Book Reviews

  • His Majesty’s Grand Conceit. By Robert Barclay (Loose Cannon Press, 2020). 294 pages. ISBN 9781988657196. (Available in-print or as an ebook through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    George Frederic Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks (HWV 351), composed in 1749, is certainly one of the most beloved and splendid pieces in the early brass repertoire. The work was commissioned by King George II of Great Britain to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. This, Robert Barclay’s fifth work of fiction, is a historical novel where the author puts much meat on the bones of a possible scenario of the preparation and the grand event of April 27, 1749 where an estimated audience of 12,000 people jammed into London’s Green Park to witness a spectacular fireworks display and hear Handel’s music.

  • Robert Barclay. Jacob the Trumpeter. Ottawa: Loose Cannon Press, 2018. 424 pages. ISBN 978-1-988657-13-4. Click here for publisher's website and purchasing information.

    My experience is that most of the world often views the interests of HBS folks as weirdly focused or even strange. It is not often that a novel is published that would be deemed as perfect literature for our membership. But Bob Barclay’s latest work of fiction—he’s written three others—will be, without a doubt, of great interest to our community.

  • Dan Vernhettes, Commemoration of the Centenary of the Arrival of the African-American Military Bands in France during World War I: A Historical and Musical Approach (Paris: Jazz’edit, 2017). ISBN 9782953483192. 54 pages.

    Those who heard John Wallace lead the 20 piece period instrument band playing the music of James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hell Fighters at the 2017 HBS Symposium were given a rare treat. That spectacular repertoire, sadly rarely heard today, is recognized as an important link between ragtime and early jazz. Dan Vernhettes’s new book puts some more meat on the bones of this musical story, but more importantly introduces the musical community to little known information about a slew of other Black proto-jazz ensembles that also made their way to France and introduced this music to Europe.

  • Chris Hasselbring and Kirsty Montgomery. Around the World in Twenty-One Trumpets: A Brass Odyssey: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Fundamentals of Brass Playing Using the Natural Trumpet. Skokie, IL: Brass for Beginners, 2017.  ISBN 10-0-9909663-3X. 95 pages.

    Those who have seen Chris Hasselbring and Kirsty Mongomery’s presentations at various HBS events or other venues have seen one of the more innovative approaches to music pedagogy in recent times. Incorporating the use of natural trumpets incorporating an interdisciplinary approach to the study of history, they have created a fascinating approach to studying music. The most current incarnation of the book is comprised of 10 chapters divided into three units. The fictional hero of the book is Ragnar, a prehistoric trumpeter who takes the reader through musical and historical adventures. Sound files of musical examples, reference and review material and other resources are online at The site “Hear it online” additionally contains a narrative that reviews historical and musical elements of Ragnar’s tale.

  • Claudio Bacciagaluppi and Martin Skamletz, eds., Romantic Brass. Ein Blick zurück ins 19. Jahrhundert (Schliengen, Germany: Edition Argus, 2015), 321 pgs. ISBN 978-3-931264-84-0. Publisher's website for the book.

    Over the past decade our knowledge of brass instruments in the nineteenth century has come into focus by leaps and bounds. While earlier work fixated on a few major figures—in the trumpet realm for instance the Anton Weidinger circle in Austria and the F. G. A. Dauverné circle in France—to the point of exhaustion, today a new generation of scholars together with a virtual second wind among the older generation now offers breadth and depth

  • John Brookfield. A History of the Port Royal Bands: The Men and the Music of the Bands of the Third Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry and the 2nd Brigade, 10th Army Corps, Department of the South during the American Civil War. South China, ME: Sam Teddy, 2015. Price $37.95; 441pp.

    For enthusiasts and scholars of brass-band music of the American Civil War (1861–65), the few surviving sets of band partbooks are treasured as the clearest windows into what was actually played by bands during that war. While recollections by soldiers who name certain tunes are helpful, these non-musicians usually only recognized certain patriotic airs or the occasional popular song.

  • McCusker, John. Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2012.

    This is an excellent book and leaving aside a short pamphlet put out by the UK jazz magazine Crescendo, it is the only study to be devoted to one of the iconic trombonists of jazz. I use the word iconic in the absence of any other term that properly describes him. He was certainly famous, but was he a great player? Therein lies the rub: why was Ory such a celebrated player when, by the evidence of his recordings, he was not always fully in charge of the instrument he played? Lawrence Brown, another iconic trombonist, refined his technique by playing cello music as a teenager because he “wanted to get away from all that tailgate stuff”—I wonder to whose recordings he had been listening. Brown is universally regarded as a great player; Ory occupies a different place.

    September 1, 2015

    Foster, John. The Baroque Trumpet Revival. Chandler, Arizona: Hickman Music Editions, 2015.

    Virtuoso Australian natural trumpet player John Foster has presented a vivid picture of the revival of the Baroque trumpet tradition in our modern era. The book begins with some basic information on the history, structure, and literature of the natural trumpet. He then outlines the contributions of some nineteenth and early-twentieth century pioneers, including Xavier Teste, Thomas Harper, Julius Kosleck, Walter Morrow, and John Solomon. Once he gets to Walter Holly he is off and running.

    September 1, 2015
  • Robert Holden, And the Band Played On: How Music Lifted the Anzac Spirit in the Battlefields of the First World War. Melbourne & London: Hardie Grant Books, 2014, paperback, 288 pages. ISBN 978 1742705620.

     Robert Holden is an Australian historian, librarian, curator, book reviewer and author. He has written more than thirty books, most of which deal with Australian subjects in the fields of literature, art and design, folklore, and national identity. This book, his first foray into a musical subject, was informed by a fellowship at the Mitchell Library in Sydney that enabled him to study the diaries of ‘Anzac’ soldiers. Additionally, he undertook considerable archival research at other major national institutions, including the Australian War Memorial. Thus the book is well illustrated with original black-and-white photographs from the First World War, worthy of study within themselves.

    December 1, 2016
  • Michael J. Pagliaro, The Brass Instrument Owner’s Handbook (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). ISBN 9781442274013. 213 pages.

    Michael Pagliaro has presented a handbook of 11 chapters that contains a wide range of information on brass instruments, selection, ownership, rentals, care, pedagogy, fingering charts, acoustics, manufacture and assorted details including information on mutes, music stands, lyres, mouthpieces, mouthpiece pullers, cases, tuners, and other minutia.

    December 1, 2016
  • Koehler, Elisa. A Dictionary for the Modern Trumpet Player. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. ISBN 978-0-8108-8657-5. 219 pages. Publisher's website.

    Elisa Koehler new book demonstrates her wonderful ability to convey and explain a wide range of information, some of it rather complex, to both informed and novice readerships. As the book is a dictionary, each of the hundreds of entries is limited in size, but Koehler has nevertheless managed to assemble a wide range of trumpet-related topics including famous players, composers, instruments, organological issues, performance practice, compositions, as well as key concepts and historical events. Drawing on the famous line, “poetry is what poets write,” Elisa Koehler has constructed her dictionary to embrace the totality of the trumpet family as anything that the modern trumpet player plays. Rather than restricting the topic, as some taxonomic endeavors do, she has broadened it.

    March 18, 2015
  • Hobson, Vic. Creating Jazz Counterpoint: New Orleans, Barbershop Harmony, and the Blues. American Made Music Series. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014. ISBN 978-1-61703-991-1. 168 pages.

    In November, 2005 the Historic Brass Society presented a conference in collaboration with the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, “Early Twentieth-Century Brass Idioms: Art, Jazz, and Other Popular Traditions”. At that conference Vic Hobson presented an intriguing paper, “The Blues and the Uptown Brass Bands of New Orleans.” That paper was subsequently published in a Conference Proceedings by Scarecrow Press in 2009. It also served as the impetus for this present book.

    July 14, 2014
  • Harvey Phillips, Mr. Tuba: Harvey Phillips (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), 496 pages, ISBN 978-0-253-00724-7.

    Near the beginning of his autobiography Mr. Tuba, Harvey Phillips compares his life to the story of Johnny Appleseed because his planting of “composition seeds” in the “minds of composers” had resulted in future compositions and opportunities for the tuba (75). The story of Johnny Appleseed is an apt metaphor for the life of Harvey Phillips in multiple ways. First, Phillips was responsible for whole forests of new pieces and opportunities for the tuba (more than 200 commissioned works). Second, the story of Johnny Appleseed is a classic American origin myth, and Phillips, from the outset, clearly puts himself in the category of a self-made American artist. Third, Johnny Appleseed is biography made tall tale, passed on through generations, told differently each time, and Phillips, as this autobiography makes clear, often emphasizes the story more than the art. Finally, Johnny Appleseed is a story of the past, one many young Americans likely wouldn’t even know today. In the same way, the musical life Phillips describes is a narrative of a world and an ideology fading into history.

    A good storyteller, like a good composer or jazz soloist, knows how to begin a narrative. The most famous opening line of an American musician autobiography probably belongs to Billie Holliday: "Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three.” This opening—moving, rhythmic, ironic, funny, tragic, and improvisatory (it wasn’t actually true)—is classic Billie Holliday and sets up the themes of her life and narrative. The opening sentences of Harvey Phillips, Mr. Tuba also set up themes of a musician who grew up in an America that no longer exists.

    “News spread quickly in our small town of Marionville, Missouri. In mid-June 1947, when the preacher of my church heard that I would be ‘running away with the circus,’ he drove to our house and asked to speak with my mother and me.” (1)

    In the first short paragraph of the book, there is mention of a small town, a visiting preacher, a protective mother “holding a handkerchief in her lap,” an “old upright piano” and the threat of “running away with the circus (1). From the opening passages of Mr. Tuba, it is clear that it is being framed as an American biography rooted in the past, in an idealized world of black and white Lincolnesque childhoods filled with quintessentially American experiences. Within just a few pages the Americana expands to include a family Civil War legend, the singing of Methodist hymns on the porch, and a depression narrative that lists the chores to be performed at 5:00 AM. Clearly this will be a story of a boy rooted in American history who, through hard work, good morals, and a sense of mild rebellion—he does leave with the circus—will “make good.” Phillips’s story and education are prime material for those interested in studying the Protestant roots of American brass playing.

    If this is the kind of childhood not many can remember any more, part of the pleasure for brass players will be reading of a musical education that few can remember either. Phillips—at least in his version of the narrative—honed his skills, not in summer camps or music conservatories but in circus bands, by playing his mother’s favorite hymns, and practicing in cemeteries. While Phillips will move to New York City, study with the best teacher, attend the best music conservatories, and befriend famous composers, musicians, and conductors, he will always remind us that he was a small town Protestant boy who kind of lucked into playing the tuba and who chose playing in the circus over going to college. The idea of experience over formal education is a theme in the book, even as his career turns to his work and teaching at major music conservatories for the last half of his life.

    While Phillips’s musical education, where you learn to read music in a circus band, learn to phrase by playing hymns, and play the tuba in a world without solo literature and before brass quintets, is hard for today’s brass musician to imagine, his descriptions of the business of music—the details of which Phillips is also much concerned with—are also radically different than today. Phillips paints a world where it is possible to turn down offers from the Met Opera and the Boston Symphony because the richness and variety of freelance playing was more rewarding. “I don’t want to be in the opera business,” Phillips tells someone, “I want to be stay in the music business” (164). Or as he explains, “I thought I was in musician heaven as a freelance player because there was so much variety, which dissuaded me from putting all my performance eggs in a symphony orchestra or opera basket” (101).

    For fans of the tuba, for those interested in the history of American brass playing, or for anyone who wants to feel what the daily life of being a musician was in the mid-twentieth century, this is a valuable book. Mr. Tuba is not a work of literature with the distinctive voices found in the autobiographies of Billie Holliday, Yehudi Menuhin or Miles Davis. Phillips is not a skilled prose stylist, and he tends to tell rather than to show. Sometimes picaresque, sometimes almost stream of consciousness, often chatty, always warm, the book’s pleasures are not so much in reading it cover to cover, or in what it teaches, but rather in dropping in and out—to feel the hour-to-hour movement of being a circus musician in 1947 or a New York freelancer in 1956.

    The biggest pleasures of the book and the moments when the writing is the liveliest and most moving are in the depictions of the great musical friendships Phillips had with musician such as William Bell, conductors like Gunther Schuller, and composers like Alec Wilder. Yet, while his joy in being a musician and working with such amazing people constantly comes through, there are many passages that leave the reader wanting more musical details. For example, Phillips mentions an impromptu reading session of his close friend Alec Wilder’s Suite for Horn, Tuba, and Piano that took place in the Fred Mills’ living room with Jon Barros, Gilbert Kalish and Wilder. But instead of showing or telling us what it was like or what was said, Phillips moves on; it seems to be just another day, folded into a rich life of music that might include the Met Opera on Wednesday, a circus on Thursday, and Dizzy Gillespie on Friday. This is certainly part of the point of the book, but wouldn’t it be fun to really hear specific details of what they talked about, what the music making was like?

    For better or worse, the book has little thematic organization and is light on musical or cultural analysis; with few exceptions, it progresses chronologically through chapters organized around Phillips’s activities such as playing in the circus, founding and performing with the New York Brass Quintet, or teaching at Indiana University. What it does give is a detailed diary-like glimpse into a musician’s life and a brass player’s world that will soon be as quaint as the scenes that opened the book. To read about Phillips’s experiences in the 1950’s, for example, is to enter into a world that is just barely on the edges of today’s New York freelance experience. There are still a few brass players on the scene that perfected their skills in circus bands instead of college; it was just a few short years ago that one could play next to Don Butterfield on a summer outdoor band concert; and one still meets older low brass players who refer in reverential tones to “Mr. Bell,” but these memories will soon fade from our music culture.

    But while Phillips writes of a music world that has largely passed, another of the pleasures in reading this book is in encountering the familiar, the things that never change. One of joys of being a freelance musician still is, of course, the stories that sustain you from one gig to the next. What you often remember about a musical performance is the adventure of getting there, who you sat next to, a practical joke, or a comment someone made. The life of a musician, as Phillips tells it, is as much about card tricks and driving stories as it is about melodies and mouthpieces. Freelance music—American style—is a world built on storytelling and musician banter, the tall tale, if you will, and, in this way, New York in the 1950’s feels a lot like it does now. In one of the best anecdotes, Phillips tells of eating lunch in a Kansas gas station restaurant while on a tour with the New York Brass Quintet. When the attendant answers the insistently ringing pay phone on the wall, it turns out to be Gunther Schuller calling to talk to Phillips about an upcoming project in New York. Schuller—Phillips tells us—knew of the tour route and schedule and had contacted the Kansas State Highway Patrol to ask where they might possibly be eating lunch (172).

    The inspiration found in Mr. Tuba and in Harvey Phillips’s life is expressed in ways that are both simple and profound. From Phillips’s start with the King Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circuses, his lessons with William Bell and his days at Julliard, his administrative and teaching positions at the New England Conservatory and Indiana University, and his founding of the New York Brass Quintet and TubaChristmas, to his one brief paragraph about how Parkinson’s disease forced him to retire, the constant theme is one of optimism. Life is good. Music is good. To be a good musician one must learn to live well. This theme continues past his retirement into the last part of the book which avoids turning nostalgic or maudlin. Instead, always the teacher, Phillips devotes it to his practical advice about being a musician and being a tuba player. Phillips, who from the beginning very self-consciously puts himself in the lineage of American brass players from the Sousa band such as Herbert Clarke and Arthur Pryor (82), here chronicles the history of the tuba and the advances it has made in his lifetime. He also outlines his theory of teaching, an approach that is a logical one, rooted in sound fundamentals, knowledge of history and legacy, common sense psychology, and which constantly returns to the idea of being, as he calls it, a “good musical citizen.” In the final paragraph, the book returns to the opening theme of a preacher and the temptations of the circus. But looking back, although Phillips admits his pranks and jokes were “devilish in nature,” he sees his life, not as one of sin, but as one of “joy and privilege” in living a “lifetime of associations with great music” (449). Readers of this book will no doubt agree.

    -- Gregory Erickson, New York University

    December 31, 2013
  • Foster, John. The Natural Trumpet and Other Related Instruments. Edited by Edward H. Tarr. Sydney: Kookaburra Music, 2010. 81 pages, 58 black and white photographs, ISMN 979-0720099-88-0. Click here for the publisher's site.

    Many HBS readers will be familiar with the career of John Foster as a widely respected Baroque trumpeter.  Foster lives in Sydney, Australia, but he has appeared in many international venues and is a consultant to the USA trumpet maker, Andrew Naumann.  Although Foster’s generously illustrated book is titled The Natural Trumpet, much of the discussion of the book centers on the vented trumpet that has become the normal tool of the modern business Baroque trumpeter.  Foster prefers the four-hole, long form model and reasons that it is easier to begin study on the four-hole model and then learn the three-hole model rather than to learn things the other way around. Fingering charts are provided for each type of vented instrument.  The parts of the Baroque trumpet are also covered. The exercises that follow are in the mold of those found in the methods of Laird and Tarr with a section on trills and ornament studies that have practical value for those that are playing the vented instruments. The most practical advice in my view in the entire volume comes in a two-page section called “Approaching the Summit (Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2).” The bulleted points Foster offers here will serve a student well even if they never get to play the Brandenburg 2.  The points he offers – learn the score, listen, set achievable goals, break work into small sections, practice fingerings separately, transpose to lower pitched instruments, spend time on difficult passages when you are fresh, select slow tempos, use a light fluid approach, rest – are the keys to practicing anything on a trumpet, natural or otherwise. This is sage advice from someone who has been there.

    The book also includes fingering charts for the four-keyed trumpet and a chart for hand stopping the Demilune trumpet in F.  Later in the method, there are pictures of Pless horns, bugles, post horns, flatt trumpets, tromba di tirasi, English slide trumpet and other related instruments from Foster’s collection. Short biographical sketches of important trumpeters such as Valentine Snow, John Shore, Pavel Vejvanovsky and Johann Heinisch are also included to provide inspiration.  The volume concludes with a few orchestral excerpts, a listing of suggested repertoire and a bibliography.

    This volume will be of greatest interest to those who appreciate John Foster’s considerable abilities on the modern vented trumpet. The book reflects Foster’s personality and interest in collecting and sharing his experiences as a player and introduces the student who has decided to invest in a vented Baroque trumpet. Meanwhile, players like Jean-François Madeuf are demonstrating daily that unvented natural trumpets can play everything that the vented instruments can play. Foster addresses this issue in a single sentence when he states “ . . . I would not be surprised if before long we see a far greater resurgence of performance using no vent holes” (page 12). The widespread success of those who are facing the challenge of going natural (without vents) deserves greater coverage in a volume such as this.  What techniques best develop the old way of playing?  What are the obstacles to the modern player who needs to double on historic brass?  What practice techniques foster confidence and consistency? Perhaps we all need to address this issue individually to find the secrets of technique of the natural trumpet in both the present as well as the past.  In any case, it is time to acknowledge the elephant in the room. There certainly are no easy answers to these questions or more people would be performing in the natural way by now.  The Barclay/Seraphinoff trumpet making workshops, the careful study of performers who are mastering the original techniques, and daily diligence in personal practice are a start.

    -- Ralph Dudgeon, SUNY Cortland 

    December 31, 2012
  • Stewart Carter, ed., A Performer’s Guide to Seventeenth-Century Music Second Edition. Revised and Expanded by Jeffery Kite-Powell. Indiana University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-253-35706-9. List price: $49.95

    [Editor's note: an e-book version is also available and snippets of the text can be previewed on IUP's Website]

    In this age of the volatile publishing world where books seem to go out of print before you can say, well sadly, “Encyclopedia Britannica”, we are fortunate to have this fine resource not only back in print but in a revised and expanded edition. The first edition of this book was published by Schirmer Books in 1997 under the auspices of Early Music America. The current edition is over 100 pages longer and includes three more chapters: “The Trombone” by Stewart Carter and by others on the violin and violoncello/violone. Carter’s chapter on the trombone is certainly of immediate interest to HBS members, as are the newly-revised versions of “Cornett and Sackbut” by Bruce Dickey, “Trumpet and Horn” by Steven Plank, “Percussion Instruments” by John Cooper, “Ornamentation in Early Seventeenth-Century Italian Music” by Bruce Dickey, “Meter and Tempo” by “George Houle, “Tuning and Temperament” by Herbert Myers as well as his chapter on “Pitch and Transposition”.

    This book is an invaluable resource with a wide range of topic addressed, all directed toward the needs of the performer. The contributors are world-class scholars and performers. That said, this review will focus on the revisions and additions contained in the new second edition of the book. Bruce Dickey’s chapter on the cornetto and sackbut contains new information on repertory and editions, the cornetto in Spain, internet resources, and updated listening selections. Dickey’s chapter on ornamentation does not seem to contain any significant revisions, but the essay is comprehensive and authoritative; a more informative concise study of 17th century ornamentation is hard to imagine.

    Steven Plank’s chapter on the trumpet and horn is also largely unchanged although it includes new listening suggestions. Plank includes an informative historical introduction analysis of the instruments, repertory, playing techniques, and a summary of some of the controversies regarding trumpet and horn. John Michael Cooper’s chapter, “Percussion Instruments and Their Usage,” is also mostly the same as the original essay and covers a wide range of topics including a historical summary, discussion of many percussion instruments, historical sources, and performance techniques. The chapter, “Meter and Tempo” by George Houle is also identical to the first edition and is also extremely thorough in the approach to this topic. Houle presents a clear explanation of some difficult topics such as mensural notation, concept of tactus, notational signs, theoretical sources, and the evolution of notation in regard to meter and tempo over time. Herbert Myers’s two chapters; “Pitch and Transposition” and “Tuning and Temperament” also highly authoritative, clear in its presentation of some very thorny issues and does contain a number of updated information.

    Stewart Carter’s new chapter on the trombone is a most welcome addition to this edition. It includes a careful examination of instruments, performance practice issues, theoretical and practical historical documents, repertoire, and an interesting section of considerations of choosing an instrument for the player today. This chapter is well presented in every aspect.

    A minor quibble about the new edition is that the font size is smaller than in the original edition as are the illustrations and musical examples. No doubt an economic consideration. However, A Performer’s Guide to Seventeenth-Century Music is an invaluable resource and it wonderful to have it available in this revised and expanded edition.

    -- Jeffrey Nussbaum

    December 31, 2012
  • Roy, C. Eugène. Méthode de Trompette sans et avec Clefs Divisée en deux Partie par C. Eugène Roy Trompette Major et Chef de Musique. (Mainz: Schott, 1824) Facsimile reprint by Editions BIM, 2009. Edited by Adrian v. Steiger. Ref. TP276

    Roy, C. Eugène 15 Airs en Dous pour 2 trumpets, cornets, bugles, edited, and arranged by Adrian v. Steiger. Edition BIM, 2010 Ref. TP303

    Roy, C. Eugène 4 Airs de Bravoure pour trompete à clefs et piano. Piano accompaniments realized by Edoardo Torbianelli. Edited by Adrian v. Steiger. Edition BIM, 2010 Ref. TP304

    All available from: Editions BIM, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or A sample PDF is on the BIM website.

    Eugène Roy (1790-1827) was a prolific writer of instrumental method books in the early nineteenth century. He played the flageolet and his career was important enough to be documented by the European press of his day. An entry on his life was included in the Biographie Universelle of François Joseph Fétis in 1884. Adrian v. Steiger goes beyond these standard sources to find considerable new material on the illusive Roy and paints a picture of how he came to publish this important method for the trumpet (with and without keys). Steiger is the research director for Hochschule der Künste Bern, an institution that has taken the study of nineteenth century performance practice as its focus. This project, consisting of the method and modern editions of the duets and virtuoso solos from it, are the first three volumes in the HKB historical brass series and are a most welcome edition to the study of the natural trumpet, keyed trumpet and keyed bugle in the nineteenth century. A facsimile of the Concerto by Hummel and Schadädeli and Fröscher’s method for ophicléide are in preparation as numbers four and five in this series.

    The method book is thirty-nine pages long. As the title suggests, it is in two parts. The first part is devoted to the natural trumpet with a commentary in French and German on the ordinary trumpet, the trumpet with keys, embouchure, articulation and mouthpieces. A different size mouthpiece is illustrated for first through fourth trumpet. A few pages of exercises for the natural trumpet and a series of interesting fanfares for two, three and four parts follow. The second part begins with a fingering chart for the keyed trumpet and a series of exercises and duets. The volume concludes with four virtuoso solo pieces.

    Roy’s concluding virtuosic pieces are given piano accompaniments in a separately-published modern performance edition by Edoardo Torbianelli. It is this last selection of solos with their new accompaniments that will be of greatest interest to those who wish to bring this repertoire to the recital stage. They are written for a B-flat instrument and they fall within the compass of the range of the keyed bugle. In fact, they were included in Roy’s tutor for the keyed bugle that preceded this volume for the keyed trumpet. This is also true of the duets originally composed for E-flat and B-flat keyed bugles in the same earlier keyed bugle method. In the modern edition of the duets, many of the duets are transposed down to accommodate two B-flat or C instruments such as modern flugelhorns or cornets. Those wishing to perform them in their original keys (for example, on keyed bugles) can play them directly from the facsimile. These duets are typical of the types of duets that appear in many other keyed bugle methods in terms of the style that they are written in, but unusual in their scoring for E-flat and B-flat keyed bugle. The difference of the timbre of the E-flat and B-flat keyed bugle will make performances of these duets particularly interesting.

    In the collection of four solos, we have a theme and variation on an air by Méhul arranged by Roy and newly composed works by Roy on Rossini’s “Assisa a piè d’un salice” and Michele Enrico Carafa di Colobrano’s cavatina “Ombra che a me ritorna.”
    These selections are representative of the types of solos in other keyed bugle methods, but they are not typical in the level of virtuosity expected by the performer. Many of the keyed bugle methods were written with the amateur in mind and progressed in difficulty. Here we have four very technical and musically challenging works that require study even on modern instruments. The modern piano arrangements offer a few measures of rest by providing brief introductions and interludes that are not in the original. Even with the added material, the pieces require a player with good endurance and a developed technique. The question remains - are these pieces intended for keyed bugle, early valve instruments, keyed trumpet, or generically for all three? For the moment, I am inclined to agree with Steiger that they can be played on all of the instruments, but the chrononology of their inclusion in this method suggests to me that they were originally intended for the keyed bugle.

    In conclusion, this is an important group of publications, made even more useful to scholars and performers by the supplement of practical editions of the duets and solos. Adrian v. Steiger’s commentary is in German, French and English is in the BIM tradition of making the publications accessible to as many performers as possible. There are some typographical errors in the English commentary, most notably in the commentary on the solos, but these are minor (the meaning is preserved in each case). Since the original languages of the facsimile are French and German, it would have been nice to include a literal English translation of that material as well. The paper and music engraving is high quality. There are virtually no problems with page turns and the piano accompaniments provided are tasteful and appropriate to the period. The quality of the facsimile is also very high. Steiger mentions that he knows of four sources for the original method. A fifth was recently found at the Instrumentenmuseum, Schloss Kremsegg in Kremsmünster, Upper Austria where it is part of a recent accession of the Hans Pizka Collection of horns and horn music. The Pizka Collection also has a copy of Roy’s keyed bugle method that features these duets and solos: Methode / de / Cor de Signal a clefs / contenant la Tablature, Gammes, / Excercises, Duos et Solos / Supplement / Gamme pour le / Cor de Signal de Basse, nommé / Bombardone / par C. Eugène Roy / Trompette major et Chef de Musique. / No 2214 Pr. 2 Fl. / Mayence, / chez B. Schott Fils, Editeurs de Musique de S. A. R. le gr: Duc de Hesse. (Mainz: B. Schott, 1825) K. 136
    In light of the various editions of Roy’s work, there are undoubtedly more original copies of Roy’s methods waiting to be discovered.

    Adrian v. Steiger and Roman Brotbeck of the Hochschule der Künste Bern and Jean-Pierre Mathez of Editions BIM are to be congratulated for the creation of this publication that will undoubtedly serve as a model for future projects.

    -- Ralph Dudgeon
    State University of New York, College at Cortland & Colgate University

    Editor's note: Adrian v. Steiger has since written a longer survey of keyed bugle method books in the June 2011 issue of the International Trumpet Guild Journal.

    December 31, 2011
  • William Melton, The Wagner Tuba: A History. Edition Ebenos, Aachen, Germany, 2008. ISBN 978-3-9808379-1-0. €24. Related Website

    This book’s multi-coloured cover showing a Wagner Tuba floating in the sky above a tiny Festspielhaus set against distant mountains provides a striking contrast to the more mundane covers of most other books about musical instruments. On the back we read “The History of the Wagner Tuba: One Part of the History of Gebr. Alexander,” though in fact Melton’s book is not a panegyric for that particular maker but something far more objective. He has ranged far and wide for both primary and secondary sources, although the reader will not find information on acoustics, materials or dimensions. Here we read biographies of obscure composers and instrument makers, lists of members of horn sections and details of Wagner’s domestic life. The book is printed on heavy art paper, giving opportunities for photographs, including a 15-page “Gallery of Wagner Tubas by Contemporary Manufacturers.”

    Melton (American-born and now a horn player in Sinfonie Orchester Aachen) has chosen to deal with an unusual subject, always a doubling instrument and therefore never the one most familiar to its player, reviled for problems with intonation and prone to have its music performed on other instruments. The Wagner tuba was invented by the composer to bridge the gap in the brass section between the sounds of trombones and horns. Its profile lies between that of the valved bugle-horn (the euphonium) and French horn and it is played by horn players using a similar mouthpiece and rotary-valves operated by the left hand. Wagner groups them in sections of four, two tenors in F and two basses in Bb. Pretty well all of the preceding statements have to be qualified by the word “usually.” As Melton relates, there were many existing instruments capable of inspiring Wagner in the design of the tubas. Some of them, especially Cerveny’s cornon of 1844 which Wagner may have heard in Dresden, were remarkably similar and all of them were tried and tested. However, as in so many aspects of his life and work, Wagner was determined to go his own way. The author’s suggestions as to why Wagner initially chose to ask Alexander, at the time renowned only for the manufacture of woodwinds (notably clarinets), to make his new brass instruments rather than Moritz, builder of the first basstuba, would have been welcome.

    A generous number of music examples (48 in all) and end-notes (totalling 811: there are 14 references in the first sentence alone) contribute to the comprehensive nature of the book. The author usefully explores the extraordinary number of notations used by Wagner and hence adopted by later composers. Wagner quite often changes the instruments’ notation within the same work and in some instances the results are so ambiguous that performers have still to reach agreement about the pitch of certain passages. Paradoxically, in this case the German, of a nationality renowned for its logical thinking, was at odds with his Belgian contemporary Sax, working in Paris, whose system of notation for saxhorns and saxophones remains a model of simplicity and practicality.

    Amongst a smattering of errors is the statement that the ‘new bass tuba [was] termed “contrabass tuba” by Wagner’. In fact they were two different instruments: the original basstuba, pitched in F, was specified by Wagner in some of his earlier works, but following the invention of the contrabass tuba in BBb or CC (probably by Cerveny in 1845) he specified this instrument from Das Rheingold (1853-54) onwards. He treated the two instruments quite differently. Similarly, the author alters Wagner’s own term ‘contrabass trombone’ to ‘bass trombone’. The contrabass is of lower pitch. In the opera pit, a team of trumpets (including bass trumpet) and trombones (including contrabass) sits at one extremity while horns, tubas and contrabass tuba sit at the other, providing contrasting timbres.

    The claim that Wieprecht and Moritz led the way for the appearance of ‘the myriad family of bugle horns . . . cornet, fluegelhorn, alto horn, baritone and euphonium)’ by their invention of the basstuba in 1835 reverses the actual chronology. The basstuba could only be constructed after methods of making its large valves were devised. The statement that Moritz’s firm was in 1862 accorded the title Court Instrument Maker is curious as Moritz is described thus in the basstuba patent of 1835, almost 30 years earlier.

    As stated here, Sommer of Weimar developed the euphonium, but it is not true to state that it was later called the baritone horn: this instrument already existed and was then, as later, different in profile from the euphonium. To consider that tubas may have been contemplated by Janacek for the Sinfonietta is to overlook the fact that the first movement, in which two tenor tubas are prominent, was inspired by a military band: euphoniums are always used here. A euphonium also plays tenor tuba in Holst’s Planets; this British composer had been an orchestral trombonist and knew the instrument that he wanted.

    After the exploration of possible inspirations for the tubas and an exposition of their use by Wagner, the following chapters are bound to be something of an anti-climax. ‘Wagner’s Heirs’ tend to be mainly obscure composers trying to make a reputation through gargantuan works, although Bruckner and Stravinsky stand out. ‘Modern Voices’ continues this theme, showing that fascination with the tubas wound down after World War I. ‘Revival’ charts the use of the instruments since about 1960, when different musical idioms have been widely explored, often including unusual instruments. Jazz and particularly film music, which sometimes utilised as many as eight tubas (it was claimed in 2002 that one out of every four American film scores used the instruments), gave employment to versatile horn-players. But how often are the tubas heard as individual voices, or as a section playing in four parts as Wagner envisaged?

    There are some things left unsaid in this book. The drawing of the cross-section of a Lur mouthpiece is not shown alongside a Wagner tuba mouthpiece so that we might compare and contrast. Information about the instruments pictured (including those in the Gallery of Wagner tubas) is restricted to the names of the maker and the model. Even manufacturers’ leaflets give information on important aspects like bore and bell diameter. Some of these instruments seem to have remarkably similar profiles to valved bugle horns. It is tantalizing not to have at least basic technical data.

    Melton confirms that at their first public appearance, in 1874, the tubas (a set made by Ottensteiner of Munich) were still far from technically perfect. Moritz delivered a set in 1877, but when Richter later conducted excerpts from the Ring in London Munich players were imported, probably playing instruments by Ottensteiner. By 1890 Alexander had made a definitive set, delivered to Bayreuth for opera performances also conducted by Richter. Other makers, including those in a number of European countries, have sought to make tubas which avoid the problems for players resulting from poor intonation.

    It is notable that when Henry Wood was planning his Wagner performances in 1895, following Richter’s concerts in London including tubas, he commissioned a set of instruments by Mahillon. (At the Parisian Lamoureux concerts in 1888 Besson cornophones played the parts.) Of saxhorn shape, with four piston-valves and large mouthpiece receivers, this reviewer was privileged to join three Covent Garden musicians in playing on them the tubas passages from the Ring. These experienced opera house players expressed their satisfaction with the tone, tuning and security of the instruments. For performances at the Norwich Festival in 1908 Wood rehearsed four members of the Kettering Rifles Band playing them at intervals over a period of two years. However, in New York, owing to the number of immigrant German musicians authentic tubas were heard as early as 1886.

    The final development in the Wagner Tuba story concerns attempts to make a satisfactory double instrument, after the fashion of the double horn. The author and others quoted here claim that this results in a loss of contrast in timbre between the F and Bb instruments. But those who read this book should then turn to a recent article that complements much of what is said here, and in at least one instance contradicts it.

    Appearing in Galpin Society Journal LXIII (May 2010, pages 143-158) is an article by Lisa Norman, Arnold Myers and Murray Campbell entitled “Wagner Tubas and Related Instruments: An Acoustical Comparison.” This is “an initial foray into the acoustical identity of the Wagner tuba, providing a broad comparison with related instruments, and also looking more closely at what influences the response, timbre and intonation of a specific instrument.” The instruments include tubas by Alexander, Mahillon, Moritz and Schopper alongside cornophones and baritones. There is a great deal to be learnt here from the input impedance curves for the various instruments (and also a euphonium and trombone for purposes of comparison) along with comparative bore profiles of a significant selection. Information is provided in the form of graphs and tables making it easy to compare the data for each instrument. This is then expanded in the text.

    Surprisingly, acoustical tests did not show particular problems in tuning, although overall more recent instruments performed better. Most interestingly, the double Wagner Tuba showed the greatest variation in brassy timbre between the two sides of the instrument. These scientific conclusions fail to confirm two of the characteristics of the instruments most commonly perceived by players: poor tuning and the double instrument’s lack of differentiation between F and Bb sides. Perhaps it is fair to conclude that these perceptions result from the individual musician’s lack of familiarity with instruments which in many cases are brought out of the opera house’s store-rooms only occasionally.

    -- Clifford Bevan

    December 31, 2010
  • Bruce Boyd Raeburn. New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2009. ISBN 0-472-03321-2. 342 pages.

    For a relatively young art form, jazz has spawned an immense and remarkably diverse supporting literature. In the mid-1930s, books delineating its origins, founders, foremost practitioners, and stylistic attributes began cropping up. Documenting the already 40-year old music, these books appeared first in France and then America. Amid the growing body of literature certain works have assumed great importance in influencing how later scholars approached jazz. Perhaps no other text exerted as profound an impact on jazz discourse, particularly it’s origin in and subsequent diffusion from New Orleans, as Jazzmen, a collection of articles edited by Charles Edward Smith and Frederic Ramsey, Jr. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1939). The text provided the catalyst for a trend in subsequent histories whereupon swing bands, bebop, free, fusion, and still more styles were woven into the historical narratives as extensions of the original style; evolution through an accumulation of artistic innovations. The idea of progress was anathema to Smith, Ramsey, and many of the record collectors and discographers who had been the earliest advocates of jazz as a distinct art form. For this group of cognoscenti hot music was not just the leaping off point for the jazz art, it was the art itself.

    December 31, 2009
  • Pocket Cornets: Actual Size. A Pictorial Overview of the Smallest Antique & Vintage Cornets Ever Made,. By Nick DeCarlis. Published by the author, 2009. 75 pages hardcover. Information: and

    This beautifully designed and illustrated book features a detailed examination of many of the instruments from the author’s private collection of several dozen rare pocket cornets arranged chronologically from an 1872 Distin instrument to various Amati, Holton, and Alexander pocket cornets from the 1960s and 1970s. The 8x9 ½ inch page format of this publication enabled DeCarlis to feature beautiful “life size” color photos of the instruments. They are so sharp and clear that I found myself constantly reaching toward the page with my right hand imagining that I could grab the cornet and pull it from the page. Details of length (typically 8 or 7 inches), bell diameter, bore size, key and pitch and serial numbers are given for each instrument featured. There are also numerous photos of related material such as illustrations of the makers, 19th and early 20th century performers holding pocket cornets, instrument cases, original advertisements, and catalogues. A brief historical background is also given along with a description of various unusual design configurations.

    December 31, 2009
  • The Trumpet Book by Gabriele Cassone. Zecchini Editore Pub. 2009 ISBN 978-88-87203-80-6. 336 pages. $75. With accompanying CD. Website:

    When I received the original Italian language edition of Gabriele Cassone’s La Tromba (2002) some years back, I thought that it was not only the most beautifully published book on the trumpet (over 400 exquisite color photographs on glossy large format paper), but perhaps the most beautiful book on any musical instrument I’ve seen. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Italian is about on par with that of the great Louis Armstrong. When on one of his many tours of Italy and asked how his Italian was, the great trumpeter responded, “Oh fine, pizza!!” I may be able to order a few more types of food but now we have the English translation of Cassone’s wonderful book and it is even more beautiful than the original Italian edition. There are additional photos and some photos enlarged and made slightly brighter.

    December 31, 2009