Paul Weschke (1867 – 1940) must have been of the greatest trombone virtuoso at the first half the 20th century. Yet, apparently he did not know how to play legato – at least when we follow the narrative of Per Gade’s article on Weschke published on Jay Friedman’s website https://www.jayfriedman.net/articles/pa ... ul_weschke. There he cites from a diary of Anton Hansen, who met Weschke in 1911
This is somewhat in contrast to Carl Lenthe’s interview of Horst Rasch, one of Weschke’s last pupils, (published on Carl Lenthe’s website http://www.indiana.edu/~trombone/article3.html).“… The trills were superb, but the legato was not good. His technique in the cantabile passages is quite wrong, because he slurred notes with the jaw instead of slurring with the tongue…”
How to reconcile these two views?Rasch: “He placed great value on correct slurring, especially the slurs that, as I say, don't break but rather are in one air column, where otherwise a glissando would occur ? B, C, D, for example. I learned from him to play the note and then suppress the air stream very briefly while moving the slide very quickly. This is not what one usually hears today, where the slurs are all "pushed" ? duu duu duu duu ? which, practically speaking, is simpler and easier.”
Lenthe: “He didn't use the legato tongue?”
Rasch: “No. No legato tongue when slurring, only if there were dots or dashes over the notes. Where real slurs are required, one suppresses the air column for a hundredth of a second while quickly shifting the slide, so that no smear is audible. He would not tolerate smeariness. It had to be perfect, which you can only master through practice. That is how Weschke taught it.”
Well, when I started playing in an orchestra in the US, I was surprised to notice that nobody really slurred. They always used the tongue. Back in Germany, I learned to slur by interrupting the airstream with the diaphragm rather than with the tongue. Even though they used the tongue to slur, their slur was often better than mine. In particular, using the diaphragm also shapes the note like a mini crescendo-decrescendo using syllable “Ta-ha”. In contrast, by using the tongue, I find it easier to get slurs of long steady “fog horn” tones without any shape, which seems often preferable. Therefore I call these two different legatos the “German” and the “American” legato, respectively.
The “American” legato is nicely explained in videos by James Markey
and Christian Lindberg
who even argues to tongue “natural slurs” across different partials.
I could not find a video for the “German” legato but here is a video by Gabriele Marchetti that comes close to it
who even argues for no interruption of the airflow at all and views legato as a very fast glissando.
To sum up, there seems to be at least three kinds of legatos: The “American” legato, the “German” legato, and the smeary legato (which shows a glissando). All of them seem to have different characteristics.
How would have legato been played during the baroque or classic eras? In what sense, would a modern trained trombonist who buys a modern copy of a baroque trombone be able to play historically correct legato? I believe most trombonists of baroque or classic eras played the trombone just as “side”-instrument. Even during the romantic era, one of the first known trombone virtuoso, Carl Traugott Queisser, was mainly a viola player. To what extend would all those "side"-instrument trombonists be able to play a “clean” legato and if so which kind of legato? Modern slides are incomparable to older much heavier slides in raw brass. Slides on the older instruments were longer but people were shorter. I would expect that whatever they used to crease the slide at the time was worse than what we use today. Altogether it would have been much more difficult to play “proper legato” on historic instruments, in historic times, by historic players.
And were people really afraid of “smeary legatos” at that time? The sound aesthetics must have changed somewhat during the last 500 years. (For instance, it is said that Martin Luther once asked "Why don't you fart nor burp? Wasn't the food to your liking?")
Are there historic letters, descriptions etc. that describe the practice of legato playing of trombones at that time?