Bruckner Requiem - alto trombone?

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LordGinger69
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Bruckner Requiem - alto trombone?

Post by LordGinger69 »

Hello fellow trombonists.
I’m a professional trombone player in europe since ten years back, in the fall I’ll play Bruckners Requiem for the first time. I have only played Bruckner on tenor, both first parts and second parts. I have done most of his symphonys. But this time I’m actually a bit confused - the part looks like an alto part. Like a properly written part with an alto in mind. Also considering the tradition of trombone section + choir equals alto tenor and bass, I kind of want to try it on alto.

Any colleagues here who have done the piece? How did you go about alto / tenor on the first part? How did it go?
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LeTromboniste
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Re: Bruckner Requiem - alto trombone?

Post by LeTromboniste »

I've conducted it, and we agreed the trombones would use alto, tenor, bass. Other piece on the programme was a Mozart Missa Brevis. On musical grounds in terms of modern instruments, I would recommend alto, tenor and bass or alto, small/medium and large tenor, but just use what sounds best and feels more comfortable for you.

As for what it's originally intended for, that's a different question. There is a very good case to be made that it would probably have been premiered on three Bb valve trombones, as that was overwhelmingly the practice in Austria in that time. But stylistically, the piece is very much in the old Austrian style of the 18th century. It's almost a Mozart pastiche. It even includes basso continuo, which is hugely anachronistic. Bruckner was young and exploring styles and learning his craft during that period, and I don't think he was thinking of the sound he was going to get from the instruments so much as trying to study and imitate the classics. The truth is he himself didn't know what that would have sounded like.

Very good and underperformed piece! Have fun!


Just an extra note about the "trombones+choir tradition". It historically, doesn't equal alto, tenor and bass trombones, at least not always. Whether they used small altos and/or long basses varied immensely geographically and through history. In many cases that we today automatically categorize as "alto, tenor, bass" material, they were actually probably using three Bb instruments of the same size.
Maximilien Brisson
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Lecturer for baroque trombone,
Hfk Bremen/University of the Arts Bremen
LordGinger69
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Re: Bruckner Requiem - alto trombone?

Post by LordGinger69 »

Thank you! Very interesting. I’ll definately try it on the alto. I have a great german style alto from Kromat - I think that will do the trick.

A lot of interesting stuff you are writing about the history of choir + trombones. Bruckner on valves makes sense in some of his symphonies, 5th for example.

Since you seem to have a lot of knowledge in the subject, what is the most probable instrument setup that Brahms wrote his 2nd symphony for? I’m considering doing it on alto as well - having only done it on tenor until now.
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LeTromboniste
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Re: Bruckner Requiem - alto trombone?

Post by LeTromboniste »

LordGinger69 wrote: Mon Jul 08, 2024 5:37 am Thank you! Very interesting. I’ll definately try it on the alto. I have a great german style alto from Kromat - I think that will do the trick.

A lot of interesting stuff you are writing about the history of choir + trombones. Bruckner on valves makes sense in some of his symphonies, 5th for example.

Since you seem to have a lot of knowledge in the subject, what is the most probable instrument setup that Brahms wrote his 2nd symphony for? I’m considering doing it on alto as well - having only done it on tenor until now.
There is a great article on the makeup of the trombone section in Bruckner in the 2016 Historic Brass Society Journal by Bernhard Rainer:
https://www.historicbrass.org/edocman/h ... Rainer.pdf

Brahms 2 was for sure premiered on valve trombones (no alto).

But on modern instruments I always recommend using whatever you feel sounds best and is more comfortable for you, your section, your orchestra and the interpretation of the piece. Modern instruments and the modern style of playing are vastly different from that of Brahms and Bruckner's time, so playing alto just because a piece was "written for" alto, or vice versa, is unlikely to make your performance significantly closer to what it historically would have been at the premiere. If anything, there are cases of rep that was originally played on three tenors, where one might now say "then we should play tenors because it's originally written for tenors", and use large bore tenors, but where using alto and a scaled-down section might approach the right sound and lightness better.
Last edited by LeTromboniste on Mon Jul 08, 2024 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
Maximilien Brisson
www.maximilienbrisson.com
Lecturer for baroque trombone,
Hfk Bremen/University of the Arts Bremen
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harrisonreed
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Re: Bruckner Requiem - alto trombone?

Post by harrisonreed »

There's an article where a trombonist reached out to many high level pros about what horn they use for what piece (focusing on pieces where alto is often used), so it gives a snapshot of what horn is most commonly used for these works in real life situations. It was a mixed bag for Bruckner's religious works. Some chose alto but more chose tenor.

It's by Ken Shifrin. The Alto Trombone in the Orchestra 1800-2000
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BGuttman
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Re: Bruckner Requiem - alto trombone?

Post by BGuttman »

Howard Weiner, probably one of the most knowledgeable on the period, wrote that often the 3 parts were played by Bb instruments of different bores; sort of like playing the top voice on a Conn 4H, the middle voice on a Conn 6H, and the bottom voice on a Conn 8H.

As Maximilien said, the choice of instruments depends on (1) what feels most comfortable for you, (2) the size of instruments used in the rest of the section, and (3) any conductor preference.

Enjoy the concert.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
"Almost Professional"
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