Appendix 2: Penzel and Ullmann Instruments in the Collection of Günter Hett



Alto trombone J.C. Penzel

The absence of snake decoration points to an instrument built before 1860. Original slide uses brass inner tubes without stockings. The shell decorations on the bell rim are not very accurately placed. The original slide is damaged; there is a small hole in the lower inner tube which makes the slide unusable. A simple slide made of brass in exactly the same dimensions has been built by Günter Hett and works perfectly with this bell. On first inspection the garland and trim appears also to be made of brass, however polishing could reveal nickel silver although this is difficult to verify with the current state of the instrument.

On the main bow there is a protective brass guard in the form of a “comb”. This style is also to be found on the instruments of Sattler in the Grassi Museum. Penzel is credited later with the introduction of the “snake decoration” in nickel silver. Given the proximity in style and manufacturing materials to Sattler’s alto trombone, we can conclude that the instrument may have been built soon after Penzel assumed control over the Sattler workshop in the 1840’s.

The bell seems similar in shape to a large trumpet bell. The bell throat is very narrow. As is the bore of the main bow. There is also very little conicity in the bell bow tuning. This also points to an early example of Penzel's production.

Intonation over the harmonic series is excellent, as good as any modern alto trombone. Sound quality of the instrument using a modern mouthpiece could be described as very clear and colourful, slender yet elegant. The instrument speaks easily and the high E flat is well in tune.

Considering these factors...

  • Similarity to Sattler’s alto in Grassi Museum
  • Trumpet style bell form
  • Engraving J.C.Penzel sonst C.F.Sattler in Leipzig
  • Presence of Comb style bell guard

We can presume that the instrument is an early example of Penzel's art and could date from the mid 1840’s onwards, and that a similar style of instrument probably would have been used by the Gewandhaus alto trombonist Burck during the period of Julius Reitz’s directorship of that orchestra. In which case it would provide a perfect example of an alto trombone to reproduce for modern performances of the trombone parts of Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann. Indeed its tonal properties and excellent intonation in the high register would lend itself ideally to performance of the alto trombone part of Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony.                             

Tenor trombone J.C.Penzel (1860’s) see video link

Tenor trombone G.Ullmann sonst J.C.Penzel (1880's) see video link

(both filmed in Bergisch Gladbach. Collection Günter Hett)


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G.Ullmann trombone (video)

Penzel trombone video