The Sound Of Keyed Brass

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by gsmonks, Mar 20, 2016.

  1. gsmonks

    gsmonks Piano User

    It's got nothing to do with "inferior" or "superior". Keyed brass was played from ca 1750 to around 1920, when one of the Paris orchestras stopped using them. There were also a pair of Distin ophicleides that languished in stock until 1923. They are reputedly the last original keyed brass for sale.

    Modern keyed brass plays a lot better than the originals. You can now buy instruments that actually play in tune.

    They have different properties than valved brass, just as various types of valved brass have different properties from one another. Each type is its own experience- Vienna valves, Stolzel valves, Perinet, rotary, Berliner.

    I don't like the sound of the modern Bb trumpet. Never have. It sounds like it is- a type of cornet. The sound has no life, no character. Even a good cornet sounds better to my ears than a Perinet Bb trumpet. It especially doesn't cut the mouse-turd where 19th century and earlier music is concerned. The sound doesn't roll. It can't sound Gothic, or martial, or stark, or bleak, or much of anything. It's a kind of blah one-trick pony that just does what it does.

    Modern orchestral players especially are fixated on technique and tone-production at the expense of performance. Great tone, great technique, extremely boring performances, with the conductors milking dust out of the old cow's teats.

    The main difference between a cornet (which the modern Bb Perinet "trumpet" is) and a real trumpet is this:

    The cornet is and always has been a circus instrument. "Look at me! Look at me! Listen how high I can play! Listen how fast I can tongue! Okay, I'm going to play you a ballad, now. How about another ballad? And another? Watch me do my nips and flips, now! Watch me at centre stage as I play Paganini's Moto Perpetuo 83 times at super-duper high-speed in one breath as I jump from a platform into a bucket of boiling fat."

    That is not and never has been the trumpet's shtick. Real trumpets are imperfect, with rough edges, they're hard to manage, they're not your best friend in a tight spot, and won't let you lay back in your comfort zone. But unlike the cornet, they have something meaningful to say. The trumpet is not simply an entertainer's instrument.
  2. Sterling

    Sterling Mezzo Forte User

    Oct 22, 2007
    Marcellus, NY
    I don't think I know Kenton Scott. I'll bet I've probably played with him. I am horrible at remembering names!

  3. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    SARV, original condition, other than a couple small dents I had removed. Made by Henry Lehnert, Philadelphia circa 1870. Constructed entirely (except for the rotors, which are bronze) of German silver, with Allen valves. A cool little cornet.



  4. gsmonks

    gsmonks Piano User

    Kenton runs the Horn-u-copia website.
  5. gsmonks

    gsmonks Piano User

    What a gem!

    Those bronze valves sometimes last a phenomenal amount of time. Other times, not so much. Some makers seem to hit on just the right recipe.

    Or not.

    I had an 1880's G alto trombone at one time that was a horrible nickel-silver alloy. It was gorgeous at one time, a really nice-sounding instrument, but it was literally falling apart by the time I passed it along to a collector for restoration.
  6. Franklin D

    Franklin D Forte User

    May 23, 2009
    The Netherlands
    I have great respect for the point of view, his historical knowledge and the intense way gsmonks defends the sounds of the past but here happens something I could not imagine to happen: I totally agree with trickg.
    Of course gsmonks has the right to have his opnions but sadly he presents his personal opinions as facts and repeatedly.
    I love the modern trumpet and even loves the chracter of it which is nonexistent in gsmonks' view.
    In some way it's OK that people play on instruments of the past, then we at least know a little bit how the compositions of the classic masters did sound but I also see modern instruments as superior to the ancient ones. I live in a city in Holland which is a centre of historical performances (Utrecht in the Netherlands) but I am not a great fan. If I hear a harpsichord I will run for the emergency exit.
    I am very sure that if the great Johann Sebastiaan Bach should have known the modern grand piano he would have kicked his harpsichord out of the top window in seconds.
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    When we try to put trumpets into drawers that fit the usual stereotypes, the arguments all go down the drain. Criticizing modern trumpeters attention to security and consistency is pretty naive as far as I am concerned. The fixation on technique does not mean that they turn musicality off and just by changing the tone of the instrument NOTHING is gained.

    Here is my take: every generation of trumpeters/trumpets has had a very wide span of colors. Many were known for their upper register, others for their power, yet others for their lyrical playing. The generality that an 8 foot trumpet is "better" or has more "character" than a modern 4 foot or even picc 2 foot is also very subjective and mostly wrong. The palette of colors has changed, as has the rest of the instruments in the orchestra or band. Parts can be written today that were unplayable 2 or three centuries ago. Colors are available that never before existed. Compare a Strauss Symphony to Strawinskys Le Sacre, Symphonic dances from West Side Story to Mahler and you realize, we need it all!

    If we compare Manny Laureano, Maynard Ferguson and Chris Botti, you get where I am going with this. Listen to Jean-Francois Madeuf, Nicklas Eklund or Paul Plunkett - here you have 3 vastly different interpretations of historic performance practice.

    So instead of populist arguing like Donald Trump, embrace each instrument for what it is. If you play in a community band, a keyed trumpet will not make you friends, nor will a low F trumpet. If you are in a community orchestra and can get the second (or first) trumpet to go along, you can learn a lot by playing Beethovens Coriolan or Mozart Requiem on a natural trumpet. I will question if playing Schuberts unfinished symphony on original instruments tells us anything except that there was plenty of room for improvement (the trumpet part seldom has the root note or third, rather notes that have to be very carefully presented to preserve the orchestral fabric!). Mendelssohns Reformation Symphony on the low F-trumpet is just plain HARD regardless if you are a pro or not. I personally prefer not missing things and being able to focus on the musical job at hand, not plaguing myself with arguing with people that do not regularly have to produce.

    So, there is room and need for peaceful coexistence in my opinion. It is not the player with the best collection, rather those that have the most opportunities that decide what is best. We can learn a lot by having dogmatic freedom from prejudice but using every opportunity that we have. Yesterday I played Coriolan on the natural trumpet in C (no holes), Schuberts Unfinished on my 1938 Heckel Bb and Mendelssohns Reformation Symphony on the deep F. I will play the concert tour on the Heckel. Only the Beethoven made a BIG difference in a positive sense. The rest of the orchestra plays modern.
  8. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    I just don't believe anyone in their right mind would kick a harpsichord, and surely they'd not be able to kick it through a window. Not only that, I don't presume that any window in Bach's "studio" would be large enough to accommodate a harpsichord passing through it.

    Personally, I don't favor the sound of a harpsichord either. Too, while I'll acclaim his composition skills, I'm not crazy about Bach's music in its entirety. Thankfully, arrangers have transcribed / transposed his music for modern instrumentation.
  9. gsmonks

    gsmonks Piano User

    Oh, dear. You've obviously never heard the harpsichord played well. Or heard a great performance on a great instrument.

    Try this on for size- I give you the mighty Wanda Landowska, performing on her Pleyel harpsichord. Then go find a recording of Glenn Gould playing the same piece on pie-anna. He sounds anaemic by comparison:

    Here's Wanda:

    Here's sickly, wimpy, twitchy little Glenn:

    That's the sound of a skinny little old lady with a really good harpsichord kicking the modern piano to the kerb.
  10. gsmonks

    gsmonks Piano User

    Oh, don't be silly. Donald Trump bombast is "in" these days. Gunboat diplomacy, bloviating, shouting everyone down. Shrieking, hair-pulling, random insults. Great fun.

    The Three Stooges is great art. I think everyone should behave like that.

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