Sattler Trombones in the Grassi Museum, Leipzig
Thanks to my contacts in Leipzig, Rolf Handrow, retired bass trombonist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and Sebastian Krause, principal trombonist of the MDR Sinfonie Orchester Leipzig, I was able to view the set of C.F.Sattler trombones dated 1841 housed in the collection of the Grassi museum for Musical Instruments in Leipzig on April 29th, 2016. For this my thanks go to also to conservator Herr Wieland Hecht.
This set of three trombones was built for the Thomas Church, where J.S.Bach spent many years as “Cantor”. They are of great significance in trombone history, perhaps not so much for the inherent quality of the instruments themselves but for the fact that it represents the earliest surviving set of what we may safely call the “Romantic” German trombone. The most striking aspect of the instruments is the very wide bore of the slides on the tenor trombones, which is notably much closer to the bore of the present day modern orchestral trombone. The three trombones are visually quite unified. All have outwardly similar features; however some anomalies are also striking. The bells of the instruments are all furnished with a wide brass rim (the “kranz”) decorated with shells stamped around the top. The bell and slide bows are also furnished with an extra brass “comb” which functions as protection for the thin metal of these particular spots that are prone to damage.
The trombones have been measured several times by various parties. Since I lack the technical and instrument building skills to measure the instruments accurately I did not take any measurements myself but rely on those already published by Herbert Heyde [t1] and later the Verein für Mitteldeutsche Posaunengeschichte e.V.
Sebastian Krause also provided two Sattler bells from his private collection of unknown date, and a large bore tenor (technically tenor-bass) trombone built by J.C.Penzel (Sattler’s son in law and successor). Since Sattler died in 1842 it is probable that these bells pre-date the 1841 set. Although the original Sattler slides are no longer extant it was possible to test both bells for their sound and response with appropriate slide from other nineteenth century instruments.
The Penzel trombone is complete and in very good and almost original condition.
Alto trombone Sattler 1841 and alto trombone bell Sebastian Krause
The bell of this instrument seems quite trumpet like. The two bells were probably produced on the same mandrel. The metal is not particularly thin on either instrument. We were able to play test the Krause bell on a slide from a later trombone. The sound was very clear and trumpet like, but intonation while reasonable was not perfect through the harmonic series. Compared to the Penzel alto trombone (collection Günter Hett) built several years later (probably 1850’s but the instrument is undated) which has also been described in the study, the Sattler bell seemed less warm in sound and more resistant in response. A test directly against the Penzel bell would certainly be most enlightening.
Tenor trombone Sattler 1841
This is an unusual instrument which has had very few parallels with most other instruments of the period that I have been able to examine. This instrument may have been a “one off” design for the Thomas Church, since the results of earlier play tests by Sebastian Krause and Ian Bousfield had determined that the intonation and response of the instrument left a lot to be desired. Results of the tests show that the harmonic series is seriously out of tune with the slide in the first (closed) position, to the point where the instrument may have been extremely difficult to play in tune. The instrument possesses a smaller bell diameter than the tenor bell provided by Sebastian Krause (see below). Also the width of the bell bow is considerably narrower than the two other bells of Sattler present at this test. We speculate that the main problem with the instrument may be the taper of the tubing from the tuning slide into the bell proper. Even without measuring the instrument our trained eyes saw a distinctly uneven or inconsistent taper in the tubing from the slide section to the bell bow which probably contributes to the poor intonation up the harmonic series. Another interesting aspect of the instrument is that its pitch is not consistent with the two other instruments in the set, being several cents sharper. (a=444hz).
Tenor trombone bell (Krause-undated)
Sebastian provided an undated bell with simple engraving (Sattler, Leipzig) which in measurements came between the two bells of the Grassi set. We were able to test this bell on the larger Penzel slide (see below). I played through the first movement of the David Concertino on this Sattler Penzel combination. Despite slide and bell not being completely matched the intonation through the harmonic series was generally very good. The sound we found to be very rich and full of overtones. The brass felt reasonably rigid for an instrument of this age. This bell could be a very useful piece of history, and well worth copying. By measuring the bore of the neck pipe it should be possible to determine the bore size of the original slide, which could then be reconstructed from careful study of the Sattler slides in the museum, and the Sattler from the Markneukirchen Museum
Tenor bass trombones Sattler 1841, and J.C. Penzel (Krause)
Lastly, of greatest interest are the two largest bored trombones at the test. Since one of the most important aspects of the study is the quest to find an instrument upon which Queisser could have played these two trombones which in general parlance can be called early “Tenor-Bass trombone” because of the large bell flare and wide bore measurements in the slide section, certainly fit the description on David original title page Concertino pour le Trombone Basse.
The trombone is of very wide bore according to measurements made by Heyde in the 1980’s which are later not quoted in the exhibition catalogue[t2] . According to this publication the upper inner slide has a bore of 14mm and the lower inner slide 14.4mm, but according to Heyde the inner slides have a slight conicity to them. Considering the modern orchestral tenor trombone usually has a cylindrical bore of 13.89mm and the modern bass 14.27mm. This makes the Sattler trombone very much similar to modern large bore trombones at least in terms of slide bore size. The bell at its end has a measurement of 230mm, which is slightly larger than a modern 8.5 inch tenor trombone bell, but slightly smaller than a typical bass trombone bell (9.5 to 10.5 inch or 245mm to 267mm).
The instrument has recently been play tested but unfortunately was not available to me to test. The slide is not in playable state however. Fortunately the Penzel trombone provided by Sebastian Krause is in excellent state and playable. A comparison of the bell shows a great deal of similarity to Sattler’s trombone. In fact it is not inconceivable that these bells were spun on the same mandrel. There are important differences in Penzel’s model most notably the comparative length of the bell and slide section. The Penzel instrument has a noticeably longer slide section and a shorter neck pipe and bell bow than the Sattler. The intonation on the Penzel trombone is excellent up the harmonic series. The slide action remarkable for an instrument of this vintage. Even more astounding is the fact that almost no repairs have been carried out on it. There is every reason to consider the Penzel instrument as a more fully developed concert instrument than the Sattler.
Sattler trombone in Markneukirchen
This instrument was observed on two occasions, firstly in its display case in November 2016, and again in April 2017, when I was able to make some measurements and play test it. The instrument is in a rather poor state of repair, with many small dents in the bell section. The bell is also quite deformed and bent considerably at the rim. The slide is barely movable.
The instrument shares quite a few traits with the better preserved 1841 set in Leipzig.
- Bell and slide bow guards (Kamm-decoration).
- Ribbed ferrules in brass
- Very wide bell garland
- Shell decorations on the top of the bell garland
- Slide capsules conical and completely ribbed (for grip?). Springs are present in the capsules.
- Open tube (unsoldered) on the moving slide stay (Offenes Querstege)
This instrument is of slightly smaller bore and bell dimensions than the larger of the Leipzig tenors. The bell is not round but is estimated to have the original measurement of 23cm. The slide bore was measured at the bottom of the slide tubes. I measured the slides at 12.9 and 12,7 but since the tubes are no longer round or straight one could presume the original bore to be around 12.8 or 12.9 mm. This is a smaller bore thus than the Penzel tenor trombones tested.
Play testing the instrument was limited to playing notes of the harmonic series, since the slide was virtually stuck fast. Intonation over the harmonics was excellent, and response excellent. The sound could be described as rich, clear and resonant. I was quite amazed at how finely the trombone sounded.
This instrument could serve as the perfect model for a representative tenor trombone in a set of mid 19th century reproduction trombones of German style.
Go to Appendix 2
 Die Deutsche Posaune, ein Leipziger Welterfolg. P. 137
 Katalog Musikinstrumenten- Museum Leipzig Band 3, pp. 179-80
[t2]Add Heyde’s measurements