Schumann Konzertstück for 4 horns - trombone part

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StefanHaller
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Schumann Konzertstück for 4 horns - trombone part

Post by StefanHaller » Fri May 25, 2018 8:59 am

We have the Schumann Concert Piece for four horns coming up in our next programme (with four members of the Berliner Philharmoniker horn section doing the solo parts, I'm very excited about that; but that's not why I'm posting ;) ).

I have two questions about the alto trombone part:

1) Is it meant to be played on an alto trombone? Is it usually played on an alto trombone nowadays? (Ok, that's already two questions.)

2) There's this strange passage in the slow movement where the first two solo horns play a canon, and the second horn is doubled in unison by the alto trombone (the first horn is not doubled by anything). See here. Any guesses why this passage is instrumented in this way? I'm a little scared about that passage, I suppose it's going to be difficult to get it together and in tune. Is it common to just leave out the trombone doubling? If I were a conductor (especially of an amateur orchestra) I would probably consider this.

Any wild speculation welcome. :)
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LeTromboniste
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Re: Schumann Konzertstück for 4 horns - trombone part

Post by LeTromboniste » Fri May 25, 2018 9:41 am

That part is really fun, especially that passage. Better not to think of it as merely doubling, but to think of it as a trombone solo which happens to follow the horn solo, where you add a different color to the line.
It is not an easy passage but that is no reason to leave it out. Embrace the challenge.

For your first question, my answer is this : does it really matter? Both your tenor or alto will sound quite different from the romantic German trombone of Schumann's time - even if it was written for tenor (which is hard to be sure of), you might be closer to the right sound with today's big alto than with a large bore tenor that would have been considered a bass at the time - so use what allows you to play the part best and get the sound and blend you want. Also, none of the others in the orchestra will be playing historical instruments, and many of your colleagues will play instruments that sound much more different from their historical counterpart than you.
Maximilien Brisson
StefanHaller
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Re: Schumann Konzertstück for 4 horns - trombone part

Post by StefanHaller » Fri May 25, 2018 10:22 am

LeTromboniste wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 9:41 am
For your first question, my answer is this : does it really matter?
No, it totally doesn't. It was really just curiosity, I should have mentioned that. I don't have an alto trombone anyway and I've never played one. I guess I was mainly curious how well that passage in the 2nd movement could be played on an Eb alto, with the jump from 2nd to 7th position in a run of sixteenth notes.

Myself, I'm still undecided whether I'll play on my .525 horn that I usually use for orchestral stuff, or on the .500 and smaller mouthpiece that I use for big band lead. I tend towards the latter right now, just because all the high range is so challenging for me...
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BGuttman
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Re: Schumann Konzertstück for 4 horns - trombone part

Post by BGuttman » Fri May 25, 2018 12:36 pm

I would guess that a small bore tenor would be appropriate. Howard Weiner published a paper in the old TTF where he explained that the three trombones in 19th Century playing were all Bb instruments of different bores: smallest for "alto", medium for "tenor", and large bore for "bass".

Sounds like a great experience. Enjoy the ride.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
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LeTromboniste
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Re: Schumann Konzertstück for 4 horns - trombone part

Post by LeTromboniste » Sat May 26, 2018 12:01 am

BGuttman wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 12:36 pm
I would guess that a small bore tenor would be appropriate. Howard Weiner published a paper in the old TTF where he explained that the three trombones in 19th Century playing were all Bb instruments of different bores: smallest for "alto", medium for "tenor", and large bore for "bass".

Sounds like a great experience. Enjoy the ride.
Howard's paper, aside from being still debated, is also much more nuanced than that, and he examines (and gets to different conclusions for) different times and places. Some places most definitely used actual altos, and a few definitely also used "real" basses in F or Eb. That is well documented.

I can't remember what that paper says about Leipzig and I don't have access to it right now. But there is certainly no question that at least some of the symphonies by Schumann, Brahms and Mendelssohn, for instance, call for a true bass, as they go beyond the range of the tenor. The first trombone range lies quite high and we also know that the Sattler (and later Penzel) workshop in Leipzig did make altos, several of which are still extant today. I find it hard to believe that nobody in Leipzig would have used them to perform those very high alto parts when they had the best trombone-making workshop in their town making them...

StefanHaller wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 10:22 am
LeTromboniste wrote:
Fri May 25, 2018 9:41 am
For your first question, my answer is this : does it really matter?
No, it totally doesn't. It was really just curiosity, I should have mentioned that. I don't have an alto trombone anyway and I've never played one. I guess I was mainly curious how well that passage in the 2nd movement could be played on an Eb alto, with the jump from 2nd to 7th position in a run of sixteenth notes.
The tempo is quite slow though, so the fact that they are 16th note isn't really a problem in itself. The E is also the first of the sixteenth note, so you could conceivably shorten the D to be on the E in time if the distance was a problem. It's certainly not the easiest gesture to play on an Eb alto and it could be an argument supporting that the piece might have been written for tenor. But then again composers don't hesitate to write A-B on tenor sometimes, on a much longer slide, so... And let's face it, it's entirely possible (and likely) that Schumann didn't care about slide positions.
Maximilien Brisson
StefanHaller
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Re: Schumann Konzertstück for 4 horns - trombone part

Post by StefanHaller » Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:03 am

Dress rehearsal yesterday. It's very hard to tell how the balance was in that passage; the distance to the soloists is huge (we're on opposite ends of the stage, really). I only heard myself. Not much feedback from the conductor, and when I asked the second Horn soloist afterwards what he thought about the balance, he had no idea that someone else was also playing that line. Hm, I guess I'm going to play it quite a bit louder tonight.
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LeTromboniste
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Re: Schumann Konzertstück for 4 horns - trombone part

Post by LeTromboniste » Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:28 am

Gotta love soloists who can't be bothered to study the accompaniment to the pieces they're playing
Maximilien Brisson
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