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The Boston Symphony Orchestra Trombone Quartet

The 1906 Victor Recordings

The Boston Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1881, has a rich history. With its distinguished music directors (including Karl Muck, Pierre Monteux, Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Erich Leinsdorf, Seiji Ozawa and, now, James Levine) and acoustically acclaimed concert hall (Symphony Hall, built in 1900), the BSO has been at the center of Boston's musical life for a century and a quarter. On October 22, 2006, the BSO celebrated its 125th anniversary, having given its first concert on October 22, 1881 in the old Boston Music Hall.

I have written extensively on the history of the BSO and its players, including four articles on brass players who have played with the orchestra:

In addition, information about the BSO trombone section in the 1920's can be found in my online resource, The Eugene Adam Collection.

The recorded history of the Boston Symphony is one of its great legacies. The first recordings of the orchestra were made in 1917 under the direction of Karl Muck. In recent years, we have become aware of several recordings that were made in 1912 featuring some members of the BSO including its then principal violin and clarinet players.

But even more recently, a stunning discovery has been made of recordings from 1906 that feature the Boston Symphony Orchestra Trombone Quartet. Here is a bit of the story surrounding these important recordings.

In January 2005, trombonist Howard Knapp emailed to tell me that he had recently acquired a 10" 78RPM disc of "The Kerry Dance" by Molloy, played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra Trombone Quartet. This was new information for me, and I was happy to provide Howard with some information about the members of the BSO in 1906 when the recording was made. Since the recording was made by the Victor Talking Machine Company (later to become Victor and then RCA Victor), I contacted the archives at BMG Records (which now owns RCA Victor) and got some additional information about the recording. At that time I learned that a second recording by the BSO Trombone Quartet, "Nearer, My God, to Thee," had been released at the same time as "The Kerry Dance."

In the summer of 2006, Howard contacted me again to say that he had been successful in obtaining a copy of "Nearer, My God to Thee." This completed the picture, so I thought, and I was very excited when Howard sent a copy of that recording to me.

It was only after I had some conversations with my friend Brian Bell, a producer at WGBH Radio in Boston, that I was made aware that not only are these recordings important and of interest to trombone players, but that these recordings are the oldest known recordings of ANY ensemble made up of members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Brian's interest in these recordings led to additional research and information being known about how they came about.

On October 21, 2006, The Boston Globe ran an article, written by Geoff Edgers, about the discovery of these recordings. Click here to view a pdf of The Boston Globe's article.

On October 22, 2006, WGBH radio broadcast "The Kerry Dance" for what may have been the first time, during its broadcast from Symphony Hall as part of the Boston Symphony's 125th anniversary "Open House." I was pleased to be a part of that broadcast where I was interviewed by Ron della Chiesa about the recordings and the players who made them.

We do not know, as of yet (although research is ongoing), why the Boston Symphony Trombone Quartet was engaged by Victor to make recordings. But we do know that the three members of the BSO trombone section at that time, Carl Hampe, August Mausebach and Leroy Kenfield were are excellent players who had distinguished careers as players, teachers, instrument and mouthpiece developers and conductors.

This photo shows, above, shows the trombone section of the Boston Symphony around 1910. From left to right are Leroy Kenfield (bass trombone), August Mausebach (second trombone) and Carl Hampe (principal trombone).

Carl Hampe came to the BSO from Germany and played with the orchestra at several times: 1886-1891, 1892-1914 and finally from 1920-1925. It is interesting to note that Hampe's final stint with the BSO came after nearly one-third of the BSO was fired during the orchestra's only strike in 1920. He served in the Amry during World War I.

August Mausebach, also a German (as were many BSO players in its early years; subsequently the BSO became a "French" orchestra under the tenure of music directors Pierre Monteux and Serge Koussevitzky), came to the Boston Symphony from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and played with the BSO from 1898-1925.

Leroy Kenfield, American born and bred, was the longest serving bass trombonist in the orchestra's history, playing from 1900-1934.

In July 1938, after the death of August Mausebach, Henry Woebler, a musician and prolific writer on the Boston musical scene for the first half of the 20th century, wrote a letter to the editor of the Boston Transcript in which he praised these musicians. His letter follows below and contains a tremendous amount of interesting information for trombonists. It is a poignant tribute to fine men who were more than excellent trombonists:


To the Editor of the Transcript: Sport-loving musicians accustomed to playing for great athletic events are thoroughly familiar with the old Chicago Cubs combination - from Tinker to Evers to Chance; the Connie Mack $100,000 infield - McInnis, Collins, Baker and Barry; and the marvelous old Red Sox outfield - Speaker, Hooper and Lewis. Not so strenuous, but of equal importance, is the loss of the last cog in a great musical machine, in the death, July 21, of Frederick August Mausebach, seventy-one, second trombone (tenor), on of the triumvirate of the famous trombone players of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The others were Carl Hampe, seventy-eight, first trombone (alto), and Leroy S. Kenfield, seventy, third trombone (bass), both of whom died just a few years ago. For continuity of simultaneous service in one major orchestra without any change in the trombone section, their record has seldom, if ever, been approached.

Mr. Mausebach, from the Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra, and the Damrosch Symphony, played in the Boston Symphony from 1898-1925; Mr. Kenfield, with a wealth of experience with the Emma Juch Opera Company, the Boston Ideals, the Bostonians and in the old Boston Theater, played from 1900 to 1934; Mr. Hampe, a youngster from the Bilse Orchestra of Germany, played a period which covered thirty-nine years, from 1886 to 1925. His tenure was a total of thirty-two years, as he left the orchestra twice to fill other engagements. Although a devotee of symphonic art, Hampe had the spirit of adventure and joined a circus band, later enlisting in one of our regimental bands, and did many parades with other organizations.

It can readily be seen that these musicians, already possessed with vast experience, were just ripe and represented the finished product when they joined the Boston Symphony. Wilhelm Gericke, the conductor of those days [1884-1889 and 1898-1906], took such a personal interest in the fine ensemble playing of this trio, that he insisted upon the importation of the celebrated Heckel make of trombone from Germany for their use. So satisfactory was the tonal quality of those instruments, they were soon copied in every detail by an enterprising American manufacturer [Holton]. As a result,, the American-made symphony trombone is used almost universally throughout the country by the large permanent orchestras.

Dependable, kind, reliable and always willing to give the other fellow a helping hand, Mr. Mausebach's character was reflected in his fine trombone playing. Nor was his musical ability confined to that instrument; his knowledge of music was profound.

Versatile, capable, he led his own band several summer seasons at the Saratoga [New York] races. In his early career, he played with the premier band leaders; Patrick Gilmore and Fred N. Innes, in New York and Pittsburgh. Innes at that time was the leading trombone soloist of his day and well knew what a valuable addition Mr. Mausebach would be to his band.

- Henry Woebler, Jamaica Plain [Massachusetts], July 23, 1938

This ad (below), which dates from late 1910 or early 1911, shows Hampe, Mausebach and Kenfield endorsing Holton trombones.

The closeup of each of their endorsements, below, shows their signatures and their comments about their Holton trombones. In later years, Kenfield would endorse Conn with whom he developed the Conn-Kenfield bass trombone mouthpiece. As an aside, it's interesting to note that Holton misspelled Hampe's last name as "Hempe."

This photo, below, shows Hampe, Mausebach and Kenfield with the rest of their BSO brass colleagues around 1921. Kenfield and Mausebach are standing while Hampe is seated next to principal trumpet George Mager (in the center of the photograph, on Hampe's right). As an aside, Mager was the teacher, at New England Conservatory, of Adolph Herseth, the lengendary principal trumpet player of the Chicago Symphony for over 50 years. Eugene Adam is the tuba player.

In the early 20th century, the Boston Symphony spent a great deal of time on tour. Boston is situated in the northeast corridor of the United States and train lines ran regularly up and down the east coast, from Boston to Washington. With cities like Providence, Rhode Island, New York City (and Brooklyn), Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. all on the same train line, the BSO was able to significantly increase the length of its season with regular series of concerts up and down the northeast coast.

During the 1905-06 season, the BSO found itself taking several such trips. The page below, from the BSO Archives, shows several of these tours and where concerts were played. The initials in parentheses indicate the location of the concert, such as Carnegie Hall (CH), Lyric Theater (LT), and the Academy of Music (AM).

In January 1906, the Boston Symphony was on the road (or on the train) again with concerts in cities in a large circle: Providence, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, New York City, Brooklyn, Hartford (Connecticut) and Springfield (Massachusetts). On January 8, before a BSO concert in Philadelphia, Hampe, Mausebach and Kenfield went to the Victor Record studios (most likely in Camden, New Jersey, although it's possible they went to the Victor Studios in New York City; research is ongoing on this point). Howard Knapp has done some additional research and has uncovered the name of the fourth trombone player that took part in the sessions; his last name is "Kluge." It is possible this might be Max Kluge who played viola in the Boston Symphony at that time, although this has not yet been confirmed. The table below, taking from Moran and Fagan's Victor discography (first published in 1983) provides some important information:

The numbers on the left hand column are consecutive "matrix numbers" for Victor releases. These are in roughly chronological order. Matrix B-3098 references the Boston Symphony Trombone Quartet. The discography indicates there were two takes made of "Kerry Dance" on January 8, 1906, and a further two takes of the same on January 12, 1906. Track 4 being underlined means it was that track that was subsequently issued on Victor catalog 4639. There apparently were two other pieces that were at least played at the recording session of January 8 although it is not clear if they were actually recorded. For more information on this, see visit this link on the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings. This link is for detailed information about the recording of "The Kerry Dance"; look at the footnote that gives name of personnel as well as the interesting note about the fact that "Norman's Song" ("Norma's Song"?) and "Under the Linden Tree" were also played during that session. Once on the Victor Recordings page, click on the link for "Personnel" for more information.

It is interesting to note that on January 12, the BSO Trombone Quartet recorded "Annie Laurie" (matrix B-3099) but there is no indication that recording was released.

Continuing down the discography we find matrix B-3105, indicating that the BSO Trombone Quartet was back in Camden for another recording session. Looking at the list of BSO tours above, we can see that the BSO had a concert in Philadelphia on February 12, 1906, making a stop in Camden for the recording session quite easy. Two takes of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" were recorded and the first take was subsequently released as Victor 4649.

A close look at the Victor discography lends some wonderful perspective to these early days of the recording industry. While the BSO trombone quartet was the only group recorded on February 12, 1906, the previous day, February 11, found the great tenor Enrico Caruso recording opera arias.

It is also interesting to view these three recording sessions in light of the concerts the quartet was playing on the same day with the Boston Symphony.

On Monday, January 8, 1906, the quartet recorded two takes of "The Kerry Dance." The program for that evening's BSO concert in Philadelphia is below:

The Violin Concerto by Strube performed on January 8 is by the same Gustave Strube who may well have been the fourth player on the BSO Trombone Quartet recordings.

On Friday, January 12, 1906, the quartet recorded two further takes of "The Kerry Dance" and two takes of "Annie Laurie" (which was never released). The program for that evening's BSO concert in Brooklyn is below:

On Monday, February 12, 1906, the quartet recorded two takes of "Nearer, My God, to Thee." The program for that evening's BSO concert in Philadelphia is below:

This performance of Mahler Symphony 5 followed the Boston premiere of the piece the preceding week.

As one who has been on tour many times, I find it remarkable that the BSO Trombone Quartet scheduled recording sessions on the day of BSO concerts with such demanding repertoire as Brahms Symphony 2 and Mahler Symphony 5. Keep in mind that there would have been rehearsals at the Victor studios on the day of recording, and there were hours of train travel on each day. The eight concert tour in January 1906 also included other demanding repertoire including Beethoven Symphony 6, Schumann Symphony 1, Richard Strauss Till Eulenspiegel, and Elgar Concert Overture: In The South.

While conducting my research about these recordings, the BMG archives was kind enough to fax me a copy of the Victor release cards for both "The Kerry Dance" and "Nearer, My God, to Thee." Shown below, they provide some interesting information about each release. "The Kerry Dance" was clearly the more popular of the two, showing a date of export as well as several "cut" dates where more copies were made. This would not be surprising given that "The Kerry Dance" was a very popular song of the day by Irish composer James Lynam Molloy (1837-1909).

Click on the image below to view/download vocal/piano sheet music for "The Kerry Dance," found online in the National Library of Australia (published c. 1901).

Howard Knapp has provided me with a trombone duet version of "The Kerry Dance," taken from Carl Weber's, "The Premier Method for Tenor-Slide Trombone," published in 1898 by J. W. Pepper in Philadelphia. Weber's book is drawn from the works of Arthur Pryor, F. N. Innes, Whittier, Brooks, Rollinson, Vaubaron, Otto Langey, Dieppo and others; all names that were important 19th century trombonists and teachers. Weber's duet follows below.

Below is the music to "Nearer, My God, to Thee," taken from the 1922 Hymnal, "New Songs of Praise and Power" published by Hall-Mack Co., Philadelphia. While this hymn is usually notated in 4/4 meter, the Boston Symphony Trombone Quartet plays it in 6/4 meter like the music shown below. This hymn achieved special significance after the story (possibly apocryphal) that it was played as the great ship, Titanic, sank. However the Titanic sank in 1912, making the BSO Trombone Quartet's recording of "Nearer My God To Thee" unrelated to the sinking of the ship.

All of this fascinating information is certainly interesting. But by now you may be saying, "This is great, but I want to HEAR these recordings!"

Thanks to Howard Knapp, you can. Howard played each of these 10 inch 78rmp discs on his restored Victrola and recorded them to a mp3 file which I have uploaded to my website.

Click here to hear/download the mp3 of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Trombone Quartet play "The Kerry Dance." (Approximately 2.2 MB file, 2:25)

Click here to hear/donwnload the mp3 of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Trombone Quartet play "Nearer, My God, to Thee." (Approximately 2.2 MB file, 2:20)

As further research is done, more information will be added about these recordings which are important to trombonists and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In time, I hope that these recordings will become part of a commercial release once again, perhaps along with other early recordings by Boston Symphony members. Until then, we can enjoy these recordings anew thanks to the serendipitous turn of events that put them in Howard Knapp's hands. I am grateful to Howard Knapp (who has graciously donated these original recordings to the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives), Brian Bell (WGBH, Boston), Glenn Kormann (BMG), Bridget Carr (Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives) and Ronald Barron (Retired Principal Trombonist, Boston Symphony Orchestra) for their assistance in this project.

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