Dedicated to my father
The trombone has very ancient origins. The first witnesses regarding the use of this instrument in ceremonial music are found in the Duchy of Burgundy around the fifteenth century. At that time, and in the two following centuries, it was called sacqueboute (after Middle French, sacquer and bouter, i.e. to pull and to push).
Having a double gliding tube, it was already capable of producing complete scales of sounds. In this it was different from the other aerophones with mouthpiece, which limited the production of sounds just to the instrument’s natural harmonics (overtones).
After a short period of oblivion, following the bright Baroque period, it owed its renaissance doubtlessly to the Romantic century. The solo use of the trombone is in fact to be understood in terms of “Belcanto”, of lyric opera, which was taking the European theatres by storm, and particularly Paris.
The great attention paid by Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) to the trombone bears witness not only to the good reputation of this instrument in France, but also to its brilliant local performers, as will be said later. Berlioz was an authentic supporter of the instrument’s noble quality. Thus he deprecated its bad use by some Italian composers. Some of his definitions became famous: “The trombone is the true chief of that race of instruments which are qualified as epic”; “it possesses nobility and grandiosity in the highest degree; it has all the grave or powerful accents of high musical poetry”… And so on.
Beyond Berlioz, other great French masters put the trombone into relief within the orchestra. Among them, Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896), Charles Gounod (1818-1893) and Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921).
In the nineteenth century new mechanisms were invented with the purpose of updating and bettering the brass instruments.
This was the so called “valve era”, where mechanisms made of rotating cylinders or pistons became widespread. They allowed for an instant change of the natural harmonics, thus turning these instruments into chromatic instruments.
The trombone had had already for centuries the gliding system (coulisse); it was touched by these attempts, but their application was not very successful. The valve trombone by Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) had an ephemeral success in France too. The sound homogeneity and purity of the coulisse trombone prevailed.
As concerns the birth of the French trombone school, and, consequently, a really specifical pedagogy for this instrument, it is owed mainly to the glorious Parisian Conservatory of music.
The creation of the Trombone class at the Paris Conservatoire was proposed by Luigi Cherubini in 1833. Solo trombonist Felix Vobaron was appointed a professor, until the Chair became permanent, in 1836, with Antoine Dieppo (1808-1878), who held it until 1871.
Dieppo, a great virtuoso, was highly admired by Berlioz. He was a soloist at the Opéra and at the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. His Chair was inherited and maintained from 1871 to 1888 by Paul Delisse (1817-1888), followed by Louis Allard (1852-1940) from 1888 to 1925. They were all first-rank soloists.
Numerous coeval composers wrote solo pieces for trombone with accompaniment of fortepiano, piano, or organ, in order to demonstrate the trombone’s technical and expressive virtues. These works were expressly dedicated to the Conservatory and to its pedagogy. Even Charles Gounod wrote pieces for the Conservatory, but, unfortunately, they are lost.
This album’s purpose is that of collecting some small masterpieces, which are particularly meaningful and suited for concert performance. This music is expressly conceived for tenor trombone with coulisse, with exception of Demersseman’s piece, which was conceived for a valve instrument (Saxhorn or similar), but is still dedicated to trombonist Dieppo.
Other are solos conceived for trombone within the orchestra; the ensemble is replaced here by a fortepiano accompaniment. There are also a couple of transcriptions from Bizet’s famous Carmen, and a “mannerist” piece written by the CD’s soloist himself, Francesco Verzillo.
The common denominator of this repertoire is represented by its broad singing style, by its rich and noble tone, exalted by the use of the historical trombone and of the nineteenth-century keyboard.
Description of the piece
Hedwige Chrétien (1859-1944), a female composer, was a student of César Franck. The work performed here, an Andante e Allegro dating back from 1886, is provided with a broad lyrical style. It is a very intense piece, characterized by ample phrasings and a magniloquent tone.
Jules Cohen (1835-1901), instead, was a pupil of Halévy’s. His Andante, in a vocal style, can also be performed with organ accompaniment. In the manuscript, it is proposed for church performance at Offertory. This is a typical example of the trombone’s expressive sweetness: a trait perhaps unknown to the large audience, which is used to hear brass instruments mostly in the orchestral tuttis.
Samuel Rosseau (1853-1904) took inspiration from the style of César Franck and Gabriel Fauré. He won the Prix de Rome in 1878 and received prestigious appointments in the musical field. He obtained the Légion d’Honneur in 1900. His Pièce concertante is a Romantic work, made of a lively allegro, of a very singing central section, and of a finale quoting the initial theme and ending in an open and jaunty fashion.
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) needs no introduction. He was a great innovator of nineteenth-century instrumental language, but he was also a knowledgeable expert about the most diverse wind instruments. The piece recorded here is excerpted from the Grande Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale op. 15, a monumental work with celebrative purposes regarding the French Revolution. The solo of the Oraison Funèbre is a kind of recitative and prayer in the vocal style, excerpted precisely from the singing part in Act Three of the unfinished opera Les franc-juges. The voice’s part was purposefully replaced by the trombone by Berlioz himself. In the performance recorded here the orchestral part is replaced by the fortepiano.
Adrien Barthe (1828-1898) won a Grand Prix de Rome and taught at Conservatory, writing in the operatic style. The piece recorded here has an intense character, dense with lyrical and virtuoso ideas, alternating singing melodies with majestic themes.
Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896). Another important trombone solo occupies the Prelude to Tableau II in Act One of his opera Hamlet (1868). Here too there is a fortepiano arrangement of the orchestral part. It is in the style of Berlioz’s Oraison Funèbre but the trombone part, very sweet and cantabile, alternates with the dramatic accents of the orchestral accompaniment.
Jules Demersseman* (1833-1866) was a flutist and composer from Northern France, by the Belgian border. Introduction et Polonaise op. 30 has a rather lively musical invention. It contains recitatives, singing themes and a brilliant polonaise ending with a majestic and deeply involving finale. For this piece only we employed a trombone with transposing cylinder B-flat/F, in order to perform passages which would be arduous to play with a simple B-flat instrument, and also due to its compass which reaches the low E-flat.
Francesco Verzillo (1966) is the composer (and performer) of Poème, a mannerist composer reminiscent of the concours solos employed in the French nineteenth century at the Conservatory of Paris. It is divided into two movements. The first, Elégie, can be intended as an introductory element, with a cantabile andante with a tender and melancholic character. At its centre is found a more unquiet moment, which however immediately makes way for the tranquil pace citing the initial theme. Petite chanson, the second movement, is in complete opposition with the preceding. A playful and nonchalant theme alternates with a triumphally-paced, enthralling Maestoso. After a short reprise of the graceful initial theme, the pieces ends with a self-confident final stretto.
Georges Bizet (1838-1875) was another important French composer, whose works were frequently paraphrased by numerous musicians who employed the themes of his magnificent opera, Carmen, recalled here through two of its celebrated arias, Habanera and Danza gitana. This arrangement, made by Francesco Verzillo, refreshes the pieces’ lively and warm spirit, in its efficacious adaptation for French Romantic trombone.
Project printed with the support of:
Danilo Dellepiane was born in Genoa. He graduated in piano at the Conservatory “Giuseppe Verdi” of Turin, with top marks. He attended master courses by Boris Petrushansky at the Accademia Ducale of Genoa. He is interested in all musical genres. He develops an intense activity on the concert stage, concerning both solo and chamber music, and also as a teacher; this activity regards several instruments (piano, organ, harpsichord and saxophone). He is a member of numerous chamber music ensembles. He cooperates with choral ensembles, symphonic orchestras, Baroque ensembles and big bands. For many years he has been a piano accompanist at Conservatories, at music contests, and for the preparation of several operas.
Francesco Verzillo was born in Genoa in 1966. His musical studies took place in his city, where he obtained a diploma in trombone at the Conservatory “N. Paganini”. He also graduated in Italian with top marks and honours at the University of Genoa; his dissertation was about the history and literature of his musical instrument. He won the ACADA-ENDAS Prize (Competition for wind instruments “Città di Genova”), and participated in several master courses in trombone in Italy and abroad, attending the courses of international soloists. He participated in several orchestral productions; however, he has never entered stably the ranks of an orchestra, preferring to maintain a freelance professional identity. Since the beginnings of his career, he focused on the concert repertoire for trombone, in duo with organist Emilio Traverso, as well as with many pianists and in several chamber music ensembles. As a soloist he was frequently invited by the Associazione Ligure “Amici dell’Organo”. He performed solo recitals in Bremen and Cologne (Germany); at the “Rassegna Organistica” of Blevio on the Como Lake, and at the Accademia Organistica of Sant’Elpidio (AP). He also performed at the “Settimane barocche” of Brescia, at “Estate Regina” in Montecatini Terme (PT), at the “Mercoledì musicali Ca.Ri.Fi.” in Florence, at the “Rassegna organi storici in Cadore” and the Vallombrosa Abbey (FI), at the Lutheran Evangelical Churches of Genoa, Sanremo, Florence, and Milan, and at the Fondazione Museo “Glauco Lombardi” of Parma, to name but a few examples. More recently, his solo career continued with further appearances in Alassio (SV), at the Rassegna of Andora (SV), in Leffe (BG), and with the Savona Chamber Orchestra with which he performed the Concertos for alto trombone by Michael Haydn and Leopold Mozart. He also participated in the festival “La santità sconosciuta” of Cherasco (CN), an event of national relevance under the patronage of the celebrated violinist Uto Ughi. In the course of such events, he often introduces his performance through historical remarks, in order to better illustrate some little-known aspects of his instruments and of the pieces he plays. His performances and recitals have been always greatly acclaimed by both audience and critics. He performs his repertoire with several models of trombone, with historical awareness. The instruments he employs include Baroque specimens, built as period copies (alto, tenor, bassus); German Romantic instruments (alto and tenor-bassus, also known as Deutsche Konzertposaune), all of which are either copies or original instruments, and also a trombone built in France at the end of the 19th century. He composed Poème for trombone and piano, a piece published by ADM Edition; it is inspired by the style of the French Romantic trombone of the end of the nineteenth century. He is full professor of Italian literature and History at the Artistic High School “Klee-Barabino” in Genoa. He was also appointed to several roles within the Ministry for Education of his country.
Georges Bizet (Alexandre-César-Léopold)
(b Paris, 25 Oct 1838; d Bougival, nr Paris, 3 June 1875). French composer. Bizet might have surpassed all the many composers active in France in the last third of the 19th century had it not been for his untimely death at the age of 36. Carmen, first performed three months before his death, has become one of the most popular operas of any age.
Hector Berlioz (b La Côte-Saint-André, Isère, 11 Dec 1803; d Paris, 8 March 1869). French composer. He stands as the leading musician of his age in a country, France, whose principal artistic endeavour was then literary, in an art, music, whose principal pioneers were then German. In many senses the Romantic movement found its fullest embodiment in him, yet he had deep Classical roots and stood apart from many manifestations of that movement. His life presents the archetypal tragic struggle of new ideas for acceptance, to which he gave his full exertions as composer, critic and conductor. And though there were many who perceived greatness in his music from the beginning, his genius only came to full recognition in the 20th century.
(b 1859; d 1944). French composer and teacher. She studied with Ernest Guiraud at the Paris Conservatoire, where she won first prize in both harmony and fugue in 1881 and later became a professor. Little else is known of her life. She composed about 150 works, including 50 songs, 50 piano pieces, two one-act comic operas, a very successful ballet, and several chamber and orchestral works. Although the subject matter of her texts is often traditional, such as love, patriotism and troubadours, the musical idiom is clearly 20th century: most works are through-composed, using ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords, with chromatic melodies and frequent changes of metre and tonality, often modulating into remote keys. Chrétien’s fame extended beyond France into England and the USA. Some of her songs were translated and published in England, and her wind quintet was reprinted in the USA.