I return finally to the questions I posed myself at the outset of this paper.
“Does the prevailing tendency within the so-called “Authentic” performance tradition to perform early nineteenth century Germanic trombone parts on narrow bore (classical or even baroque copies) or modern German trombones truly reflect the performance practice of the trombonists performing in orchestras within the time period of this study? What were the instruments used by these performers? Who were the builders of these instruments and what were their dimensions? Is it now possible to build a truly idiomatic mid nineteenth century German style trombone based upon traditional techniques that truly reflects the sound world of the early nineteenth century orchestra?”
I would like to provide direct simple answers to all of the above questions, and to a certain extent feel confident that after this fascinating journey I am able to shed some degree of clarity on each part of the question.
Although we cannot know exactly which instruments were used by the performers in each particular performance noted throughout, we do have a number instruments preserved, which we can date with reasonable certainty. We also know from which cities or areas the instrument builders worked. We do know that by far the most common trombone was the tenor trombone and that most alto and bass trombone parts can be played upon it. I am inclined to support the findings of Howard Weiner, which have often been cited in this paper, yet must admit that his conclusions have yet to take any strong hold within the community of trombonist within the HIP community. I must also admit to “liking” the sound of the modern three voiced authentic trombone section (alto, tenor and F bass), despite not believing it to be a true representation of the instruments used (certainly in Vienna). I feel the sound of this section is very appropriate to the general sound and style concepts of the modern day HIP movement. When it comes to re-creating an authentic trombone sound for composers such as the later Mendelssohn and Schumann, moving on to early Brahms and Wagner, I hope to have shown that the local instrument builders Sattler and Penzel must have had a strong foothold in the local market. The influence of the soloists Belcke and Queisser should not be underestimated. They both enjoyed great success with a wide public and I have shown that they were also at the forefront of promoting the larger bored instrument that Sattler (and possibly Gabler or Moritz for Belcke) were producing by the 1830’s. Even though no instruments used by either of the two virtuosi have survived, informed speculation supports their promotion of the “bass” trombone which is in fact a B flat tenor trombone with a much larger bore and bell flare than was previously used. That this larger model was to quickly take hold in Germany is evidenced by the almost complete lack of surviving small bore tenor trombones after the 1850’s.
Can we truly reproduce this trombone sound now in the 21st century? I personally believe that by using the right sort of brass alloy, and by the uncompromising avoidance of all modern building techniques, a skilled instrument builder such as Rainer Egger or Stefan Voigt would certainly be capable of approaching the unique sound of a Sattler trombone. One must accept of course that no two trombones of the same maker can ever be exactly identical. This phenomenem is a given, even for modern mass produced trombones, due to the very nature of the elastic metal known as brass. Every tube or curve, every ferrule and stay, every soldered joint or cross stay, can influence the sound and response of a brass instrument. It is the skill of the builder that transforms an inert metal into a vibrating living musical instrument with which performers can express themselves.
Therefore I should like to round off this paper with these final words...
I conclude that the current common practice of performing the trombone parts of the music of mid century German composers such as Mendelssohn and Schumann on standard reproduction classical trombones of three different sizes and pitches : alto, tenor, and bass, is unlikely to be an accurate representation of the instruments used, particularly in Leipzig, during the time period of Mendelssohn’s directorship of the Gewandhaus Orchestra up the performance of Schumann's Rhenish symphony in 1851. After meeting instrument builders, instrument collectors, and viewing and measuring many instruments in museums and private collections, I have concluded that it is possible, and desirable, to design and build a set of Romantic reproduction trombones based on models of the Leipzig masters Sattler and Penzel, which could accurately represent the trombone sound which Mendelssohn and Schumann heard in Leipzig. In this study I have made a detailed proposal (within the scope of my expertise) as to how these instruments should be designed and built, and it is my fervent hope that in so doing I can add to the understanding and advancement of nineteenth century trombone performance practice among trombonists, not only within the realm of "Historically Informed Performance Practice", but also for modern symphonic trombonists seeking to discover more about the history and aesthetics of our marvelous instrument, the trombone.
Den Haag, 16.05.2017
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