Need clarification, brass instruments, pre-1900 score

• Apr 28, 2023 - 21:25

I'm transcribing scores from the late 1800's. The score in question is in e-minor.

I believe the two 'corni' are NOT cornets, but french horns - is this correct? I don't understand why said FH's (which are assigned "in E" and "in C") do not show what I would have expected for key signature. Why are both shown key signature 'C'?
Also, I'm assuming 'trombe' means 'trombone'. I'm unfamiliar with trombone "in anything", but here the score wants "trombe in E". Does that jibe with the key signature of 'C' - for it? Thanks.

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In reply to by Are Jayem

Please do everyone a favor and transpose these parts. No need to carry on an outmoded tradition.

Indeed there are horn players that read "no key" parts. But it is not universal. If you modernize a score, more people will be able to play and enjoy it.

At the time in question, horns did not have valves.To play the harmonic series in a particular key, (let's say "E") the player installed their "E" crook. The player had 8 or nine different length crooks that they would change in order to play in different keys.
Same with trumpets. Which is what the "trombe" is.

In reply to by Are Jayem

"Trombe" is actually trumpet. So select a trumpet in E from the list. There is a similar tradition of no key signature for early trumpet parts, but I think that tradition died out earlier than the horn tradition. If there is no key signature on the Trombe in E part and the rest of the ensemble has anything other than four sharps, then the score you are looking at is following that "no key signature" tradition and you should again use the "open" key signature.

In reply to by Are Jayem

You said "you're suggesting I use 'open' KS for anything other than 4 sharps. ".

No, I was pointing out a way to find out whether the score you are transcribing was using the convention of no key signature for horns/trumpets.

If the other instruments have a key signature and the horns/trumpets don"t then that is a hint that the horns/trumpets may use the no key signature convention. However, if you have say horn in E with no visible key signature and the other instruments have a key signature of 4 sharps then that could be just a result of the transposition and the horn in E would actually have a key signature of C major/A minor but you don't see it as there are no flats or sharps to see. In any other case, say horn in E with other instruments having a key signature of 3 sharps, you can be certain that the horns are using the no key signature convention.

I strongly suspect that the score you are looking at does use the no key signature convention for both horns and trumpets. If you attach a copy here someone may be able to give a more definite opinion.

In reply to by SteveBlower

It is actually quite normal for orchestral trumpet parts to not have a key signature, even in modern editions.
See also Elaine Gould, p263: Trombones and tubas take key signatures; trumpets and horns usually do not. Horn players, in particular, are so unused to reading key signatures that is is better not to use them.
Of course, a professional orchestral trumpeter/horn player will play anything you give them, and will transpose on sight.
(in my transcriptions of old scores for orchestra, i usually leave horn parts as originally written and i write trumpet parts for C trumpets, without KS if original also without KS )

Thanks you guys. Attached is the first measures entered so far. If I misinterpreted anything, I appreciate any correction. I have probably 425 score pages to do. Different works, same era. FYI, all are Arthur Sullivan; "L-ile Enchantee", "King Arthur incidental music", and "Overture Di Ballo". Also possible is "Overture in C".
Might get done by Christmas 2024. :)

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In reply to by graffesmusic

That is my hammer-fisted attempt to 1) get the score to "sound right", while at the same time 2) keeping the jargon of "in E" or "in C" for the horns. If there's a more optimum way to deal with the FH's & trumpets, I'm very willing to go that route.

My BA in music ed. was Vocal. My college required NO coursework in any instruments, save piano. I am EASILY confused by all the variations in transposing instruments. Yes, I can stop transcription work, and learn the basics. But then, things break down, such as in these old scores I want to transcribe.

Another score to transcribe into MS is "Overture Di Ballo". This graphic shows a side-by-side of the autograph (LEFT), and the published/printed score from 1889 (RIGHT). The piece is in Eb. The 4 FHs & Trumpets parts have NO KS (RED LINES). The rest of the brass show KS of Eb (BLUE LINES).

I think the only issue of preparing this score for upload to ms.COM is the 4 FHs & Trumpets. I'd like to modernize their notation for KS and transposition. If some ensemble wants to download the score and print out the parts, I'd like to go with current notation practice for these instruments.

Is there a simple rule I can apply for KS & transposition re: 4 FHs & Trumpets? Appreciated.

In reply to by Are Jayem

There is no rule. See Elaine Gould, p263: Trombones and tubas take key signatures; trumpets and horns usually do not. Horn players, in particular, are so unused to reading key signatures that is is better not to use them.
If this is for amateur players, i would certainly transpose to F horn and Bb trumpet (or C trumpet - depending on your location)
Any orchestral horn or trumpet player will be used to not having a KS, even amateurs.
It is your choice in the end. The easiest is of course to transcribe just like the original.
But if you do decide that you want KS for trumpets and horns, be sure they are correct.
See above: that is not correct.

In reply to by graffesmusic

Sorry, but this quote is probably one of the most ridiculous, dangerous, incorrect things I have ever heard. Europe (she worked for a British company) has along tradition of no key signature. This is sadly true.
Two hundred years ago, composers wrote for the instruments they had. There were no trombones or tubas. There were sackbuts and serpents. Trumpets and horns had no valves. Modern orchestras don't don't have players using any of those instruments. True that modern trumpet players will tend to use C trumpets for most things. And to reproduce Bach parts, players may use a high pitched instrument. And sure, there are players using these "natural" (valveless) instruments. But those are few and far between. And even concerts of players using reproduction instruments aren't very authentic because we just don't know how these instruments were played. Instruments aren't the same today. They don't look the same, nor do they sound the same as they did originally. There is only one original Stradivarius violin in the world. It gets played once a year. All the rest have been heavily rebuilt, re braced, and had longer necks installed so that they can play in modern orchestras. It is possible that Beethoven might not recognize his own music if he heard it today. Even so, transcribing and old piece and not making it accessible to all modern players just seems a bit "academic", less approachable.
And having played trumpet in many orchestras, I never saw a no key signature part. OK once. We were playing Handel's Creation and the part was in "D". So for one rehearsal I played my Baroque trumpet in D. No one Noticed or batted an eye. Even the conductor.

In reply to by bobjp

Come on. You never saw a no key signature part in your complete career as an trumpet player in a symphonic orchestra?
Mahler trpt parts have no key signature. Shostakovish parts have no key signatures. That is not 200 years ago. Yep they are European. Most composers of the Symphonic repertoire are. I see no key signature parts all the time. Look at IMSLP for repertoire pieces.
When changing tonality, Mahler just says: "in B", or "in F", and so on. Probably you will say that Mahler is an idiot.
Elaine Gould is correct.
There is a difference between a Baroque trumpet in D and a modern (piston or rotary) trumpet in D. I know few players that have a Baroque trumpet in D - only top professionals can play such an instrument reasonably well. (i am interested: what brand/model you have?)
Did Händel also write a Creation?
One Stradivarius violin? More like 650.

But, I can certainly see the value of transposing and adding KS to modern transcriptions. (If done correctly)
The OP can do whatever he likes.

In reply to by graffesmusic

I intend to produce scores (for these Sullivan works) that have KS for all instruments. And I'll try to be both accurate & sensible, particularly for the brass. If some organization contacts me because they want to take my transcription and perform it -- but the horns notation is not to their liking - I'll unquestionably work with them to modify as needed.

I like to champion (perhaps) lesser-known composers and their output. Arthur Sullivan has plenty of output that I want to help re-introduce to today's musicians. I didn't intend for no-KS brass parts to cause such a kerfuffle.

In reply to by graffesmusic

Yes, Haydn.
Yes the OP can indeed do what he likes.
Never said no key signature parts exist. Never said anyone was an idiot.
Yes there is only one Stradivarius that has not been extensively rebuilt. The bass bar in a baroque violin is about 2.5 to 3 inches long. The neck angle is much lower. They used gut strings. As a result they were softer instruments. As time passed pitch changed and orchestras became bigger and louder. The old Strads couldn't compete. So the necks were replaced with longer ones and the angle raised and the bass bars doubled in length. All so that steel strings could be used to get more volume. So no, they aren't in their original state.
I owned a Tarr model modern reproduction. I think it got lost in a sloppy move some years ago. I can't play any more any way.
Never said Gould was wrong. I just disagree. I get to do that. Modern horn players own a double instrument in F and Eb. And they mostly use the Eb side to get a few notes in tune. Why not write for Horn in F?

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