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Symphonic birth of the trombone Trombone - Avishai

Avishai Kallai

Avishai is born in the US and lives in Israel.

He has a great passion for Beethoven and his suggestions and comments are always helpful and interesting.

He is the dedicatee of Macbeth's overture, which has been recreated by Willem Holsbergen from Beethoven's sketches.

Many thanks Avishai, for sharing with us the result of your research.


Avishai Kallai and the statue of Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, outside the Royal Castle of Oslo

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Joachim Eggert: Trombone Pioneer
Although Ludwig van Beethoven has long been credited with introducing the trombone section to the symphony orchestra, the little-known Swedish composer and conductor Joachim Nikolas Eggert preceded him in this accomplishment by 18 months! Trombone
Eggert's Biography

Joachim (Georg) Nikolas Eggert was born on 22 February 1779 in the little town of Gingst, Ruegen (then part of Sweden, but now Germany). [1]   He was the youngest son of Barbara Maria and Johann Hindrich Eggert.  Eggert was christened at the Saint Jacobi Evangelical Church in Gingst on 25 February 1779. [2]   As a child, he displayed an affinity for music, and started to play the violin at the age of 11.  His first teacher was the local virtuoso, a factory worker who played by ear and often assured young Eggert that only pedants wasted time learning notes and scales.  Eggert's music instruction became regimented in 1791 with the arrival in Gingst of a young graduate from the Halberstadt Seminary, Johann Friedrich Dammas.  For three years, Dammas taught Eggert violin, piano, and harp. [3]

By 1794, Eggert had exacted the maximum musical instruction Gingst had to offer and he sought to advance his artistry outside of his hometown.  Here he met stiff resistance from his father, a manual laborer who felt that his son would secure a better future in a more honorable profession.  This dispute made the younger Eggert grievously ill and the elder Eggert eventually relented in order to save his son's life.  With his father's blessings and his family's savings, Eggert traveled to Stralsund to study violin and composition under Friedrich Gregor Kuhlow.  Before leaving Stralsund in 1800, Eggert composed some dance music, with which he won acclaim. [4]

During the period between 1800-1802, Eggert studied music theory under the guidance of Ferdinand Fischer and Friedrich Gottlob Fleischer in Brunswick, [5] and Johann Nikolaus Forkel in Goettingen. [6]   In 1802, Eggert was named music director at the Court Theater of the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, but after six months resigned this post on artistic grounds and returned to his parents' home in Gingst. [7]

At home, Eggert spent his time composing until economical conditions compelled him to seek employment.  His intention was to attain a position in St. Petersburg, but poor health curtailed this plan.  The Royal Opera of Pommern had acquired a reputation and Eggert decided to try his fortune there.  His route took him through Stockholm, where he arrived on 7 July 1803.  Friedrich Haeffner, the Swedish Royal Kapellmeister, received Eggert most warmly and persuaded him to remain in Stockholm.  Eggert was appointed as a violinist to the Swedish Royal Court Orchestra on 9 August 1803. [8]   Later that year, he began to receive commissions to compose music for special occasions. [9]   The performance of his Funeral Cantata for Duke Fredrik Adolf on 10 September 1804 brought Eggert well-deserved recognition as a composer. [10]   The first time that a Stockholm concert program featured a composition by Eggert was on 14 May 1805 when his C Major Symphony was performed. [11]   In 1807, he was elected to the Swedish Royal Academy of Music [12] and made his debut as a conductor with an ambitious concert of his own works. [13]   Eggert was the acting Kapellmeister of the Swedish Royal Court Orchestra from 1808-1810, and its Kapellmeister from 1810-1812, [14] conducting one or two concerts per week. [15]   He brought Viennese Classicism to Sweden and was in 1808 the first to put Beethoven's major works on a Swedish concert program.  Eggert conducted the Swedish premieres of Haydn's Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) in 1810, and Mozart's Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) in 1812.  During this period, his four completed symphonies received much attention and both of his musical dramas were staged: Mohrerne i Spanien (The Moors in Spain) in 1809 and Svante Sture in 1812. [16]  

From 1811 to 1812, Eggert was active as a teacher; his pupils included the Swedish composers Erik Drake, Ludwig Passy, Johann Martin de Ron, and Bernhard Henrik Crusell. [17]   He also participated, with Erik Drake and Leonard Fredrik Raaf, in a project to collect Swedish folksongs and native folk instruments for use in the Swedish National Opera. [18]   In 1812, Eggert had planned to travel to Germany, France, and Italy to further his musical development, but poor health again put an end to any such notion.  He remained in Follingso (Ostergotland, Sweden) at the home of his pupil Drake, and later in Thomestorp, Sweden at the home of Raaf where he succumbed to tuberculosis on 14 April 1813 at the age of 34. [19]

Eggert's Compositions

Eggert's music career was short-lived, lasting barely a decade.  Yet it was a decade in which his intense efforts did much to advance Swedish musical life. [20]   The following list of works is his legacy: [21]

1 - Musical dramas.

1. Mohrerne i Spanien (The Moors in Spain, first staged on 6 May 1809).

2. Svante Sture (first staged on 31 October 1812).

2 - Cantatas and ceremonial music.

1. Funeral Music for Duke Frederik Adolf (10 September 1804). "Som dig, Gud, tackes, gor med mig" ("As Thou cover, God, do unto me").

2. Cantata commemorating the peace between Sweden and Russia (1809). "Ljuvliga budskap, som tiden forkunnar" ("Glad tidings that the day heralds").

3. Cantata honoring the arrival of Prince Carl Johann Bernadotte to Stockholm (1810). "Glads Svea" ("Joyous Sweden").

4. Carl XIII's Coronation Music (29 June 1809).

5. Cantata honoring the chairman of the Stockholm Eric House. "Werdarnes evige konung" ("The world's eternal king").

6. Cantata "Hwad stark gudomlig kraft" ("How mighty divine strength").

7. Cantata "Ljud av salla Odens rost" ("Blessed Oden's voice").

3e. Orchestral music.

1. Symphony in C Major (private premiere 29 April 1805; public premiere 14 May 1805).

2. Symphony in G Minor "Skjoldebrand" (premiere 20 February 1807).

3. Symphony in E-flat Major.

4. Symphony in C Minor (published by Breitkopt & Hartel in Leipzig in 1812).

5. Symphony in D Minor (fragment).

6. Largo for Orchestra in F Minor.

4e. Chamber music.

1. Nine string quartets.

2. Fugue for string quartet in C Minor.

3. Piano quartet in G Minor.

4. String sextet (2 violins, 2 violas, violoncello, and bass) in F Minor.

5. Wind sextet (clarinet, horn or basset-horn, violin, viola, violoncello, and bass) in F Minor.

6. Trio for 3 bassoons.

5e. Other works.

1. Various small vocal works.

2. Mozart wind serenade arrangement (lost).

3. Dance music.

If Eggert had lived and worked in a major musical center like Vienna or Paris, rather than the peripheral Stockholm, these compositions would surely be better known today.  Unfortunately, Eggert's music undeservedly fell into oblivion and is seldom performed.

Eggert's Symphonies

Eggert was the foremost classical symphonist in Sweden at the turn of the nineteenth century [22] and also an important composer of chamber music.  Stylistically, his compositions follow Viennese classical tradition, but in terms of form, melody, and harmony they show the marked influence of early German Romanticism. They reveal Eggert's avid interest in experimentation with polyphony, structure, expression, and instrumental sonority, and display his dynamic and innovative musical imagination. [23]

Eggert's four completed symphonies are grandiose, well-written works that attracted attention during his lifetime, but were soon forgotten after his untimely death. [24]   His symphonic style was brazen and unique, with striking orchestrations, often using massive percussion and brass forces, considerable dynamic shadings, and an advanced harmonic language.  Breikopf & Hartel published his C Minor Symphony in 1812. [25]

Eggert's E-flat Major Symphony

The E-flat Major Symphony, Eggert's Third, was composed in April 1807.  On 4 May 1807, Eggert presented and dedicated it to the Royal Academy of Music as a token of his esteem to the Academy for electing him as a member. [26]   The score calls for the following instrumentation:

2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones (alto, tenor, and bass), timpani, and a full string section. [27]

Of the four completed symphonies, only the third has three movements, requires trombones, and lacks the large percussion section of the others. [28]   The tempi of the movements are as follows:

A. Adagio maestoso-Allegro spiritoso (E-flat 4/4 sonata form).

B. Marche: Grave (E-flat 4/4).

C. Fugue: Adagio maestoso-Allegro (E-flat 4/4). [29]

The second movement, a "Trauermarsch," and the third movement, a "Double Fugue," are taken from Eggert's Funeral Cantata for Duke Fredrik Adolf. [30]

Interesting here is the use of three trombones.  In French music at that time, a single trombone often doubled a bass line, totally denuded of any rhythmic or melodic significance, and only during loud tutti passages.  If the bass line displayed any thematic importance or technical difficulties, the trombone doubled another simpler line.  In contemporary Austrian music, on the other hand, three trombones frequently doubled the strings or the woodwinds, in unison or an octave below, often playing intricate rhythms and ornate passages. [31]

Eggert's trombone writing is unusual in that he shunned the French and the Austrian practices.  Unlike French composers, Eggert wrote rhythmic and articulate trombone parts, and he took advantage of the instrument's wide dynamic span, from ppp to ff.  Unlike Austrian composers, he abstained from continuous doubling and florid writing.  This E-flat Major Symphony was avant-garde.  Many of its tonalities and symphonic effects came to be commonplace by the end of the nineteenth century.  Eggert's orchestration was as masterful and imaginative as Beethoven's. [32]

An LP recording of Eggert's E-flat Major Symphony made by the Sandviken Orchestra, under the direction of Per Engstrom, was issued by the Swedish Discophile Society (SLT 33272) in 1985. [33]

The Swedish Royal Court Orchestra

Except in Austria and southern Germany, [34] competent trombonists were rare commodities in continental Europe and England during the eighteenth century and the first decade of the nineteenth century. [35]   By 1685, the trombone virtually disappeared in England and France.  In London of 1738, Georg Frederic Handel scored three trombones in two oratorios, Saul and Israel in Egypt.  Since there were no trombones in England at that time, it is presumed that Handel exploited visiting trombonists, possibly from Germany.  Shortly afterward, he discarded a trombone movement-a "Dead March"-from yet another oratorio; evidently, the foreign trombonists had left the British capital in the meantime.  Even as late as 1784, the organizers of the Handel Commemorations were faced with a dilemma: no trombones and no trombonists. [36]   Eventually, they did find six German musicians in the king's military band who could play tenor, bass, and contrabass trombones.  In 1774, it was Christoph Willibald Gluck, in Parisian productions of his operas Iphigenia in Aulis and Orpheus and Eurydice, who reintroduced trombones to France. He utilized German trumpeters and hornists, already living and working in Paris, who were able to double on the trombone. [37]      

Around 1810, a handful of European orchestras started to hire trombonists.  The Royal Orchestra of Berlin, the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra, and the Grand Opera of Paris listed three trombonists each at that time.  Other orchestras slowly followed suit, but most had no need for trombones on a regular basis until around 1840. [38]    

There was one amazing exception: The Swedish Royal Court Orchestra.  As early as 1790, this outlying orchestra had three trombonists on its payroll.  In essence, the Stockholm Hovkapellet anteceded all of the late Classical and early Romantic orchestras of Europe in having a full-balanced wind and brass section. [39]   The full 1790 personnel roster was as follows:

20 violins, 6 violas, 8 violoncello, 4 contrabasses, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, and 1 timpani. [40]

The Nordic Musicologists' Discussion Forum

Did the first presentation of Eggert's E-flat Major Symphony predate the premiere on 22 December 1808 of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony?  The matter was debated on the Nordic Musicologists' Discussion Forum in June 2000.  Unfortunately, the discussion was far too brief and inconclusive.  Two views emerged:

1. The premiere performance of the E-flat Major Symphony can not be established due to the absence of precise documentation (programs, letters, or reviews). [41]

2. The premiere performance of the E-flat Major Symphony took place during the course of 1807, perhaps as early as May 1807, together with that of Eggert's C Minor Symphony. [42]

The Norlind-Broman Article

In an article in the Svensk Tidskrift for Musikforskning (Swedish Journal of Music Research), [43] Tobias Norlind and Sten Broman actually did provide evidence of the first performances of the four completed symphonies.  The premiere of the C Major Symphony took place on 29 April 1805 at a reception for the King and Queen of Sweden in the Rikssalen (State Hall).  The performance was repeated for the public on 14 May 1805, this being the first time a composition by Eggert appeared on a concert program in Stockholm.   The G Minor Symphony, entitled "Skjoldebrand," was scheduled for a concert program on 10 December 1806, but Eggert withdrew it because the necessary trumpets were not available.  On 20 February 1807, "Skjoldebrand" was finally performed to great acclaim. [44]     

A concert on 14 May 1807 marked Eggert's debut as a conductor, and he used this occasion to introduce several of his own compositions.  According to Norlind and  Broman, the program included:

{Part 1}

1. A symphony by Eggert, including an Adagio with four obbligato French horns, originally from the Funeral Cantata for Duke Fredrik Adolf.

2. An aria by Joseph Martin Kraus, sung by Mrs. Waesselius.

3. A string quartet by Eggert, performed by Messrs. Westerdahl, Chiewitz, Reddewigh, and Megelin.

{Part 2}

4. A symphony by Eggert, dedicated to the Royal Academy of Music, including the March and the Double Fugue from the previously mentioned Funeral Cantata.

5. "God save the King" with variations for three bassoons, performed by Messrs. Preumayr.

6. A sextet by Eggert for violin, clarinet, French horn, viola, cello, and bass, performed by Messrs. Mueller, Crusell, Hirschfeld, Askergren, Salge, and Wirthe.

7. A symphony finale by Eggert with a Fantasy on a Swedish folksong.

It was an ambitious program, but at that time concerts usually comprised many heavy compositions. [45]

Which symphonies did Eggert conduct that evening?  Clearly, two different symphonies were performed, and both of them used material from the 1804 Funeral Cantata. The C Minor Symphony could be one of the two symphonies that Eggert presented. [46]   The other symphony was dedicated to the Royal Academy of Music and contained a March and Fugue.  Only the E-flat Major Symphony fits this description. [47]   The concert concluded with the finale of yet another orchestral work, that of Eggert's C Major Symphony.  Its finale-fantasy utilized a Swedish folk tune by Carl Bellman, "Gustafs skal!" ("Gustaf's Toast"), as one of its themes. [48]

The Verification

Did the premiere of Eggert's E-flat Major Symphony take place on 14 May 1807, as asserted by Norlind and Broman?  The main problem with their dating of the performance has been the lack of corroborating evidence.

Here we receive help from the Dagligt Allehanda (Daily Potpourri), the first Swedish daily newspaper, which appeared in Stockholm from 1769 until 1944. [49]   At the time of the concert in question, it was an established gazette of 40 years.

On 11 May 1807, the Dagligt Allehanda announced that the most honored Royal Court Orchestra Musical Director Eggert was planning to leave Sweden.  Before his departure, he scheduled a concert featuring the Royal Court Orchestra, under the first Royal Concertmaster Mueller, and soloists for the coming Thursday, 14 May at 6:00 PM at the Riddarhussalen (Great Knights' Hall).  The concert program as given in the Dagligt Allehanda is identical to that provided by Norlind and Broman (see above).  The announcement ended with a listing of where tickets could be purchased, including Eggert's residence at 131 Oesterlang Street.  Admission was 32 skillings. [50]


Three days later, on 14 May 1807, the Dagligt Allehanda again printed the concert announcement of 11 May 1807, but with several minor changes.  The phrase "the coming Thursday 14 May" was changed to read "today Thursday 14 May" for obvious reasons.  In addition, two changes were made in the concert program itself: the aria by Joseph Martin Kraus in item 2 had been replaced by an aria by Giovanni Simone Mayr, and the instrumentalist Hirschfeld in item 6 had been replaced by Preumayr.  Apart from these three details, the announcements of 11 May 1807 and 14 May 1807 were identical. [51]

On 20 May 1807, the Dagligt Allehanda published the following notice:

"The Sextet and the English folk tune that I promised to perform in my most recent concert at the Riddarhussalen were withdrawn owing to the illness of Messrs. Crusell, Hirschfeld, and Preumayr."

[Signed]  J. Eggert [52]


The Dagligt Allehanda program notices of 11 May 1807 and 14 May 1807 are not identical.  This significant point attests to Eggert's penchant for accuracy and to his desire to keep the readers of the Dagligt Allehanda informed of exactly what was to be performed.  His published apology of 20 May 1807 confirms this.  The cumulative weight of the three newspaper announcements is most compelling, and certainty proves that the E-flat Major Symphony was performed on Thursday 14 May 1807. [53]   

The notice of 20 May 1807, as short as it may be, is of utmost importance.  Considering the fact that the text was written six days after the concert, it proves that the concert had taken place as announced, with the exception of the Sextet and the English folk tune.  The E-flat Major Symphony must have been performed on Thursday 14 May 1807.   Otherwise, Eggert would have mentioned its absence from the concert program as well.

Until another Eggert symphony is discovered-a symphony with a Funeral March and a Fugue as two of its movements-it seems certain that the E-flat Major Symphony was performed on Thursday 14 May 1807.

The notice published in the Dagligt Allehanda on 11 May 1807 is not simply corroborating evidence for the Norlind and Broman article; it is their original source.  They quoted from this newspaper elsewhere in their article and copied the concert program verbatim from the 11 May 1807 issue.  Because they obviously had overlooked the announcement with the program changes published by the Swedish daily on 14 May 1807, Norlind and Broman erred in their account of the concert program. 

In light of this, we do not return to that bitterly cold evening of 22 December 1808 at the unheated Theater an der Wien where Ludwig van Beethoven mounted his marathon Akademie in order to hear the first use of a trombone section in symphonic music.  We must revert to the earlier and unusually snowy evening of 14 May 1807 at the Riddarhussalen in Stockholm, Sweden.  It was here that Joachim Nikolas Eggert conducted his E-flat Major Symphony, the musical piece that most likely marked the symphonic birth of the trombone section.

Avishai Kallai

[1]      Lennart Hedwall, Svensk Musikhistoria [Swedish History of Music], Edition Reimers (1996), 61-63.

[2]      Irmgard Leux-Henschen, "Joachim (Georg) Nikolas Eggert," Svensk Tidskrift for Musikforskning (henceforth STMf) [Swedish Journal of Music Research], XXXIV (1942), 86-87.

[3]      Birgit Guston, "Joachim Nikolas Eggert: Biografi," STMf, VII (1925), 18-19.

[4]      Ibid., 19.

[5]      Ibid.

[6]      Lennart Hedwall, Svensk Musikhistoria, Edition Reimers (1996), 61-63.

[7]      Guston, "Eggert," 20.

[8]      Ibid.

[9]      Kathleen Dale and Axel Helmer, "Joachim (Georg) Nikolas Eggert," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, Macmillan (1980).

[10]    Lennart Hedwall, "'Gustafs skal' som symfonisats" ["'Gustaf's Toast' as a Symphonic Movement"], Hwad Behagas (The Bellman Society News Bulletin), 2 (2000).

[11]    Tobias Norlind and Sten Broman, "Eggert och Kuester," STMf, VII (1925), 50.

[12]    Dale and Helmer, "Eggert."

[13]    Stig Walin, "Joachim (Georg) Nikolas Eggert," Cappelens Music Dictionary, edited by Kari Michelsen, J. W. Cappelens Forlag (Oslo 1978), II, 334.

[14]    Hedwall, "'Gustafs skal.'"

[15]    Norlind and Broman, "Eggert och Kuester," 53.

[16]    Bertil van Boer, "Joachim (Georg) Nikolas Eggert," The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, Macmillan (2000).

[17]    Hedwall, Svensk Musikhistoria,  61-63.

[18]    van Boer, "Eggert."

[19]    Guston, "Eggert," 21-22.

[20]    Walin, "Eggert."

[21]    Norlind and Broman, "Eggert och Kuester," 60-62.

[22]    P. G. Bergfors, "Adolf Fredrik Lindblad," Toccata,, (1999).

[23]    Dale and Helmer, "Eggert."

[24]    Hedwall, Svensk Musikhistoria, 61-63.

[25]    van Boer, "Eggert."

[26]    The Symphony, 1720-1840, edited by Barry Brook, Series F Volume III.  The Symphony in Sweden, part 2, edited by Bertil van Boer, Garland (New York 1983).

[27]    Ibid.

[28]    David M. Guion, The Trombone: Its History and Music 1697-1811, Gordon and Breach (New York, 1988), 275.

[29]    The Symphony, 1720-1840.

[30]    Hedwall, Svensk Musikhistoria, 61-63.

[31]    Guion, The Trombone, 271-283.

[32]     Ibid., 277.        

[33]    Eva Block, ABL (Swedish Archive for Recorded Sound and Moving Images), personal communication to the author (8 June 2000).

[34]    J. Richard Raum, "The Eighteenth Century Trombone: Rumors of Its Death Were Premature," (part 1), Brass Bulletin, 77 (1992), 95.

[35]    Guion, The Trombone, 282.

[36]    Raum, "The Eighteenth Century Trombone," (part 1), 92-94.

[37]    Howard Weiner, "Andre Braun's Gamme et Methode pour les Trombonnes: The Earliest Modern Trombone Method Discovered," Historic Brass Society Journal, 5 (1993), 288-308.

[38]    Ottmar Schreiber, Orchestras and Orchestral Practices in Germany Between 1780 and 1850, Triltsch & Huther, (Berlin, 1938), 100-117.

[39]    Ibid.

[40]    Ibid.

[41]    Anna Lena Holm, senior librarian (rare collections), Music Library of Sweden, personal communication to the author (5-6 June 2000).

[42]    Bertil Van Boer, personal communication to the author (5-6 June 2000).

[43]    Norlind and Broman, "Eggert och Kuester," 50-51.

[44]    Ibid., 50.

[45]    Ibid., 51.

[46]    Lennart Hedwall, Den Svenska Symfonin [The Swedish Symphony], Almquist & Wiksell (Stockholm 1983).

[47]    Bertil Van Boer, personal communication to the author (5-6 June 2000).

[48]    Hedwall, Svensk Musikhistoria, 61-63.

[49]        Margarete Rehm, Information and Communication in the Past and Present, Humboldt University, (Berlin 2000).

[50]    Dagligt Allehanda, 106 (1807).

[51]    Dagligt Allehanda, 109 (1807).

[52]    Dagligt Allehanda, 113 (1807).

[53]    I am indebted to Hans Riben and Nicholas Eastop, curators of the Stockholm Music History Museum, for locating these three announcements for me.

© Avishai Kallai, 2002
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