A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to the Burri Sammlung musical instrument collection in Bern. They have an huge collection of wind instruments, hung on walls, in cabinets, back rooms full from floor to ceiling. Here is a me playing one such instrument. Strangely enough it caught my eye and I felt I had to put some air through it. Not only is it impractically heavy on every level (more like a straight tuba) and produced a sound stylistically closer to Liverpool’s ‘Albert Dock’! The trombone’s that were playable were an absolute joy. A wonderful alto from around the time of Schumann’s third symphony really put the piece into perspective, producing a wonderfully smooth, light sound and looking remarkably similar to the Laetzsch or Yamaha alto in proportions. There were some great examples of late nineteenth-century German trombones, the sort that would have been used for Bruckner’s final symphony, his ‘Symphony No.8’. No matter how much air and articulation you threw down the instrument, for example the start of the fourth movement, the outcome was the same: a clear, blended sound which would lend itself to an incredibly dark, sonorous trombone section sound, perfect for Bruckner. It was as though there was a veil in front of the bell that would remove the imperfections, darken the sound while keeping the articulation crisp. It was quite an eye opener given the amount of times I have heard an anger-fueled trombone section tear into this movement. As someone a lot wiser that myself once said: ‘I don’t care what sound the composer heard, I care what sound he wanted to hear!’
More information on the collection can be found here, definitely worth a visit if you are in Bern.