BACH'S ROTARY

VALVE TRUMPETS

(Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer)

 

 

References:

(1)   "New York Bach Stradivarius Trumpet And Cornet Bell Markings", February 19, 2001, Roy Hempley and Doug Lehrer.

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

 

This is the authors' third article in a series of articles about New York Bach trumpets and cornets.  It is not generally known that Bach made rotary valve trumpets at his New York factory on 241 East 41st Street, and this article introduces that fact.  Having introduced Bach's New York rotary valve trumpets, however, the article would be incomplete without extending it to include Bach's Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets.  Those were Bach's first Vindobona trumpets.  To complete the picture, this article also includes a short section that discusses Bach's piston-valve Vindobona trumpets that evolved from his Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets.

 

A special appendix is included with this article that contains information that may be of interest to only a few readers.  Among the subjects found there are a dictionary-based definition of the sound Bach was trying to create with his rotary valve trumpets (Teutonic), a report on attempts to define the word Vindobona, and, finally, a discussion of the unusual symbol found on the shield of Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets.

 

As in articles past, the authors decided to let instruments guide the direction of their research.  They have had the good fortune to examine some interesting instruments.  Other instruments they have discussed with people interested in the subject, and some they have just read about.  This article contains information from all of these sources.

 

NEW YORK ROTARY VALVE TRUMPETS

 

When Bach began making instruments in 1924, he was a busy man indeed.  There were trumpets and cornets to be designed, manufactured and sold.  To this end, there were engineering drawings to be produced, processes to be developed, tooling to be developed, production to be set up, catalogs to be produced, and on, and on, and on.

 

Bach did not think small.  For example, there is evidence that in 1925 alone he completed full engineering drawings of 15 trumpet and cornet bells.  Despite having a lot to do, from the very beginning Bach envisioned developing an amazingly wide range of instruments, including a rotary valve trumpet.

 

It is not clear whether Bach believed that American orchestras were deficient because they used “French-style” piston trumpets or whether he thought that he could create a market niche for himself by gaining American converts to a rotary valve design.  What is clear it that he pursued the design and development of a rotary valve trumpet very early in his manufacturing career.

 

            Bach was born and grew up in Baden bei Wien, not far from Vienna in the Austrian portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  This was a musically influential area that benefited from regular appearances of European orchestras, including the Vienna Tonkuenstler Orchestra.  As Bach matured, he traveled extensively to other parts of Europe as a member of the Austrian Navy and as a performing soloist.  He thus was exposed to an even wider range of orchestral influences.

 

The authors gather from his limited writings that Bach formed definite opinions about the characteristics of various European orchestras.  Many of them were and are still known for their characteristic "sounds".  At least in part, the sounds of the German and Austrian orchestras were influenced by trumpet players using rotary valve trumpets.  Bach repeatedly referred to these sounds in his descriptions of his rotary valve trumpets.  More will be said about this later.

 

Figure 1 shows Bach's earliest Bb rotary valve trumpet.  This figure was copied from Bach's earliest known instrument catalog.  The descriptive wording under the trumpet is significant.

 

 

Figure 1

New York Bach Rotary Valve Trumpet

1925 Catalog
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

            From the description of this trumpet, it appears that Bach did not give it a model name, i.e., it is not a Stradivarius, Apollo or Mercury trumpet, all of which are described or price-listed in the same catalog.  Rather, it is described as having Stradivarius workmanship.

 

Bach makes clear that several of these instruments existed when this catalog was published in October, 1925 and that they were being played by American orchestral players!  Yet, according to existing production records, Bach had produced only one such instrument by the time he published this catalog.  That instrument was a Bb rotary valve trumpet with serial number 83.

 

AN EARLY NEW YORK BACH ROTARY VALVE TRUMPET

 

The authors believe that the trumpet shown in Figure 2 was made in 1924 or 1925 and is one of the rotary valve trumpets Bach referred to in the above catalog description.  They also believe that Bach actually convinced an orchestra to try out a set of these instruments in its trumpet section, just as his 1925 catalog said.  While they are almost certain that the trumpet shown is authentic, they have no proof other than the words contained in Bach's catalog that this or any other similar instrument was ever used in an orchestra setting.

 

 

Figure 2

New York Bach Rotary Valve Trumpet
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

This trumpet came to one of the authors from a private collector with an instrument dealer acting as a go-between.  As a condition of the sale, the collector wished to remain anonymous, and the dealer had only a partial story to pass along with the instrument.  According to the dealer, this trumpet was one of four instruments that Bach made for an American symphony orchestra.  The dealer thought that orchestra to be the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.  The authors made inquiries of some past and present members of that orchestra, but none of them could recall these kinds of trumpets ever being used by Cincinnati trumpet players.  Neither does that orchestra have any records of buying such instruments.  Therefore, at least this part of the history as it was described to the author is probably incorrect.  The orchestral players Bach referred to in his catalog description remain unknown.

 

The trumpet is pitched in Bb.  It's a large bore instrument (0.462 inch) with some interesting design features.  Unlike most modern rotary valve instruments, it has a long, fixed mouthpipe (lead pipe) that enters the third valve as do most piston valve trumpets.  This feature can be seen in Figure 3.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3

New York Bach Rotary Valve Trumpet

Mouthpipe
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)


 

Except for the bell bend being slightly wider (larger radius of curvature), the bell is indistinguishable from Bach's other trumpet bells of that era.  The bell appears to be gold brass in contrast to the yellow brass used for most of the rest of the instrument.

 

The trumpet is a little cumbersome to use.  First, it does not have a third valve tuning mechanism.  Beyond that, the second and third valve slides are located in awkward positions and are hard to remove.  There is very little clearance between the second valve tuning slide and the mouthpipe which makes removing that slide intricate.  As for the third valve slide, it cannot be removed without first removing the tuning slide, and that in itself is an annoying chore.  After one of the tuning slide tubes has cleared its casing, the tuning slide has to be rotated before it can be pulled out far enough to remove it completely.  This little routine is necessary because the bell blocks the tuning slide before its second tube clears its casing.  This might have been prevented by shortening the tuning slide tubes by a fraction of an inch.  Since there is no water key on the third valve, this difficulty is significant.  All of these hindrances are consistent with this trumpet being a first attempt at a rotary valve design.  In this respect, the trumpet can almost be considered a prototype.

 

To hold the trumpet, the player uses the left hand to grip two bell braces designed for that purpose.  This arrangement provides a means of holding the trumpet without touching the bell.  These braces are not very comfortable to use for long periods of time.  Moreover, unless care is taken in positioning the fingers properly, they can block the operation of the third valve by getting in the way of the rod that drives the valve rotor.

 

Although not stamped with a bell type as were most of Bach's early trumpets, the bell is probably one of Bach's "T" bells which were used on his first production piston valve trumpets.  (See Reference A)  Its bell is the same size as the "T" bell and is shaped like one.  Moreover, its bell stampings are identical to those of Bach's very earliest trumpets, indicating that it was manufactured during the period when "T" bells were being made.

 

This trumpet does not have a normal Bach serial number, i.e., one consistent with Bach's normal numbering scheme.  Instead, it has a "4" stamped on the valve spring bar and that number might to be an overstrike of a "1" previously stamped there.  This number has been of no help to the authors in locating any records of the trumpet.  In short, this trumpet is not listed among Bach's records at the Selmer Company.  The number "4" on the valve spring bar may be consistent with the story that this is one of four such instruments made for an American orchestra, however.

 

Figure 4 shows the trumpet's interesting valve section.  The valves are activated by pushing valve levers similar in shape to those used on French horns.  The levers are connected to the valve rotors by ornate connecting rods.

 

 

Figure 4

New York Bach Rotary Valve Trumpet

Valves
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

The valve section is very compact because the valve levers fold back over the top of the valves.  This arrangement makes the valves somewhat difficult to disassemble because two of the valve levers get in the way when removing their respective rotor retaining screws.

 

This valve design makes for a very narrow rotary valve trumpet, side to side, as it is held by the trumpet player.  Most other rotary valve trumpets are comparatively wide in this aspect.  Being narrow, this trumpet looks almost like a piston valve trumpet, except for the appearance of its valve section and the way it is held when playing it.

 

The authors have had several people look at this trumpet to try to determine the manufacturer of the valve section.  So far, no one has recognized a likely manufacturer, but the general consensus is that the valves were probably made in Europe, quite likely in Germany.

 

The most knowledgeable source on these kinds of valves that the authors have identified is Dr. Herbert Heyde of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He observed that these valves are similar to the standard rotary valves almost always used in Germany and Austria.  Valves of this type with open spiral springs were often made in Markneukirchen, Germany.

 

A close-up of one of the valves is shown in Figure 5.

 

.

 

Figure 5

New York Bach Rotary Valve Trumpet

Close-up of Valve
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

In the authors’ opinions, this trumpet’s design is characteristic of Bach's early thinking about manufacturing.  It called for the use of several piston valve trumpet parts, including the mouthpipe and bell.  This might have resulted in significant manufacturing savings.  With a little redesign, more piston valve trumpet parts could have been used.  For example, some of the valve slides might have been made identical to those of a piston valve trumpet as well.

 

The use of piston valve trumpet components means that from an acoustical standpoint, this trumpet is almost a normal trumpet except that it has rotary valves.  It's hard to tell whether this feature alone justified production of this instrument since other features, e.g., bore size, mouthpipe and bell design, contribute significantly to an instrument's sound characteristics.

 

If the story about the early, unnumbered New York rotaries being made for an American orchestra is correct, then four of them were probably made in 1924 or 1925.  Bach rotary valve trumpet number 83 was made during that same time period.  After these few instruments, it doesn't appear that Bach made any more rotary valve trumpets until some time in the latter part of 1926 and 1927.  During that period, he produced about 10 of them.  These instruments were made in the keys of Bb and C.

 

Since the authors so far have not been able to locate any numbered New York Bach rotary valve instruments, they are not certain that these later instruments were made using the same design as the trumpet shown in Figures 1 and 2.  They do know, however, that at least some of them were also large bore instruments and that none of them were given a model name, similar to the trumpet shown in Figures 1 and 2.  Thus, the authors suspect that they had essentially the same design features as the earlier trumpet.  If the authors are correct, then there may have been about 15 total instruments of this particular design made by Bach.  The authors naturally would like to examine more of these instruments if they can be located.

 

Since this design depends almost entirely on its rotary valves to distinguish it from a Bach piston valve trumpet of the same era, a question arises as to how it plays.  One of the authors did a limited amount of play-testing comparing this rotary valve trumpet to two Bb Stradivarius piston valve trumpets made about the same time.  While some components of the piston valve trumpets may not be identical to those of the rotary valve trumpet, the instruments were judged to be quite similar, except for the valve sections.  In that author's judgement, the rotary valves do alter, to a degree, the timbre of the trumpet when compared to Bach's early piston valve instruments.  The rotary valve trumpet seems to have a slightly darker tone than the piston valve trumpets, and it seems to project a little better.  While these differences may have resulted from incorporating rotary valves, it also is quite possible that they were due to the type of brass used in the bell or, perhaps, the finish.  On the other hand, it's also possible that they were due to that author's imagination.

 

MT VERNON ROTARY VALVE VINDOBONA TRUMPETS

 

Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets are very different from Bach's earlier New York instruments.  The authors assume that during the intervening years he expanded his ideas about what an appropriate rotary valve design should be.  Bach called his Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets Vindobona trumpets.

 

Bach's shop cards for these instruments have not been located although an extensive search for them was made at the Selmer Company.  Without the information normally contained on these shop cards, the only way to determine the extent of the design variation during production or the configuration of a specific instrument is to examine real instruments.  Unfortunately, the authors have located only four Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets to date, and they do not constitute a sufficient data base from which to make generalizations.  Limited information is available on three of them, but only one has been available for close examination.

 

Two of these trumpets reside in the Instrumentenmuseum, Schloss Kremsegg in Kremsmuenster, Austria.  These instruments belong to Professor Josef Levora, past Co-Principal Trumpet of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and are on loan to that museum.  Photographs of them were provided by Franz X. Streitwieser, Founder and Director of The Streitwieser Foundation Trumpet Museum located there.  One of these trumpets, serial number 50024, is pitched in C and has a number 238 bell on it.  It has a piston-style third valve tuning mechanism.  The second trumpet has no serial number on the bell.  It is a D trumpet and has a number 245 bell on it.  It does not have a third valve tuning mechanism.  The two of them are somewhat different in ways other than the obvious differences in pitch and bell designs.  Different water keys were used, and the locations of the bell stampings and ornaments vary.

 

A third instrument, a Bb trumpet with serial number 50004 was sold at auction on Ebay.  That trumpet has a number 65 bell on it.  It does not have a third valve tuning mechanism.

 

Tedd Waggoner, Vice President of Customer Service and Sales Administration of the Selmer Company, owns the fourth Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet located by the authors.  Its serial number, 50009, is stamped both on its bell and on its mouthpiece receiver.  This trumpet was loaned to the authors for examination and inclusion in this article.  A relatively complete description and pictures of it follow below.

 

It's difficult to speculate how many Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets were made.  Serial numbers are stamped on the bells of three of the four instruments mentioned above.  The highest of these serial numbers, 50024, implies that at least 24 of them were made.

 

The production period of the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets probably was relatively short.  The earliest engineering designs were completed in May, 1960.  Some months before he sold his company to the Selmer Company in September, 1961, Bach published a complete catalog of all of his instruments, but there were no rotary valve trumpets listed in that catalog.  Based on these end dates, the authors speculate that Mt Vernon rotary valve production began and stopped, at the outside, within little more than a year.  The authors do not know why these instruments were not successful and were discontinued after only such a short period.  Based on this limited production time, the authors also speculate that not too many of them were produced.  The authors note that production quantities at Mt Vernon could be large (compared to Bach's New York production), however, so their judgement about this could well be wrong.

 

As noted above, these trumpets either use different methods for third valve slide tuning or use none at all.  An article in Selmer Bandwagon No. 81 (see below) notes that Bach worked on two different third valve tuning mechanisms.  It appears from the above four samples that at least two types were put into production.

 

As with many New York Bachs, the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets have their bell mandril numbers stamped on them.  Each of the four samples that the authors located has a different bell on it.  These bells are numbered 65, 72, 238 and 245.

 

All four of the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet bells have an interesting shield on them.  (See Figure 6)  The word "Vindobona" appears at the top of the shield.  The authors have not been able to determine with certainty the definition of this word, but they are willing to accept an approximate Latin translation of "good wine".  (To read more about the word Vindobona than most people would care about, as well as some interesting history, see the Appendix to this article.)

 

 

Figure 6

Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpet

Shield
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

The symbol on the shield is interesting.  Franz Streitwieser pointed out to one of the authors that it's called the Austrian Double Eagle.  After doing a little research on this, the authors discovered that this was the Coat of Arms of Austria before it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and it remained a part of the Coat of Arms of the Empire as well.  Bach spent all of his European life as a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  He liked to use intriguing things to identify his instruments (e.g., unusual model names, etc.), and he took some ideas from his Austrian past.  Use of the Austrian Double Eagle on the Vindobona shield is one of those.  (For more information about the Austrian Double Eagle, see the Appendix to this article.)

 

PROTOTYPES AND A DESCRIPTION

 

Before looking at a production Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet in some detail, it is worthwhile examining some information on these instruments' prototypes as described in "The Selmer Bandwagon", Number 81.  Published by the Selmer Company in 1976 just after Bach passed away, this journal contains several tributes to him.  One of these articles displays some relatively poor quality photographs of various prototype instruments that Bach considered manufacturing.  Two of them are rotary valve trumpets.  The Selmer Company owns the two prototype rotary valve trumpets shown in this journal.

 

Figure 7 is a digital scan of one of the two pictures of rotary valve trumpets from that "Bandwagon".  The dates these two Bb trumpets were made are unknown, but they are clearly identifiable as prototypes of Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets.

 

 

Figure 7

Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpet Prototype

From Selmer Bandwagon No. 81
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

The following is a quote from "The Selmer Bandwagon", Number 81.

 

"Rotary Valve Trumpet:  By historical accident the French prefer piston valve trumpets and horns, the Germans rotary valve trumpets and horns, and the Americans one of each.  While Bach catered to the American taste, his roots were reflected not only in the Vindobona (Vienna) trumpets listed in our current catalog, but in a number of rotary valve trumpets he developed.  The two prototypes are among the few that remain in our collection, but he actually exported many of them to musicians in Austria and Germany.  The tags still attached to the two prototypes have notes in Bach's handwriting suggesting improvements in the design and location of the bell and braces.  Note that he was experimenting with two quite different third valve slide mechanisms."

 

(Notes by the authors: 1. The reference to Vindobona trumpets above refers to piston valve trumpets.  In writing the above, Selmer may not have recognized that the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets were also Vindobona trumpets.  2. Only one of the prototypes is shown in this article.  The other one is similar except for its third valve slide tuning mechanism.)

 

DESIGN VARIATIONS

 

Bach made his Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets in several keys.  The prototype shown above is a Bb trumpet, but Bach designed versions in C, D and Eb as well.  The authors have not located an Eb Mt Vernon trumpet, so they don't know if any of them were actually produced.

 

The Selmer Company owns engineering drawings for what is presumed to be all of the rotary valve trumpets Bach designed and manufactured.  There are several of these drawings.  The drawings for the Bb, C and D versions were completed in May of 1960, although each of these was "corrected", as indicated by Bach's notes, about a year later in May of 1961.  A drawing for the Eb version was completed in May of 1961.

 

The engineering drawings associated with the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets are proprietary to the Selmer Company, but certain information the authors were allowed to extract from them provides useful insights into Bach's design work.

 

There are significant variations in the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet designs.  Each is described below to a limited degree.  All of them are called Vindobona instruments even though some of them do not use an increasing airflow cross section between the end of the mouthpipe and the entrance to the valves as do the more modern Vindobona piston valve instruments.

 

What follows are descriptions of these interesting trumpets.  The authors are not absolutely sure that they cover all variations Bach contemplated for his Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets, and they suspect that not all of those he designed were put into production.  They think that readers will agree, however, that it's an impressive list.

 

Bb Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpets

 

The Bb trumpets had two fundamental designs, one a constant-size airflow path from the end of the mouthpipe through the valves and the other an increasing, "telescoping" airflow path.  The constant flow path version had a 0.444 inch diameter airflow path throughout, while the telescoping version increased the diameter of the airflow path from 0.444 inch at the end of the mouthpipe to 0.453 inch through the valves.  These trumpets originally specified a number 65 bell and a number 43 mouthpipe, but a number 72 bell was used on some of them.  They were designed to be made in at least two variations in bell thickness, "medium" and "heavy".  The medium bell was 0.018 inch thick while the heavy bell was 0.020 inch thick.  Both of these thicknesses were common for New York and other Mt Vernon Bb trumpets.

 

C Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpets

 

The C trumpets had similar design options.  The constant airflow path version had a 0.442 inch bore size, only slightly smaller than the airflow path of the corresponding Bb instruments.  The telescoping version increased the airflow path from 0.442 inch to 0.453 inch through the valves.  Thus, it used the same size valves as the Bb trumpets.  The C trumpets used a 238 bell and the same mouthpipe as the Bb trumpets, number 43.  The C trumpets were designed with three bell thicknesses; light, medium and heavy.  A "light" bell of 0.0142 inch thickness complemented medium and heavy bell options, but these latter two dimensions were different than those used for the Bb trumpets.  In this case, the medium thickness was 0.016 inch and the heavy thickness was 0.018 inch, the latter one being the same as the medium thickness of the Bb trumpets.

 

D Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpets

 

The D trumpets did not have as many design options as the preceding two designs.  They appear to have been designed only with a constant airflow path of 0.435 inch from the mouthpipe through the valves.  These trumpets used a 245 bell and a 43 mouthpipe, the same mouthpipe used on the Bb and C trumpets.  The 245 bell was designed in 1958 and was probably designed specifically for this trumpet.  The D trumpets may have been made with only one bell thickness, a medium or standard weight.  The bell brass was 0.0142 inches thick.

 

Eb Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpets

 

As with the D trumpets, the Eb trumpets did not have many design options.  It appears to have been designed the same as the D trumpet except for the total length of the instrument.  The bell Bach selected for this trumpet was number 322, the same bell he designed for his Eb soprano cornets.

 

That Mouthpipe, Number 43

 

The authors note that mouthpipe number 43 had to be a special design indeed.  Given the varying lengths of the mouthpipes used in all of the Mt Vernon rotary valve designs, this particular mouthpipe had to be trimmed at various places during its expansion.  The airflow path diameters it connected to were 0.444 inch, 0.442 inch and 0.435 inch for the Bb, C and D/Eb trumpets, respectively.

 

Finger Buttons

 

The finger buttons on Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets were round and made from mother-of-pearl, just as were the finger buttons on piston valve instruments.  If present at all, a finger button on the third valve tuning slide was made to match the others.  Incorporating piston trumpet-like finger buttons on a rotary valve trumpet gives it an unusual appearance.

 

A MT VERNON Bb ROTARY VALVE TRUMPET

 

Figure 8 is a photograph of the Mt Vernon Bb rotary valve trumpet owned by Tedd Waggoner.  The trumpet's configuration is exactly as described in the paragraph above on Bb Mt Vernon rotaries.  It's one of those with a constant airflow path whose diameter from the end of the mouthpipe though the valve section is 0.444 inch.

 

 

Figure 8

Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpet
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Despite having a uniform diameter airflow path from the end of the mouthpipe to the entrance of the bell, i.e., the tuning slide is not telescopic, Bach still classified this instrument as a Vindobona trumpet.  The shield on this trumpet's bell clearly identifies it as such.  (See Figure 6)

 

Figure 9 below is a picture of the bell of this trumpet.  The serial number of this instrument is 50009.  This trumpet uses a number 72 bell which is made of yellow brass, as is the rest of the trumpet.

 

 

Figure 9

Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpet

Bell
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

As expected from reading the above descriptions, the trumpet has a number 43 mouthpipe on it.  As shown in Figure 10, it is built in the more normally expected configuration for rotary valve trumpets of a short lead pipe leading directly into the first valve, as contrasted with the New York rotary valve instrument's construction described above.

 

 

Figure 10

Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpet

Mouthpipe
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Figure 11 shows the valve section of this trumpet.

 

 

Figure 11

Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpet

Valves
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

The authors made a direct comparison between the valves on this trumpet and those of the New York rotary valve trumpet described above.  From all appearances, the valves on the two instruments would seem to be made by the same manufacturer even though the trumpets were manufactured about 35 years apart.  Some sense of this can be gained from comparing Figure 12 below and Figure 5 which illustrate the respective details of Mt Vernon and New York rotary valves.

 

 

 

 

Figure 12

Mt Vernon Rotary Valve Trumpet

Close-up of Valve
(Click the Image to View Full Size in a New Window)

 

Dr. Heyde (see comments on New York rotary valve trumpet valves) also observed that the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet has "clock springs" sitting on a so-called "Wiener Bank" (Vienna bench).  This version of these types of valves were traditionally used in Austria.  The valves are typical of those manufactured in Markneukirchen, Germany; in Graslitz, The Czech Republic and in Vienna, Austria.  Valves with clock springs (springs housed in cylindrical cases) are somewhat more expensive that those made with open spiral springs such as those on the New York rotary valve trumpet.

 

            The above judgements serve to identify the general area in which valves for both the New York and Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets were made.  The  actual manufacturer remains unknown, however.  An open question for the authors is whether Bach had contacts that could get valves for him from towns located in communist countries in the early 1960s when Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets were made.  Both Markneukirchen (then in Eastern Germany) and Graslitz (then in Czeckoslovakia) fell into this category.

 

Despite their similarities, there are two major differences in the valve sections of the two instruments examined.  First, the Mt Vernon valve cylinders are significantly larger than the New York valve cylinders, even though the Mt Vernon bore size is smaller, i.e., 0.444 inch compared to 0.462 inch for the New York valves.  Also, as noted above, the valve spring mechanisms are constructed differently.  The Mt Vernon clock springs provide more protection for the springs compared to the New York open bar and spring arrangement, but the springs are less accessible.

 

On the Mt Vernon trumpet, the valve cylinders are located on the mouthpipe side of the trumpet enabling the airflow to enter the valves after only a short run between the mouthpiece and the valves.  The finger buttons on the Mt Vernon which, according to Dr. Heyde, were preferred in Austria, are located on the side where the tuning slide connects to the bell.  Thus, the finger buttons do not fold back over the top of the valve cylinders as the finger levers do on the New York rotary.  This makes the Mt Vernon trumpet a much wider instrument and gives it a more modern appearance when compared to the New York trumpet .

 

Holding the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet is marginally easier than holding the New York rotary valve trumpet.  There is only one holding brace on the Mt Vernon instrument.  As a result, the trumpet player uses the first valve casing for a thumb hold.  The Mt Vernon instrument's third slide valve trigger is located in an awkward position, but it's better to have one than not, as in the case of the New York instrument.

 

In developing the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet, Bach solved some of the nuisances of the New York version.  First, the third valve slide and the tuning slide have been deconflicted.  Also, the tuning slide clears the bell when pulled out, thus avoiding the two-step process needed to extract the tuning slide from the New York instrument.  The second valve slide pulls from the trumpet without potential conflict with other components, as on the New York instrument.  While the New York trumpet's first valve slide was reasonable easy to remove, the first valve slide on the Mt Vernon instrument is even easier as there is absolutely no obstruction to its removal.

 

The Mt Vernon rotary clearly achieves a different sound than corresponding Mt Vernon piston valve trumpets.  Different?  Yes, but whether it is "Teutonic" as Bach claimed must be left to the listener's judgement.  It does have one interesting characteristic as far as the author playing it was concerned.  The Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet seems to "choke" the airflow much easier than either the New York rotary or a Mt Vernon piston valve trumpet.  This may be due to the shorter mouthpipe as it forces the player to make sure that the air stream is heading straight ahead through the mouthpiece.  Too much "pivot" yields poor sound quality, or no sound at all.

 

THE VINDOBONA PISTON INSTRUMENTS

 

Because all of the Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets were called Vindobona trumpets, that subject naturally leads to a brief discussion about Bach's Vindobona instruments with piston valves.

 

As noted earlier in this article, in 1961, Bach published an expansive catalog entitled "Bach Instruments…the instruments of Quality" (copyright 1961 by Vincent Bach Corporation, Mt Vernon, New York).  In that catalog, Bach finally provided a fairly expansive explanation of the objectives he had been trying to achieve as part of the Vindobona design.

 

On page 8 of that catalog, Bach describes his Bb Vindobona piston valve trumpet in the following way.

 

"Stradivarius Bb Trumpet.  Medium-Large Valve Bore, 11.66 mm (0.459"), VINDOBONA BORE.  A brand new model trumpet of an amazing response and fascinating timbre of tone.  The bell of this instrument is of a larger bore, the tuning slide telescopic, which combination results in a gorgeously rich, noble, majestic tone, resonant and compact.  Very flexible throughout the entire compass, enormous in carrying power.  Described by our great symphony and orchestra conductors as the traditional "Teutonic" tone which is heard in famous European symphony orchestras and opera houses."

 

The authors take from the above paragraph ("A brand new model trumpet…") that the Vindobona trumpet in its piston valve configuration was introduced in 1961.  The authors have not yet tried to verify this by researching in Bach's records the earliest manufacturing dates.

 

The bell Bach refers to as "larger bore" is the 72 bell.  (The same trumpet design continues today under the Selmer Company, also with the 72 bell as its standard bell.)  By larger bore, Bach meant, at least in part, that its entrance diameter is somewhat larger than that of some other Bach bells.  The Selmer Company describes this bell as having "a strong, powerful sound, darker than a 37".  Bell number 65 which the Selmer Company describes as having a "big, dark, Teutonic sound" is also used on modern Vindobona trumpets.  The authors do not have the specifications of these bells, but they expect that these bells are more conical (have a more rapidly increasing flare) than some other Bach bells, thus increasing the strength of the overtones and darkening the timbre.

 

From the same catalog reference as above, page 6, Bach continues with his description of the objectives of Vindobona piston valve instruments.

 

"The VINDOBONA BORE.  The "VINDOBONA BORE" instruments described in this catalog release a very rich, more mellow, heroic and compact tone quality of great carrying power.  It is the quality of tone for which the superb Viennese Opera and Symphony Orchestras are traditionally famous."

 

In other descriptions in the same catalog, Bach goes on to describe Vindobona piston valve trumpets in the keys of C, D and Eb as well as a Vindobona Bb cornet.  To help understand Bach's thoughts on the subject, the following is what he had to say about his Vindobona C trumpet on page 9 of that same catalog.

 

"Stradivarius C trumpet.  Medium-large valve bore 11.66 mm (0.459") VINDOBONA BORE.  Large bell with telescopic tuning slide.  The greatest innovation in "C" trumpets.  Produces the genuine, traditional Teutonic C trumpet tone heard in famous German and Austrian opera and symphony orchestras.  It has a glorious, noble tone of fascinating beauty and unique quality.  Even during the most powerful FFF, the tone remains solid, compact and does not "scream."  This is the rich trumpet tone so effective in Wagner operas, Tschaikowsky and other symphonic classics.  A superb instrument for exclusive use throughout the season.  Preferred by conductors of the German or Austrian school."

 

Throughout his written material, Bach referred to the Vindobona instruments as having "telescoping" tuning slides.  The inside diameter of the airflow entrance tube (between the mouthpipe and the curved portion of the tuning slide) is smaller than that of the airflow exit tube (between the curved portion of the tuning slide and the valve section).  The inside diameter of the curved portion of the tuning slide lies between those of the other two tubes.  The effect is to add sort of a conical bore nature to these tuning slides, although the airflow path actually passes through two increasing step changes in diameter.  Because of their construction, these tuning slides cannot be inserted upside down.

 

The mouthpipes used on instruments with telescoping tuning slides have to be less expansive than otherwise to accommodate the increases in airflow path diameter that follows from that point onward.

 

In some places, Bach also referred to instruments with telescoping tuning slides as "dual-bore" instruments.  He also referred to them as Vindobona Bore instruments, but, in doing so, his description was not entirely accurate.  Some of his rotary valve Vindobona trumpets were made without this feature.  Moreover, Bach did not say in his 1961 catalog that all of the piston valve Vindobona trumpets had this feature.  The only ones specifically mentioned as having it were the Bb trumpet and cornet and the C trumpet.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

The authors owe a special "thank you" to the Selmer Company, Inc. of Elkhart, Indiana for access to their data.  They also owe a special "thank you" to Mr. Tedd Waggoner, Selmer's Vice President of Customer Service and Sales Administration.  Mr. Waggoner is extremely knowledgeable about Vincent Bach’s New York and Mt Vernon operations and contributed significantly to this material.  He spent considerable time with one of the authors discussing aspects of this article and lent his personal Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpet for examination and photographing.

 

The authors also thank the following people for special contributions that appear in this article.  Franz Streitwieser, Founder and Director of The Streitwieser Foundation Trumpet Museum, Kremuenster, Austria provided photographs of two Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets on loan to that museum as well as information that helped in the description of Austrian symbology.  Dr. Herbert Heyde, Associate Curator in the Department of Music of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art provided background on the manufacture of rotary valves in Europe.  Robert E. Sheldon, Curator of Musical Instruments at the Library of Congress provided convenient access to an original copy of Bach's 1925 musical instruments catalog to enable high quality scans of that document.  Thomas D. Murie of Claremont, California loaned an original copy of The Selmer Bandwagon Number 81 so improved scans of Bach's prototype Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets could be made.  Sara Hempley of Columbia, South Carolina and her group of Latin scholar friends took on the task of providing a translation for Vindobona.  Donald Boy and Cass Mason of Springfield, Virginia helped locate the Vindobona area of the Roman Empire.  Finally, Walter and Vinal Overing Binner of Vienna, Austria helped by locating sources of the word Vindobona that predate the Roman Empire, including a rather obscure source, ALT UND NEU WINE; GESCHICHTE DER OESTERREICHISCHEN KAISERSTADT (OLD AND NEW VIENNA; THE HISTORY OF THE AUSTRIAN KAISER-CITY), by Karl Eduar Schimmer, Vienna and Leipzig, A. Hartleben, Publisher, 1904.


APPENDIX TO

BACH'S ROTARY VALVE TRUMPETS

 


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The above picture shows Bach in Europe with his primary instrument, a cornet.  The cornet's brand is unknown, but it is interesting, exhibiting a rather gradual bell flare for most of its length.  It appears that this photograph was taken in Vienna.  (The photograph was taken from an Internet posting and does not have sufficient resolution for enlargement.)

 

Bach spent his entire youth as a citizen of the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Founded in1867, the Empire was comprised of two nearly equal portions.  At the time, the western portion (Austria) sometimes was called Cis-Leithania after the Leitha River which separated the two halves.  The Empire remained intact until 1918 when World War I ended.

 

Bach was born in 1890 near Vienna in the western portion of the Empire.  He lived there until he immigrated to the United States in 1914, the year World War I began.

 

 

 

VINDOBONA

 

Bach called his Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets Vindobona trumpets.  The authors spent some time trying to find a satisfactory definition of the word Vindobona.

 

The authors had heard that Vindobona was an old name for Vienna and started their research from that point.  The first thing they discovered was that Vienna was first used as a name for that city during the 12th Century.  They also discovered that the name Vindobona predated the name Vienna by some 11 centuries and perhaps by quite a bit more.  Moreover, it represented a region along the Danube River and not a town.  Therefore, in the authors' judgment, Vindobona is not synonymous with Vienna.

 

The following is included to offer some explanation.  At one time, the Roman Empire extended as far north as the Danube River, encompassing that area now known as Austria.  The Romans, in an effort to protect their borders from northern (Germanic) invaders, established at least two camps for their Legions near this northern border.  A town grew up near the eastern-most camp, and this town eventually became Vienna.

 

The region in which the two camps were located was called Vindobona, and it encompassed a large segment of northern Austria.  Thus, Vindobona was an area much greater than that occupied by the town that eventually became Vienna.  The map below shows the Roman Empire as it existed in 14 AD and includes the general area along the northern border called Vindobona.



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The discovery that the Romans recognized the term Vindobona sent the authors in search for a translation of the name from Latin into English.  Several people knowledgeable in Latin were asked to take on this translation.  The translators had some academic trouble with this, and the closest they were able to come to was "good wine".  Readers are invited to substantiate or refute this definition.

 

The authors had settled on this translation when Austrian friends came to their aid with further information that the term Vindobona more than likely preceded the Roman Empire and was of Celtic origin.  It was reported to have meant something like "golden fields" and may have referred to the same general area as that indicated by the Romans.

 

The authors made half-hearted attempts to sort out the Celtic tribes living in and around the southern part of Europe.  They discovered that the most "Germanic" of those tribes settled in the area about 700 years BC, perhaps originating from somewhere around what is now Spain.  Little indisputable evidence seems to exist about these people on the whole, much less enough to get an accurate translation of an uncertain term such as Vindobona.  Upon recognizing the general obscurity of this topic, the authors receded.

 

As of now, no unassailable definition of Vindobona has been found.  For those with a romantic flare, the term "good wine" from the Latin is as good as any.

 

It is pretty well assured that the area called Vindobona during the days of the Roman Empire overlapped much the of northern portion of the modern state of Austria.  Other than that, there is no apparent connection between Vindobona and Vienna other than Vienna appears to have evolved from the small town outside the eastern-most of the Roman camps located in that region.  The authors caution that some references, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, disagree with the authors on this and equate Vindobona with Vienna.

 

TEUTONIC

 

Bach described the sound of his Vindobona instruments as "Teutonic".  The first question that the authors asked was, What did Bach mean by "Teutonic"?  The following are two dictionary definitions of related to this descriptive word.

 

Definition:  Teuton.  (1)  A member of an ancient (prob.) Germanic or Celtic people.  (2)  A member of a people speaking a language of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family.  Esp. German

 

Definition Teutonic:  adj.  Of, relating to, or characteristic of the Teutons.

 

What one gleans from this is an idea that "Teutonic" is probably related to the Germanic peoples.  The authors decided that this was close enough, and they assume that Bach was looking for a sound that was appealing to Germanic people.  Of course, this idea of a sound Bach called Teutonic had to make sense in the context of 20th Century trumpet and cornet development.

 

AUSTRIAN DOUBLE EAGLE

 

Unlike his other instruments, Bach apparently thought he needed something rather regal to enhance the appearance of his Mt Vernon rotary valve trumpets.  Accordingly, these instruments have a shield on them that incorporates the word Vindobona above a symbol that appears to be a coat of arms called the Austrian Double Eagle.  The symbols on Bach's shields can be compared to the two depictions of that coat of arms shown and discussed below.

 

Following a lead provided by Franz Streitwieser that the symbol on Bach's shield was an Austrian Double Eagle, the authors searched through several sources of information on double-headed eagles used in heraldry.  The list of entities that have used a double-headed eagle as part of their symbology is long indeed.  As might be guessed, a double-headed eagle was for a long time used to represent the various geographical areas that were known as Austria.  This one dates back at least to Emperor Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 to 1519.  In some form, it continued to be symbolic of Austria until the desolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The left main panel of the Imperial Arms of the Austro-Hungarian Empire contains Austria's double-headed eagle (see below).  This is essentially the form used by Bach on his Vindobona shields.

 


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The flag representing the Austrian portion of the Empire is shown below with the same double-headed eagle on it.

 


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