Pre-Sovereign Instruments

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by brassneck, Dec 16, 2004.

  1. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    So much has been commented about the sound of instruments like the Besson Imperial range and how rounded and in tune they were. That got me wondering how top bands now would sound without the latest gear? It's always said that good players play and sound well on most instruments so take them away and let's see what may result. Would bands revert back to a more compact sound with a tighter physical grouping on stage to achieve maximum results or would things not need to alter? Would more vibrato get introduced to compensate the smaller projected sound? I'm just curious to see what anyone thinks the top bands would sound like under these circumstances. Go back further in time regarding instruments and would that alter the band's ability to perform as we are used to hearing them?

    p.s., there has been period instrument recordings done before (most notably the Wallace Collection) but never an elite brass band as an example.

    p.p.s., I will add that I was one the players during the '70s that moved from an Imperial to a Sovereign and the change was massive. At the time, Besson International cornets challenged the Sovereign for sales.
  2. iggmeister

    iggmeister Member

    Perhaps it goes back beyond the type of instruments you are referring to but Russell Gray's Arban Collection is an interesting listen in this regard. Especially just listening to the intro by the band followed by the soloist.

    Russell let me have a go on the Arban cornet about 2 months ago and it was very different from todays cornets. Anything above what I consider a mf was met with feedback and the tuning started to bend. At lower dynamics it was very nice. It seemed to be a cornet designed to be played in a parlour or small venue rather than to accompany the signing at an England football match!

    As regards a whole band playing on that sort of age instrument, if the experience I had was the same for every player in te band, (unlikely, I know as all instruments vary), then today's Sparke/ Wilby/ Ellerby compositions would sound completly different and wouldn't really do the piece justice. I could imagine Procession to the Minster now - it would be a complete let down!

  3. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I think we are thinking the same thing, that a band would perform within the limitations of the instruments and that would radically change the dynamics of the overall sound produced.
  4. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Interesting topic...

    I studied an Open University course this year.. (AA302 : From Composition to Performance: Musicians at Work).
    One of the case studies was The Cyfarthfa Band. They were playing an arrangement of Zampa from the 1850's.
    The line up for the band was :
    Db Bugle
    Bb Bugle
    Db Cornet
    Ab 1st Cornet
    Ab 2nd Cornet
    Eb 1st Saxhorn
    Eb 2nd Saxhorn
    Solo Baritone
    2nd Bb Baritone
    3rd Ab Baritone
    1st Trombone
    2nd Trombone
    3rd Trombone
    4th Trombone
    F and Eb Basses

    The course work included video footage of a band used to recreate the original sound of the Cyfartha Band's music, played on vintage instruments and modern reproductions.
    The sound was certainly interesting, obviously a Brass Band but not sounding very much like bands of today.
    I'm not sure whether the recordings are commercially available. I belive the band for the recording was made up of players from top bands.
  5. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    The cd of the Wallace Collection recreating the Cyfarthfa band was entitled "Origin of the Species". Originally on the Nimbus label but now reissued under the Wallace Collection, is is listed by Midland cd club here:

    What will be interesting to hear is the next instalment of the Grimethorpe "History of Brass" series where they explore earlier repertoire: I know they used a G and narrow bore trombones, as well as ophicleide etc on some tracks, but I don't know how far they took things round the band.
  6. ian perks

    ian perks Active Member

    I played on a Imperial Baritone from 1977-1981 then moved to a soverign.

    I found it a big change but a Great Instrument to play, i have since owned 3 Baritones all soverigns and now have owned the 4 valve one for sometime now.
    Would not go back to Imperial but they were the best around at the time.
    Does any one know:
  7. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Excellent, thanks Peter.. I've just ordered a copy!
  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I already have the CD and an interesting story lies behind the recording.

    The Cyfarthfa Band was a private (professional) band to one of the wealthiest families (Crawshay) in Wales at Cyfarthfa Castle. Founded in 1838, it existed for over 50 years. The band were handpicked mainly from London with promises of jobs and housing. The band had to respond at short notice to any music or event that the family requested (including Italian operas that were premiered weeks before). The band had it's own arrangements and were usually of virtuosic character by Frenchman George D'Artney. Nothing was shirked, either by arranger or band. It was the discovery of more than a hundred hand-written part books at the castle that led to this recording being made.

    It must be added that the band rarely contested (one contest was when they won in 1860 at the Crystal Palace) or fraternised with the then growing brass band movement. Instrumentation was based originally with keyed bugles and ophicleides and not the newly designed valved instruments that became popular during the 1840s. Although the valve design was eventually used, Crawshay brought in Viennese rotary valved instruments. So, you can see that the ecclectric mixture of keyed bugles, cornets, ophicleides, trombones and piston/rotary valved instruments would have produced a radically different sound to what we are used to today. The recording ensemble tried to match what that band used as closely as possible.

    Trevor Herbert, the musicolgist who discovered and researched the repertoire, worked with John Wallace to try and produce an authentic, historical interpretation. With 19th Century keyed and valved instruments being of different pitches, trial and error showed that a standard of A=442 was the best compromise. Little vibrato was used as of the practice of known contemporary musicians (as an expressive device rather than a constant feature of tone colour).

    ... these notes were abridged from Trevor Herbert's sleevenotes for this CD.

    p.s., more interesting is that there is no artist listing on the sleevenotes, so I would have to rely on the earlier post for size and instrument layout.
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I've got a question I need answered ... when was then last record of the baritone saxhorn being used in a brass band in the UK? (You know, the 5 valved instrument that still is being manufactured by Courtois and used regularly in France)