TO THE BACK OF THE CONCERT HALL

THE EVOLUTION OF BACH STRADIVARIUS C TRUMPETS

Part One

(Roy Hempley)

 

DEDICATION

 

This article is dedicated to Roger Voisin who passed away on February 13, 2008.  Roger provided information that was available from no other source.  When understanding of pre-World War Two data became a major stumbling block, Roger helped put it into perspective.  He was continually patient and encouraging, and his help was invaluable.  Not enough can be said about his graciousness.  This article is dedicated to him because it could not have been written without his help.

 

References for Part One and Part Two

(1)   "Bach's Rotary Valve Trumpets", January 21, 2002, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

(2)   "The Contributions To Brass Instrument Manufacturing of Vincent Bach, Carl Geyer and Renold Schilke", Doctoral Thesis--University of Illinois, 1975, Gary Gardner Fladmoe.

(3)   "Interesting Bach Instruments, Rare New York Bach Trumpet #69", September 19, 2004, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

(4)   "New York Bach Stradivarius Trumpet and Cornet Bell Markings", Revision 1, September 10, 2004, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

(5)   "Bach's X Horns", July 10, 2001, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

(6)   "The Trumpet Players of the Boston Symphony", Douglas Yeo, International Trumpet Guild Journal, December 1990.

(7)   "Resurrection Of A Chicago C Or How I Came To Play Like Bud Herseth, April 2, 2005, Roy Hempley.

(8)    “The C Trumpet for the Serious Student”, Gilbert Mitchell, Selmer Bandwagon Nr. 71.

 

BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION

 

The article discusses the evolution of Bach's C trumpets from the time he made the first one in 1925 until he sold his company in 1961.  The story about how Bach eventually achieved first-class C trumpet designs is remarkable.  One aspect dominates, and it is this.  Developing good C trumpets was not easy.  Characteristically Bach persevered through successes and failure to achieve a product he considered suitable.

 

Finding suitable designs quickly was not entirely in Bach’s hands.  He was hampered by two big events in United States history.  One was the Great Depression, which caused Bach’s business to slump from 1929 until the mid-1930s.  The other event was World War Two.  It began for the United States late in 1941 and lasted until the middle of 1945.  Again Bach’s efforts to produce satisfactory C trumpets were delayed.

 

            Overall Stradivarius C Trumpet Production

 

The following chart shows overall production of Bach Stradivarius C trumpets.  Noticeable are the drop-offs in production during the depression and World War Two.  Equally noticeable are the drop-offs in production before moving to Mt Vernon and around 1957 when there were major redesigns of his instruments.  Major redesigns will be addressed in Part Two.

 

Figure 1: Total Stradivarius C Trumpet Production
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Bach made a total of 523 piston-valve Stradivarius C trumpets.  This number excludes Apollo, rotary valve, Vienna valve and tenor C trumpets as well as C/Bb trumpets.  Bach did not make many of those.  It also excludes C trumpets made at Mt Vernon after Bach sold his company.  The cutoff date for the data is October 2, 1961, which is the date the Selmer Company took over the Mt. Vernon plant.

 

Using that cutoff date does not mean that there was a sharp break between Bach- and Selmer-produced trumpets.  Trumpets completed on or after that date but using previously made components, particularly valve sections, are difficult to categorize as to which company made them.  Fortunately, there were not many of those made either, so the production total is considered to be fairly accurate.

 

Periods before and even during the war are characterized by continual design alterations even though not many C trumpets were made.  Viewed solely from a financial viewpoint, this may seem hard to understand.  It appears that Bach considered his C trumpets too important to ignore, even when there was little money available and a small market.

 

As demand began to accelerate after the war, Bach increased his design efforts even more.  Unlike his seemingly chaotic efforts prior to the war, postwar design changes can be traced to three major time periods delineated by the green stars shown on the above chart and the end of his ownership of the company.

 

Demand for Bach's C trumpet never became significant.  Taken all together, production of C trumpets represents less than two and a half percent of Bach's total trumpet and cornet production.  Sustained high production rates (40 or more C trumpets per year) did not begin until the middle years at Mt Vernon.

 

            The next logical research step after figuring out how many C trumpets were made would have been to analyze exactly what kinds were being made at any given time.  A year-by-year analysis was done, but the pre-war results produced such confusion that it begged questions about Bach’s underlying objectives.  Evidence of this confusion may not become totally clear until that data are discussed.  As the data are presented, it is very useful to have some background.  The first subject discusses briefly Bach’s Bb trumpet evolution to serve as a contrast for his C trumpets.  A second subject discusses major influences on Bach’s early C trumpet design objectives.

 

            Overview Of Bach’s Bb Trumpet Evolution—Early Period

 

            Bach introduced his Bb Stradivarius trumpets in three bore sizes: small (0.448 inches), medium (0.453 inches) and large (0.462 inches).  Bach said (Reference 2) that early in his manufacturing career he thought he should match smaller bells with smaller bore trumpets and larger bells with larger bore trumpets.  That idea lasted for about two years or up to about 1927.  Bach is also quoted in the same source as saying that very early in his career he made almost all large bore trumpets.  He was talking about the next six years, between 1927 and 1933.  During that period, the vast majority of Bb Stradivarius trumpets produced was made up of large bore instruments.  Even though most trumpets were made with large bore sizes, Bach changed components, i.e., bells and mouthpipes, to alter his instruments' playing characteristics.  Said another way, having settled on a large bore size, Bach primarily was engaged in searching for appropriate components to match that bore size.

 

            Note:  Owners of vintage Bach trumpets made during those six years should not be led astray by certain stampings that may appear on the second valve casings.  Many of these large bore Bb trumpets were stamped "ML" (medium-large) to make room in Bach's descriptions for an even larger bore size (0.468 inches) that Bach was contemplating.  (An example of an ML stamp on a large bore Bach trumpet can be seen in Reference 3.)

 

            Around 1933, Bach began changing aspects of his instruments to improve production efficiency.  Changes included a new valve model, type E, and alterations in the sizes of his valve tubing to make production more efficient.  He expanded his Stradivarius line over the next year or two to include bore sizes of 0.448, 0.453, 0.459, 0.462 and 0.468 inches.  This was a considerable expansion over the three bore sizes previously offered.  (Later in the decade, Bach even added a 0.400-inch bore size to the above list.)  He continued to introduc new bells and mouthpipes to achieve the sound qualities he wanted.

 

            To summarize, from a start based on admitted incorrect thinking about matching bore and bell sizes, by about 1927 Bach began to believe that larger bore Bb trumpets were preferable.  Then around 1933, he concluded that he needed to offer a range of bore sizes to fit specific needs of individual trumpet players.  Putting this plan into action took a couple of years.  All together, Bach spent approximately 10 years (1925-1935) figuring out his Bb Stradivarius trumpet line.

 

It will become evident in the following material that Bach's C trumpets came to span a spectrum of bore sizes as well, albeit a smaller spectrum, but getting to that point took a lot longer and followed a much more complex path.  That path is described in the major part of this article.

 

            Major Influences On Bach’s Early C Trumpet Designs

 

When Bach began manufacturing instruments in 1924, he entered a market where other manufacturers already were making both trumpets and cornets in the key of C.  It appears that many players used them just to avoid transposing piano music, particularly in church.

 

Bach intended to offer a full line of instruments, but for his C trumpets, he needed to think about a specific focus.  Rather than for more common uses, he believed that C trumpets would be useful in orchestras.  The problem was that the use of C trumpets in orchestras was not generally accepted at the time, and nothing Bach did altered the situation very much.

 

Anyone doubting that Bach chose this objective at the outset has only to look at his earliest known catalog, which was first published in 1925.  This catalog provided some of the specifications of his first C trumpets, and they are interesting themselves.  For example, he offered nothing larger than a medium bore size (0.453 inches).  More importantly, his objective is described in the narrative below.

 

Figure 2: Excerpt from First Bach Catalog
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

 

            Key part: "…strikes through the fortissimo playing orchestra like lightening through the dark sky."  (Underline added)  This bit of hyperbole might be discounted except for the fact that not very many orchestra players were using C trumpets, and Bach’s characterization is more to the point than was commonly accepted.

 

In retrospect, it is obvious what happened.  C trumpets did not become the mainstream instrument for symphony players for some time.  While no serious effort was made to trace the bow wave of this change, a nice description of the situation as it had developed around the time of World War Two can be found in an article by Gilbert Mitchell (Reference 8).

 

During the war, Mitchell was a young trumpet player who, for his own enjoyment and education, attended performances of some of America's most important orchestras.  He was an interested eyewitness to the instruments the trumpet players were using because he was going to have to make instrument choices of his own.  Mitchell concluded that C trumpets were more-or-less special purpose instruments until after World War Two.

 

            The Boston Symphony Orchestra

 

            While it appears that Mitchell's observations generally were correct, there was one important exception.  From a relatively early date, trumpet players in the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) used C trumpets on a regular basis.  In the forefront of the transition from Bb to C trumpets was the principal trumpet player, Georges Mager.  He used a C trumpet from the time he joined the BSO trumpet section in 1919.  Within a few years, the entire section was populated with Frenchmen, and they naturally played on French-made C trumpets.  It appears that the conversion to C trumpets was completed around 1927 or 1928.  This undoubtedly gave the BSO a different sound from those of other American orchestras, and this would not have gone unnoticed by the orchestral community.

 

            From early in the 20th Century, the BSO traveled up and down portions of the East Coast of the United States giving concerts.  It regularly performed from Maine to Washington D.C. with New York and Philadelphia stops along the way.  It is a thesis of this article that Mager significantly influenced Bach’s C trumpet designs.  Since Bach played in the BSO for only one year prior to World War One and Mager joined the trumpet section after the war, it is not exactly clear how or when they met.  It will be shown that they did, and it appears that they met before Bach began production in late 1924.

 

            A more supportable thesis of this article is that Mager and the BSO trumpet section influenced other orchestral players as they began considering C trumpets as their main instruments.  Examination of Bach's production records helps.  It shows that other important orchestral players began trying some of his C trumpets as early as 1927.

 

The names of orchestral players trying out Bach's C trumpets are identified on Bach's shop cards.  Examining the names makes it hard to avoid the idea that the BSO trendsetters affected other players in orchestras from coast to coast.  The following is a list of identifiable symphony "names" that bought or tried Bach C trumpets prior to World War Two.  The dates many players that tried them were early, i.e., before 1930.  Notably, the list contains no players from the Chicago Symphony.

 

·       BOSTON

-                  Mager

-                  Perret

-                  Voisin, Rene

-                  Grundey

-                  Voisin, Roger

·       NEW YORK

-                  Glantz

-                  Schlossberg

-                  Prager

-                  Vacchiano

·       PHILADELPHIA

-                  Cohen (Caston) (name change)

-                  Rehrig

-                  Hering

·       DETRIOT

-                  Benge

-                  Mancini

·       CINCINNATI

-                  Weiss

·       LOS ANGELES

-                  Drucker

 

            Of the names on the above list outside of the BSO, the most important arguably is Harry Glantz.  Glantz was the principal trumpet player in the New York Symphony Orchestra.  He is reported to have been adamant about using a Bb trumpet as his principal instrument.  On the other hand, he is known to have had a close social association with the trumpet players in the BSO.  Perhaps due to Mager’s influence, Glantz tried but returned a Bach Stradivarius C trumpet in 1927.  Had Glantz taken up playing a C trumpet full time in the 1920s, the changeover to C trumpets in orchestras other than the BSO may well have occurred sooner.  He did not.

 

The influence of the Mager went beyond the indirect influence of BSO performances, however.  No matter how their relationship began, beginning in 1927, Mager started selling Bach trumpets.  This start turned into an enduring and unusual alliance between the Austrian and the Frenchman, a truly odd couple for the post-World War One era.

 

Of all of Bach's C trumpets made prior to World War Two, Mager's name is associated with over 40 percent of them, and the total represents over 30 trumpets.  This does not mean that Mager completed a final sale on all of these trumpets.  It only means that at least that many Bach C trumpets passed through him for trials by others.  Many were rejected.  Mager later resold many of the rejects.

 

This business connection between Bach and Mager seems even odder because Mager may not have even played on a Bach C trumpet for quite a few years.  Rather, he seems to have acted solely as a dealer of Bach instruments.  In one of Bach's records, there is a reference to Georges Mager Music Co., which implies that at a certain point, Mager probably formalized an instrument business, but this may have been after World War Two.

 

            Conversations with Roger Voisin in the spring of 2007 provided some very useful insights about the BSO trumpet players before World War Two.  Voisin played trumpet in the BSO from 1935 through 1973.  He assumed the position of principal trumpet in BSO in 1947, sharing that chair with Mager for three years until Mager retired.

 

            Voisin was an eyewitness to some of the association between Bach and the BSO trumpet players, and he supported most of the observations in this article.  He not only confirmed that the entire BSO trumpet section played C trumpets very early, but he also confirmed that it was Mager and other French-born trumpet players that led the C-trumpet movement in Boston.  Voisin did not have to wait until he joined the BSO to gather knowledge about its trumpet section, however.  His father, Rene, became a member in 1927 just about the time that Mager began selling Bach trumpets.

 

Voisin said that BSO concerts were held monthly at Carnegie Hall in New York City.  Because they were in New York so often, a close association emerged between BSO trumpet players and Glantz.  Voisin added a special note regarding this association.

 

Voisin was only 17 years old when joined the BSO in 1935.  He remembered not being allowed to visit Glantz's apartment with the other BSO trumpet players because he was too young.  His father, Rene, thought the social environment with the older men unsuitable for his young son.  While Voisin explained what the men were up to, that story will not be repeated here because, after all, Voisin wasn’t there.  That makes his story hearsay.  Hearsay provides a convenient excuse for not tattling on Glantz and the other BSO trumpet players.

 

Voisin observed that the BSO musicians had a lot of free time in New York.  In particular, Mager had enough time for routine visits to the Bach plant.  In effect, BSO travel provided a practical means for manufacturer (Bach) and player-dealer (Mager) who were based in different cities to spend enough time together to conduct business.

 

Despite these observations, the association between Bach, Mager and particularly the other BSO trumpet players is not easy to understand.  The material immediately following illustrates why.

 

In 1990, Douglas Yeo, current bass trombonist of the BSO, wrote an article about the trumpet players of the BSO (Reference 6).  In that article, Yeo included two photographs of BSO brass players holding Bach instruments.  The earliest photograph was taken in 1936, the first year Voisin joined the BSO.  The photograph was used in a Bach advertisement, and it said, “Celebrated Brass Section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra “Bach”.”  The trumpet players shown were Georges Mager, Marcel Lafosse, Roger Voisin and his father Rene Voisin.  They all held Bach C trumpets.

 

Yeo’s article also contained another photograph showing the same BSO trumpet players with Bach C trumpets.  This photograph was identified as a 1940 photograph, but it did not have any advertisement written on it.  It clearly was intended as an advertisement, however, because a very similar photograph taken at the same session (using the same backdrop) was sold on Ebay within the last year.  A scan of that advertisement is shown below.

 

Figure 3: Bach Advertisement--1940
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The Bach advertisement was published in an unidentified magazine and clipped for sale.  The title is only partially readable but is thought to say, “Celebrated Brass Section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Uses Bach Instruments Exclusively”.  It appears that this was not true.

 

Voisin explained that all of the trumpet players actually used French-made C trumpets and none of them used Bach trumpets.  It is not clear, then, who exactly benefited from the above advertisement other than Mager, who was a Bach instrument dealer, and Bach.  Voisin could not recall exactly why the other BSO players participated in this photograph.  From the above list of trumpet players receiving Bach C trumpets, it is seen that Bach sent trumpets to all of the BSO trumpet players shown in Figure 3 except Lafosse.

 

Voisin thought that the Bach trumpets shown in the two photographs were provided free of charge.  Bach might well have been able to afford this since his business had recovered from the depression by the time the photographs were taken.  On the other hand, giving free trumpets to anyone would not have been typical of Bach.  Some consideration was given to the notion that the BSO purchased the instruments.  The current principal trumpet player in the BSO, Tom Rolfs Jr., kindly conducted a search for any evidence of this in BSO store rooms and records.  None of the instruments turned up, and the mystery of the Bach trumpets and the BSO players remains unsolved.

 

For more on early 20th Century BSO activity, visit Yeo’s excellent Web site at http://www.yeodoug.com.

 

The point of addressing these photographs is that there was a connection between Bach and BSO brass players that endured for business reasons, but beyond sales by Mager, the exact nature of the connection is not completely clear.

 

            Considering the association between Bach and Mager, however, it is entirely reasonable to speculate that Mager influenced the configurations of early Bach C trumpets.  Their evolution (as will be described in the main part of this article) makes this a very plausible argument.  For years, Bach made C trumpets in smaller bore sizes.  Additionally, Bach spoke of many of the components (bells/mouthpipes) he tried for his trumpets as French.

 

            Some of Bach’s C trumpets remained even more restrictive than indicated by the bore sizes because he used unusually small tubing through the tuning slide sections.  These types of trumpets may have been typical of the C trumpets Mager is reported to have played on.  They can be contrasted with Bach’s earliest Bb trumpets as outlined above.

 

It is hard to ignore another strange aspect of Bach and Mager’s association.  Because of his Austrian background, Bach tried repeatedly throughout his career to introduce a Germanic sound into his instruments.  He insisted on calling this a Teutonic sound.  Considering the recent past between Germany and the United States in World War One, this was probably a good idea from a marketing viewpoint.  Even so, the instruments he designed specifically to achieve this sound, then and later, never seemed to gain a significant foothold in the American market.  It should be noted that Bach tried some components he considered “Teutonic” for his C trumpets, but none were chosen in favor of those he used.

 

The other half of this association, Mager, was from France.  While French trumpets, including the famous Besson Bb trumpet, were popular in the United States, it is not at all clear why Bach would jump onto the French-sound bandwagon for his C trumpets unless it came either directly from Mager or by observing audience response to the BSO trumpet section.  Regardless, other orchestral players were not quite ready to join the BSO C-trumpet club.  The idea of using C trumpets in the orchestras did not spread rapidly, and that supports the idea that other orchestral trumpet sections continued in the vein reported by Mitchell.

 

Even though Mager continued to play on French trumpets for most of his career, he eventually found a Bach trumpet he liked.  During World War Two, he began using a Bach C trumpet on a regular basis.  It is thought likely that this trumpet resulted from a close collaboration between the two men.

 

The trumpet in question was originally made in 1938.  It was one of several that Bach modified extensively in search of an improved line of C trumpets.  In 1943, this particular trumpet was modified yet again.  This time, it received a new telescoping tuning slide section somewhat akin to Bach’s Bb Vindobona trumpets.  (Reference 1 describes Bach’s Vindobona trumpets in some detail.)

 

Mager should be given additional credit for the eventual transition to C trumpets in American orchestras.  The trumpet mentioned above is thought to be the trumpet Mager was using when his most famous student arrived at the New England Conservatory of Music.  That student, one Adolph (Bud) Herseth, studied with Mager for two years.  Herseth discussed some of the following by telephone in the summer of 2007.

 

Herseth, a U. S. Navy bandsman during the war, began using a C trumpet while studying under Mager.  He noted that Mager played on a Bach C trumpet during the entire time he was at the conservatory.  While Herseth’s first C trumpet was a Cousenon, Bach’s records show that he delivered a Bach C trumpet to Herseth just before he left Boston for Chicago in 1948.  Bach’s records also show that Herseth received another Bach C trumpet later.  (The shop card for Herseth’s second C trumpet indicates that it was Bach’s own trumpet.  It was configured with a #229 bell and #7 mouthpipe and came with an extra set of slides for Bb.)

 

            An even more important point is that no other Chicago Symphony player was using a C trumpet on a routine basis, if at all, when Herseth arrived in Chicago.  Soon after his arrival, just as with Mager in Boston, the Chicago Symphony began changing to C trumpets.  Just a scant six years later, the Chicago Symphony received a set of Bach C trumpets now known rather famously as the Chicago Cs.  More information on these instruments is available in Reference 7.

 

It is not possible to identify all of the players who received and played on Bach trumpets while he still owned his company because Bach sold most of his instruments through dealers and not directly to the players involved.  (The Chicago Symphony’s four Bach C trumpets, for instance, were sold through Music Products, Inc., Schilke’s company, but the eventual recipients’ names are shown on the shop cards.)

 

            It is clear that as orchestral players switched to C trumpets they influenced Bach’s later designs too.  Some influential names recur in Bach’s archives.  The most notable are Vacchiano, Ghitallia, Rehrig and Krause.  Just based on the amount of “custom work” done for these players, perhaps the most prolific “tinkerers” whose ideas may have influenced Bach’s later designs were Vacchiano (New York) and Krause (Philadelphia).

 

            Readers will observe some reasoned speculation in the above material.  It would be presumptuous to think that all of the influences on Bach’s C trumpets are captured here.  Still, Mager’s influence on early Bach designs is unquestionable.  This will become more apparent when the evolution of Bach’s C trumpets is discussed.

 

            After World War Two, Bach found a development path that suited his own style and sense of acceptability.  After that, modifications to components (bells, mouthpipes, etc.) rather than designs were more the norm.

 

A SLOW APPROACH

 TO THE BACK OF THE CONCERT HALL

 

            The analyses of Bach’s data were divided into two time periods—before and after World War Two.  The war was a convenient breakpoint because of the production hiatus.  From the standpoint of design, it was not so convenient.  As will be seen, a more natural breakpoint in Bach’s designs was around 1947.

 

            Bach’s pre-war data was particularly confusing.  He made 73 C trumpets before the war.  Uncharacteristically, he modified over 50 percent of them before they were even sold.  Many were modified more than once.  More to the point, his design changes appeared abrupt and sometimes chaotic.  The research question became one of trying to figure out what was going on.  The events are easier to understand by remembering the influence of Mager and the BSO trumpet section.

 

BACH'S C TRUMPET DESIGNS BEFORE WORLD WAR TWO

 

Beyond the underlying background, three additional things were needed to help describe this period.  Two of them, Bach’s shop cards and his technical data on the instruments and their components, were researched thoroughly.  Access to actual instruments was needed also.  A few were located, and, fortunately, they were significant as they spanned most of the production period of interest.

 

            Bach began by emulating French-style trumpets.  His earliest trumpets featured smaller bore sizes with relatively short bells.  From this start, he continually increased the bore sizes of his instruments.  Very early on in the process, he lengthened the bell, which in turn necessarily shortened other aspects of his trumpets, in particular, the mouthpipes.  Then he introduced stepwise increased tubing sizes in the tuning slide assemblies.  This he called telescoping tuning slides.  These were the forerunners of his tuning slide assemblies used in his Vindobona designs.  At each step on the path, he tried different components (bells/mouthpipes) to achieve the sound quality he sought.  Eventually, he began adopting Bb components to his C trumpets.  The end of this path did not occur until after the war when, in 1947, Bach started over.

 

            Several items of lesser importance will not be discussed in any detail.  Bach was very well aware that bell alloy and thickness affected the sound quality he sought.  These he varied too, but reviewing the data leads to the conclusion that his attempts in these areas were not specifically related to his C trumpets.  Rather, most of them were central to the development of his Bb trumpets, particularly before the war.

 

            Bach also had to manufacture C trumpets as part of his overall production scheme.  Just as alloys and brass thickness of his Bb trumpets were shared with his C trumpets, there were no specific designs for C trumpet valves either.  The same is true for the thickness of the valve slide brass.  None of these topics will be discussed in any detail since they are not specific to his C trumpets.  A case in point where alloy definitely enters the picture for his C trumpets can be found in the article on a special C trumpet made like the Chicago Cs, but this was well after the war.  (See Reference 7)


 

            Starting with Bore Sizes

 

The following chart is an interval chart.  It provides an overview of Bach's C trumpet output before World War Two.

 

Figure 4: Pre-World War Two Production
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            This chart is complicated and requires some explanation.  This article focuses on three elements of a trumpet’s configuration (bore size/bell/mouthpipe).  As noted earlier, the data related to Bach’s pre-war trumpets are confusing because over 50 percent of the instruments were modified before they were sold.  Some were modified several times.  A rather serious attempt was made to try and figure out the original configurations of the instruments, and the data in Figure 4 shows the results of that attempt.  Accordingly, it is not entirely accurate.

 

Each horizontal bar describes various production intervals (yellow blocks) for different bore sizes (in blue).  To illustrate, medium bore trumpets were made during three time intervals beginning in 1926 for two years, again during 1929 and beginning in 1934 for two more years.  None were made in 1928 and from 1930 through 1933.  Each block contains a number (in red) that indicates how many C trumpets were made during that interval of time.  Near each block is a pair of numbers indicating bell/mouthpipe numbers.  The arrows indicate years a specific configuration skipped.  (Medium bore trumpets with a #205 bell and #206 mouthpipe were made in 1927 and 1929 but not in 1928.)  Finally, the green numbers in ovals are the serial numbers of specific trumpets that were analyzed to write this article.  Those too will be discussed later, but they are shown on the chart to identify the approximate interval of time the trumpets were made as well as their respective configurations as they were made.

 

            It is difficult to get an accurate count of the number of bells Bach tried before World War Two.  There were at least 18 specific designs for C trumpets, and Bach left evidence about the sound quality of most of them.  From the above chart, five are identified that made it into production.  (Once bell, #106, is a cornet bell and will be discussed later.)  Similarly, it appears that seven different C trumpet mouthpipes were tried, and three of them made it into production.  Qualities such as shrill, nasal, French, Teutonic, etc. abound in the assessments made by Bach.

 

Recalling Bach's 1925 catalog, he began production with only small and medium bore C trumpets.  It did not take long for this to change as small bore C trumpets were phased out altogether and trumpets of increasing bore sizes were added.  It might be tempting after examining the above chart to say that Bach abandoned both small and medium bore C trumpet prior to World War Two.  That is not completely true.  He restarted production of medium bore C trumpets after the war.

 

Note: Bach's earliest medium-large and large bore trumpet production intervals illustrate a technique he used throughout his production career.  He tried out ideas before committing to extensive production.  These were not "experiments" is the classical sense of that word.  These were actually small numbers of production trumpets that served to determine whether more of that particular configuration might be built or not.  This approach had the advantage of making sellable "trials".  (Bach also used this approach with other aspects of his designs such as bell brass choices.)  Of some interest is the fact that the two medium-bore trumpets were the first trumpets Bach made in this bore size.  He then adopted that bore size in his Bb trumpet line.

 

            Some results can be taken from the above chart.  The first observation is that his first C trumpets were made in small and medium bore sizes as described in his catalog.  A more important observation, however, is that the bore sizes of his C trumpets continually increased throughout the period represented by the chart.

 

            While the above chart makes the point about Bach increasing the bore sizes of his C trumpets before the war abundantly clear, it does not add anything to the discussion of the trumpets themselves.  Data and examples to back them up are needed.

 

            Getting To The Trumpets

 

            To analyze Bach's C trumpets, his shop cards and technical drawings have to be researched.  The shop cards are three-by-five-inch index cards, one for each instrument.  The information on those cards varies.  Taken as a set, however, they produce insights on trends and timing.

 

            A major problem with using the shop cards for analyses is that the data on them might be changed if an instrument was modified at the factory.  This was the case with many of Bach’s early C trumpets.  Sometimes the old data can be seen, but many times it was obliterated or erased.  Occasionally, an older instrument was modified to such an extent that a new shop was made.

 

            To emphasize that Bach’s shop cards are not always easy to understand, consider the shop card for C trumpet #4004.  The front and back are shown below.

 

Figure 5: Shop Card Front--Trumpet #4004
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Figure 6: Shop Card Back--Trumpet #4004
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            If someone were interested in what this trumpet was like when it was made in 1936 and wanted to compare that to the rest of the data, he or she would be hard pressed to do it.  To analyze what Bach was doing in 1936, an attempt was made for this trumpet as well as for the entire set of Bach’s C trumpets.  Of course for the owner of this trumpet, the history of alterations and people involved with it would be of some interest also.  Still, the end product, modified the final time in June 1944 during World War Two, is not representative of Bach’s designs at any point in time.

 

            Astute readers will note that this trumpet passed through Mager’s hands at least twice.  The first time it was tried by either Roger or Rene Voisin.  It may be one of the C trumpets in the hands of one of these two members of the BSO as shown in the photograph in the introduction and background section.

 

            A second set of data contains Bach's technical drawings that he turned over to the Selmer Company in 1961.  For C trumpets, that means three drawings of importance.  One was completed in 1925.  The other two were completed in 1946 and 1948.  Only the first one is relevant before World War Two.  Conn-Selmer, Inc. granted permission to show the 1925 drawing in this article.

 

            1925 Drawing

 

Figure 7: 1925 Drawing
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The 1925 drawing is a remarkable document.  It is also very confusing.  On it are summaries of changes to Bach’s C trumpet designs through 1946.  Dates are noted on the drawing when changes to the designs were made.  While some changes were corrections, most indicated redesigns.  The dates shown on the drawing are as follows: September 20, 1925; February 9, 1927; December 4, 1932; April 5, 1934; January 4, 1938; January 4, 1940; May 1942, February 7, 1946 and September 2, 1946.  (These dates are the dates that changes to Bach’s C trumpets were recorded.  They are not necessarily the dates his trumpets were changed.)

 

            If a person wants to determine the characteristics of a pre-World War Two Bach C trumpet, relevant data on the 1925 drawing has to be analyzed.  Just glancing at the drawing demonstrates the degree of difficulty of doing that.

 

            To a lesser extent, technical data on Bach’s mouthpipes and bells are also available, but they play a less important role than do the shop cards and technical drawings.

 

            Much of the above information was included in this article to make sure readers understand the following point.  Information about Bach’s early configurations follows, but to emphasize an earlier statement, the information cannot be considered entirely accurate.  Guesses had to be made, but they were made within the context of the data.

 

(A) 1925: #202 Bell/#203 Mouthpipe--0.448 Inch Bore

(B) 1926: #202 Bell/#203 Mouthpipe--0.453 Inch Bore

 

These two configurations were the beginning.  In 1925/6, Bach made six C trumpets using his #202 bell and #203 mouthpipe.  He made three in each bore size.  These instruments were the result of Bach's original thinking about higher pitched instruments (higher than Bb) having smaller bore sizes complimented by smaller components.  At least some of these trumpets were made with even smaller upper tuning slide tubes (0.436 inches).  These instruments likely were fairly restrictive.

 

Bach eventually made a note on a separate technical drawing of bell #202 that says it was "not good in tune" as if to remind himself why he gave up on this bell.  (See Figure 8 below extracted from the bell drawing.)  This note is included to make the point that Bach may have tried a bell he thought was going to turn out to be good, but if it did not, he quickly moved on to different components to improve the situation.  (Bell #202 was patterned after one used on an English-made trumpet with medium bore size.)

 

Figure 8: Comment on Bell #202 Design
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            It appeared that good luck was in hand when one of the original trumpets in configuration (A) was found.  Its serial number is #145, and it was examined for this article.  For now, this trumpet provides something of a visualization of what these older trumpets looked like, but it also demonstrates some of the problems in assuming that it is an original Bach design.

 

First of all, Bach changed the bell on this trumpet because of the intonation problem noted above, yet the shop card contains no indication of any such modification.  That information can only be determined by looking at the trumpet.  Comparing the original mouthpipe to the technical data, it appears that it was changed too.

 

            The newer bell on trumpet #145 is a #205 bell.  Two of the other five trumpets made with the #202 bell also were modified with a #205 bell.  Those changes were noted on the respective shop cards.  The shop cards also indicate that the other two became X Horns (Reference 5).  Those two may be found one day with surprisingly high serial numbers.

 

Even with extensive modifications, trumpet #145 it is a useful instrument to help understand Bach's earliest C trumpet efforts because enough of its original features remain.  For instance, the thickness of the slide brass on instruments with this valve design varies with bore size, so trumpet #145 could be used to confirm the dimensions of Bach slides on trumpets made with these valves.  Moreover, the valve ports are located such that the layout of trumpet #145 is quite different from trumpets made with later valve designs (types B and E).  These factors are relevant to Bach’s Bb trumpets as well.

 

            The following is a photograph of trumpet #145.  Readers right away will notice some oddities about this trumpet.

 

Figure 9: Bach Stradivarius Trumpet #145

 

            Not only did Bach modify trumpet #145, its current owner had it modified again within the last two years or so.  Among other things, the latest modifications account for the strange arrangement on the third valve stop rod.  Bach did not put stop rods on the top of the third valve slide.

 

            The exact date the first #205 bell was made cannot be determined, but it is thought to have been made specifically to retrofit trumpets made with #202 bells.  Bell #205 was Bach’s own design.

 

(C) 1926 - 1928: #205 Bell/#206 Mouthpipe--0.448-Inch Bore

(D) 1927  and 1929: #205 Bell/#206 Mouthpipe--0.453-Inch Bore

 

            Small and medium bore C trumpets with #205 bells and a #206 mouthpipes have to be considered to be Bach's first "big sellers" in C trumpets.  A combined total of 23 of them were made.  The #206 mouthpipe was introduced to complement the #205 bell.  On the other hand, Bach also thought the sound characteristics of the mouthpipe to be French and nasal.  He made just over 20 trumpets between 1926 and 1929 using these components.  Even though production quantities were about evenly split between the two bore sizes, the technical drawing for the #205 bell indicates it was intended primarily for medium bore trumpets.

 

Bach had begun using type B valves by the time these trumpets were made thus changing the layouts of these instrument compared to earlier instruments.  On two small bore trumpets made in the configuration described in this section, Bach used a type C valve piston for the first valve and type B valves for the other two.  (Type C valves were designed for extra large bore instruments.)  Neither of these trumpets was located, so exactly what drove this requirement is unknown.  It is quite possible that the type B valves created a layout problem in the first valve slide for small bore trumpets.  If that is correct, Bach eventually solved that problem simply by eliminating small bore C trumpets.

 

(E) 1930: #207 Bell/#206 Mouthpipe--0.459-Inch Bore

 

            The Depression began to affect business in 1930.  Bach made only two C trumpets that year.  Both substituted a #207 bell for the #205 bell.  These trumpets should not be considered mainstream trumpets because so few in this configuration were made.  They are significant, however, because they were made in medium-large bore size (0.459 inches).  These two trumpets were, in fact, Bach's first use of that bore size, which means that medium-large bore sizes were adaptations into his Bb line rather than from it.  These two trumpets were later modified with a newer bell.

 

            The Depression caught up with Bach and the trumpet-buying community at this point.  No new C trumpets were made for the next three years except for the one large bore trumpet shown in Figure 4.

 

Major Alteration--Medium-Large Bore Size

 

            Bach may well have begun routine production of medium-large bore C trumpets earlier had the Depression not intervened.  He did begin making medium-large bore trumpets in his Bb line.  Then, as business began to recover around 1934, Bach re-started C trumpet production with two bore sizes, medium and medium-large.

 

(F)  1934 - 1935: #213 Bell/#206 Mouthpipe--0.453-Inch Bore

(G)          1934  and 1936 - 1938: #213 Bell/#206 Mouthpipe--0.459-Inch Bore

 

            Although Bach made over 20 trumpets with the #205 bell, it too eventually proved to have some unspecified intonation flaws.  Notes about it indicate that it was corrected (reshaped) and was considered for further reshaping into mandril #213.  That idea was rejected when it was discovered that the mandril was bent.  It appears that the mandril eventually was discarded.

 

The new #213 mandril was used to make a comparatively large number of trumpets.  Also coupled with the #206 mouthpipe, an estimated 30 trumpets were made in this configuration.  The #213 bell was then used to replace the #205 bell on many of the earlier trumpets.

 

            Readers might also be interested to know that Bach put the #205 bell on about six Bb trumpets as well as one Bb rotary valve trumpet.  These were more-or-less unfortunate applications.  The bell was too small for Bb trumpets.

 

            During this period (1934-1938), other facets of Bach's designs were changed for both Bb and C trumpets.  By the time C trumpet production began again, Bach had switched from type B valves to type E.  The changes in the locations of the valve ports were minor, however, and the layouts of instruments using these two valve designs are almost indistinguishable.  Bach also tried using some imported French brass in these instruments, and he experimented for the first time with chromium valve plating.

 

Of those trumpets made in this configuration between 1934 and 1935, the shop cards indicate that only one was modified.  None of these earlier instruments have been located.  As a result, not much beyond what it shown on their shop cards is known.

 

In stark contrast, of those trumpets made between 1936 and 1938, all but one was modified.  All of those trumpets had medium-large bores.  The modifications included Bach's #209, #210 and #211 bells along with his #210 mouthpipe and an early adaptation of his #7 mouthpipe from his Bb trumpet line.  At least some of these instruments had telescoping tuning slides, but the inside diameters of all three tubes in the tuning slide assembly were smaller than the bore size of the trumpet.  One trumpet had four separate bells installed on it.  Bach labeled this trumpet "My Own" on its shop card, meaning the trumpet was a trumpet Bach used for demonstration.  Not surprisingly, this trumpet underwent the most modifications of any.

 

The activity between 1936 and 1938 showed Bach trying to advance his C trumpet designs by retrofitting instruments.  As with many of his early C trumpets, these modified instruments ended up in the hands of orchestral "names", which means orchestral players were getting more interested in them.

 

Bach’s search for better C trumpets was on, and no stone was being left unturned.  In addition to changing components, bell diameters were varied, brass thickness was changed, etc.  There is simply no way to categorize Bach's thought processes during this exercise.  Twelve of these trumpets were completed on the same day in March 1936, but modifications to them continued well past that date.  Three others were completed two or three years later.

 

Of some importance was the first use of a #7 mouthpipe on a C trumpet.  This mouthpipe was designed for Bb trumpets.  Specifically, it was designed to complement the change from the #6 Bb bell to the #7 Bb bell.  The use of a version of this mouthpipe for C trumpets represented a change in thinking for Bach.  Adaptation of Bb trumpet components to use on his C trumpets was just starting.

 

Major Alteration--Short Model to Long Model

 

            While Bach was looking for the right C trumpet design, it is clear that he decided that his earlier C trumpets were too short, i.e., the valve sections were located too much toward the bell flare.  During this period, Bach changed his designs to longer model C trumpets.  This was done at least in some cases through modifications. Dividing his C trumpets into original or modified long model designs was not possible without examining the individual trumpets.

 

            The description begins to get even more complicated at this point.  As mentioned earlier, to make a longer trumpet in appearance, Bach had to shorten the mouthpipe assembly.  This, in turn, meant that the tuning slide would move toward the mouthpiece receiver.  The combined shortened distances could then be used to lengthen the bell.

 

            An analysis of the total changes to Bach's design shows that the bells on the long model trumpets were lengthened by about an inch and three-quarters compared to his short model C trumpets.  Trumpet #145 shown on top in the photograph below is a short model C trumpet.  One of the modified long model C trumpets originally made in 1938 was studied for this article.  It is trumpet #4071.  More will be said about it later, but the following photo serves to identify its apparent change in length.  (Readers should keep in mind that the acoustical length had to remain the same.)

 

Figure 10: Bach Stradivarius Trumpets #145 and #4071
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The bell bends of the two trumpets are aligned closely in the above photograph.  The holes in the pegboard on which the trumpets hang are an inch apart.  Trumpet #4071 is clearly longer by approximately the amount indicated in Bach's technical drawings.  Astute readers will also notice that the open end of the mouthpiece receiver is not located as far to the rear on trumpet #4071.  Bach had not completed his long model design at this point.  Eventually additional adjustments were made on other trumpets, and the end of the mouthpiece receiver moved back and forth.  One dimension that is not known at this point in Bach's design process is the "standard" distance for pulling out the tuning slide, which could be used to compensate somewhat for movements of the components.

 

(H)          The 1940 Suite

 

            The following is a description of an interesting set of C trumpets arbitrarily called in this article "The 1940 Suite".  Bach wrote down the definition of this suite of trumpets on the 1925 technical drawing.  That portion of the drawing is shown below in greater detail.

 

Figure 11: Definition of 1940 Suite (1925 Drawing)
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Here defined are the trumpets Bach presumably intended to feature in his 1940 instrument catalog.  Note that a date for this definition was indicated.  Readers might observe some interesting things in this suite as Bach defined it.  First, he was continuing to move toward larger bore sizes (one was medium and two were medium large).  Just as importantly, Bach was using telescopic tuning slides, but all of the tubing had inside diameters smaller than the bore size.  Although the data on the shop cards are hard to interpret, the inside diameters shown on the 1925 Drawing appear to correspond to the tuning slides tried in the set of trumpets made in 1934 through 1936.  Finally, the bells were very thin.

 

What a determined researcher should do, then, is look through the shop cards to find instruments belonging to this suite, count them and report on the success of the sales.  The report would be very short.  Even though Figure 4 indicates that four trumpets belong to this suite, only one trumpet of the four actually may have been made in one of the three configurations indicated in Figure 11.  Reasonable speculation about the original configuration of the other three is not possible from the data.

 

A few other trumpets ended up in one of the configurations indicated in Figure 11, however. Two of the 1936 trumpets were modified to Configuration One (noted above on the drawing insert).  One 1936 trumpet was modified to Configuration Two, and one was modified to Configuration Three.

 

  The point is that these configurations, identified as 1940 models, resulted from trial work done through modification of Bach's 1936 through 1938 trumpets.  The three configurations in the 1940 Suite were chosen from among the many tried.  To restate an observation made earlier, the most important fact is that one of these configurations incorporated a modified Bb #7 mouthpipe into a C trumpet design.

 

            Since the 1940 configurations were comprised mainly of modified trumpets, this begs the question of what happened to the 1940 Suite.  As will be seen, Bach shortly brought two more configurations into the C trumpet fold, and then World War Two broke out.  Experimentation continued through the war, but things were different afterwards.  The 1940 Suite was never heard from again, i.e., no more new C trumpets were ever made in those exact configurations, although some trumpets using the same combination of components were made after the war.  None of these were found, so it is unknown whether or not they also used telescoping tuning slides.  It is unlikely that they did, and the 1940 Suite probably disappeared before it got started.

 

(I)   1941: #106 Bell/#7 Mouthpipe--0.462-Inch Bore

 

            The next thing on Bach's agenda was a group of large bore C trumpets made in 1941.  (The one large bore trumpet shown in Figure 4 made in 1932 is considered a precursor to this group in the sense that it probably showed a different bell and mouthpipe would be needed for large bore instruments.)  Another extract from the 1925 technical drawing showing some of the characteristics of these trumpets is shown below.

 

Figure 12: Definition of 1942 Models (1925 Drawing)
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            Similar to the way the 1936 experimental trumpets provided the basis for the 1940 Suite, trumpets made in 1941 became the 1942 Models as defined above except that these were new trumpets and not modifications.  For this set of trumpets, no bell thickness data is indicated to help correlate data on the shop cards.

 

            Configuration two indicated on Figure 12 can be dispensed with rather quickly.  Only one trumpet with this bell and mouthpipe combination was made, and it was a modification.  It is one of the two medium-large bore trumpets originally made with a #209 bell and #209 mouthpipe.  Why Bach considered another medium-large bore trumpet in addition to those defined in the 1940 Suite is not clear, although this provided an opportunity to try a new bell (#220).

 

Major Alteration--Large Bore Size

 

            At this point in time, 1941, Bach finally introduced a large bore C trumpet.  This was over 15 years after introducing them into his Bb trumpet line.  Six trumpets were made in configuration one in 1941 as indicated in Figure 12.  Only one of these was later modified.  One of the remaining five was located for this article.  It will be described in more detail later.  A picture of it, trumpet #5379, is shown below.

 

Figure 13: Bach Stradivarius Trumpet #5379
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            The significance of these trumpets is Bach's movement to large bore C trumpets for the first time.  These trumpets had a problem that would persist for a time even after World War Two.  When these trumpets were made, Bach had no bell specifically designed for large bore C trumpets.  He used the #106 bell, which was a bell designed for and used almost exclusively beginning in the late 1920s on large bore Bach Stradivarius cornets.  Many Bach cornets used this very successful bell.  Even though it was a stopgap measure until a better C trumpet bell to match the large bore size could be developed, it actually was a pretty good bell for a C trumpet.  Trumpet #5379 has a very nice sound, but it may not be suitable for orchestral use.

 

            The following photo shows some of the changes from the "experimental" trumpets of 1936-1938 (#4071) and the "production" 1942 trumpets (#5379).  It should be recalled that the earlier trumpet (on top) is actually a modification whereas the bottom one is not a modification at all.

 

Figure 14: Bach Stradivarius Trumpets #4071 and #5379

 

            In general, the proportions of the long model C trumpet were emerging, but the two trumpets are not the same.  The most noticeable difference is the direction of the second valve slides, but there are other differences.  For example, the upper tuning slide leg of trumpet #5379 is shorter.

 

            While some aspects of the earlier technical drawing from 1925 were retained in both of these trumpets, the later one (#5379) moves in the direction of the post-World War Two designs that will be discussed later.

 

(An additional eight trumpets made in this configuration were made in 1945 just before the end of World War Two.  These were the only new C trumpets made during the war.  They are not included in the totals shown on the pre-war chart in Figure 4.  Instead, they are shown as the earliest entry in a large-bore, post-war chart.)

 

CONTINUING ON TO THE POST-WAR PERIOD IN PART TWO

 

            In Part Two, a new C trumpet design with telescoping slides will be discussed.  That new design was based on the work Bach and Mager did on trumpet #4071, which is shown in Figure 14 above.  Bach then incorporated some of its features in a new design right after the war.  Almost immediately thereafter, he abandoned that work as he began to find some of the answers he had been looking for and proceeded on.

 

As demand for C trumpets rose, Bach's development work gained energy.  It was during the post-war years in New York when many of his successful components (bells/mouthpipes) were either combined or newly developed.

 

As Bach's postwar business grew, it provided the financial basis for continued improvements.  His instruments were modernized at Mt. Vernon, as were his production methods.  Bach's final changes to his C trumpets were made during the middle of his Mt Vernon production period.

 

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