I know of many 17th- and 18th-century trombone parts that change clef in the middle of the piece. For example, the two published Bertali sonatas for 2 violins, trombone and bass continuo (musica rara) start out in alto clef, but switch between alto, tenor, and bass clefs. Another as yet unpublished piece even throws mezzo-soprano clef into the mix. If one were to take the clef argument seriously, the player would have to change instruments with each clef change, which is clearly absurd. (Mezzo-soprano trombone, anybody?)

Strangely, nobody has ever remarked upon the fact that the two surviving 18th-century solo trombone parts to the Wagenseil concerto change into tenor clef at m. 98 and back into alto clef at m. 103 of the Allegro movement. An indication of a change of instrument? Very unlikely, in view of the fact that the change back to alto clef takes place in the middle of a phrase.

There are other, musical reasons for playing the Albrechtsberger and Wagenseil concertos on tenor rather than alto trombone, but I'm not quite ready to discuss them now (research in progress). And BTW, the original manuscripts (in the case of the Albrechtsberger, in his own hand) do not specify "alto trombone," but merely "trombone."

Quote There are other mentions of alto trombones in Vienna after those also.

1812—Linz, Austria: Beethoven writes his Drei Equale for 4 trombones, a work commissioned by Kappelmeister Glöggl of the Linz cathedral. Glöggl’s son, who later becomes a music publisher in Vienna, verifies that alto, tenor and bass are the instruments commonly in use, mentioning that in his father’s “collection of old instruments he had a soprano and a quart trombone, whereas only alto, tenor and bass trombones were commonly used.” He continues, “Beethoven wanted to hear an Aequale such as was played at funerals in Linz, and one afternoon when Beethoven was expected to dine with us, my father appointed three trombone players and had them play an Aequale as desired…” (Thayer 541)It is important to keep in mind here that the terminology, the meaning of "soprano" as well as "alto, tenor and bass trombones" was not the same everywhere. In Vienna, the "alto, tenor and bass trombones" were all B-flat instruments. To quote Andreas Nemetz's 1827 trombone method: "The illustrated bass, tenor, and alto trombone is pitched in B-flat ... the mouthpiece must be different for each of the three types of trombone." Moreover, it is documented that Glöggl senior later sold his collection of instruments to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. Among the Gesellschaft's collection, which is today largely on display in the Vienna Musical Instrument Museum, are an alto trombone by Jacob Schmidt (Nuremberg 1675) and a quart (actually quint) trombone by Johann Leonhard Ehe (Nuremberg 1732), which may well have been Glöggl's "soprano and quart trombones" (unfortunately, the Gesellschaft's records do not provide information as to when or from whom these instruments were obtained, but for me there is no doubt that Glöggl's "soprano and quart trombones" are in fact the "alto and quint trombones" in the collection today).

Enough for now...

Howard
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Post by ttf_BGuttman » Sat Apr 23, 2016 6:43 am

One probably consistent refuge for the Alto trombone was the Moravian choirs, which included soprano through contrabass (possibly dating back to Pretorius).

But these were liturgical ensembles.

My guess is the domestication of the WaldHorn spelled the doom of the higher pitched trombones since these could cover the range and may have had a more pleasant sound (and maybe there were more players).

I remember playing "History of the Birth of Jesus Christ" by Heinrich Schutz where there are two trombone parts that double the violas.  Both parts appear to be alto trombone parts, although they could be played on tenor (and in our case they were).
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Post by ttf_bonesmarsh » Sat Apr 23, 2016 6:56 am

Howard will know far far more, I only know what little I do from travelling in Anglican church organist circles for a little while:

Schutz, Scheidt , Schein, the big three who predated J.S. Bach by a very little bit, all were stuck in the same boat that Bach was stuck in. You wrote parts for anyone who showed up, hoped the parts were covered, and if your alto singers were all suddenly struck by bubonic plague the alto parts were covered by which ever instrument showed up to cover the parts. Having assigned parts was an incredible luxury.

It is only in modern EDITIONS that separate instruments or indications of instrument are included as a courtesy for performers, purchasers, and music directors.

There are still Moravians out there you could ask. You can order the "part books" directly from their central office in the US. I've done so. Ask for The Green Book. Presently the Moravian Books are available for every possible transposition and instrumental combination, or instrumentation.
    The Moravian Books are PERFECT, having survived proof-reading and rigorous performance and rehearsal since about the year 1750.
Of course, the books are not available online. They are Moravians after all. When I bought their books they "suggested" a price, and you paid, or didn't. They were sent, and they TRUSTED you to pay.
A great system.. especially when you find out that The Green Book is perfect.
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Post by ttf_HowardW » Sat Apr 23, 2016 8:27 am

Quote from: BGuttman on Apr 23, 2016, 06:43AMOne probably consistent refuge for the Alto trombone was the Moravian choirs, which included soprano through contrabass (possibly dating back to Pretorius).
The Moravians' use of trombones probably only goes back to the mid 18th century. There are several collections (hymns and instrumental pieces) for four trombones (soprano to bass). The contrabass was probably added to the ensemble only in the 20th century.

Quote My guess is the domestication of the WaldHorn spelled the doom of the higher pitched trombones since these could cover the range and may have had a more pleasant sound (and maybe there were more players).
The horn joined the orchestra only in the early 18th century and, in those places where there were trombones, existed side by side with them [for example: Michael Haydn, Serenade in D with movement 4. Concertino.Adagio and movement 5. Allegro molto with solo horn and a rather high solo trombone part]. I don't think there was ever any question of the horns replacing the trombones. They were different instruments with different timbres. And don't forget that the horn wasn't fully chromatic until after the invention and application of valves in 1814.

Quote I remember playing "History of the Birth of Jesus Christ" by Heinrich Schutz where there are two trombone parts that double the violas.  Both parts appear to be alto trombone parts, although they could be played on tenor (and in our case they were).Just several voice parts and the basso continuo part of Schütz's "Christmas Story" were published during Schütz's lifetime. The instrumental parts and the other voice parts were only available in manuscript from the composer. The parts that have survived (in Uppsala, Sweden, and in Berlin) are very incomplete, so all the versions available today are merely reconstructions. If I remember correctly, the two trombones double the violas in the first and last movements of the Bärenreiter edition, of which only the bass line is original. In Intermedium 5, there are two solo trombone parts of which the first trombone part and only a few measures of the beginning of the second trombone part survive. The first trombone part does not ascend beyond a1, and can thus be considered a tenor part.

Howard
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