Oktober 2013

Historical Trombone III

The Classic trombone

Ercole Nisini - Klassische Posaune (430 Hz) & Katarzyna Drogosz - Hammerklavier

Before the Twentieth Century when broadcasting and recordings brought music into every house, the “Hits” of those eras were enjoyed in private homes where one played them him/herself on one’s favorite instrument. If a publisher of well-known music wanted to reach a broader audience, they often used the possibility of setting it for different instruments, that is, smaller and simpler arrangements. Scores of major operas and famous arias accompanied by large ensembles were “reduced” for keyboard and voice or reworked for a melody instrument in order to place the music before the largest possible audience. For example, after 1711 John Walsh, who published most of Georg Frideric Handel’s music in London, presented a flute version of Handel’s opera Rinaldo, including the best known arias in a version near the original version for voice.

Among the very first editions produced in 1793 in Bonn by Nikolaus Simrock (founder of Simrock Verlag) was a piano version of Mozart’s Magic Flute by the singer Friedrich Eunicke from Cologne’s Electoral Court and opera house. This appears to have been the first keyboard reduction of the opera that by 1793 had had its first performance in Germany. This edition is the basis and reason for our present project. Eunecke’s excellent reductions of the overture as well as the march that opens act two were so successful that Katarzyna Drogosz was able to use them on the Fortepiano without any changes. The duet “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen,” which serves as a theme for this CD, has been re-interpreted as a duet for trombone and Fortepiano thanks to the use of trombone mutes that can alter its characteristic timbre. 

A further way for publishers and composers to reach a greater audience was the composition/publication of variations on famous opera arias or themes for solo piano or piano and solo instrument. Such compositions were very successful in the early Romantic Period and were intended for home use as well as the concert stage. Even a young Beethoven composed many works of this type. Between 1797 and 1802 he produced three sets of variations for piano and violoncello - two on themes from Mozart’s Magic Flute and one on Handel’s Judas Maccabeus. The last of these, based on Pamina and Papageno’s duet “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” is presented here with hardly any changes or transpositions necessary to adapt it to trombone and Fortepiano. This set is ideal for trombone as it as it lies in the same register as the cello and lacks rapid arpeggios and very high register. The few changes wrought here seek to bring forth the technical playing technique and character of the trombone. 

The posthumous B-flat Sonata for Bassoon and Cello (KV 292) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart first appeared in 1805. Thus it is known as a “duet” for bassoon and cello. One must, however, recognize this “title” was a strategy to ease its publication as Henrik Wiese’s forward to Henle’s modern edition points out. It is, in fact, a sonata for a bass instrument and continuo, a style of composition that was by 1805 hopelessly out of date and unsaleable. The two parts are not equal as was normal in other Mozart duets. Instead, the cello part is a mere accompaniment to the soloistic bassoon part. Whether Mozart marked the second part “Violoncello,” meaning the cello as an underpinning of a continuo part or was inserted by a publisher remains insoluble. Sadly, no autograph exists, only the posthumous printing by Breitkpf & Härtel and Hummel.  

The fact that the B-flat Major Sonata (as well as the Bassoon Concerto KV 191) are in the tuning key of the tenor trombone since Mozart’s era and that the range of the bassoon is similar to that of a trombone means that a Sonata by Mozart playable on trombone has been a dream and fantasy of every capable trombonist. In fact, given its not overly “bassoonish” technical requirements and its somewhat constrained tessitura, the sonata can be readily performed on a trombone. As we are using modern copies of a trombone and keyboard from Mozart’s time, let us thus fancy that we are performing a Mozart Sonata for Trombone and Piano.

Also during the Romantic Era it was common to arrange Lieder German art songs) for instruments. Thus, Beethoven’s Mignon from Opus 75 was arranged for piano by Franz Liszt. Schubert’s famous Winterreise was transcribed for various instrument combinations shortly after its 1828 premiere. Around 1850 a piano four-hands version by Hugo Ulrich was published by the firm of C. F. Peters. At the same time Peters released a version for solo piano by Robert Wittman. The important musical expression in the texts of famous poets like Goethe, Lessing, or Wilhelm Müller in compositions by Beethoven and Schubert enabled the transformation of the songs into a type of “songs without words” as exemplified in the so aptly entitled works by Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn. Due to the semblance of the sound of the trombone to the male voice, we have allowed ourselves the pleasure of interpreting the beautiful “Eight Songs, Opus 52” and the song “With a Painted Band” from Opus 83 by Ludwig van Beethoven in our program. By using a muted trombone and Fortepiano, we have tried to to vary the timbres as much as possible, in order to reflect the various poetic contents. 

The canzonetta “Deh, vieni alla finestra” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni is simply one of the loveliest tiny gems in the history of music. The transformation of Mozart’s intended mandolin accompaniment to the transparently stringy sound of the Fortepiano is most successful. The baritone voice and theme of love in Italian fit admirably with the with the canzonetta’s Italian trombonist character in this recording project.