Chapter 5

Tromba marina question

Another practice common in Sandomierz monastery, a little unusual at the first glance, was the use of tromba marina as a substitution of trumpets. However extraordinary it may seem, it appeared as well in other central-European monasteries, mostly female ones, and in some cases lasted even up until 1880 [54]. Bearing in mind that brass-instrument performance was often related to respiratory health risks and consequently shorter life-span [55]tromba marina (more commonly known in Poland as tuba marina or just tuba) seemed to provide creative and less risky substitution of brass sound for all-female convents. A study by Adkins and Dickinson lists all the Polish orders which had documented practice of tuba marina.[56] All of them are located in Lower Poland: Jesuits in Kraków, Cistercians in Obra, poor Clares in Stary Sącz, and Sandomierz Benedictines. This fact not only confirms the thesis of central-European tuba marina tradition (as for other regions mentioned in the study are: Austria, Bohemia, Bavaria, Saxony, Lviv-Ukraine, Lausitz, and Switzerland) but also shows internal regional connections regarding it. What makes BDS musicalia even more special for local musicology, is the best documentation of tuba marina phenomena among all aforementioned Polish monasteries.


In the article cited above, Magdalena Walter-Mazur, mentions that

On one of the title pages of the oldest extant vocal-instrumental piece, Concerto de resurrectione, by Kazimierz Boczkowski, for two sopranos, bass, two trumpets, and basso continuo, dated to 1700, we read:‘these clarino parts shall be played by the violin’.[57]

Indeed, on the front page, we see the composer’s note “Klaryny na skrzypcach grać trzeba” (clarini part should be played on the violin). However, it also bears an inscription mentioning tubae on page 16: “Tuby wystroić na Delasolre wÿecÿ” (Tune tubas for Delasolre more(?)). My assumption is, the composer might have had suggested performance on the violin due to possible lack of accessibility of tubae marine, but he wouldn’t suggest tuning the violin for Delasolre - clearly, this instruction refers to one-string tromba marina, which, should be tuned accordingly to D major tonality of the piece. Another composition of Boczkowski, Veni Creator Spiritus[58], also has an inscription regarding this instrument. Within the part of clarino, we find a note: “Confitebor optimo- Tubae tacent”. Moreover, In Motetto de Sancta Gertrudis [59], by Joseph Ruth, dedicated to Marianna Moszyńska, the composer mentions Tuba solo on the title page. Although cloister registers and chronicles document hiring trumpeters of Sandomierz Collegiate and Jesuit College for special occasions, we can assume that less festive performance of chamber music requiring trumpets could include tuba marina, which, in the perspective of mid-, and late 18th-century repertoire, seems very unusual.

  • Fragment of page 16, with the inscription “Tuby wystroić na Delasolre wÿecÿ”


While pieces by Boczkowski and Ruth outline the beginnings of the practice, surprisingly a lot of records about vivid performance come from the end of the 18th century. Yearly mentions of strings purchased for tromba marina are recorded in registers from 1739 to 1806 (mostly as a purchase of “strings for choir”), however, in years 1787, 1790, and 1792 precise mention of the amount “za strony do Tuby na chor” (for the strings for Tuba of the choir) clearly refers to tuba marina.[60]

The two latest pieces in the collection featuring tuba, both coming from 1773 are Sinfonia in D by Naumann and Pastorella “A coż to się dzieje” featuring “tuba pastoralis”. The latest, alleged written record of tuba marina presence in cloisters instrumentarium comes from 1816 when in inventory two instruments called “turubany” are mentioned. This enigmatic, mispronounced name most likely refers to polonized tubmaryna, since there is no record of similarly sounding theorbos in Sandomierz cloister from ever before.[61]

  • page 10, Violino Primo part with inscription Clarino (possible substitution of a trumpet with Violino-tuba marina)

  • page 14, Tuba solo part



Considering, that 37 pieces in BDS musicalia feature parts of clarini/trumpets/tubae and “tuba player” description appears in several necrologies of Sandomierz nuns, as well as frequent purchases of strings for tubmaryna are recorded, it safe to assume that tuba marina practice was alive in a monastery up till the end of 18th century.


Even though only a few pieces within instrumental chamber music could be considered as possibly performed with the participation of the tuba marina, I would like to pose an argument, that tubae might have been used outside “choir” and possibly in chamber concerts in cloister’s gate.

In the case of ms no.17 titled Kwintet, it is highly possible that the piece was performed on tromba marina. This three-movement miniature, for two oboes and two trombae, has a fanfare-like character, melodically using just triads and harmonics. Two oboes are written mostly in parallel thirds or sixths, trombae parts are following the pattern. Since it is known that timpani and tromba marina were used to perform fanfares in Austrian cloisters (e.g.: Nonnberg in Salzburg)[62], and, generally, the substitution of usual fanfare trumpets with monochord tromba marina seem very intuitive, we could assume its use in this case.

  • Fragment of ms no.17 Kwintet, page 6, Tromba ex D


Another piece possible to perform with the participation of the tuba marina is ms no.18 titled Larghetto. It consists of two-movement composition in preserved parts of Oboe Prima, Cornu Primo, Violino 1mo, Violino Secondo, Basso, and Clarinetto Primo as well as a fragment of possibly dance suite in Violino 2ndo part (two movements: 1.Marsz, 2. (variation of the previous melody). An interesting detail appears in the Clarinetto Primo part, preserved only first for movement (Larghetto). Anonymous scriptor notes Sanctissimo Confesor Domini- the name of one of the songs in Vespers. The very likely composition was used or reused as a part of Vespers cycle. Even though composition does not feature trumpet or clarino, I believe it was possible to substitute horn with tuba marina, especially in repertoire performed in the musical choir of the convent’s church [63]. Another argument for this hypothesis is that none of the necrologies of nun-musicians mention horn-players. The necrology of Elżbieta Dudkiewiczówna, “very good pianist”, singer, and “tuba” (tuba marina) player, mentions, that she was learning to play horn "with great commitment " [64], it does not tell us however that she actually performed. Moreover, if trumpeters from Jesuit College and Collegiate, hired for special occasions to embellish liturgy[65] were likely to play on horns as well (as horn poses similar technical demands as a trumpet), then why would those hypothetical horn-playing nuns need outside, trumpet-playing musicians? My thesis is, brass parts, ordinarily, were performed on tuba marina and occasionally on destined instruments. Would that be a case, we could consider such instrumentation in the performance of manuscript no.20 Parthia by Jakub Gołąbek and incomplete manuscript no.15 with fragments for oboe and horn in D.

  • Fragment of ms no.18 Larghetto, page 2


What makes the tuba issue even more interesting in the context of the Sandomierz cloister, is the existence of the popular Polish folk instrument tubmaryna, having several variations in different Polish regions (maryna in the Kujawy region or basetla in Wielkopolska) fairly identical with tromba marina. Ethnomusicological sources state that emergence of the said folk instrument is linked to female monasteries’ practice of marine trumpet, and the instrument’s alternative names confirm that thesis further.[66] It is hard to tell if the instrument benedictine nuns were using was closer to 18th century one-string versions, preserved e.g. in Musée de la musique in Paris[67] or Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg[68] or rather to Polish folk tubmaryna, sometimes having two strings tuned in fifths and percussive metal plates attached on top of instruments head[69]. The aforementioned early 18th-century composition of Boczkowski, suggests " Delasolre " tuning and indicates one string to be tuned. Even though all the entrances in registers referring to strings purchases for tuba mention plural strings (“strony”) it does not give us enough evidence to assume that the convent owned a double-string version of it (strings could have been bought in bulk in reserve). The issue of interdependencies between tuba marina in Poland and its folk alternatives could be a very intriguing and exciting new field of research.