Thursday, May 14, 2009

Friedebald Gräfe, 1840-1880; Gräfe, Friedebald, 1840-1880; Friedebald Graefe, 1840-1880; Graefe, Friedebald,1840-1880

I provide these hard-won birth and death dates in the hope that a persistent Google search will turn them up. (Much of the little that is out there on Gräfe and his trombone concerto appears to be misinformation.)

May 22, 1840-June 22, 1880

Source: Schnebel, Hanns-Helmut. "Auch Militärmusiker litten Hunger: Friedebald Gräfe (1840 bis 1880) und sein 'Konzert für Posaune.'" Bayerische Blasmusik 55, no. 11 (2004): 4-6.

Cf. Robert Reifsnyder, "The Romantic trombone concerto and its place in the German solo tradition, part II," ITA journal 15, no. 3 (Summer 1987): 35, which states that "Gräfe may have been a violist employed by the Gewandhaus orchestra from 1853 to 1859. If so, etc." (italics mine). By the time the identical claim appears here ( (Noël Lopez, "La épopée du trombone," écoutervoir no. 136 (avril 2003): 20), the subjunctive has disappeared. Yet if Schnebel is right (and his article is based on archival research), the real Friedebald Gräfe would have been about 13 years old in 1853. (One sees also references to 1875-1920. And so forth. Misinformation, apparently, abounds.)

Update:  until I can get round to publication, I'm going to place this rough draft of a rankly amateur (!) translation up here.  Though I retain the rights, I would welcome and acknowledge any suggestions for improvement:

Schnebel, Hanns-Helmut. “Even [the] military musicians went hungry: Friedbald Gräfe (1840 to 1880) and his ‘Concerto for Trombone.’” Bayerische Blasmusik 55, no. 11 (2004): 4, 6. Translated by Steve Perisho.  All rights reserved.

In its capital city [of] Gotha [p. 4 col. 2] Friedebald Gräfe was born on the 22nd of May 1840. His father Gottfried Gräfe was a military musician in the music corps of the ducal Saxon Line-Infantry Regiment, which was based with its staff in the ducal seat [(Residenzstadt) of] Gotha. Everyday military life had [therefore] its impact on Friedebald’s youth. Every day he watched the mounting of the guard with fife and drum and listened to the open-air concert [(Standkoncert) put on] by the music corps. From his father, who played many instruments himself and practiced daily, Friedebald took first instruction in the playing of the violin [(Unterricht im Spiel der Violine)]. He was eight years old and attend[ing (besuchte)] elementary school when in 1848 the revolution broke out in many princedoms and tottered thrones.
In the dukedom [of] Saxe-Coburg-Gotha things remained mostly peaceful. The military was on the alert [(alarmiert)] and responsible by its presence for peace and order. The daily mounting of the guard and stationary concert continued as always, and this the majority of the residents of Gotha welcomed with gratitude. On the other hand, the population of the dukedom was affected by a rise in prices, for there had been a crop failure the year before. Bread had become for the poorer [sectors of the] population almost prohibitively expensive. In Gotha, musicians [p. 4 col. 3], who with [(bis auf)] few exceptions struggled [(sich . . . schlugen)] their entire lives as day laborers, were not [the] last to be affected by this. Even the military musicians went hungry, for their pay was allocated very sparingly [(gering)], because an additional income thanks to off-duty playing at festivals and celebrations was presupposed. “With music one gets hungry more easily [(Mit Musik hungert es sich leichter)]” was at that time a familiar saying. For Friedebald Gräfe the rise in prices became a traumatic experience.
 From 1848 his father instructed him also in the violoncello. In later years he learned also the trumpet and the trombone. With whom Friedebald Gräfe studied music theory, the foundation for composition, remains to this point uninvestigated. Possibly court bandmaster [(Hofkapellmeister)] Ernst Lampert, who wrote a positive recommendation for him in 1872, taught him. In order to earn some money, Friedebald played in various ensembles, of which there were many in Gotha at that time.
 As Friedebald turned 18, the “New Era” began in Prussia under Crown Prince Wilhelm, from 1861 to 1888 King Wilhelm I of Prussia, who had taken over from his father King Friedrich Wilhelm IV the dream [(Wunschtraum)] of a [(vom)] German Empire under Prussian leadership. In order to realize this goal, he made Otto von Bismarck the Prussian Prime Minister. [And Bismarck’s] policy, championed in the German Bundestag, made itself felt in the dukedom [of] Saxe-Gotha, too.
 Friedebald Gräfe, too, had to fulfill the general duty of compulsory military service. He enlisted [p. 4 col. 4] already on the 11th of July 1855 as assistant hautboist (trombone), and committed himself to six years. For accounting purposes he was tied to the post of a lance corporal [(Etatmäßig wurde er auf einer Gefreitenstelle . . . geführt)] of the First Company of the ducal Line-Infantry Regiment. The pay was very low. Friedebald Gräfe drew attention to himself by the composition [of a] “Morgengruß” for military band, and was promoted.
 As is to be inferred from the records of the Thuringian State Archives, in 1862 the 1st-class hautboist [(Hautboist I. Klasse)] inquired about [a] release [(ersuchte . . . um Entlassung)] and obtained the discharge. He went to Bad Nauheim, which, at that time, like Baden-Baden or Bad Kissingen, was a summer resort of the nobility. There during the spa season [(Kursaison)] there was a spa orchestra [(Kurorchestra)] under the direction of the Cologne conductor [(Kapellmeister)] Clemens Edmund Neumann (1823 to 1873) that played three times a day for the entertainment of the spa’s guests [(Kurgäste)]. The performances met with generally enthusiastic approval [(fanden allgemein lobende Zustimmung)], as an examination of the “Konversationsblatt” makes clear. Until 1872 the payment of the spa orchestra [(Kurkapelle)] was the responsibility of the corporation [that ran the] casino [(die Spielbankgesellschaft)]. Where Friedebald Gräfe was engaged during the wintertime is to this point unknown. Possibly he was employed as [a] member of some theater orchestra.
 Out of the files of the Coburg State Archives it emerges that in 1864 Friedebald Gräfe applied for a position as cellist in the court orchestra of the Duke of Coburg, but [that he] turned down the proffered “assistantship [(Assistentenstelle)]” because the pay was too low. This was at the time that war [p. 6 col. 1] between the King of Denmark and the North German Confederation was [being] waged over Schleswig, which had been separated from Holstein and annexed by Denmark. At this time Gräfe was [once again?] engaged in Bad Nauheim. Whether in 1866 and 1870 he was then summoned by his sovereign, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, to the flag and joined the campaign as a military musician is to this point unknown.
 On the 1st of September 1872 his desire to become [a] court musician in the ducal court orchestra and court theater in Coburg was fulfilled. To this period, it seems certain, belongs the composition of his “Concerto for trombone” and orchestra. How often it was performed in Coburg and elsewhere at that time is still unknown. When, in 1874, thanks to the monetary reform [p. 6 col. 2] ([the] introduction of the Reichsmark), prices rose, Friedebald Gräfe petitioned the [(setzte sich . . . beim . . . ein)] Duke of Coburg for a better salary.
 Friedebald Gräfe died on the 22nd of June 1880 of a stroke during a theater performance in Coburg. The 2nd-class [military] burial took place on the 25th of June 1880 with the participation [(unter Anteilnahme)] of his relatives and friends. Friedebald Gräfe had remained unmarried. From the files of the Coburg State Archives we learn that among his things [(in seine Nachlass)] much handwritten music [(handgeschriebener Noten)] was found. Whether these were his own compositions we will probably never learn, for it is not known who inherited th[is] music [(die Noten)].
[p. 4. col. 1] Friedebald Gräfe, cellist and trombonist, court musician at Coburg (1840 to 1880): his expressive three-movement “Concerto for trombone” and orchestra belongs to the repertoire of every solo trombonist. Yet one scans the relevant music encyclopedias in vain for any information about the composer.It was the time of the “Karlsbad Decrees,” which the Federal Diet [(Bundesversammlung)] had passed in Frankfurt am Main on the 20th of September 1819, in order to suppress thereby all liberal and nationalistic [(nationalen)] movements. The German Confederation was the executive authority [(ausführende Organ)] to which all princedoms in the territory of the former German Empire paid attention, and therefore also the dukedom [of] Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.


Ethan Pister said...

*Fast forward eight years later*

This is some really great information. I've been researching Graefe for a while now - no one really seems to know who he is. This is a really great find.

Out of curiosity (if you even end up seeing this) - have you managed to get this published, or have you revised this post to end up with a more accurate translation? I'd love to see more work done on this.

Steve Perisho said...

No, I never got round to pursuing publication seriously, so this is still it. I think I'm (though not a native speaker) a reasonably decent translator of German. The only caution I would offer is that there were some fairly obscure technical terms in this article arising out of the local 19th-century German military and musical culture, and these I couldn't always find dictionary definitions for, so my renditions of some of those may be slightly off. But I retain the original German should you have any questions about my renditions of one or more of them.

I know information about Mr. Gräfe and his concerto is hard to find. That's why I posted this. If memory serves, I also tried to contact the author, but to no avail. It was because the concerto was being performed at my University that the Music Department asked me to see what I could find with its program notes in mind. This article was the best I could come up with at the time, so I posted a translation, hoping that someone like you might find it useful one day.