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2. Why do you emphasize study of music scores so much?

One of the hallmarks of my teaching technique is a heavy reliance on the study of full orchestras scores in preparation for learning orchestral excerpts and taking auditions. I speak a bit about this subject in my article, Symphony Auditions: Preparation and Execution. The subject, though, is multi-faceted, and may on the face be perplexing. I have often advocated using the formula "for every hour of practice on the trombone, spend five hours studying music."

I will use as a starting point some recent posts I made to the trombone-l newsgroup on the matter.

The Franck Symphony in d minor

I've spent my whole career (over 20 years) collecting scores (I have over 300) and fascimile editions of composer's manuscripts. I really enjoy finding out what all the other instruments are doing, and seeing the composer's handwriting can be a powerful experience. I've also spoken with conductors - great ones, like Bernstein, Haitink, Sanderling, Janowski, Ozawa, and of course my boss, James Levine - about sticky problems that crop up now and then. Scores aren't always right as examination of facsimile scores often show and the question is, "What would the composer do today if he knew what equipment we use and what the possibilities are?"

Erich Leinsdorf wrote a great book called, "The Composer's Advocate" in which he makes a persuasive case for playing the ink. The only problem is Leinsdorf's book didn't square with reality - he was a notorious changer of parts, reorchestrating, changing notes, etc. when he was music director of the Boston Symphony. Players would often have "notes from mother" on their stand with his latest ideas. Leinsdorf's hypocrisy was pretty blatant.

But the issue still remains. Take the Franck Dm. Yes, yes, yes, Franck wrote the big leap from middle f# to high a. And at an audition - yes, play the ink. There's no other way. It's not THAT hard. And for a recording and concerts, I play the ink (as I did on the 1993 BSO recording with Ozawa DG 437 827-2) partly because I like the challenge, and because I know some trombone player out there will listen to the recording and, if I play it the easy way, say "AH HA - What a wimp!" But no less a player than Edward Kleinhammer (retired bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony) told me in a lesson years ago that he always played the f# up an octave because, "It's better to be a live coward than a dead hero." Before you jump on EK, consider that the tuba is also doubled with the bass trombone and plays the same low f#. When you listen to the Monteux/CSO recording of the Franck (in various couplings, mine is RCA Victor CD 6805-2-RG), you can hear that EK takes the f# up an octave, but there is no damage done - the voice leading is intact because of the power of the tuba, and the bass trombone follows the first trumpet at the octave exactly.

The question then becomes, "Is this a good idea?" Well, circumstances often dictate. For instance, what about 16 bars from the end of the piece, when Franck suddenly changes the third trombone/tuba voicing to play a middle g instead of a high G with the celli, bassi and bassoons? So I usually ask the conductor. Why not? I find them usually split on the issue, but they appreciate that I've looked at the score and part in detail and have an honest question.

Remember, too, that Franck was not writing for a bass trombone, but, as most French composers of the time, for three tenors, which makes his foray into the high range more understandable. Even Berlioz wrote rarely for bass trombone (the only example I have found is in his "Funeral and Triomphe Symphonie"). The Symphonie Fantastique was NOT composed for bass trombone, and the effect of the pedal b flats is quite different on today's .563 bore bass trombone bazooka than on the small, 6.5 inch bell, .515 bore pea-shooter that would have been used (I had two trombones owned by Rochut that he brought to the US when he joined the BSO in 1925 - I gave one to BSO principal trombonist Toby Oft in 2009 on the occasion of his getting tenure in his position with the orchestra - they are tiny, tiny, tiny. When he left for France again in 1929, he took with him a nice big Bach and left his Lefevre trombones behind.). For a taste of the sound Berlioz probably heard (let's not get too far into the "historical instrument" thing, though), listen to Norrington's recording of Fantastique with the London Classical Players. The pedals on the small tenor are frightening!

Not to let the tenor players think they're off the hook, take Ravel's recording of Bolero with the Orchestre des concerts Lamoreux, made in Paris in 1932. (Philips CD 420 778-2; also available on Pearl 72703199272). The trombone player is excellent, but WOW, what an interpretation! He's sliding all over the place, taking liberties up the wazoo. And Ravel was on the podium! So, since the guy (no indication who it was) is obviously a good player (he takes fewer liberties with the solo at the end of the piece), do we assume that Ravel really wanted the trombone to be the "jazz" instrument of the piece, and that he wanted the solo to be very free? Try selling THAT to an audition committee!

All of this, which is really just a Reader's Digest version of the whole discussion, to say this: we ought to be very careful before changing notes. In auditions, we need to play the ink. PERIOD. But discussions with conductors about such issues can be very rewarding, and collecting scores and fascimiles is fascinating (for instance, we know conclusively that Mozart only wrote the first phrase of the tenor trombone solo in the Requiem, not the second half beginning on the long B flat. What to do?). There are extant questions about the Beethoven 5, Dvorak Cello Concerto, Schubert 9 and Brahms 1 among others (how's this for a whopper: in the big chorale at the end of Brahms 1, the original low A in the bass trombone part was CROSSED OUT in the manuscript and an E clearly written! [Dover facsimile score ISBN 0-486-249786-X - about $12.00]. Now THAT is a change, to put the bass trombone on the fifth [like the end of Dvorak 7/2]. I've asked every conductor with whom we play the piece about this and they all say it's a fascinating question, but want me to play the A. So I do. But it's still a good question.)

As you can see, I have spent a great deal of time digging into orchestral scores. This is more than just an exercise in musicology, rather this kind of informed score study informs my playing in significant ways.

I followed up my discussion of the Franck Symphony in d minor with some further thoughts on the Mozart Requiem .

The Mozart Requiem

Most people know that Mozart didn't finish the Requiem, but that it was completed by his pupil, Franz Sussmayer. With the publication of the Facsimile in 1913 (Requiem. Nachbildung der Originalhandchrift Cod. 17561 der K.K. Hofbiblioteck in Wien in Lichtdruck herausgegeben und erlautert von Alfred Schnerich. Vienna: Gesellschaft fur Graphische Industrie, 1913) it was possible for scholars to get a look at the ms and see what was really up. This edition is an excellent, color facsimile that was the state of the art of facsimile making before WWI.

The MS facsimile was published in two subesquent versions, a terrible reprint of the 1913 version made in 1990, and a very nice edition of 1990. The copy I have is the 1913 edition; in fact I have the copy that was owned by Alfred Schnerich, who was the one who wrote the preface to the first facsimile edition (it contains some of his pencilled corrections in the preface).

The 1913 and second 1990 editions contain handwriting samples of Sussmayer, so it is relatively easy to see what he wrote. Also, someone (who knows?) circled in pencil on the ORIGINAL MS (before the 1913 facsimile, so this appears on all editions) the measures, lines, and instrumentation Mozart did not write.

With all this background, back to the trombone solo.

Mozart only wrote the solo that goes from mm 1 - 18. Sussmayer wrote the solo beginning in m. 24. Most "traditional" editions (like Kalmus and Peters) include everything Mozart and Sussmayer wrote and call it the "Requiem" but there are new versions coming out seemingly every year; the one recently recorded by the Boston Baroque (Telarc CD-80410) has a totally new completion by Robert Levin which sheds some new light on the piece.

Since to do only what Mozart wrote is to reduce the Requiem to a torso (with some very incomplete orchestration as well), performances of the Mozart/Sussmayer version are very satisfactory and give us the piece we know as Mozart's Requiem.

A few comments on what Mozart actually wrote for trombones:

All editions of the Requiem put the solo in the Tuba Mirum in the tenor trombone part, in fact the Eulenberg edition specifically says, "Trombone Tenore Solo." But Mozart actually only wrote "Trombone Solo;" the confidence for use of the tenor trombone player comes from the fact that it is in tenor clef.

The slurs in mm 15 - 17 seem to some to be confusing, although they are in Mozart's hand. Part of the confusion may be this: Mozart wrote slurs very imprecisely, and in fact the slur that is usually notated covering all notes in measure 16 and the other one covering all the notes in measure 17 may really one big slur - measures 16 and 17 are on different pages and indicating that they are really one or really two is difficult to discern.

Sussmayer's continuation of the solo in measure 24 doesn't even appear in the manuscript; it was subsequently added in a different edition of the Requiem that Sussmayer wrote out completely in his own hand. The truth be told, the only thing we have from Mozart in the entire Tuba Mirum are the vocal parts and the trombone solo, with some wind and string parts beginning to appear around measure 44.

The only other written indication we have that Mozart wanted trombones AT ALL in the rest of the Requiem is the fact that in measure 7 of the "INTROITUS:Requiem aeternam," he writes (on the lines for the alto, tenor and bass choral parts) the four quarter notes for trombones that lead the way for the first entrance of the chorus. Of course, performance practice of Mozart's time dictated that trombones in choral works play "colle parte," that is "with the vocal parts" and so any reasonably historically informed performance of the Requiem should include trombones doing so. As to whether Mozart, had he lived to complete the Requiem, might have given trombonists more independent parts to play is a matter of delicious speculation.

Alas, the fun stuff we have (and sweat about) in the Confutatis (all those soft whole notes) are completely Sussmayer's.

Don't let any of this information get in the way of enjoying the piece, though. I hope this little explanation (which is difficult to do in words without pointing to the music to show you what's what) will give everyone a taste of the fun that is to be had by really digging into pieces which then give you a more informed view of the works we play. It sure makes my life more interesting, and has given me hours of pleasure as I try to understand, just a little bit more, what music is all about.

As you can see, score study has led me to discover many things about the Requiem . In fact, my discussion of the piece on April 16, 1996 led to a lively and informative discussion with another trombonist, Howard Weiner who lives and works in Freiburg, Germany. Our discussion of the Requiem was turned into an article called MOZART'S REQUIEM: An Internet Discussion on 16th April 1996 between Douglas Yeo and Howard Weiner, edited by Derrick Parker. It originally appeared in the Autumn 1996 issue of The Trombonist, The Journal of The British Trombone Society and may be found online in my articles section.

It is great to see how people "catch the bug" about score study as it truly helps us bring more informed performance to our trombone playing.

As a final example of how much fun this whole subject is, here are a few comments about the Berlioz Requiem , a piece that brings up a host of questions of "what did the composer want?"

The Berlioz Requiem

I've played the Berlioz Requiem on five separate occasions with the Boston Symphony; the recording with Charles Munch and the BSO (various releases including RCA CD 6210-2-RC) made in Symphony Hall April 26-27, 1959, was the first LP recording and in many respects still the best available. The Boston Symphony recorded it again with Ozawa in October 1993 (RCA/BMG CD 09026-62544-2), making the BSO one of the few orchestras in the world to record it twice (no brownie points for THAT - the Chicago Symphony has recorded Pictures at an Exhibition at least 6 times).

By way of introduction, there is are several excellent sites on the web devoted to Hector Berlioz and his Requiem in particular. The best is The Hector Berlioz Website hosted by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. Another, maintained by Matthew B. Tepper, the Hector Berlioz Page contains Tepper's 1983 MA thesis (University of Minnesota) on the Requiem. It is an excellent document and I highly recommend reading it.

The four "bands/orchestras" of brass Berlioz writes for are not only numbered, but are designated north, east, west and south. The instrumentation for each band is different, but all contain trumpets or cornets and trombones, and all have high notes to play. No one knows exactly how Berlioz wanted them positioned - after all, such geographic designations have to be relative to some fixed item. He did write in the score that the bands be "placed separately at the four corners of the grand group of choral singers and instruments" - but a good trick in a concert hall. Realizing that most performances are inside (although I've performed it twice outdoors at Tanglewood), we've usually had the North (1) and West (3) bands near to the stage in the second balcony facing each other across the audience, and the East (2) and South (4) bands against the back wall of the second balcony, facing the stage. One one occasion, though, we had the North choir on stage, the South choir against the back wall in the balcony, and the East and West choirs facing each other again in the second balcony. This was as close as you can get to the "four corners of the earth" effect Berlioz probably was looking for.

This positioning also makes it easier for your tuba player from the North band to get on stage to play his big solo in the Offertorium (at #66 - one of the most powerful, gorgeous solos in the literature and one, in my opinion, that Chester Schmitz of the BSO plays second to none).

This brings up another important point - where do the trombone players stay during the whole piece?

Aside from the aforementioned on stage tuba solo, the horns are all on stage for the whole piece (they are not in the bands, only trumpets, cornets, trombones, tubas - NOT Bass trumpet.

This would be a good time to clear up the confusion about the alleged bass trumpet part in the Requiem .

I read a definitive discussion of this issue in the Spring 1996 issue of "The Trombonist," the magazine of the British Trombone Society. The question arises because of the indication in the score for "Tromba in B (si flat) basso" in the South (4) choir. At the end of a review of Ken Shifrin's new Euphonium and Bass Trumpet excerpt book in "The Trombonist," there is the following:

"From Virgo Music: The bass trumpet excerpt from Berlioz' Requiem was inadvertently included in the above reviewed volume due to the ambiguity of Berlioz' score designation and the ensuing Kalmus edition designation. We were recently apprised of this by Professor Hugh MacDonald, ed. New Berlioz Edition, as follows:

" "I see how the mistake about the bass trumpet in the Berlioz Requiem came about. Berlioz wrote a part for four 'trompettes (en Si bas)' playing in two parts within the fourth supplementary brass orchestra. This appeared in the old Breitkopf edition, later reprinted by Edwin Kalmus, as 'Trombe in B (Si) basso' which was meant to be correct, but is easily misunderstood. Trumpets in low (i.e. the usual) B flat are intended. It was misleading to put 'bas' since Berlioz never imagined a trumpet an octave higher than that." "

Also, cornets are required on stage for the end of the Sanctus (Berlioz doesn't specify where they are to come from, but presumably they are from the North band); a tuba is needed on stage for the Sanctus as well.

There's no doubt the trombones stay "somewhere out there" through the Lacrymosa, as the bands give their antiphonal effects. But the Hostias calls for only the trombones of the West and South Bands to play. This is the famous place with the pedal tones going down to the pedal G# (who said tenor players don't need to practice their low range - and pp!?). Berlioz orchestrates this movement very sparcely, with primarily flutes and trombones with chorus, as he was looking to depict musically the distance between God and man. It seems a little funny to have the flutes (playing up high, depicting God) on the stage with the trombones (playing low, depicting man) up in the balcony - the musical image painting is completely reversed. Berlioz does not specify that the trombones should be in their "band" position, he simply calls for "4 trombones of orchestra III and four trombones of orchestra IV." In the parts we use in the BSO, the trombone parts for those bands specify (printed - not marked in by hand) that the Hostias and the Agnus Dei should be played in the "Orchestra principale" or the main orchestra. This makes good sense for a number of reasons that are obvious.

However, conductors usually like the dramatic effect of the widely separated flutes and trombones, despite the horrendous problems with pitch created by the distance. However, the final chords of the work in the Agnus Dei really make no sense at all being played from the balcony (14 measures of pp and ppp chords which are barely audible from the distance).

We've done it both ways in the BSO - onstage for the final movements and up in the balcony. I'm just relating our practice and my experience. One final word: if you have your choice, I'd always pick playing in the West (3) band. Check out the score and you'll see why. It sure is fun to play no matter where you stand or what part you play. And don't forget to warn the people sitting in the audience in front of you that you're going to be playing right at their heads. I usually have a few words of small talk with them before the concert which helps them be a bit more forgiving when we lay into that first ff chord of the Dies Irae! Enjoy!

The Schubert Great C Major Symphony

In the symphony orchestra repertoire, I don't think there is any piece that is more FUN to play for the bass trombone than the Schubert 9 (or 7, or 8, or 10 depending on whos numbering system you use - but the piece in question is what is known as "The Great C major," Deutsch catalog 944). It represents one of the first instances where the trombones are actually used to expound the melody in a symphony; you play every movement; there are great, touchy chorales. When Schubert 9 comes up on the schedule, I am a very happy camper.

When I first begain studying the piece, I noticed that there were many passages for bass trombone that raised questions. There is not a facsimile edition published (and I have not seen the original) so I began asking conductors if they had seen it and if they had any comments on my many questions. Over the years, I have played the piece for (and spoken directly to) Sergiu Commissiona, Kurt Masur, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Sanderling and Simon Rattle. Each of them has been very interested in my questions and they have all agreed with at least some of my findings (some like them all).

Here is a list of the questions I have about the piece and some of my solutions. Only one conductor, Lopez-Cobos, had actually seen the autograph score - it pleased me that he was most receptive to my comments because he said they conformed with his memory of the autograph. Other conductors liked some of the changes but couldn't bear to make certain changes because of "tradition." In the end, it's the conductor's call - I just pose the question (hopefully not a stupid question) and then do what they say. I don't make a unilateral decision when changing a part.

In referring to the score, I am using the Dover Edition (ISBN 0-486-23681-1) which is a reprint of the 1884-85 Breitkopf & Hartel Schubert Edition. I belive the rehearsal letters I am using appear in all editions of the score.

Here we go. . .


  • By the way, the opening tempo marking in the autograph is really cut time (2/2), not common time (4/4). That sure makes a difference in the tempo.

  • 15 after F. It's well known that Schubert had very sloppy handwriting, particularly when writing phrase marks, accents, etc. The dimuendi that appear in this passage are actually accents (cross reference the parallel passage 8 after M). Not that a slight diminuendo isn't a good idea to taper the phrase anyway, but it really is an accent.

  • 12 before H. Schubert wrote nothing below F below the staff in this symphony. This is curious, since he wrote down to D below the staff in his music for "Rosamunde." While he was writing for a B flat bass trombone without a valve section, it was very common players of the time to "fake" lower notes and Schubert was certainly aware of this.This passage brings up the obvious question - "Why isn't the bass trombone an octave below the alto and tenor trombones for the first two bars?"

  • 16 before O.Why not have the bass and tenor trombones play the eighth note pickup into their half notes to match the bassi and celli? Without that, the bassi and celli often sound like they've made a mistake (sounds like they've come in early).

  • 15, 12 and 8 before P. Sensible voice leading (that conforms with the bassi) would seem to indicate the bass trombone should be down the octave in these bars, thus preserving the powerful ascending octaves in the trombones. Again, this is curious - it's almost as if Schubert forgot the bass trombone could play at least a few notes below the staff.


  • 6 before F. This is the biggest question of them all. Observe the voice leading of the bass trombone 30 before F. The bass trombone conforms in unison with the second bassoon and celli/bassi. However, before F, the bass tormbone takes a huge leap up to a d in the staff, completely out of synch with the celli/bassi and second bassoon. The jump up a fifth also seems strangely out of character. Most conductors I have played this with, when I point this out, agree that the bass trombone should play an F and E flat (below the staff) 3 before F. We'll never know if Schubert really wanted the d (it does work since the second violins have that note) or if he just got sloppy. I'd sure love to see that autograph!

  • 6 before L (and similar places). Schubert has the bass trombone play two eighth notes while the woodwinds have a triplet. I always play the two eighths (Tchaikovsky does a similar thing in his "Capriccio Espagnol") but it's a good question. Did he just assume trombones couldn't tongue that fast? Or did he really want the cross rhythm to come out? Some conductors change the trombone to a triplet.

  • 29 before M. Should the bass trombone be up an octave to conform with the bassi/celli and keep the voicing the same as the alto and tenor trombone? I think so. Again, Schubert seems to be constrained by a bass trombone "fingering chart" that keeps him from going too high or too low.

  • The last note is NOT a dimuendo! To quote Steven Ledbetter, Boston Symphony Orchestra musicologist and program note writer: "Most scores since the first publication in 1840 have put a diminuendo mark under the unison final note, and some conductors have rigorously followed this nonsensical indication, making the strong final chord fade gradually into a puny silence. What Schubert actually wwrote was an accent mark, but here as in many other places, he made it so big that editors have misread his intention in the manuscript."

    I've probably forgotten a few things, but you can see that there are interesting problems. Again, I don't have the answers - I have some questions and possible solutions - but I like talking to conductors about the situation. Schubert isn't here to defend himself, so we should tread lightly and make changes only when informed with the best knowledge available.

    On another, more personal note, there have been two occasions where playing this piece has truly been an epiphany for me - one of those all too rare moments where the entire orchestra is absolutely spot on, and when I can go home and say, "That's why I play trombone." The Boston Symphony performance on September 27, 1996 was one such occasion, when we performed the Schubert 9 with Seiji Ozawa. The other time was on November 28,1992 with Kurt Sanderling conducting. Who? Kurt Sanderling, one of the most profound musicians I've ever met and had the pleasure to work for. He is truly the last of the "old world" conductors - he was co-conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic in the 1930's (he made a blistering recording of the Thcaikovsky 4 with them on Decca mono LPDXE-142) and then labored (mostly in obscurity) in East Germany for decades. Some of the most sublime music making I have ever made was with him (Bruckner 3, Shostakovich 15, more).

    When Sanderling conducts, everyone listens because he has authority. He is very elderly and very quiet, but when he gets on the podium, people pay attention. I took to writing down some of his comments because he uses such wonderful word pictures (as in the case of the Schubert 9) or imparts first hand knowledge about the musical sub-text (as in Shostakovich 15 - he KNEW Shostakovich very well). If you'll indulge me, I'll reprint here some of my comments I wrote down in my score about the Schubert 9 from Sanderling - I feel they have helped me have a better understanding of the piece. Of course you can't hear the passion in his voice, but even so, his comments are worth reading.

    COMMENTS BY KURT SANDERLING ON SCHUBERT SYMPHONY 9 ("The Great C Major") - November, 1992 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra


  • Opening. "Schubert all alonge in the forest. So alone. So alone. . . 5:00 in the morning.

  • m 8." Pizzicato = His tears."

  • m 9. "Now 5:30."

  • 15 before A. "An eternal legato in celli and violas."

  • 3 before A. "A sad forte."

  • 5 after D. "Strings: As soft as if I had asked you four times already it was too loud. Winds: You are the birds. Trombones and corni: So soft I don't know who is playing."

  • 27 after G. "Surprisissimo!"


  • m 8. "A young gypsy dancer." Comment to the oboe soloist: "After two sleepless nights it will be better."

  • 22 before F. "Remember 'Carmen.' The young gypsy is dancing and the soldiers wish to be with her."

  • I. "A catastrophe!"

  • 4 after I. "The broken heart."


  • Trio. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. . . . ."

  • 24 before F. "This is a time when the world was a fine one. It is not our time."


  • G. "This is a dangerous place."

  • 8 after K. "Oh, God, how beautiful the Alps are!"

    These comments by Sanderling are a few of the many insights I have written in my scores by conductors who bring unusual authority to their performances. Having a score on stage with me insures that I will always be able to capture important comments and remarks that will continue to inspire me as I read them in years to come.

    People often ask me where I purchase scores. Fortunately, finding scores at a reasonable price is much easier than it was 25 years ago when I first started collecting them. Dover publishes excellent editions of many standard works at very attractive prices. They are available at most music stores; I have even found them on sale at Tower Records stores around the country.

    Facsimile scores, however, are another matter, as they are often expensive (many are in the $100 - $500 range) because they are published in limited editions. But for the musician who is serious about really knowing what a composer had in mind, there is no substitute for an excellent facsimile edition. I have collected several key works (various Mahler symphonies, Beethoven Symphony 9, Tchaikowsky Symphony 6, etc) that shed real insight into the composer's creative process.

    I purchase all my facsimiles from a delightful dealer in New York City. If you are seriously interested in facsimiles, visit the website of Old Manuscripts and Incunabula (OMI)

    You will find them to be extremely helpful and I assure you, you will never be disappointed with their products or service.

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