Mogens Andresen


ROMANTICISM (1830 – 1900) I

The most revolutionary creation in the beginning of the 18hds was the invention of the valve system, a mechanical way to lengthen the tubes of the natural instruments, so they became fully chromatic. Herewith a new range of instruments came about: the tuba, the saxhorns (almost identical with the instruments in a Brass Band) and a lot of resembling instrument-families, and new members of the old instrument-families: like the bass trumpet, contrabass trombone and Wagner tuba. The wind orchestras welcomed the new instruments with open arms, but in the symphony orchestras it took some more time to break through, because of their conservatism. It is interesting to see that even if the brass instruments got new possibilities and were seen as one family, they kept their original character:

– The trumpet kept its character of a fanfare instrument

– The horn stayed the instrument to describe nature

– The trombone became more and more the messenger of holy destiny from either heaven or hell.   



Fig. 1 HORN FIFTHS. Even when the valves made the horn fully chromatic people still wrote ”horn fifths”, a characteristic playing of natural tones.



Fig. 2 HECTOR BERLIOZ (1803 – 1869) – witnessed the development of the brass instruments from being natural instruments, through hand horn, keyed instruments up till valve instruments. He was very interested in the development of the instruments, he loved all that was new and he wrote about it in his study book on instruments: “Traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration modernes”.  In his Requiem “Grand Messe des Morts” he illustrates Dooms Day with an inferno of sound from four extra brass ensembles around the orchestra and choir. Even if the brass sound expanded much in the later years, the instrumentation by Berlioz was extraordinary at that time. (satirical drawing by Grandville.)



Before the valve was invented lots of people had tried at mechanical ways to alter the length (and therewith the pitch) of brass instruments. It was not really a wish to be able to play chromatic, but more a wish to get rid of the boring and unpractical change of crooks. As an example we could mention the Irishman Charles Clagget, who in 1788 made his “Chromatic trumpet” by uniting together two French horns, or trumpets – a combination of two natural trumpets a semitone apart, joined by means of a simple valve. Another solution is the omnitonic horn that has all the different tubes assembled on the instrument

Fig. 4   CHARLES CLAGGET (1740 – c.1795) was an Irish musician, composer, and inventor of improvements for musical instruments. He designed a precursor for the valve. His CROMATIC TRUMPET were two trumpets connected to the same lead pipe and with a setting screw could be switched between one and the other trumpet.

Fig.3 OMNITONIC HORN. All the tubes are assembled to the instrument, and with the help of a set-screw you can choose which tube you need, and obtain a certain pitch.  The instrument was terrible heavy though and was no success  (see also Romanticism II / the Horn in France).



The valve system was invented by two German horn players, Heinrich Stötzel and Friedrich Blühmel in 1815. It is unknown which one of the two gentlemen was the inventor. They worked together for quite some time and in 1818 they got a patent for 10 years, but the twists and accusations to each other made that Stötzel bought Blühmel out.  The idea was to be able to change length of the tubes by adding a piece of tube that could lower the pitch. From the beginning there were two important demands: The valves should move swift and smooth, and the bore should be smooth, that means no bobbles or narrowing. There came lots of different models and constructions.  Here the models are shown that became common:




– is a so called “piston valve”. To the left the “normal” position where the main tube goes through the valve casing. To the right the piston is pressed and therewith deflecting the airstream into extra tubing. The piston is pushed up again by a spiral spring. The bore is disrupted in the windway, not ”smooth”.




– was an improved Stötzel valve, made by the Austrian instrument maker Leopold Ulhmann in 1830. There are two pistons for each valve loop which gives a more consistent bore. The Laurels for the real invention are granted Christian Friederich Sadler, Leipzig. Here is an early version from a drawing 1821:




Fig.6 THE ROTARY VALVE – In 1835 Joseph Riedl, also an instrument maker from Vienna, got his Rad-Maschine patented, the later so called Rotary Valve. The piston turns in the valve casing, not without problems though, but a careful design makes it possible to have a consistent bore.



Fig. 7 THE PÉRINET VALVE. The final form of the piston valve was the “Perinét valve, invented in 1838 and patented in 1839 by the Frenchman Etienne-François Périnet. It is rather thin and it goes smooth and swift. All tubing goes right across the valve casing and not at the bottom, which makes the airstream more consistent.


Only the pump valve and the rotary valve exist today. The Vienna valve is only used on the Vienna Horn in the Viennese philharmonic orchestras. At the end of the 1900hds new valve models were invented, especially for trombones (see “The 20th century”). Until the 1830s there were instruments with only two valves, but otherwise three valves became the standard for trumpets, four valves on horns and euphonium, and up till six valves on tubas. The pitch for the first four valves got standardised:

– 1.valve lowers the pitch by one tone

– 2.valve lowers the pitch by a halftone

– 3.valve lowers the pitch by one and a halftone

– 4.valve lowers the pitch by a quart


With the use of one or several valves, the instruments got fully chromatic, but the length of the tubes were compromised. It is easy to see that the extra (valve) tubes on a trumpet are shorter than those on a tuba. And another thing, the length of the 1st valve – that lowers the pitch by a tone – will be too short when using it with other valves. There were experiments in adding an amount of valves, which made it possible to use only one valve at the time:





– or rather absurd: to add a complete bell on each valve. These instruments were very heavy and never popular:




Fig. 9 THE COMPENSATING SYSTEM. A very special invention was the ”compensating system”, by the Englishman David Blaikey in 1874. Here the fourth extra tube goes through the other three valve casings. When using the fourth valve in combination with them an extra tube is added. Left: first valve is used and the first extra tube is added. Right: here both first and fourth valve are used (with another extra tube).

Here is the extra tubes on a euphonium with the compensating system:



In addition to the valve systems that were successful were many other experiments, for example disc valves with extension tubes. Originally patented by John Shaw in 1838, an improved valve was subsequently introduced by John A. Köhler , London,  who called it the “New Patent Lever Valve.” However, the same principle was already known in France in 1835 as plaque tournantes or disques mobiles, where it was developed by the Parisian maker Halary. The plaque on this cornet reads “Kohler, Sole Maker, Henrietta St, Covent Garden, London”.  The disc valves did not survive, it was reported that “the valves were found to leak eventually, and soon became useless, and the principle was therefore abandoned.” The favorable reports of both present-day players and the 1851 jury support the conclusion that instruments with disk valves were soon given up not because they never worked well, but because they were difficult to maintain.










Instruments were made were you instead of pressing directly on the valve  should press on a lever.



After the invention of the valve system there came no end to the invention of new instruments, the one more or less alike or unlike the other – some of them rather bizarre. Commercially reasons made that they got different names, and they were mostly used locally only – one big confusion: 











Fig. 12 OVER THE SHOULDER INSTRUMENTS. The American Civil War (1861 – 1865) gave birth to this special instrument family: instruments with a backward bell, so the soldiers that marched in the rear better could hear the music (se also  BRASS ORCHESTRAS/ENSEMBLES, ROMANTICISM II).








ADOLPH SAX (1814 – 1894)

The first person to make a complete instrument family and who therewith got the various instruments systemized, was the Belgian Adolph Sax. He had studied both the flute and the clarinet at the Conservatory in Brussels, and after that he got an education as an instrument maker. In 1842 he settled with his own firm as an instrument maker in Paris. There were a lot like that already, and the competition was rough, but even if he was not welcome, he survived, because of his skill, and because he had some prominent composers, like Donizetti, Meyerbeer and Berlioz, who stood by him. 





Fig. 15  ADOLPH SAX – inventor and instrument maker.


Nowadays Sax is especially known for his invention of the saxophone, but it had some importance as well that he got his Saxhorns patented in 1845, a complete brass instrument family formed like the tuba and with “Berlin valves” (An early piston valve with a large diameter and mass, originally developed by Stölzel, and later improved by a Berlin band leader Wilhelm Wieprecht (1802-1872 – see Romantisicm II). It was easier to construct than the Stölzel valve, but a bit slower in action). The soprano saxhorn had the bell pointing up and not straight on like the cornet à piston, but apart from that the saxhorns are rather similar to the instruments of today’s Brass Band.




Fig. 16  SAXHORN FAMILY as shown in the catalogue from Henry Distin & co., London  about 1849.

Fig. 20 SAXHORN (EUPHONIUM) 1850-1865




















To promote his saxhorns Adolph Sax in 1845 organised a competition between a traditional harmony orchestra with The Italian composer and conductor Michele Carafa de Colobrano (1787-1872), at that time professor at the Conservatoire in Paris, as the conductor, and an orchestra that mostly existed of saxhorns and clarinets, conducted by himself. Sax won because of the overall homogeneous sound and the fullness in the middle register. Because of this victory Sax got a contract to supply all the French military music corpses with instruments, but not only that. The music corpses became to exist almost completely of saxhorn. Maybe this made him too presumptuous. The other instrument makers had enough of it, and stated that there was nothing new in Sax’s instruments, and that it was not fair that he got them patented at all. In a way they were right about that, because the saxhorns were no new invention as such, but they were better than their instruments. Anyway the idea of an instrument family was Sax’s!








Fig. 19 SAX TUBA built with the intention to resemble a Roman Cornu, photo and drawing. The saxtubas made their first public appearance at the premiere af the opera Le Juif errant(The Wandering Jew) at the Paris opera on 23 April 1852. At the time, Sax was musical director of the Opéra’s stage band (or banda), so it was not unusual for instruments of his design to be showcased in popular productions. The other opera appearance of the stage band occurs in the Judgment dernie. The only other notable public appearance of the saxtubas occurred on 10 May 1852, when twelve saxtubas participated in a military ceremony. Although a total of 1500 musicians from thirty regiments were employed in the ceremony, the twelve saxtubas overwhelmed all the other instruments.


Sax received many patents and he really got success, but the pressure was hard, and there was a lot of plagiarism. The instrument maker Guiseppe Pelinni from Milano answered the question whether he made sax-instruments, by his statement that it was the other way around, that Sax built his instruments.  In 1845 Sax heard about various German parallels to his so called ”inventions”. As a result Sax had to go through a lot of lawsuits. His instruments were seen as the best of all, he got lots of new orders and his firm grew. Sax’s workshop sold some 20,000 instruments between 1843 and 1860, but he was not a talented money manager, and sales were not enough to keep him solvent. He filed for bankruptcy three times, in 1852, 1873, and 1877, and he was saved from a fourth debacle only by the intervention of another of his admirers, Emperor Napoleon III. Nevertheless in the end Sax and various other instrument makers went bankrupt. 





Fig. 21  ADOLPH SAX’s SHOP  1864  in the illustrated newspaper L’Illustration depict instruments by Adolphe Sax. Shows a man demonstrating og testing new instruments on a stage. 




Fig. 21 IN 1865 SAXs SHOP GOT A VISIT OF EMIR ABD EL.KADAR, ALGIER. Illustration from “Le Journal illustré”




Fig. 19  ADOLPH SAX’S WORKSHOP ABOUT 1860. You really got an idea of the activity in the “wind orchestra environment” at that time.





– had a big Brass Instrument company. By 1846 Gautrot claimed to be the most important factory of its kind in Europe, holding in stock 300 cornets, 1000 trombones, and 1000 ophecleides. His workforce of over 200 equaled 42% of the entire brass makers capacity in Paris. On August 6, 1847 Gautrot along with Raoux, Halary, Buffet, and Gambaro, all of whom were normally competitors, filed suit against both of Sax’s patents: that of 1843 (“Chromatic instrument system”), and that of 1845 (“A musical instrument, called the saxotromba”). The complaint of the instrument manufacturers was based on the claim that Sax’s improvements had long been known at home and abroad. The suit went through many appeals and ended in 1859 with a victory for Sax.    






FIG. 30 KOENIG HORN. In 1856 the company Antoine Courtois presented the “Koenig Horn” in F designed by Herman Koenig – it became a precursor to the “Ballad horn”.

In 1868, the compay Boosey & Co. began marketing a another brassinstrument-family of bell-up instruments designed by Henry Distin called ballad horns. Distin himself was later to build ballad horns of his own, long after he had sold the patent to Boosey & Co., and he was living in the United States. The most common of the ballad horns was a C tenor instrument, the last of which were manufactured circa 1930 by the Salvation Army Factory (more information about Distin in Romanticism II, Brass Band).

Fig. 26  DISTIN, LEFT  WITH HIS BALLAD HORN. After having lived as a performer with his father and brothers Henri Distin established an instrument manufacturing and sales concern, Distin & Co., in London 1849 (se more about Distin in ROMANTICISM II, BRASS BANDS and ROMANTICISM II, THE BUILDING OF BRASS INSTRUMENTS).


Fig. 25 CORNOPHON. There were  other than Sax who attempted to make brass instrument families. Cornophonen is a conical brass instrument with three valves. It was invented in the 1880s by Fontaine-Besson in Paris. The instrument was originally called “cornon” and patented in 1890th.

Fig. 25  JOHN W. GRAEFF (1850-1912) FOTOGRAPHER AND LEADER OF THE PERSEVERANCE BAND –  SELF PORTRAIT. His instrument has rotary valves with side action keys that were typical of American brass instruments from about 1855 to 1885. But the circular shape is a transition from the instruments used by brass bands during the Civil War, when the bell was held over the player’s shoulder pointing backward. This instrument’s bell points to the player’s left side. Its conical flare and mouthpiece are wide like a trombone, but the plumbing is shorter than a trombone, about the length of a B-flat cornet.





Fig. 24  EARLY TYPE  OF SOPRANO CORNET in Eb: SOPRANO SAX-HORN in Eb, here with rotary valves. Postcards from the United States 1865-1870

In the 1820ies some of the earliest German valve instruments came to Paris, and the French instrument makers could not wait to copy them. One of the first instruments to get valves was a little post horn, a cornet-de-poste, which in England first was called the Cornopean (horn of triumphal song) and later just: Cornet. At first the cornet was seen as a descant horn, and the young Parisian horn ”Lions”  jumped at it. They could in a way do what they wanted, without the “Natural horn tradition” and the first cornet professor at the Parisian Conservatory was a horn player from the Opera, J. H. Maury. But after some time it were the trumpet players that got into cornet playing, and the instrument got some alterations: the mouthpiece became less deep, it was mostly pitched in Bb, and the Stölzel valves were switched to Perinet valves. The characteristic bend at the beginning of the bell (the last reminder of the horn) gave the cornet its final look.



Fig. 25  CORNOPEAN FROM the 19´’ Century –with extra tubes and wood box.  In the early days  of the  cornet it was normal to be able to change the pitch from B-flat to E-flat. This cornet has the early Stötzel pump-valve, (French: piston) and a key for playing trills.






Fig. 26   JEAN BAPTISTE ARBAN(1825-1889)

– was the first big virtuoso on the cornet. He became famous as a soloist as well as a pedagogue, and from 1869 – 1889 he was cornet professor at the conservatory in Paris. In 1864 he wrote his famous ”Grand Methode” that even today is used, not only by cornet players, but by all players of valve brass instruments. His method ends with a range of variations on well know melodies, the last variation on ”Carnival in Venice” shows quick changes in the registers, and that gives an idea of two cornets playing:



But not everyone was delighted. The conservative ”classical” music world looked upon the cornet as being a plebeian instrument. Berlioz thought the cornet inferior compared to the trumpet and in the symphony orchestras it was mostly used to fill in the gaps between the natural tones of the trumpet. In his treatise on instrumentation in 1855 Berlioz write:  “A phrase that would appear tolerable, when performed by violins or the woodwind, becomes flat and intolerably vulgar when emphasized by the incisive, brash and impudent sound of the cornet.”

Others were delighted because of the soft sound of the cornet, and the easy way to play which gave you the best opportunity to play with virtuosity.  Very soon it got a steady place  in all brass and light amusement orchestras in Paris, and because of its frequent use in the dance orchestras it soon was called :”the soul of the quadrille”. Little by little it took the place of the keyed bugle in the wind orchestras and it became the most important soprano instrument among the brass instruments.  (see: Patrick Gilmore ROMANTICISM II).


Fig. 27  “BOURGEOIS PARTY” Lithography  by H. Dumier, 1852 

In spite of its reputation the cornet got  its own job in the symphony orchestras. After the premiere of the Symphonie Fantastique (Fantastical Symphony) (1830) Berlioz wrote a solo part for the cornet player Jean Baptist Arban (1825-1889) in the 2nd movement: Un Bal (A Ball), and in his Concerto for Viola: Harold in Italy (1834) there is a little solo as well. In orchestral works often parts were written for two cornets and two trumpets, like in the Symphony in D-minor by César Franck  (1822-1890), the opera  Don Carlos by Guiseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and in Peter Tjaikovsky’s (1840-1893) ballet the Swan lake, also with a big solo part for cornet. And for playing the sopranino register, the Soprano cornet in Eb became popular in wind bands and brass bands.


The keyed bugle got valves as well, and having a wider conical bore compared to the cornet it had an even softer sound. The name flugelhorn comes from de old small hunting horns. The word Flugel (German:  Flügel) goes back to the Dutch word Vleugel, that goes back to the English Fly, meaning wing – On the battlefield (and also at hunting sessions) the ”Flugel master” directed with his hornplaying the wings or the flanks of the army. 


Fig. 28   FLUGELHORN. The Flugelhorn in Bb and sopranino  Flugelhorn in Eb got immediately their places in the wind orchestras. In Germany and Austria bigger instruments with a deeper sound were build, the Alto-, Tenor- and Bass flugelhorn.


Very soon the high sax horns were replaced by cornets, they were in a way just the same instruments, but with a different form. The other sax horns, from alto till bass, still have their places in the wind orchestras – you find them in their original form in the English orientated Brass Bands.  The Alto and the two Tenor instruments (one with a smaller bore and one with a larger bore) have since been built with different forms and got different names.

These different names are very confusing. Not only because an instrument has different names in different countries. Even worse is the fact that the same name can have a different meaning  in another language!



Fig. 29   GERMAN BARYTON (or Baritonhorn) with ROTARY VALVES.  Today most tenor horns are formed like a tuba, and with pump valves, men they have been built as well with a round or oval form, and with rotary valves.




English: TENOR HORN/ German: ALTO HORN

is pitched in Eb with a keynote almost one octave above the French horn in F.  Unlike the full and expressive sound of the French horn the Alto horn has less tension in its sound, and that makes it more suitable to complete the total sound of the other instruments in a Brass Band, like the viola in a symphony orchestra.



is pitched in Bb, it has a relatively small bore, with a sound that lays in the middle of the alto horn and the euphonium, which makes a perfect connection between these two instruments.



(Greek: good sound) is also pitched in Bb, it has a large bore that gives a full and heavy sound, which makes the name tenortuba more appropriate. Because of its perfect performances in high and low registers, the euphonium can double the horn (high),  as well as the tuba (low). The euphonium is THE instrument to play the many obligate (counterpoint) counterparts, that play such an important role in the wind orchestras. As the most prominent solo instrument amongst the low wind players in both Brass bands and Harmony orchestras the euphonium has got a poetic nickname: The Prima donna of the low instruments”.


The tuba is the only brass wind instrument, or rather the only orchestral instrument, with a real and known birth date. Wilhelm Wieprecht  ( see: Romanticism II, harmony orchestra) and instrument maker Johann Moritz got their Chromatich Bass-Tuba in F with 5 Berlin Valves patented as Prussian Patent no. 19 on the 12th of September 1835. There surely have been other tuba-like instruments before but the quality and marketing of the tuba was very effective and the tuba became instantly very popular in all wind orchestras as something rather new.  Later Wieprecht and Moritz build a bass tuba with a wider bore, the so called Bombardon
. When Sax got his saxhorn patented in 1849, the lowest  of them were in a way also tubas. In the same year the Czech company V.F.Cerveny constructed a contrabass tuba in CC, and a bit later an even bigger one in BB, which as an honour to the Austrian Emperor got the name Kaiserbass.


Fig. 31  TUBA in F from 1840, Denmark. 

Compared to the modern tuba the sound of the early tubas was almost a joke, but in relation to the other low instruments that were used, like serpent, bass horn and ophicleide, its sound was full and a real improvement. That is why it got the name ”Bass tuba”, but when later even bigger tubas  in CC and BB were designed , they also should have a name, so they were called “contrabass tuba”. The tuba shown in fig.23 was probably used in the Copenhagen Royal Chapel at the premiere of the ”Ossian- Overture” written by Niels Wilhelm Gade, on the 19th of November 1841.

As every country has its own way to use brass instruments and as the tuba with its character and register should fit into the whole, every country got its own tuba. Different countries, different tubas! Being a bass instrument though, it was called bass tuba. And when the lower tubas in CC and BB came along, they were called contrabass tubas.

In GERMANY the tuba really quickly was accepted in the symphony orchestras, and the German tuba had to be the bass in the full and dark German brass sound. The tuba got rather popular and even the conservative Brahms uses the bass tuba in his Symphony no. 2 in D major, and in his Academic Festival Overture Op. 80. From the first part “Rhine-gold” (1854) of the Opera cycle “The Ring of the Nibelung” Wagner uses only the contrabass tuba, and in the third part “Siegfried”(1876)  the tuba is the soloist in the dragon Fafner’s motif. The tuba gave a new dimension to the trombone group. You should think that the full and soft sound of the tuba would be a bad combination with the more direct sound of the trombones, but it was a perfect combination. In a choral with four parts the tuba gives an excellent bass and together with the bass trombone the tuba gives – in unison or in octaves – a characteristic mixed sound: the combination of the direct sound of the trombone and the full soft sound of the tuba.





Fig. 32   3 TUBAS FROM ABOUT  1870.  From left to right: Kaiserbass from the Moritz company, English tuba in Eb with pump valves and Austrian tuba with rotary valves.

In FRANCE the ophicleide was rather established, far more than in Germany, and it took therefor quite a long time for the ophicleide to be conquered by the tuba. In 1843 Berlioz was on a short concert tour, and at that moment he heard the tuba for the first time. It was at a concert of his own Les Francs-Juges Overture which – conducted by Wieprecht – was played by a enormous orchestra of 320 people, and with 12 tubas. Berlioz became a real fan of the tuba. In revisited editions of his works he switched the ophicleide to the tuba, and if he did not do it himself, it was done by his editors. The brass sound in France was very light and the French tuba was rather different compared to the German. The French tuba was seen as a modern ophicleide, and was built with the same pitch, Bb and C, in our opinion almost like an euphonium.



This little tuba, which was pitched a whole tone higher than the euphonium, combined very well with the other “light” French brass instruments. It was used in all tuba parts until  about 1950, also in parts written for the contrabass tuba. It has a huge range, and that is why there is a high solo part in Moussorgsky’s  ”Bydlo”  (”Pictures of an Exhibition”, in an  instrumentation by Maurice Ravel): 


As well as a low bass line:








Fig. 34   ENGLISH EUPHONIUM  from the end of the 19′ Century.
As the English tuba players originally played the ophicleide, and were used to the French inspired light brass sound, the first English tuba was a tenor tuba, – an euphonium.  As late as in 1895 the program of the Glouchester-festival listed:  Mr Guimartin – Ophicleide AND tuba ! 

The ophicleide was also rather established in ENGLAND. The conductor Hans Richter, who had worked together with Wagner, was used to real tubas, and when he came to England he just had to order a tuba at the local instrument maker.



  Fig. 35  THE HELICON is carried on the shoulder and the construction makes it easier to bear than the normal tuba. It is even possible to play the helicon on horseback, the instrument resting on the left shoulder, the right hand using the valves, and the left hand holding the reigns. Under: The McGibeny Family Band of Philadelphia employed three “helicons”  (an E-flat alto, B-flat tenor, and B-flat bass) in their act (photo ca.1900).





Fig. 36  AUGUST HELLEBERG – was the first tuba player with international fame. A. Helleberg was born in Denmark and emigrated with his family to the USA. He became famous very quickly and his career was something special.  Between the 1880ies and 1920ies he just was THE tuba player in the USA, where he played as a soloist as well as a musician in orchestras. He was the first tuba player in the Chicago Symphony orchestra, and after that a member of the New York Philharmonic orchestra, as well as the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, and the  John Philip Sousa Band. In the  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra he played the contrabass trombone as well (see under contrabass trombone) and he was a very good double bass player. His three brothers came also to the USA as musicians:  Johannes on bassoon,  Thomas on the  trumpet and Andreas on bassoon. His two sons also became tuba players, and at a time the three of them were the tuba group in the Sousa Band. Long after his dead he still was called ”the father of all tuba players” and “the biggest tuba player ever”.


Fig. 37   HELLEBERG MOUTHPIECES. August Helleberg played at many recordings, among others with the singer Caruso, but it was the success of the design of hans mouthpieces that made him known in the professional inner circle until today. The mouthpieces were made by the company C.G. Conn at that time, but other companies have copied and adapted them since. To the left a mouthpiece for a tuba in Eb, to the right a mouthpiece for a tuba in BB.



Fig. 38   The big tubas were perceived as giant instruments. They appear to be even greater when they are displayed with small children, and therefore it was a popular motif on postcards from around 1900 until the 1950s.











Fig. 39 MUSICAL EMANCIPATION. German woodcut 1871













Fig. 40  CLARISSA, BEWARE THE SNAKE …. After Charles Vernier, Postcard, Paris ca.1850. The Serpent, the grandfather of the Tuba, could apparently still be seen at this time













Fig.41  OPHICLEIDE-PLAYER. French postcard 1903


The acceptance of the new valve instruments in the symphony orchestras went very slowly. The main opinion was that the balance between the old instrument’s possibilities and their function was both harmonic and clear, whereas the new instruments were bland and dull. And the device: ”Real musicians in a symphony orchestra do not play on valve instruments”, was something to be proud of. Factum was that the notes on the new valve horn sounded completely alike, something that some people saw as a splendid progress, but in the opinion of others it destroyed the character of the natural horn. Johannes Brahms, (1833-1897) was one of the people in this second group, he was very conservative and called the new valve horn a “brass viola”.



Fig. 42  NIELS WILHELM GADE  (1817-1890)

When the young (24 year old) violin pupil of the Royal Danish Orchestra, Niels Wilhelm Gade, (chapel no. 561) won the composers competition to write a concert overture, he immediately became famous with his “Ossian Overture”. He send his 1st symphony to Mendelssohn in Leipzig and became assistant conductor of the famous Gewandhaus Orchestra. When Mendelssohn died in 1847 he became chief conductor, but because of the war between Prussia and Denmark, he had to return to Copenhagen in 1848 and became the most prominent musician in Denmark.

The change from natural instruments to valve instruments went gradually of course. The Ossian Overture by Niels Wilhelm Gade is written in an early romantic ”Mendelssohn” style and it is a good example of the (at that time) rather advanced use of brass instruments. The horn parts are like those by Mendelssohn but the other instruments are well illuminated, though without breaking the tradition too much. Especially the trumpet parts are really exposed – much more than Mendelssohn would have written. Even if the parts are written for valve trumpet, they function as natural trumpets who play fanfare alike signals with triplets:


The trombones are used to present a powerful main theme with a character that lies between Franz Schubert’s symphony no. 8 and 9, and Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture:


The Ossian Overture was written in 1841 only 6 years after the invention of the tuba ( see ROMANTICISM I for the tuba that probably was used at the premiere). Normally there were three trombones in the orchestra, but as the tuba was a complete new instrument, it probably was the third trombone player who played the tuba. That is supposed to be the reason that there are only two trombones in the overture. (Nowadays a reconstructed version of the overture is often played with three trombones AND tuba).


You would have thought that since this valve system had made the brass instruments fully chromatic, there would come a golden period where the brass players could blossom as soloists and chamber musicians. On the contrary, these new instruments became first of all rather important as orchestral instruments. The brass group in the symphony orchestra grew and got more and more solistic parts. The biggest brass strength in a symphony orchestra in the 1800rds was in the opera cycle “the Ring of the Nibelung” by Richard Wagner (1818-1883):  3 trumpets, bass trumpet, 8 horn, (4 French horn and 4 Wagner tubas), 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, contrabass trombone, and contrabass tuba:  17 brass players!



Fig. 44  RICHARD WAGNER’ – satirical drawing. His long operas with those big orchestral strengths with lots of brass made that some people looked upon them as being arrogant, decadent and almost as a spiritual rape! Here the composer ”makes a dash at an innocent audience”.

“Big moments and long lasting half hours” – quote by  Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) about Wagner’s operas.  

Fig. 45 WAGNER CONDUCTS SIEGFRED IDDYL.  Wagner composed one piece for only 13 players, Siegfred Idyll, as a birthday present to his second wife, Cosima after the birth of their son Siegfred in 1869. It was first performed on Christmas morning, 25 December 1870, by a small ensemble of the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich on the stairs of their villa at Tribschen, Lucerne Switzerland. Conductor Hans Richter played the brief trumpet part. Siegfred Idyll stands in sharp contrast with the heavy big orchestral sound from most of his work. The artist of this picture has not had much knowledge of the facts. The brass instruments in the score are only 2 horns and one trumpet, but here are too many instruments and they are completely wrong drawn by the artist. Wagner originally intended the Siegfried Idyll to remain a private piece. However, due to financial pressures, he decided to sell the score to publisher B. Schott in 1878. In doing so, Wagner expanded the orchestration to 35 players to make the piece more marketable.

As the orchestras grew bigger, it became a problem at all to hear the singers in operas off he day. One solution was the layout of the Operahouse Bayreuther Festspielhaus in Germany. The oprahouse was build 1876 dedicated solely to the performance of stage works by Richard Wagner. A significant feature of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus is its unusual orchestra pit. It is recessed under the stage and covered by a shall, so that the orchestra is completely invisible to the audience. The design correct the balance of volume between singers and the big orchestra with the many brass instruments, creating ideal acoustics for Wagner’s operas. It also makes it possible for the audience to concentrate on the drama onstage, rather than the distracting motion of the conductor and musicians.






Fig. 47   ORCHESTRA PIT SEEN FROM BELOW               


Fig. 43  WAGNER CONDUCTING PARSIFAL IN BAYREUTH’S ORCHESTRAL PIT, drawing from 1882. The orchestras became bigger and bigger in the second half of the 1800rds.

Fig.  48  Just before the performances and during the breaks, a brass ensemble plays themes from today’s performance.

BAYREUTH BRASS ENSEMBLE BEFORE (the sheet music are the Valhalla theme from the Ring):






— existed of clarinets, drums and otherwise the Italian valve brass instruments of that time: Cornet, Flugelhorn, (Wald horn) Genis (alt/tenor horn) in Eb, trumpet in low Eb, Valve trombones in Bb and in F, Flicorno Basso (tenor horn/baritone) in Bb, Bobardino (euphonium) in Bb, and Bombardone (tuba) in F, Eb and BB.

When you hear concerts of romantic music played on ”historical instruments” it is evident that the instruments of that time sound as they do nowadays, but the dynamics are rather different. The brass players in the Italian symphony orchestras at Verdi’s  time all came from wind orchestras. They had no education at a music conservatory and they were not trained to play as loud as they do nowadays, and their instruments (all valve instruments) sounded more “muted” and could not give that powerful sound as you hear  in for example the film music of today. Therefor the brass parts in Verdi’s music often are described to play Tutta Forza (which means with all force) – it was necessary to get the splendour in the music. Nowadays such a description would mean that the brass players would overrule the sound in the orchestra. Knowing this, one should play Verdi’s music somewhat softer than written, to obtain the necessary balance between the various orchestral groups!


Fig. 46   THE SCALA OPERA IN MILANO WITH A BIG ORCHESTRA – POST CARD from 1900. In the 19th century almost all Italian symphony orchestras were opera or ballet orchestras. The opera was really popular, and it had a big influence on the people.



The smaller dance and theater orchestras from the 18th century were mini versions of the symphony orchestras, often including piano and otherwise with the usual orchestra instruments: Strings, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.

Fig. 47  SCENERY FROM AN  ENGLISH TOY THEATER 1830 – showing brass players in the orchestra pit playing on natural instruments: 2 natural horns, one natural trumpet and a bass trombone in G with handle

Fig. 48  A TOY THEATER STAGE SET c. 1860 France. Includes a depiction of a French pit orchestra that features brass players with valve instruments: 2 valve-horn players, 2 valve-trumpet players and a trombonist. 


Fig. 50  THE BOX BY THE STALLS. 1883—Paris, France: Painting by Jean Beraud – offers a view, through a patron’s box seat, of a Parisian orchestra. Included is a clear depiction of a trombone.

Fig. 51   MC. MASTER ORCHESTRA 1896, USA – with 2 cornets and one valve trombone.

Fig. 52   JOHANN STRAUSS II (1825-1899) AND HIS ORCHESTRA PLAYING TO A COURT BALL – with 2 horns, 2 trumpets and one trombone. Colored Lithograph 1900.

Fig. 53   DANCE- OR STUDENT ORCHESTRA, CHICAGO 1900 – with 4 cornets and one valve trombone.