Thursday, September 18, 2014

Berlioz on the trombone

     "I regard the trombone as the true leader of the race of wind instruments which I have described as 'epic'.  It possesses nobility and grandeur to a high degree and it has all the solemnity of high musical poetry, ranging from a calm, imposing, devotional aura to the wild clamours of an orgy.  It is up to the composer to make it chant like a chorus of priests, or utter threats, then muffled groans, then a subdued funeral knell, then a resounding hymn of glory, then a piercing shriek, then a mighty fanfare for the waking of the dead or the death of the living."

     Hector Berlioz, Grand traité d'instrumentation et d'orchestration modernes (1844; 2nd ed. 1855), trans. Hugh MacDonald (Berlioz's orchestration treatise:  a translation and commentary (Cambridge, England:  Cambridge University Press, 2002), 219).


     "Le trombone est, à mon sens, le véritable chef de cette race d’instruments à vent que j’ai qualifiés d’epiques.  Il possède en effet au suprême degré la noblesse et la grandeur; il a tous les accents graves ou forts de la haute poésie musicale, depuis l’accent religieux, imposant et calme, jusqu’aux clameurs forcenées de l’orgie.  Il dépend du compositeur de le faire tour à tour chanter comme un chœur de prêtres, menacer, gémir sourdement, murmurer un glas funèbre, entonner un hymne de gloire, éclater en horribles cris, ou sonner sa redoubtable fanfare pour le réveil des morts ou la mort des vivants."

     Hector Berlioz, Grand traité d'instrumentation et d'orchestration modernes, ed. Peter Bloom, Hector Berlioz:  New edition of the complete works, ed. Berlioz Centenary Committee, London, in association with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, vol. 24 (Kassel:  Bärenreiter, 2003), 309.  Cf. Hector Berlioz, Grand traité d'instrumentation et d'orchestration modernes (1844), nouvelle edition (Paris:  Henry Lemoine & Cie, Editeurs, [1855]), 205.


     "The trombone is,—in my opinion,—the true chief of that race of wind instruments which I have designated as epic instruments.  It possesses in an eminent degree, both nobleness and grandeur; it has all the deep and powerful accents of high musical poetry,—from the religious accent, calm and imposing, to the wild clamours of the orgy.  It depends on the composer to make it by turn chaunt like a choir of priests; threaten, lament, ring a funeral knell, raise a hymn of glory, break forth into frantic cries, or sound its dread flourish to awaken the dead or to doom the living."
     Hector Berlioz, A treatise upon modern instrumentation and orchestration (1844), trans. Mary Cowden Clarke, New (3rd) ed., rev. & corr. (Boston:  Oliver Ditson and Co., [1860]), 156.


"In my opinion, the trombone is the true head of that family of wind instruments which I have named the epic one. It possesses nobility and grandeur to the highest degree; it has all the serious and powerful tones of sublime musical poetry, from religious, calm and imposing accents to savage, orgiastic outburst. Directed by the will of the master, the trombones can chant like a choir of priests, threaten, utter gloomy sighs, a mournful lament, or a bright hymn of glory, they can break forth into awe-inspiring cries and awaken the dead or doom the living with their fearful voices."
     Hector Berlioz, Treatise on instrumentation (1844), enlarged and rev. by Richard Strauss, trans. Theodore Front  (New York:  E. F. Kalmus, 1948), 302.


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