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Bach Books

Die Blechblasinsturmente in J.S.Bachs Werken
by Gisela & Jozsef Csiba



The Book

Die Blechblasinsturmente in J.S. Bachs Werken

Brass Instruments in the Works of J.S. Bach

Gisela & Jozsef Csiba




Recent book on Bach’s brass parts

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 2, 2002):
Here is a short summary of some sections of a relatively new book on Bach's use of trumpets, etc.

"Die Blechblasinsturmente in J.S.Bachs Werken" by Gisela & Jozsef Csiba, Berlin, 1994. ["Brass Instruments in the Works of J.S. Bach"]

By examining the notes played by the “tromba da tirarsi” [by moving a straight c. 55 cm. extension to a different position, many of the notes not available to a natural trumpet, “tromba,” can then be played] in the Bach cantatas,] the authors have determined that all parts designated as “Tromba” or “Clarino” [in addition to those parts specifically assigned to the “tromba da tirarsi”] and calling for those notes only playable by the “tromba da tirarsi” were most likely played by the “tromba da tirarsi” without the need for Bach to give a more detailed description as to which instrument is to be used. This leaves the question open as to which notes were more easily playable by the instrument also called a “tromba” or “clarino” [the latter term refers specifically to the very high range/octave required, as opposed to the ‘principale’ that played at the lower range or octave. “Das Clarinblasen” – the ’blowing’ or playing of the clarion as in the D “tromba” allows, according to Altenburg, 1795, for an easier, faster playing in the highest range than other ‘trombas’ in G. There are also other ‘trombas’ in C, B, Eb, and F.] For these high register (extremely difficult) parts, the authors suggest that the city pipers [Stadtpfeifer of Leipzig] who played these parts cleanly, had an extension of c. 20 cm. which would be added when such a high-ranging part was required. This was not a sliding tube as seen on a “tromba da tirarsi”, but rather an extension of the mouthpiece. What this extension accomplishes, is the ability to play the notes quickly and securely, a feat made much more difficult for the more cumbersome method of playing required by the “tromba da tirarsi,” because the latter had a longer extension. With this short extension, the “tromba” (“clarino-”type) player can much more easily play all the notes in Bach’s high tromba parts as well as the normally impure ‘natural’ tones in addition to those tones not even available in the ‘natural’-tone series. Obviously small embouchure corrections had to be made, but a modern-day trumpeter should never have to significantly ‘adjust’ the tone so that it will be in tune, for such adjustments, the more they are applied, cause a great loss to the trumpet’s sound quality because such ‘adjusted’ notes are not supported by the resonance of the instrument. [In Roger North’s “Cursory Notes of Musicke” dated November 22, 1704, a short extension for a “tromba” (not a “tromba da tirarsi”) is depicted in this article by John Shore (c. 1662-1753), a famous trumpeter and instrument-maker to William III and who was employed by various royalty. It is reported that he split his lip while playing and was ‘ever after unable to perform.’] The authors conclude that this small extension, either as part of a separate mouthpiece or placed between the mouthpiece and the rest of the instrument help to make the clean, in-tune, rapid playing of all the notes in Bach’s high trumpet parts possible…with, of course, lots of practice.

Robert Sherman wrote (September 3, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] I'm sorry, but I can't make any sense out of this at all.

Of course it's possible to add an additional length of tubing, either a the mouthpiece receiver or at the tuning slide. This will lower the pitch of the instrument and enable the player to get some notes he couldn't get before. But this is offset by the loss of some other notes he could get before. That is, the additional tubing changes the key of the instrument, pure and simple. It was common practice on natural trumpets to have multiple extensions so that one instrument could be used in several keys. Many top-quality modern trumpets do this too.

But it is nonsense to suggest that the key change could be made while playing. To insert an extension tube requires the player to stop and put down the instrument for about 30 seconds. If a quicker key change is needed, you could reduce the change time to maybe 3 seconds by switching instruments altogether.

To switch in a tubing extension on the fly can only be done by – are you ready? -- a VALVE! What a revolutionary thinking-outside-the-box idea. Maybe somebody will invent this.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 3, 2002):
Robert Sherman stated: < But it is nonsense to suggest that the key change could be made while playing. To insert an extension tube requires the player to stop and put down the instrument for about 30 seconds. If a quicker key change is needed, you could reduce the change time to maybe 3 seconds by switching instruments altogether. >
The authors did not imply that this change or switch would occur during the playing of a piece, but rather that it would remain this way throughout the piece being played. You may be thinking that the authors implied using a tromba da tirarsi, where the extension can slide, for the high 'clarino' parts, which is not the case since the tromba da tirarsi is 'slow speaking' and cumbersome to use in the high range. Bach never had the tromba da tirarsi play these very high and fast-moving parts. The tromba that they are describing is one where this very short extension is fitted between the mouthpiece (or possibly this extension could have been part of the mouthpiece in which the entire mouthpiece + extension would be set up before playing the entire piece) and the remaining instrument. There is no change time involved.

Robert Sherman wrote (September 3, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Right, they're talking about adding a pipe to change the key so you can play different pieces in different keys. Nothing remarkable about that. It's like having several different instruments except you have less stuff to carry around and less to pay for. As I said, most modern trumpets for classical use do the same thing.

Since most of the bore of a natural trumpet is cylindrical, adding length downstream it probably wouldn't change the intonation much. I doubt, though, that an extension as part of the mouthpiece would have worked well; the bore is very tapered there and any change in bore would probably make major changes in all the playing characteristics of the instrument.

Ludwig wrote (September 3, 2002):
[To Robert Sherman] As a conductor,arranger and composer I can say that you have some very valid points. When I am writing a score that calls for such things as you mention; I stop one part of a section while the other plays on. While the section part playing on is doing their thing; the others are making the changes they need to make and then join the others while if need be they stop and do the same thing.

The other solution is for all players to have two instruments---both ready to play as needed. When I have tried the two instrument methods; I get complaints that the other Instrument has nor been warmed up when brought into use in the case of Brass and Woodwinds and there is a tendency for a temporary flattening of the notes being played.

This does not affect the string section as much as it does others. I have not qualms specifying that one violin be muted and another not so that it is a simply matter to put down one violin and pick up another and continue on. I feel that any good conductor who knows the score as he or she should would tell the performers to do the same.

There are modern trumpets that can take over the high parts (piccolo and piccolino trumpets)of baroque scores as well as bass trumpets that can do the lower parts. Crooks went out in the early days of the 19th century so that by the time of Wagner they were almost unheard of. The trumpets commonly used during the baroque age were thosein D and E. We must resort to these today as we do not have a Wynton Marsalis on every block as they apparently did during the baroque period.

Robert Sherman wrote (September 3, 2002):
[To Ludwig] Thanks, LVB, you make several good points.

It's true that a cold brass will play flat, and this is an inhibition against switching instruments. In some cases the inhibition is prohibitive, but in others there are ways around it. I find that if I use the same mouthpiece, and use the rests to blow warm air through the horn not being used, the pitch problem can be made manageable. Sometimes I tune the second instrument a bit sharp, then pull the slide back out at the first rest.

Sometimes, of course, the piece doesn't let the trumpeter do these things. But if you're doing the composing and arranging and you have a need for two different trumpets, you might want to consult with your trumpeters as to how to make the switch work. And there's always the solution of assigning the part needing a different trumpet to another player. Stravinsky did that at times.

Another solution might be to provide "hot stands" where an electric heater would keep the second instrument warm. I've not seen this done, but I can't imagine why it wouldn't work.

Since this is my first opportunity to communicate with a composer, I make this request to you: PLEASE don't ever require your brass players to sit for long rests, then play high, very soft, or very loud without an intervening warmup passage. Handel does this at times, and so turns a moderately difficult passage into a terrifying near-impossibility.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 3, 2002):
< Robert Sherman stated: Right, they're talking about adding a pipe to change the key so you can play different pieces in different keys. Nothing remarkable about that. It's like having several different instruments except you have less stuff to carry around and less to pay for. As I said, most modern trumpets for classical use do the same thing.
As Brad says, let's try thinking outside the box. >
By insisting on modern trumpets for classical use and not allowing for the possibility that we will find out how Bach had his trumpet parts played cleanly with the correct timbre (correct = the timbre that Bach actually heard and wrote his tromba parts for), are you not possibly guilty of thinking inside the box, the box of modern-day instruments, and not allowing for the possibility that an approximation of the type of instrument that Bach heard, if made more easily playable, which is what this recent book is trying to describe, would actually be preferable in sound to that of a modern instrument? This in-the-box type of thinking must be equivalent to the type of thinking that Wanda Landowska encountered when she tried to pioneer (bring back into use) the sound of an instrument that was closer to that for which Bach had originally composed most of his keyboard pieces (other than organ.) Very few people in Landowska's day saw any valid reason in returning to a more original instrument sound because the piano had evolved to such a degree that it could do everything better and more easily than the harpsichord could.

Perhaps my short summary left open the possibility that confusion could occur. For this confusion, caused by trying to be as succinct as possible, I am sincerely sorry. As this material is very new to me as well, let me try to narrow the scope of what we are talking about now: I have now excluded all the cornettos, trombones, cornos that Bach wrote for and am trying to zero in on what might be considered as the closer equivalent to the modern trumpet. This leaves the tromba, tromba da tirarsi, and the clarino. Of these I have excluded the tromba da tirarsi for the reasons already mentioned: the use of sliding extension and its length and size that made it cumbersome, if not impossible, to play the high range trumpet parts that Bach wrote for the tromba and the clarino. Most commonly, in the cantatas, Bach wrote these high and difficult parts for the tromba in C and the tromba in D. The tromba in C is very much like the tromba da tirarsi without the long extension, but the tromba in D is rather unique. These instruments (or extensions) were not switched during a specific mvt., nor even throughout the performance of the entire cantata.

This tromba in D, with the very small extension piece added, can make all the notes that Bach asked for available to be played with much greater ease and agility without having to engage in major 'tuning' of the impure notes by the use of the player's lips. There is no question here of 'adding pipes' in order to play in different keys as this seems to be a 'one-time' adjustment, an adjustment that the court trumpeters of the time thought was beneath their dignity (talk about thinking inside the box!) and therefore refused to use it, whereas the city pipers, the next step lower in the trumpet hierarchy of the period, recognized a good thing when they saw and heard it. They must have used this very short extension in playing Bach's sacred music in a very satisfactory manner, much to the dismay of the court trumpeters. Can you imagine the pride of the city pipers such a Reiche who had achieved a solution that allowed for easier playing of more notes that could be played in tune w!
ithout too much difficulty?

Once again, there would not have been any switching of extensions during the cantata because all the notes they needed to play were there without resorting to other devices such as the sliding extensions on the tromba da tirarsi.

The trombas in F and G are very different different instruments than the other trombas. The former are considered as short (read 'very short' in comparison with the others) trumpets with a very compact form. The tromba in F was first introduced in France in the 17th century. It is thought that this instrument was used to play the 2nd Brandenburg tromba part.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 3, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] What does the book say about the horn part in the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)? Wouldn't that have been played originally by a player of both trumpet and horn, switching? The horn doesn't play anywhere else, and the trumpets are silent there until the "Cum sancto spiritu" breaks in.

In a modern performance it's awkward for a horn player to sneak into the orchestra for just that one movement, and otherwise have nothing to do.

Robert Sherman wrote (September 3, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Tom, I am not interested in an exchange of ad hominem attacks, and beyond this I will not respond if you continue in that mode.

To repeat: I am not insisting on anything and not excluding anything. If a natural trumpet can be made to sound better than a modern trumpet, I'm all for it and will take it up myself. But I have yet to hear it done, despite the efforts of some phenomenally skilled players. The only natural trumpet performance I've heard that was enjoyable on purely musical merit is Ed Tarr playing the Brandenburg with Harnoncourt; this is first-class although not as good as Maurice Andre on the picc.

I am still unable to understand the purpose of the discussion of extension pieces to which you refer. There is no way that extension pieces could have "allowed for easier playing of more notes that could be played in tune without too much difficulty." An extension lowers the key of the instrument, that's all. A D trumpet with an 11% extension becomes a C trumpet, an E-flat trumpet with a 7% extension becomes a D trumpet, etc. You get different notes, but not more notes.

You seem to be saying that a D natural trumpet with an extension can, contrary to physical and mathematical principles, play both D and C trumpet parts. Where can I find one of those miracle devices?

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 3, 2002):
Bradley Lehman asked: < What does the book say about the horn part in the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)? Wouldn't that have been played originally by a player of both trumpet and horn, switching? The horn doesn't play anywhere else, and the trumpets are silent there until the "Cum sancto spiritu" breaks in. >

The "Quoniam" mvt. is truly unique. It is played bya special corno da caccia in D (7 ft. long--all coiled up, of course) The notes that need to be played are:
C1, e, g b-flat, b, c2, d, e f f#, g, g#, a, b, c3. In the famous portrait of Gottfried Reiche, he is holding a corno da caccia in C (portrait painted in 1727). This instrument (8 ft. long) is used in BWV 16, mvts. 1, 3, and 6 and also in BWV 107, mvts. 1 and 7. The abbreviation c.f. appears with 4 out of the 5 mvts. I assume that this means the horn is playing the cantus firmus. What else could c.f. mean otherwise? The "Quoniam" mvt. does not have this designation either.

The corno da caccia looks large when placed next to other horn types that Bach used, but look at Reiche's portrait, and you will be amazed how compact this instrument is - all 8 ft. of it! But then the corno in C which was much more commonly used in Bach's music is 16 ft. long! I suppose this is like the intestines of a human being in that we do not recognize the true length when everything is coiled up.

Robert Sherman wrote (September 3, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] I'd be cautious about drawing conclusions about instruments from portraits. Modern paintings of instruments and players freqently get even the most basic details wrong -- the left and right hands are reversed as often as not. Painters, like video directors, are frequently non-musicians, don't really understand what they're looking at, and therefore can't depict it accurately.

It may be that painters of 300 years back were more musical, or more meticulous. Or maybe not....

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 4, 2002):
As a fellow brass player (well, I play that silly romantic invention known as the euphonium) I must say amen!

Oh wait-I'm a composer too. Shoot-I'm against myself.

Well, I guess I'll be both when I actually graduate from High School, but that's another story.

Well, I always start low and go high, if not in my music than in my warm-up. And I'll ask my music teacher for a heating unit if I ever have to switch between a euph and a trombone! I wonder why noone else had thought of that?

Robert Sherman wrote (September 4, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] I thought of using a hot water bottle, but was deterred by concern that it would look inappropriate or worse.

Ludwig wrote (September 4, 2002):
[To Robert Sherman] Folks we are so serious most of the time that I have to admit that I have enjoyed the humor herein.

Now that water bottle---who would know the difference if you hid it?

Ludwig wrote (September 4, 2002):
[To Robert Sherman] Thanks for the advice but most modern orchestrators and composers know not to do what Handel does unless we are writing for a very gifted performer.

Any conductor will insure that when using less than virtuoso talent that there will be several other players to be present to give insurance for the high parts and for this reason we often find 5 French Horn players for every one or two in the trumpets for high parts that most people associate with the sound of the French Horn.

Robert Sherman wrote (September 4, 2002):
[To Ludwig] I was afraid that one way or another it would show.

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