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Copyright © 2000, 2001 by Richard I. Schwartz

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Well-known Soloists from All Walks of Life

There are literally thousands of cornet soloists from all walks of life that performed during the nineteenth century and gave it its reputation as the premiere soprano solo instrument of the brass family. Early European soloists such as Henry Maury, Joseph Forestier, Frederick Schlotmann, and Dufresne (Dufrène) are well known, but entries for them do not appear in this chapter for lack of extensive information. The latter three were horn players, and easily made the switch to the cornet, due to the similar funnel shape mouthpieces for both instruments (Carse 1965, 246).

There are many nineteenth century soloists for whom a magnitude of information is available. This section attempts to give equal space to those soloists for whom enough information was accessible to create a one page, or partial page, entry. Other lesser-known cornetists, but certainly not of lesser importance, are listed (and in some cases, discussed briefly) in Chapter 3. Resources are parenthetically listed in each entry. The many sources for names of African American cornetists in Chapters 2 and 3 include The [Indianapolis] Freeman, Music and Some Highly Musical People (Trotter 1968), The Music of Black Americans (Southern 1997), [BDAAM] Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians (Southern 1983), Old Slack’s Reminiscence and Pocket History of the Colored Profession from 1865 to 1891 (Simond 1974), Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras (Handy 1981), Negro Musicians and Their Music (Cuney-Hare 1974), and the many documents of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (today called Virginia State University).

Joseph G. Anderson

(b Philadelphia c1816; d Philadelphia 30 Apr 1873)

He was a cornetist with the famous brass band directed by the keyed bugle player, Frank (Francis) Johnson (1792-1844). Anderson assumed the leadership of the band on 6 April 1844, the date of Johnson’s death, and remained in this position until after the Civil War began. The organization was called The Frank Johnson Brass and String Bands, even after Johnson’s death, to give respect to its former director and founder. The Johnson Brass and String Bands were in existence for almost fifty years, from 1815 to the 1860’s, but were always based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A multi-talented performer, Joseph Anderson played the cornet à pistons, the flute, and the violin. His bands toured extensively in the mid-nineteenth century, and during the civil war, he was asked to train the bands attached to African American regiments. See The African American Brass Band Movement section in this document for more information about Frank Johnson, and also read Aaron J. R. Connor in this chapter for related information. Connor was also a cornetist associated with Frank Johnson’s organizations. Information for this entry appears in Eileen Southern’s biographical entry, "Anderson, Joseph G." in BDAAM (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983)


Joseph Jean-Baptiste Laurent Arban

(b Lyons 28 Feb 1825; d Paris 9 Apr 1889)

Joseph Jean-Baptiste Laurent Arban was probably the most brilliant French cornet soloist of his time. Although his first instrument was the cornopean, he studied the trumpet with Dauverné at the Paris Conservatory from 1841 to 1845, and in 1845, won first prize for his performance on the instrument. After leaving the conservatory, Arban spent time in the navy on board La Belle Poule, whose chief musician was Paulus, later becoming the Chief Musician of the Garde a Paris during the reign of Napoleon III. In 1852, Arban joined the forces of Jullien (see Herman Koenig below, as well) and played beside Koenig for a few years (Newsome 1998, 14). He left Jullien, and in 1856, Arban began to develop a significant reputation as a conductor of salon orchestras and the Paris Opera Orchestra. In 1857, he became the professor of saxhorn at the École Militaire, and on 23 January 1869, he was able to establish a cornet class at the Paris Conservatory, after an unsuccessful attempt seven years earlier. He (on cornet) and Cerclier (on trumpet) succeeded Dauverné at the Conservatory.

In 1874, he resigned his post at the Conservatory as the result of his conducting concerts annually in St. Petersburg. Making this choice, Arban left the Conservatory for an international career in Russia with Alexander II as Czar. Arban’s success in Russia was unique, considering the fact that the music scene was previously monopolized by many German musicians. Arban presented to the Czar’s son, "The Grand Duke Czarevitch Alexander," a cornetist himself, a leather bound copy of his method. This copy appears in the Library of Congress (Smith 1993, 4-11, 34).

In 1880, when the position at the Conservatory became vacant after Maury’s death, Arban returned to the Conservatory. He advocated the use of a shallow cornet mouthpiece to achieve a more brilliant soloistic sound. In this respect he drastically broke away from the more traditional and characteristic sound of the instrument.

Arban founded the modern school of trumpet playing and was renowned for his astonishing performances on the cornet. Although multiple tonguing was certainly not new at all to the brass world, Arban was the first to apply multiple tonguing to quickly moving melodic passages (Tarr 1993, 259), and to establish a very complete system to develop the technique. His performances on the cornet helped to establish the instrument as the premiere solo instrument of the upper brass family. His Grand Méthode complète pour cornet à pistons et la saxhorn was reprinted, renamed, revised, and utilized for over 100 years, and is still the standard for cornet/trumpet instruction (Edward H. Tarr, "Arban, (Joseph) Jean-Baptist (Laurent)," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians). A systematized approach, the Grand Méthode is a testament to one of the greatest cornet soloists of all time.

Arban achieved many honors in his life including that of Officer of the Academie, Knight of the Order of Leopold of Belgium, of Christ of Portugal, of Isabella the Catholic, and of the Cross of Russia (Arban 1982, v). See Chapter 6 below for information related to Arban’s contributions to the manufacture of the cornet.

Information for this entry appears in Brass Roots (Newsome 1991, 14), André M. Smith’s article, "Arban in Russia: A Memento in the Library of Congress" in the ITG Journal (Smith 1993, 4-11, 34), Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet…(Arban 1982, v), and Edward H. Tarr’s article, "Arban, (Joseph) Jean-Baptist (Laurent)" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians (London: Macmillan Publishers, 1995) and his article, "The Romantic Trumpet" in Historic Brass Society Journal (Tarr 1993, 259). For a more complete account of Arban's life read Jean-Pierre Mathez' book entitled, Joseph Jean-Baptist Laurent Arban (1825-1889) (Moudon, Switzerland: Editions BIM, 1977). See Chapter 7 in this work for links to Editions BIM and Brass Bulletin both presently located in Vuarmarens, Switzerland.

Matthew Arbuckle

(b Lochside, Scotland 1828; d New York 23 May 1883)

Born into a very musical family, Matthew convinced his father to allow him to enter the British Army as a musician. He gradually progressed through the ranks to be "one of the finest cornet players in the Army" (Baldwin 1990, 32). Matthew arrived in the United States with Jullien’s famous concert programs in 1853 (Schwartz 1957, 22). He was actually quite a Bagpiper with the Royal Scottish Regiment of Canada, as well as cornet soloist and drum major for the same organization. He played solo cornet and was drum major of the Troy Brass Band of Troy, New York in 1857.

After Fiske’s Cornet Band played a parade in Troy, Isaac Fiske (see Chapter 6 below) persuaded Arbuckle to move to Worcester, Massachusetts to play in the band. Arbuckle stayed with Fiske for three years, conducting the band, as well (Hazen and Hazen 1987, 135). He performed on and endorsed Fiske’s instruments. In 1860, Gilmore’s Band went through Worcester, and Arbuckle was persuaded by Gilmore to play with his band, which he finally did in 1873. Fiske took the matter to court, but obviously to no avail (Eliason 1981, 35). A former student of Koenig, Arbuckle performed as cornetist with the Union Army Twenty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment Band during the Civil War, and afterwards as cornet soloist with the Boston Brigade Band.

He studied triple tonguing with Mr. Jacobus, cornet soloist at the old Boston Museum, and obviously perfected the art. Triple tonguing was apparently played by Koenig when he came to the United States in 1853, and D.W. Boardman is credited with writing the first triple tonguing polka for the cornet performing it as early as 1850 (Bridges [1972], 2). David W. Reeves may have heard triple tonguing also performed by Levy when he traveled to England to conduct the Rumsey and Newcombe Minstrel Band between the years of 1860 and 1862 (Noble 1964, 22).

Arbuckle had played solo cornet at the National Peace Jubilee of 1869 and the World Peace Jubilee of 1872, both held in Boston and organized by Patrick S. Gilmore. At the National Peace Jubilee in 1869, Arbuckle played the trumpet obbligato [on cornet?] on June 20, accompanying Madame Parepa Rosa in the famous aria from Samson by G. F. Handel, "Let the Bright Seraphim" (Bridges [1972], 2a). At the World Peace Jubilee of 1872, he conducted the opening fanfare of fifty trumpeters and played the same trumpet obbligato part with Madame Ermina Ruggersdorf on June 21 (Bridges [1972], 58f). At the World Peace Jubilee in 1872, Arbuckle also played the solo cornet part of Alexis by John Hartmann on 28 June.

Both Peace Jubilees were mammoth events! At the National Peace Jubilee of 1869, Gilmore had a total compliment of a specially selected orchestra and band of 500 each, a chorus of 10,000 voices, 100 anvils, organ, drum corps, the church bells of Boston, infantry rifles, and cannons. The audience capacity was 50,000 at the Coliseum. The event cleared a profit of $7,000. After the event, a testimonial was given in Gilmore’s honor which cleared him $40,000 and Gilmore then took an extended vacation to Europe with his wife, Ellen (Schwartz 1957, 69).

The World Peace Jubilee was held between 17 June 1872 and 4 July 1872, and was almost twice as large as the National Peace Jubilee of 1869. Performing forces included a specially selected orchestra and band of 1,000 each, a chorus of 20,000, 100 anvils, organ, the church bells of Boston, and cannons. The audience capacity was 100,000 people this time and outside performing organizations were coordinated by J. Thomas Baldwin. They included the French Garde Républicaine Band, the British Grenadier Guards Band, the Kaiser Franz Grenadier Regiment Band, the United States Marine Band, Gilmore’s Band, Johann Strauss’ Orchestra, and bands from twenty-six American cities (Schwartz 1957, 69). Gilmore was awarded two Gold Medals and paid 5,000 dollars for organizing the successful event.

Arbuckle was hired as solo cornetist with Gilmore’s New York Twenty-second Regiment Band one year after the mammoth World Peace Jubilee of 1872. He was a very versatile musician, able to perform either very technical, or very melodic and romantic music on his cornet. His preference, however, was lyrical romantic music, specifically the Scottish ballad, with which he could bring his audiences to tears (Noble 1964, 18). Hi Henry, a pupil of Arbuckle and a fine cornetist as well, described his teacher’s tone as beautiful and passionate, and his playing as that which contained great artistic depth.

Arbuckle and Levy, unfortunately, did not get along very well in Gilmore’s New York Twenty-second Regiment Band. The manner in which both men were billed by Gilmore may have well added fuel to the fire. Levy was billed as "The Greatest Cornet Player Living," and Arbuckle as "The Great Favorite American Cornet Player" (Schwartz 1957, 93). Their infamous relationship peaked at the band’s opening concert of the 1879 season at Madison Square Garden. One soloist competed against the other throughout the evening to a packed house. Both soloists performed extremely well. Even Arbuckle’s student, Hi Henry was taken away by the performances of both men, i.e., by Levy’s pyrotechnics and Arbuckle’s gorgeous tone. Even though he was a student of Arbuckle, he took no sides. Both artists must have given dazzling performances. Their relationship literally came to blows at a later date, with what the author of this document refers to as the "Great Feud." Levy and Arbuckle fought, with some of Levy’s medals disarranged on his chest. Gilmore broke up the fight only to have Levy challenge him to a duel to the death with pistols. Friends were able to convince Levy to have a target match at a shooting gallery, and not duel with Gilmore. Levy lost the match, and as a result, he was obliged to take the entire group of performers out to dinner at a restaurant called Delmonico’s (Schwartz 1957, 110-113). Arbuckle later resigned Gilmore’s band, probably partly as a result of this feud, to become conductor of D. L. Downing’s Ninth Regiment Band in 1880, and a year later, cornet soloist with Carlo A. Cappa’s Seventh Regiment Band. He organized his own band in the spring of 1883, but unfortunately died before its premiere performance. Adolf Neumdrof was hired to conduct the group, and Steve Crean was hired to perform the solos on cornet. It is known that Arbuckle, during his career, performed on a Richardson & Bailey cornet (Ayars 1969, 224), a FISKE Rotary valve cornet (Bridges [1972], 3) and developed a COURTOIS medium bore instrument with a large Koenig bell (Schwartz 1957, 110).

Matthew Arbuckle’s abilities were so renowned that many composers wrote pieces for him to perform. Among them were John Hartmann’s Arbucklenian Polka, Grand Concert Valse, and West Brighton Polka and F. M. Steinhauser’s Culver Polka, Fantasie on le Desir, and Surf Polka. Apparently Matthew was quite a socialite who loved to entertain guests all evening with his cornet. He was a tall man, had striking features, and wore a well-kept black mustache. He was married and had one daughter and one son. Sources of information are listed throughout this entry.


Ezra Bagley

(b Albany, VT 3 Jan 1853; d Liverpool, England 8 July 1886)

A member of a large family of eight boys and two girls, Ezra was a fine boy soprano, singing in many churches, and touring at the young age of 13 with Leavitt’s Concert Company which was later known as Leavitt’s Swiss Bellringers (Rehrig 1991, 35). His first instrument was actually the alto horn, but he later studied cornet with L. S. Batchelder of Boston (Bridges [1972], 3). He played his first cornet solo with the Boston Commons Band in the summer of 1869. At the age of seventeen, he was cornetist with the Germania Band of Boston, and a member of D. C. Hall’s band. Ezra actually performed cornet solos with the South Windham Band during the summers of 1874 and 1875 on the old bell back Eb cornet!

He was an excellent cornetist and musician, being able to sight-read most anything put in front of him. According to Mrs. Rollinson, a friend and accompanist of Bagley, he "had the most facile tongue of any cornetist I ever heard around Boston … with the possible exception of Walter Emerson" (Bridges [1972], 4). He played first chair cornet with Gilmore’s European Tour Band in 1878, replacing Bent who could not make the trip. Bent was a deserter in the British Army and would not have been a welcome guest! Bagley played first trumpet with the Boston Symphony from 1880 to 1884. He composed many marches, as did his brother Edwin, the composer of the famous National Emblem March. Six of the eight brothers were musicians during the Civil War (Rehrig 1991, 35). Ezra organized and took a concert company to Europe in 1886. He was a kind and gentle man, one totally devoid of any jealousy of his professional compatriots. It is perhaps because of very kind and patient treatment of his colleagues that he died at the young age of thirty-three of nervous prostration in a Liverpool hospital. Information for this entry appears in Pioneers in Brass (Bridges [1972], 4) and The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (Rehrig 1991, 35).


Herman Bellstedt

(b Bremen, Germany 12 Feb 1858; d San Francisco 8 June 1926)

Herman Bellstedt came to America in 1867 at the age of nine. His family settled in Cincinnati in 1872 where he studied the cornet with his father and Mylius Weigand. Being billed as the "Boy Wonder" he gave his debut performance on 10 May 1873. He then performed second cornet in the orchestra at Arctic Gardens, soon being promoted to first cornet and soloist. In 1874, he performed solo cornet with the Cincinnati Reed Band for five years under the direction of Michael Brand. In 1879, he became cornet soloist with the Red Hussar Band on Manhattan Beach, later returning to the Cincinnati Reed Band in 1883. He performed from 1889 to 1892 in Gilmore’s Band sitting next to Benjamin Bent, from 1904 to 1906 in Sousa’s Band (replacing Walter B. Rogers) performing next to Herbert L. Clarke, and from 1906 to 1909 in Frederick N. Innes’ Band (replacing Bohumir Kryl). He was billed by Innes as "Germany’s Greatest Cornet Soloist" (Schwartz 1957, 235-6). Bellstedt’s talents extended well beyond the cornet realm, as he conducted the Bellstedt & Ballenberg Band and performed first trumpet in orchestras conducted by Theodore Thomas, Van der Stucken, and Schradieck between the years of 1892 and 1904.

He founded the Bellstedt-Ballenger Band Denver Municipal Band in 1892 and became the conductor of the Denver Municipal Band in 1909, remaining in that position until 1912 (Rehrig 1991, 59). He performed with and conducted his own band at the Cincinnati Zoo beginning on 25 August 1902 (C. G. Conn 1902, 13). He became Professor of Wind Instruments at the Cincinnati Conservatory in 1913, and also conducted the Syrian Temple Shrine Band in 1919 and 1920. Bellstedt composed a variety of music for band, orchestra, piano, violin, and cornet. Napoli, Fantasia No.1, La Coquette, Capriccio Brilliante, La Mandolinata, and Variations on the Carnival of Venice are all well-known compositions for cornet by Bellstedt. Band compositions include Indian War Dance, Pettibone’s Compliments, Joke on Bodelia, The Everett, The Zoo, Royal Arcanum, Victory Day, The Elk’s Reunion, Los Angeles Pilgrimage, Chelton Hills, Friendly Greeting, and West End (Smith 1991, 32). He was known for his incredible tonguing and wide range. He made recordings with both Clarke and Rogers, but apparently no solo recordings (Noble 1964, 18). To Frank Simon, one of his most famous students, Herman Bellstedt was a "very strict, exacting, but terrific teacher…When he played for me, I was transported into another world…I doubt very much that I would have met with one half the success that good fortune has bestowed upon me if it were not for [his] masterful teaching and friendly guidance" (Freedland 1994, 36). Frank Simon is not included in this chapter, for he did not begin playing the cornet until the twentieth century. After Bellstedt’s death, Simon was given a medallion presented originally to Bellstedt by the Omaha Elks. The medallion was given to Simon by Bellstedt’s son at a live broadcast performance of the Armco Band directed by Simon, himself. To Bellstedt’s son, Simon was the perfect person to whom to give the medallion, as he was "the personification of the qualities with which my father was endowed." With tears on his cheeks, Simon miraculously finished the broadcast (Freedland 1994, 183-184). Sources of information are listed throughout this entry.

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