Baroque Brass

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by tinytimp, May 4, 2005.

  1. tinytimp

    tinytimp Member

    Hi all,

    I've got an assignment to do at uni about the original performance practices of Bach cantatas. Fun. We have to talk about the instruments used, and the one particular cantata that I'm concentrating on has cornetti and 3 trombones.

    Unfortunately the library doesn't seem to have much on this (or everyone else has been more conscientous than me and nabbed all the books already) so does anyone know anything interesting? Construction, playing techniques, role in church music etc.?

    Weird topic I know but any help would be greatly appreciated!
  2. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    I don't know which one you're talking about, but none of them have trombones in. Cornetti is horns (what was then German horns) and trombe is trumpets NOT trombones!
    Brass wouldn't have normally been in church music around that time, not in the Lutheran church prevelant in Germany of which Bach was a life long active member. But the brass didn't have valves then, so much more of it was done on the lip. Can't help with much more I'm afraid.
  3. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Could I just jump in here and point out that cornetti is NOT horns. Cornetti are cornetts (two 't's) They were wooden instruments, related to modern cornets only by the misspelling of the name.

    They were basically a wooden tube, often bound in leather and beautifully decorated. Early ones had a carved-in mouthpiece, some later ones had loose mouthpieces. The cornett was considered the most pure sound to mix with the human voice and were used in churches extensively across europe throughout the Renaissance and into the Baroque period. The Bass Cornett was still in use in bands and orchestras right up until the 19th century. It was called the Serpent.

    If you want any more information please PM me. Let's not bore people with total BOCCishness.

    Just a further point, trumpets were in common use in many situations, but particularly in grand ceremonies (particularly in Italy - hence the wonderful brass music of the Gabrielis) They were also used in churches in Bach's day, hence the fantastic clarino writing in much of his orchestral music. While they might be of less use in standard church services, Luther was always in favour of music in church - hence the much quoted "Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?"

    Many of the cantatas were intended for major church occasions, I believe, and so would demand ceremonial instruments for some of the parts. This would include Trumpets and Sackbutts (Posaune in Germany). Corni are Horns.
    Last edited: May 4, 2005
  4. tinytimp

    tinytimp Member

    I was assuming that tromboni (as given in our scores) means trombones!

    mikelyons thank you, that point about being a good mix with voice was good - haven't come across that one in the limited information I've read!
  5. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Do be careful that any modern edition is accurate. Remember that editors have a nasty habit of putting their own interpretation on what was originally there.

    Be particularly suspicious of any crescs and dims. Baroque composers did not use them. If they wanted a cresc they added more instruments gradually. If they wanted a dim they subtracted instruments gradually. There was also the problem of so-called musica ficta which was still around in the Baroque.

    Baroque sound is about blocks of contrasting sound ( as a generalisation) the subtlety came in the Classical period.
    Last edited: May 4, 2005