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Thread: Mozart and the Trombone.

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    Default Mozart and the Trombone.

    The trombone was not a regular part of the orhcestra in Mozart's day. Yet he included the trombone in several of his operas and most of his sacred music. Moreover he seems to have given the trombone more prominent parts in his later works, than he had earlier. Idomoneo and Don Giovanni for example, both call for the T-bone in just 1-2 scenes. And although his use of the trombone in those scenes is exquisite, one could hardly imagine any other instrument playing that part. In the Magic Flute however, he gives the trombone a much more prominent part, even including it in the overture (which I believe is the only purely orchestral work he wrote with a trombone part), giving the melody to the trombone for a few bars in (even if it is just synchopated chords) in the final cadenza of the overture, utilizing it in varied scenes throughout the whole opera, including in seemingly akward (that turn out just fine nonetheless) arrangements of accompaniement for a flute solo, in addition to his traditional use of the T-bone as a doubling of choral voices. Culminating in of course, the famous solo of Tuba Mirum from his Requiem.

    What do you think? Had Mozard discovered a new love for the trombone, that might have, had ne not died at just age 35 might have lead to Mozart including a trombone in the first symphony before beethoven? Or had he lived long enough, would he have taken beethoven's lead and included trombone in symphonys after hearing beethoven's 5th? Mozart was as keen an innovator as he was a follower, he followed Gluck's footsteps in writing opera recitative, do you think he would have lead beethoven or vice versa?

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    Senior Member Kieran's Avatar
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    This kind of thing is impossible to know, isn't it? Beethoven's fifth arrived in 1808 - that's 17 years after Wolfgang died. I can imagine he'd use trombone a lot in the meantime. Reputedly, he hated the flute, but he composed for the flute because he was commissioned to. Mozart was highly pragmatic in his composition, he didn't set out to write if he wasn't sure it would be performed. So the availability of trombone players of sufficient class to play in a symphony would be one thing, and then the commission and then there would be musical considerations.

    But I think if he was asked to compose enough symphs - and they'd dried up on him in his final 3 years - he may have added a good amount of trombone writing to one of them.

    Had he lived long enough to hear Beethoven, I think Beethoven would have had a great teacher of music in Mozart...

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    Senior Member drpraetorus's Avatar
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    There are a couple of reasons that the trombone is not used more until the romantic era.

    The biggest reason is that the trombone was considered something of a sacred instrument. It was used in churches because it was the only brass instrument that could cover a complete scale in it's full range without vaing to resort to the gynastic of the horn or trumpet. It blends well with the male voice which is a plus in a Catholic or Anglican service. Trombones, or sackbutts, as the english called them, came in a full range of sizes from the contrabass to the soprano, a trombone the size of a modern trumpet. All those Gabrielli brass works were intended for the full trombone consort.

    Composers would have been very aware of the religious conotation of the trombone and would have found it out of place in most secular compositions. It does show up in some and with increasing frequency as the classical period moves to the romantic. But they are reserved mostly for solemn or religious effects. Handel used them in "Isreal in Egypt" but not in many other compositions. Mozarts examples are very instructive. The trobones in Magic Flute are intended to convey the solemnity and religiousity of the accolytes of Zarastro. The Tuba Mirum in the Requiem is another instance where he purposely chose the weight and associations of the trombone over another instrument, in this case a trumpet. Mozart was well aware of Handels "The Trumpet Shall Sound" and others like "Awake the Trumpets Lofty Sound". That's not the effect he wanted. So, he chose the churchy trombone. Even Mendelssohn remarked that the trombone was far to sacred an instrument to use too often.

    Another reason is the size of the baroque/classical orchestra. Trombones have a big sound and would easily over balance the ensembles of the time. Also, the horn blends more easily with strings, woodwinds and trumpets. At low range, the horn perfectly reinforces the bassoons and low strings. Mid range fits well with flutes, clarinets and violas. For the classical or baroque composer who's music will most likely be heard in a small hall, if you have a couple horns, you don't need trombones.

    That changed with the coming of the romantics. Halls were bigger and larger audiences wanted bigger sounds and more dramtic effects. Beethoven is credited with being the first to use the trombone in a symphonic setting in the 5th. He said he did it to add more noise. By the time Beethoven died the trombone had become established on the bigger is better world of the romantics.

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