Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz
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Early History Part 7
Performing with the piano provides another very special set of variables when it comes to intonation, as the pitches on the piano are stretched slightly flatter in the low register, and slightly sharper in the upper register. The only true temperament on pianos in the twentieth century exists in the middle of the instrument. The degree of stretching depends on the instrument, performing venue, or medium, e.g., if the instrument is used for chamber music, concerti, accompanying, home use, or concert auditorium. Tuning can also be varied depending on the natural timbre of the instrument itself, and "Historic Temperaments" can also be used on pianos (or other keyboards) depending on the period or locale in which the piece was originally premiered.
The year 1917 is significant in establishing A=440. "Before 1917, tempering was an art based on a keen sense of color awareness for each individual interval or chord on the piano. This color sense that was developed through environmental conditioning by listening to tunings and piano music during the nineteenth century is now lost…After 1917, tempering became a skilled science based on universally accepted mathematic principles" (Jorgensen 1991, 3). Tuning: The Perfection of 18th Century Temperament, The Lost Art of 19th Century Temperament, and The Science of Equal Temperament (Jorgensen 1991) is a monumental work of 798 pages and discusses a large amount of information dealing with tuning, history, and temperament.
The American Federation of Musicians tried to establish A=440 as a standardized pitch in 1917. The Annual Piano Technicians Conferences of 1916, 1917, 1918, and 1919 attempted to do the same, as well. These conferences were held in Chicago (1916, 1917, 1918) and New York (1919), and approached such issues as the resiliency of piano hammers, the sounding board, and tuning. Information for the above three paragraphs comes from David Campbell, registered Piano Technician, Piano Technicians Guild (Campbell 1999).
The period between 1917 and p1920 was one of great flux in establishing pitch. There was a large movement of many musicians to establish the standard for A=440 during this time period. A leadpipe stabilizing A=440 did not occur until after WWII even though this movement was well established many years before.
Strong nationalistic trends can be observed in the usage of the cornet in the nineteenth century (Anthony C. Baines, "Cornet (i)," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians). For the most part, the cornet à pistons took a back seat to the three-valve rotary trumpet in Germany. The rotary valve low F trumpet was being produced in Berlin as early as 1828. The use of this instrument spread rapidly throughout Germany. Berlioz even noticed during a trip to Germany as early as 1842 that practically no natural trumpets were used anymore in German orchestras (except for the Gewandthaus Orchestra). The general change to Bb trumpet in Germany did not occur until in mid-century, although Wieprecht still favored the sound and use of the cornet to the trumpet in his Prussian bands. By 1833, he eliminated the trumpet entirely in favor of the cornet.
In France, bands and orchestras used the natural trumpet past mid-century whenever possible, and it was the valved trumpet in France that took a back seat to the cornet à pistons.
In England, the cornet à pistons and, to a lesser degree, the slide trumpet, were popular soprano brass choices.
In Italy, the widespread change to rotary valve trumpet did not occur until after 1840, when keyed trumpets were still being used.
In the U. S. and England, it was a common practice to allow cornets to play trumpet parts. "The cornet is the most useful of brass instruments possessing a high register. Although in our great orchestras ‘trumpet’ players may be advertised in the programmes, in nine times out of ten these musicians perform their parts, in an excellent manner, not on the trumpet, but on the cornet" (Rose , 179].
We can only speculate why this complex situation occurred. Is it possible that the cornet was indeed a French invention, and the Germans just chose not to use it in major orchestral works? Was the cornet used for the melodic parts in French scores because its timbre was more appropriate for the more homogenous and less directly powerful and intense music of the French? Did tradition and human nature simply dictate the use of valveless trumpets far past the point of the intervention of valves? Perhaps we shall never know, but it may be more of a matter of tradition than anything else. Both Germans and French had used valveless trumpets for years and did not want to change very quickly. The French were even more reticent than the Germans in using the valved trumpet, however. Dauverné, hired at the Paris Conservatory in 1836, preferred not to even play on the valved trumpet and objected to its use in orchestral playing all together.
The Cornet in Works of Major Orchestral/Opera
Composers of the Nineteenth Century
(Composers in this section of the document first appear in bold for easier access)
The author of this document knows of only a few pieces by German composers that that used the cornet. One such composition is Germanenzug (1863) by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) for two cornets, four trumpets, four horns, three trombones, euphonium, tuba, and TTBB male choir. Working chiefly in Paris and pleasing Paris Opéra audiences, Giacomo [Jakob Liebmann] Meyerbeer (1791-1864) is German by birth, so he may well qualify as a French-influenced German composer who used the cornet à pistons (see below). As a general rule, however, German composers of symphony/opera did not write for the cornet à pistons.
An interesting situation involves the Posthorn solo (at Rehearsal #14, third movement ) in Symphony No.3 of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). In the autograph fair copy of the piece of 1896, Mahler’s word "Trumpets" is clearly scratched out by the composer and the word "(Flügelhorn)" is clearly legible. The words "In B" are left standing above "(Flügelhorn)" ([B in German=Bb in English]. "Der Postillon" [Mailcoach Driver] and "(Wie die Weise eines Posthorns)" [in the manner of a Posthorn] appear above the solo. The first published edition of the piece by Weinberger  indicated Flügelhorn for the solo, but a smaller later printing by Weinberger and all other later editions indicate the solo for Posthorn. According to Bauer-Lechner, Mahler did not dare to use the Flügelhorn in later editions because it was a military band instrument and he was concerned about its accessibility (Bauer-Lechner 1980, 61, 201-202). The appropriate section of the autograph fair copy can be seen in Gustav Mahler: The Symphonies (Floros 1993, 82).
This information appears here to clarify a story which appears in Jack Diether’s program notes for Gustav Mahler, Symphony No.3 (Compact Disk Recording, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Levine, conductor, RCA Red Seal, RCD2-1757, 1976). He mentions that the solo was for cornet in one of the later editions after 1902 and subsequently for Posthorn in Bb. This author comes to a different conclusion.
After inspecting the instrumentation list at the beginning of a  edition, it is clear that the solo was for Flügelhorn in Bb and after inspecting what appeared to be a later and smaller format Weinberger edition [no date on the score], the solo was for Posthorn in Bb. The words "In Die ‘Universal-Edition’ Aufgenomen" [adopted by the Universal Edition] clearly appear on the later Weinberger publication (Mahler [19--]), which also indicates that the [19--] and 1906 Universal Edition were similar. The words "Posthorn in Bb" occur for the solo also in the Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Mahler 1974) of the work and in a later Boosey & Hawkes edition (Mahler ) of the composition, as well (Eakin 1999). This information is confirmed as well by the Revisionsbericht appearing in the Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Mahler 1974). It is highly unlikely that the solo at Rehearsal #14 was ever specified for the cornet [although it may have been performed on the instrument some time during the long history of the piece]. On the other hand, the solo was certainly originally intended for the Flügelhorn in Bb, and later for the Posthorn in Bb.
The Posthorn in Bb is not used today on the solo certainly because the instrument is not easily accessible and would involve an entirely different set of technical and acoustic problems. Some players may actually erroneously think that the Posthorn in Bb could not acoustically have been able to play the part and that Mahler may have made an error in assigning the part to the Posthorn. The author of this document believes that Mahler did intend the solo to be for the Posthorn and knew exactly what he was writing. While it is true that the harmonics on the part are not possible on a valveless or even two-valve Posthorn in Bb, they are possible on the three-valve Posthorn in Bb or on a three-valve Posthorn crooked into the key of Bb. From a historical viewpoint, it would be most interesting to hear a performance of the solo on a three-valve Posthorn in Bb and the reader is encouraged to inform the author of this document if such a performance is forthcoming or such a recording is available. This author believes that Mahler knew the Posthorn would not always be accessible, but wrote the part for the instrument because it was an acoustic possibility, and most importantly, because he wanted to create a bucolic scene. To create this scene in the Chicago recording mentioned above, Herseth plays the solo on a C trumpet muted with a hat from the balcony.
Some facts about the composition are summarized as follows: (de La Grange 1995, 85, 724; Weiß 1997, 345)
The autograph fair copy is in the Pierpont Morgan Library (New York City).
The first performance of three movements (Tempo di Menuetto; Comodo,
Scherzando, Ohne Hast; and Sehr Langsam, Misterioso) was on 9 March 1897 in Berlin.
The first complete performance was on 9 June 1902 in Krefeld.
It was first published in Vienna  by Joseph Weinberger after the Krefeld premiere.
It was published in Universal Edition in 1906 and also in the Internationale Gustav
Mahler Gesellschaft Kritische Gesamtausgabe in 1974.
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) added cornet à pistons to Symphony Fantastique (1830) [see section below] after its 1830 completion (Tarr 1993, 235-236). These cornets were added specifically for a performance on 22 December 1833 (Berlioz 1972, xiv) and he wrote an obbligato cornet solo in the second movement perhaps for a specific occasion fourteen years after its completion, as well (West 1993, 12). Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) used one cornet in the opera Le chalet, first performed at the Opéra-Comique on 25 September 1834. This may well have been the first time that a cornet was used at the Opéra-Comique. The next French operas to use the cornet and trumpet were La Prophete (1849), and L’Africaine (1865) of Meyerbeer (1791-1864). Joyce Davis in her dissertation (Davis 1990, 20) mentions that Les Heugenots (1836) used cornets, but this was perhaps the case in an edition other than the first printed score (Meyerbeer 1980). Cornets could have, in fact, substituted for the piston trumpets in later editions, especially in the "Musique sur la Barque" in the No. 21 Finale.
Hector Berlioz’ Unique Relationship to the Cornet à Pistons
Hector Berlioz’ relationship to the cornet was quite unique. He felt that the cornet sounded best in Ab, A, and Bb, and that these keys should be used almost exclusively. The lower keys of G, F, E, and D were poor in timbre and intonation, and the cornet in C (non-transposing instrument in C) was rather difficult to play. Lively melodies could become "trite and vulgar" if played by the "blaring, obtrusive and coarse" tone of the cornet. He berated the instrument, and yet was not reluctant to make use of its services in many of his own compositions. Even though he was aware of its very popular and ubiquitous appeal in all sorts of performing venues, he still berated the instrument. "In France the cornet is very much in fashion at present, especially in certain musical circles where elevation and purity of style are not considered essential qualities. It has become the indispensable solo instrument in quadrilles, galops, variations and other second rate compositions." Melodies assigned to the cornet were generally "devoid of originality and distinction" (Berlioz 1948, 295). Its tone has neither the dignity of the trumpet, nor the nobility of the horn. Its use as a high melodic instrument is therefore very difficult.
Berlioz’ motives are certainly suspect when it comes to his usage of the instrument. Why did he berate the cornet so much, and use it as frequently as he did? Is it because Berlioz felt that the cornet (as "vulgar" as he thought it was) was the best choice available for an upper brass melodic instrument? Perhaps so. He may have felt he had no choice, for even trumpet players would not use valved trumpets in French and German orchestras, and the early harmonically supportive trumpet parts reflected this attitude.
According to Berlioz , the cornet family had nine members. Beginning with the middle C non-transposing instrument, the family descended through Bb, A, Ab, G, F, E, Eb, and low D (Berlioz 1948, 294). The lower the instrument’s key was, the higher the written range, e.g., the low cornet in D plays the written pitches of e’ to high f 3 (the actual sounding pitches of low f# to g2), while the middle C cornet played the written pitches of low f# to g2. The sounding ranges of the entire family of cornets was almost exactly the same.
If a melody was from f# to a2 then it could either be played on the second octave of the cornet or the notes of the third octave on the trumpet. In German orchestras, cornets were just not used at all, so the upper brass parts were delegated to the trumpets. Technically having a smaller range and not sounding as "noble" as the trumpet, the cornet was not as preferable as the trumpet for Berlioz. Trumpets had a smaller mouthpiece and not a very wide bell, and as such, could play higher tones much easier than the cornet. The cornet, on the other hand, had a conical bore, a wider flaring bell and a larger mouthpiece which all provided an easier lower register and a more conical sound. The conical bore of the cornet always gave it its specific (literally translated as "peculiar") timbre. The pedal C was indistinct, however, and very difficult to sustain according to Berlioz. Even the lower tones (made possible by the addition of valves) were impractical to use. It was always best write for the cornet in a key that primarily utilized the open valve combination.
The few positive comments Berlioz made of the cornet included the fact that it did blend well with other brass instruments and could very easily be used in brass choir sections. Cornets reinforced the trumpet sound in chords, and could be used in fast melodic passages where neither the horn nor the trombone would do. They could also be used in slow and dignified passages. He cited the cornet solo from Act V of Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable (Berlioz 1948, 295-6) as one which exemplifies the slow and dignified character of the cornet. Cornets were usually used in pairs and often in different keys.
Symphony Fantastique was his first orchestral piece to make use of the cornet.
In the first movement, "Rêveries, Passions," the cornets are in G, and the trumpets, in C. Berlioz was ambivalent in his use of the cornet. Even though he did not like the instrument in the low range, he used it in that range, e.g. mm. 410 to 439. He even had an obbligato part for the instrument in the second movement in the autograph score. This long solo part for cornet in A makes Berlioz’ unfavorable opinion of the instrument even more suspect. Perhaps since the "Un Bal" of the second movement was intended for a dance, Berlioz felt justified in using the instrument. In the fourth movement, the cornet frequently doubles the upper woodwinds (see m. 62).
He returned to Lelio and Harold in Italy after composing them and added two-valve cornet parts to them. After 1839, Berlioz returned again to Symphony Fantastique, Lelio, and Harold in Italy and added third valve notes. Berlioz actually knew Arban, meeting with him personally on at least one occasion in 1843 to learn more about the cornet. Arban frequently performed in Berlioz’ orchestras. In a letter to Franz Liszt, Berlioz sung the praises of Arban’s incredible cornet playing (West 1993, 12-15).Berlioz, in the opinion of this author, could have been more tactful in his descriptions of the cornet’s tone and not have been so eager to hurl so many invectives at the instrument. It is, in fact, the cornet that added so much to this movement (and other pieces) and contributed to his stature as a composer and orchestrator.
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