Paul Weschke - Horst Raasch
100 Years of Trombone History
first appeared in German in the IPV Journal, No. 4/1996. The ITA Journal published the author's
translation in Vol. 25, No.3. It is reprinted
here with the ITA's permission.
Years of Trombone History -
Paul Weschke to Horst Raasch
By Carl Lenthe
article and interview focuses on the lives of two trombonists who
represent a 100-year span through German musical life. Without writing a
thesis on the roots, foundations and practices of the music profession in
Germany, a few observations may help the reader to better understand the
background and context of some of the events and circumstances portrayed
in this article. Indeed, in the course of these 100 years there were some
major changes in the music profession in Germany, starting with the
transition from court orchestras and theaters, under royal jurisdiction,
to the state-supported arts as still generally practiced today, with state
theaters, opera houses, orchestras and museums filling the cultural needs
of the population. This change was, of course, only a small reflection of
the major changes taking place in politics, society, literature and life
in general during the years following World War 1. Vestiges of the
"royalty" system can still be seen today in the bestowing of
such titles as Bayerischer-Kammervirtuose or Berliner Kammermusiker
(Bavarian Chamber Virtuoso or Berlin Chamber Musician) which, while no
longer bearing the prefix "royal" or representing any monetary
advantage, serve as recognition of loyal performance over a long period of
time, and are only awarded in the state institutions, as the legitimate
successors to the former court system. An interesting glimpse into the
actual changeover from a royal to a state institution can be found in
Bruno Walter's autobiography, Thema und Variationen, in the chapter on his
years as general music director of the Munich Opera, today’s Bavarian
Other important aspects of German musical life are the radio
stations and their respective symphony orchestras. These radio
stations are funded by tax money and have an obligation to uphold high
standards of audio culture, both spoken and musical. A position in one of
the radio symphony orchestras is highly coveted. These orchestras count
among the top symphony orchestras of the land, enriching the cultural
lives of their respective cities, not only over the airwaves, but also
through public concert series.
Horst Raasch's immediate-postwar experience of playing jazz and popular
music to entertain the Allied troops is an experience that he shares with
many musicians of his generation, and one that offered him first contacts
with Americans and glimpses into the "American
way of life." Professor Raasch is glad to count a number of Americans
among his friends, and has established friendships and contacts with
trombonists from all over the world in the course of his career.
PAUL WESCHKE, TROMBONIST
their Paganini and Joachim, pianists their Czerny and Leschetizky, and it
is a rare trumpeter who does not know the name Gottfried Reiche. Are we,
as trombonists, cultivating our trombonistic heritage with the same care
and diligence? The name Paul Weschke is unknown to most trombonists today,
even in his native Germany. This could be because he did not leave any
etudes or methods as, for example, Robert Mueller or Konrad Bruns did, but
perhaps also because of World War II and the subsequent division of
Germany. Some trombonists at least associate the name Weschke with the
Modell Weschke trombone from the Kruspe Company in Erfurt.
"Chamber Musician in the Royal Orchestra of Berlin," was an
absolutely exceptional trombone soloist and a worthy successor to August
Belcke (1795-1874), who many consider to have been the first virtuoso
soloist of the slide trombone. Weschke was capable of enchanting audiences
and amazing experts alike, especially when playing his own composition
Carneval in Venedig which, beyond impressive technical brilliance,
ascended up to double high b-flat. In the Deutsche-Militar-Musiker-Zeitung,
No.50, 1935, Karl Storck is quoted; "In concerts in Sonderhausen and
Berlin, I was able to hear for myself Professor Weschke's exceptional
tonal range. He plays up to double high b-flat and c on his tenor trombone
beautifully and with unparalleled ease. To my amazement, he plays
chromatically down to contra E-flat, d, and c (with no F-attachment) in
both slow and fast tempo. These facts amaze me that much more when I
consider that Professor Weschke is 69 years old. He is a truly exceptional
appearance in the line of old masters Belcke, Queisser, Nabich and Bruns
(Sr.). The Trombone Era, which hails back to Belcke in 1815, has reached
its culmination in Paul Weschke."
there are no recordings of Weschke's playing. A planned recording of his
Carneval in Venedig was never realized. Paul Weschke lived from 1867 to
1940, a time in which the trombone was often featured as a solo
instrument. Alongside the well-known Romantic trombone concertos by
Ferdinand David, Serafin Alschausky and Eugen Reiche were many others less
known to us today — C.G. Mueller, Wichtl, Henning, Kaestner etc., not to
mention many other lighter compositions in the popular style. Upon hearing
Weschke perform as soloist, Eugen Reiche, trombone virtuoso in the Royal
Russian Court Orchestra in Saint Petersburg, dedicated his well-known
Trombone Concerto in A-major to him. Weschke received his first trombone
lessons from his father. He later audited the orchestra courses of
trombone virtuoso H. Lampe in the Duke of Dessau's Court Orchestra, and
went on to play in that orchestra for a few years. From 1895 to 1929 he
was solo trombonist of the Royal Orchestra in Berlin (today's
Staatskapelle Berlin in the Staastsoper Unter-den-Linden), where he played
under such prominent conductors as Muck, Sucher, Weingartner, Blech and
From 1903 to 1934, Weschke was trombone teacher at the Staatliche Akademische Hochschule
für Musik in Berlin (today's Hochschule der Künste).
Among the recommendations presented for his appointment to this
institute was one from Dr. Karl Muck, which stated, "Through his
technique as well as the strength, beauty and smoothness of his tone, he
belongs to the most excellent representatives of his instrument. In the
orchestra, he especially stands out through artistic intelligence and
absolute reliability. I am without doubt that his mastery, combined with
his characteristically calm certainty,
most highly for the teaching profession..." In 1913, Paul Weschke
received the title, Königlicher-Kammervirtuose, and in 1917 became the
first German trombonist to receive the title "Professor." Paul
Weschke retired as teacher in 1934 and died in 1940 in Berlin.
HORST RAASCH, TROMBONIST
At the Detmold
ITA Festival 1992, I had the good fortune to meet Prof. Horst Raasch, and
have continued meeting whenever possible. Following Hans Sach's motto,
"Disdain our masters not, my friend, and honor well their art!"
I have greatly enjoyed asking him about his career and experiences
throughout his very active, versatile musical life. Prof. Raasch was, as
far as he knows, the last student of Paul Weschke. Beyond remembering Paul
Weschke, this interview is intended to let Horst Raasch speak to us. His
career spans over five decades of the musical life in Germany, and
includes many important events and developments, in some of which he
played key roles. Horst Raasch's first orchestral position was m 1934 with
the Reichsorchester Berlin, followed by a short engagement with the
Landesorchester Berlin. In 1937 he joined the Symphony Orchestra of the
German Radio, Berlin. In 1939 he was conscripted into military service,
and he served in Poland, Prance and Russia.
After being wounded, he was called to the Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester
in Linz, which at that time was considered equal to the Berlin and Vienna
Philharmonic. Here, in the world famous St. Florian Abbey, he participated
in concerts with G.L. Jochum, Furtwängler, Karajan, Schuricht and Josef
As an American
prisoner-of-war he was recruited with the remains of the
Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester for entertaining allied troops in and around
Linz. During this time he was able to improve and polish his skills in
popular music and jazz, which were to enrich his entire career. In 1946 he
joined the State Opera Orchestra in Stuttgart as solo trombonist where he
played under Ferdinand Leitner, B. Wetzelsberger, Dünnwald and other
prominent conductors. In the same year he was appointed as instructor at
the Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart. During this time he played in
various American clubs as well as m the Radio Stuttgart Big Band under
Erwin Lehn. After winning auditions for solo trombone with both the Berlin
Philharmonic and the NWDR Symphony Orchestra (today's NDR Symphony
Orchestra), he decided to join the latter and was solo trombonist of that
renowned Hamburg orchestra from 1951 to 1980. He was appointed instructor
at the Hamburg Hochschule für Musik in 1960 and named professor there in
1966, where he also served in various administrative councils. In addition
to his responsibilities at the Hochschule and in the NDR Symphony
Orchestra, where he experienced countless artistic highlights under most
of the important conductors, he was a regular guest with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the State Opera in Hamburg. Beyond this, it was his
participation in the big bands of James Last, Bert Kaempfert and the along
with film and record dates that enabled him to enjoy his profession in
such rich diversity. He was active as coach for the brass players of the
German Youth Orchestra, as well as the World Youth Orchestra. He was juror
for various contests and courses, and participated for many years in the
Ulm Bach Weeks under Pierre Boulez, and in the Ensemble Contemporain m La
Rochelle under Tabachnik and Globokar. Horst Raasch retired from the
active music profession in 1986 and now lives in Oberau by
Many thanks go
to him, not only for openly sharing his experiences with us, but also for
knowing, recalling and being able to document an astonishing wealth of
knowledge and details! One recognizes readily that he was a musician in
body and soul. I wish him all the best!
TROMBONE IS YOUR FUTURE!"
RAASCH IN CONVERSATION WITH CARL LENTHE
Raasch, you were the last student of the legendary Paul Weschke. How did
you come to study with him? What were your musical experiences up to that
I was, as near
as I know, his last student. I recall how I came to Professor Weschke. As
a six-year-old, I received violin lessons from my father, who later sent
me to Mr. Venus, the concertmaster of the Staatsoper in Berlin. I advanced
to the Stern Conservatory, which was in Berlin /Charlottenberg. There I
received violin lessons from Mrs. von Glasenapp. I was not entirely keen
on studying music, and vacillated between this and athletics, in which I
was quite active. I did finally register for studies in the orchestral
class at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, which was called the Staatliche
Akademische Hochschule für Musik in those days, and in 19301 passed the
entrance examination. Back then it was common for a string player to learn
a wind instrument, and vice versa. We had courses in Rhythm, Theory, Ear
Training and so on. Piano was mandatory. After passing my en- trance
examination as violinist, I was to be assigned a wind instrument, and the
suggestion was bassoon. Suddenly, Professor Weschke approached me and
commanded, "Let me see your mouth and teeth," at which point he
announced, "He'll play the trombone." I was apparently the only
one who in the hearing test had accurately repeated all of the notes,
intervals and chords. Normally a trombonist would play cello as his string
instrument, but since I had passed my entrance exam with the violin, we
left it with that instrument. My violin teacher was Mr. Jahn,
concertmaster of the City Opera in Charlottenburg (today's Deutsche Oper
Berlin). As I mentioned, I was an active, enthusiastic athlete: handball,
soccer, and track and field. I competed for Berlin in many intercity
competitions, and won prizes in discus, shot put, high Jump, pentathlon
and so on. I was also being considered for an invitation to the Olympic
handball team. After an injury and operation on my left index finger, I
had difficulty with double stops on the violin, and was forced to major in
trombone. Prof. Weschke supported this wholeheartedly, and said to me,
"The trombone is your future."
In the first
year my lesson began at 8:00 A.M.! Prof. Weschke was always in the
Hochschule by 7:30 A.M. and took keen note of the students who were
practicing and those who weren't. After choosing trombone as my major, I
received an instrument from the school. The slide was not in order, and
the water key was leaky. I practiced half an hour each day. Practicing
was a problem for me, because I was still entertaining thoughts of
pursuing sports and music with equal intensity. Eventually, the half hour
proved to be insufficient and as my lesson went a bit longer one day, I
could hardly get a note out of the instrument. When Professor Weschke
asked how long I practiced, I answered, "oh, about a half hour or
so..." "Unmööööglich!" (Impossible!) , he scolded me.
"You must practice for hours every day!" He scolded me so
thoroughly that I told my parents I would not go back to him anymore. Due
to athletic tournaments and competitions, I was often unable to take part
m concerts with the school orchestra, and was forced to choose between
music and sports. Since I was no longer going to trombone lessons with
Professor Weschke, he came and visited my parents to see what was the
matter. I learned afterwards that he regarded me as his best student, and
that he had big plans for me. He was a bit gentler with me after that, and
I started practicing five hours a day.
were you then?
About 15 years
old. For the mid-term exam I chose the Sachse Concerto. My fellow students
thought that I was showing off with that choice because they had never
heard me practice. They all chose easier pieces. After the exam, they were
all surprised and said that it was great. This successful experience
spurred me on.
lessons with Professor Weschke like? What methods did he use?
Lessons with him were quite varied and never boring. He had his own
individual method. For him, the trombone was not so much a loud, strong
instrument, although we did have to play that way when necessary of
course. He repeatedly said, "The trombone has to be able to sound
like a cello." About his methods: We had to play all scales in major,
minor, harmonic, melodic, up and down, and they had to be written out by
hand. Long tones were also essential, and we practiced them this way:
Attack the tone softly but clearly four times, take a deep breath and play
from pianissimo to fortissimo and back, making sure that the tone stands
steady, and doesn't waver about like a palm in the wind. This repeatedly
and in all registers, starting step-by-step in one octave and advancing on
to two octaves. That builds endurance! I have a quote from him about
absolutely clean technique is more difficult to achieve on the trombone
than on the other orchestra instruments, the trombonist should concentrate
primarily on tonal beauty. To achieve this, the trombonist must constantly
practice scales and tone studies, and then mainly operatic arias and
songs, of course with the text written in." (Source: Deutsche Militär-Musiker-Zeitung,
Special printing from No. 47,1935) He placed great value on correct
slurring, especially the slurs that, as I say, don't break but rather are
in one air column, where otherwise a glissando would occur — B, C, D,
for example. I learned from him to play the note and then suppress the air
stream very briefly while moving the slide very quickly. This is not what
one usually hears today, where the slurs are all "pushed" —
duu duu duu duu — which, practically speaking, is simpler and easier.
didn't use the legato tongue?
No. No legato tongue when slurring, only if
there were dots or dashes over the notes. Where real slurs are required,
one suppresses the air column for a hundredth of a second while quickly
shifting the slide, so that no smear is audible. He would not tolerate
smeariness. It had to be perfect, which you can only master through
practice. That is how Weschke taught it. He used the following exercises
to illustrate and practice the technique:
And tonguing exercises?
Staccato, yes. He did very little double and
triple tonguing, since he was able to tongue very well.
Which etudes did
he go through with the students? Did he compose any?
As near as I
know, he composed only his solo piece, Carneval in Venedig. In lessons, he
would use the standard etudes from Bruns, Kopprasch, Müller and others.
Weschke didn't really value etudes so highly. He would, as always, play it
for you and then work through it and point out the specific difficulties
and challenges of the etude, and that was it then. He didn't ride around
on the etudes.
What aspects of playing did he stress? What were his
He was very correct, very exact, especially with
rhythm. He would insist that the difference between eighths, triplets,
sixteenth, and thirty-second notes be exact. That is very important,
especially in ensemble playing. He was very picky. Beyond that, he valued
tone, technique and breathing. He didn't say much about breathing — we
had to figure that out for ourselves. What is the proper breathing
process? How does one breathe? He would show us, but offered no
explanations of the sort that one finds today in the wealth of teaching
material on the subject. Most important for him was to breathe early and
deep. He would sing everything for us. He studied voice for two years and
was quoted on that point as follows, "It is most beneficial for the
wind player to study singing on the side. I myself enjoyed two years of
voice lessons." (Source: Deutsche Militär-Musiker-Zeitung) For that
reason we played many opera arias that were in our range. He had
transcribed them for trombone and we had to copy them with the text
written under the notes.
Why was the text so important for him?
wind players will often breathe in different places than the singers. We
had to breathe in accordance with the text and achieved longer phrases for
it. He always insisted, "Don't wait till the last second to
play a lot in lessons, or sing?
Both. He would
play the passage for me, then sing, then play it again and sing it again,
so that I would think, "If only he would let me play!" But because he played it for me so often, I was able to play it back quite well.
What was his voice range?
He was more of a baritone, but with an upward
tendency, somewhat brighter.
How did he teach the orchestral excerpts?
Here too, he was very correct and exact. He especially never let up with
the rhythm. All of the important trombone passages in the literature had
to be memorized. He said, "The string and piano players play by
memory for hours. You should be able to manage these few passages."
Weschke with his trombone class, approximately 1932. Back row,
sixth from left: Raasch, Back
row, third from right: Thiele (later with the Berlin Philharmonic)
How did he teach
the high and low registers? He must have had a tremendous range.
Yes indeed, he
had an enormous range. He could play chromatically into the pedal
register, including E-flat, D, D-flat, C and B without the F-attachment,
and with a fuller sound than many others with the F-attachment I also had
to repeatedly practice these pedal notes without the valve, and then play
them for him. The challenge here is to control the air so that the tone
stays steady. I was finally able to play the pedal tones almost as well as
he did, for which he once gave me an apple! That was a very special
gesture from him.
And the high register?
It is well known that he had an
excellent and reliable high register. This was very convincingly shown in
his composition, Carneval in Venedig, which he taught me and played for me
at the age of 65!
How did he teach
the upper register?
Well, two things were important for him here. First,
one had to tense the lips, but only enough so that the air could flow
through easily and the tone not become too thin. Secondly, one had to
press the air stream up, as in singing. The tone had to be clear and not
thin. And then, what was very important to him, the repeated playing of
scales to practice endurance. After a while, you would notice an
improvement of up to a fourth, because the power was there. Many players
who have an inclination for the upper register don't have the power because they practice too little, or don't breathe deeply enough. They
simply have not trained. They practice until nothing more comes out and
then they stop. It is like an athlete, Weschke explained to me, who
constantly works out. The athlete must constantly train the muscles so
that the strength is there. For the extreme high and low registers, of
course, one should have a certain natural aptitude.
Here is how I
worked on it: when ascending into the upper register with long tones, I
would go as far as possible and then take a break, restart at that point
and go down again. I practiced that way for some time and was gradually
able to play the high b-flat, where I had earlier only brought warm air
out of the horn.
Who were some of
Weschke's other students?
Everyone who wanted to improve on the trombone
came to Professor Weschke in those days. He had private students who
already had positions in orchestras, and he had military musicians working
toward their "Meister" titles as trombone majors, and he taught
at the Hochschule für Musik. Most of the trombonists in the Berlin
Staatsoper, including Alfred Jacobs, who became his successor at the
Hochschule, were students of his. To name some names; Ramin, Franetzki
(both at the Staatsoper), Metag (Essen), Klinge (Hannover), Rossberg (Cassel),
Thiele (Berlin Philharmonic) and Doss (Linz). Of six former students who
played in the Staatsoper, five played also in the Bayreuth Festival
Orchestra in 1936. Weschke himself was personally invited by Dr. Muck to
play in Bayreuth. I played as first trombonist at the re-commencement of
the Bayreuth Festival in 1951.
As we know from your resume, you were able
to gain experience in various Berlin orchestras. World War II
interrupted your career, and you became a soldier. During your studies you
were interested in jazz and popular music. You later had the opportunity
to play in bands and combos. Was it difficult getting started? How did you
learn and practice this music?
I was always interested m jazz and popular
music. When we heard, for example, that Jack Hilton was coming to Berlin
to play in the Scala, then of course we would go. His was the best English
band of the time. James Kok played the top hit of the day. Where's the
Tiger, with his band in the dance cafe Moka Efti on Friedrichstrasse, and
Teddy Stauffer played at the Delphi-Palace on Kantstrasse. We were about
16 or 17 years old at the time and were not allowed into the
establishments. So we would stand at the door, listen, and be amazed. It
was especially the rhythm and style of the jazz music that impressed me.
After being wounded in the war, I was in a substitute company in
Heidelberg. There I met a group of jazzers who were assigned to entertain
the troops, and they were desperately looking for a trombonist. That is
how I came back to music. We played all of the forbidden American hits
like Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Sleepy Lagoon,
Stardust, I'm Getting
Sentimental Over You and many others. I had heard Tommy Dorsey play
Getting Sentimental on records and thought that I should be able to play
it that way too. What especially impressed me were the long phrases that
he played. I was already soloing with this hit all over, and was
frustrated that I had to breathe three times where he only breathed once.
Through practice I was able to play the phrases with two breaths, and
later in one breath. Of course there is a difference between me standing
in front of the band in the ballroom and him in the studio in front of
the microphone. He needs much less air that way! This brings me back to
Weschke: "breathe early and deep!"
Horst Raasch as
soloist with the band of the medical hold company in Heidelberg,
way, I was able to do justice to these solos. Later, in Stuttgart, word
got around. "There's a guy in the opera who can play in the jazz
style." And so I had the fortune to play in some very good bands,
such as the Wehrmann Band of Radio Stuttgart or later with his successor,
Erwin Lehn, and also in the American clubs in and around Stuttgart. Those
were very good bands.
What were your musical experiences during the wax?
What happened afterwards?
In a nutshell: In January 1944 I was recalled
and ordered to the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz. As you may know, Linz,
after the annexation, was to become the cultural center of the German
Reich. An orchestra that was to be equal to the Berlin and Vienna
Philharmonic orchestras was founded there, for which they recruited the
best musicians from the various radio orchestras throughout Germany. The
chief conductor was Georg Ludwig Jochum, and the concerts took place in
the St. Florian Abbey near Linz. All the illustrious conductors of that
tune, such as Furtwängler, Karajan, Keilberth, Schuricht arid others,
were guest conductors. The orchestra was dissolved shortly before the end
of the War, as the Russian were already at
the gates of Vienna. The postwar attempt to reassemble the Bruckner
Orchestra in Germany (Bad Pyrmont) was not successful. The present day
Bruckner Orchestra in Linz emerged from the Orchestra of the Landestheater
there and has only the name in common with the Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester.
(See: Das Bruckner-Stift St. Florian and the Linzer Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester 1942-1945.) After
the war's end, I traveled through Austria with a band under Peter Kreuder.
At the end of 1945 we had to leave Austria. Starting in January 1946, I was
solo trombonist with the Stuttgart Staatsoper and also teacher at the
Hochschule für Musik there.
To pick up on your playing in the big bands
and in the American clubs — what was it like to be at home with your
trombone in two musical worlds? Was it difficult to switch back and forth?
Sometimes the changeover could take a few minutes. In the big band, due to
the rhythm, one has to be exactly on the beat, whereas in the orchestra
one often plays after the conductor's beat. It takes a while to figure
that out and is different in every orchestra and with every conductor.
trombones did you play?
Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, everyone had to play Kruspe. My first
trombone was, of course, a Kruspe Modell Weschke. I played it for 30
years. In the big bands in Stuttgart, I started playing smaller trombones
from Buescher and King. The first years in the Hamburg NDR Orchestra I
still played my Kruspe, while in the big bands of James Last, Bert
Kaempfert or in the film studios, I played everything on the Conn
Connstellation. Once as Pierre Boulez was with the NDR Orchestra to
conduct a modern program, he asked me, "Say, why is it that when you
play, it sounds like what I know from Paris, but the others sound so thick
and heavy?" I could only answer that it depends partly on the
instrument, but also on the manner of playing, and that you can tell right
away if someone plays only classical music or also some more modern
things. I then had a set of Bach trombones ordered for my section. I
continued to play my Connstellation. I had to be a bit careful with it,
but since I played a large mouthpiece on it I could match the sound of
the others. I often
substituted with the Berlin Philharmonic, and also played my
Connstellation there, even though they preferred the German trombone. I
once coincidentally overheard a couple of colleagues conversing, "It
sounds nice, the way he plays." So for me the problem was solved.
Well, if the changing back and forth between the styles presented no
difficulties for you, could you say that the one enhanced the other?
think so, especially technically. That little bit of the William Tell
Overture used to be considered technical, but what is demanded of the
trombone today is, of course, something entirely different. Jazz has
brought us further in many respects. The sense of rhythm that you learn in
the big band can also be an advantage in the orchestra. Through playing a
lot with the big bands, my attitude and behavior was also a bit more
relaxed. The work atmosphere in the band is simply more open and free than
in the orchestra. Because of this experience I was able to lighten up the
attitude in our corner of the orchestra.
Back to classic.
During your time in
Stuttgart, you had quite a few
opportunities to take another job.
What was important in your decision?
I had played an
audition for the Berlin Philharmonic and, according to the player
executive, received a unanimous vote, an accomplishment of which I was, of
course, proud back then. I was also supposed to resume work in the
Symphony Orchestra of the Berlin Radio, where I had been before the War.
After the War, the radio station was in the British sector of Berlin, but
had been surrounded, fenced in and sealed off by the Russians. I also
played an audition m
Hamburg, for the NWDR Radio Symphony Orchestra (today's NDR), and won the
job. I decided to take the position in Hamburg, partly because of the
political situation in Berlin, and partly because the Berlin Philharmonic
is, and I guess has to be, more of a travel orchestra.
In Hamburg, you
seem to have found a custom-made setting for your many-faceted approach to
the music profession where, in addition to the orchestral playing, you
could pursue popular music and also dedicate yourself to teaching. Did you use the
same teaching methods as Weschke?
Yes, at least half of what I taught came
from Weschke, because I was, and still am convinced that his approach to
playing was good and right. I especially propagated Weschke's rhythmic and
dynamic integrity as well as correctness in breathing. The playing of
songs and opera arias, an important point with Weschke, was not always
enthusiastically pursued by the students. I remember one student who, when
assigned some folk songs and arias, asked, "What kind of stuff is
this, anyway?" The students practiced all kinds of things, high and
low, modern techniques like talking, singing, coughing and banging about
while playing, but they weren't able to play a nice song! One must keep up
with the times — it has to be — and work on the things that the
students are interested in. You learn a lot that way, and much of it is
actually pretty good, but you really should be able to play a song nicely!
Another Weschke point that I continued to practice was to demonstrate
everything for the students that they wanted to hear, which in my case
could include jazzy things, if they were interested.
Which method books or
systems did you use in your teaching?
I have many method books, but don't
find any of them to be ideal. They often contain so many unimportant
things, and crucial items are barely mentioned or even left out. For
beginners, the Müller method seemed to be the best. For advanced
students, I would always pick and chose the best items from various
materials, for example from the Lafosse method, to name just one.
and trombone students, Hamburg, 3968
Did you teach
No, because I am
not a jazz specialist. Although, thanks to my experience in that genre, I
was able to explain and demonstrate the styles and note values in jazz,
and how that all differs from the classical approach. I did have my
students play a lot of quartets, quintets, octets and such, sometimes with
rhythm section and guitar. We even played quite a few of my own
compositions and arrangements in concerts as well.
did you most often encounter in your teaching?
The students always want to
play high notes. You could hear that they could play them, but it wouldn't
sound easy. A teacher should be able to recognize the student's aptitude
for the upper or lower register.
brought out many students.
Yes, but to list
them all would take too long. I can say, however, that they went on to get
jobs in good orchestras m Germany and beyond — m the U.S.A., England,
Holland, Japan, Hungary, etc.
What do you think of the often-expounded
theory, that musicians used to play less exactly but more expressively?
can't really agree with that, but I suppose it depends where and with whom
you studied. Take the radio orchestras, for example. Back when they
recorded on wax cylinders, the responsibility and pressure were much
higher, because mistakes would cause the whole piece to have to be
recorded again. Today, for five minutes of music they can splice five
times if necessary.
Have you observed a change or development
in the style
of trombone playing over the years? Did trombonists used to play
differently than they do today?
players are more flexible, and have to be so. This is because of the many
styles that we must play, and also because of improvements in the
Let’s take the
David Konzertino as an example. Is it played differently today than in the
Hardly. However, I often hear the piece played inaccurately in the
rhythmical, musical aspects, whereby it is not so important if certain
passages are played faster or slower.
Did they used to play David with
more rubati, and allow themselves more freedom of interpretation?
They used to play the piece more dramatically, more theatrically.
Professor Raasch, you not only played a lot of trombone in your career,
but also for many, many years. Did you develop any practice routines for
yourself? What were your
practice habits during your career?
Well, there really wasn't much time to
practice. When there was, I would practice scales, slurs, staccato,
orchestral excerpts and so on. There was always enough to do, and I was
glad when I had some time to rest. There were always certain passages that
I had to look at and prepare before the concert, but I didn't really
practice as such. I stayed in good form just through my teaching at the
Hochschule, and never really had any embouchure problems. I would play for
half of the lesson time anyway, just as I had learned from Weschke. I just
couldn't sing as well as he did.
How did you experience the aging process
as a brass player?
I didn't really
notice any aging process, and was fortunate to maintain my playing skills
right up to my retirement from the orchestra, and was not bothered by
nerve problems. Like- wise, I was able to play in lessons right to the
So you certainly don't regret having pursued music professionally?
No, on the contrary. I would do it all again, and am glad to have achieved
all that I did.
Raasch, thank you for talking with
© 1996. Carl
Lenthe, IPV Journal, No. 4/1996.
Reserved. Reprinted by permission.
Carl Lenthe was
born into a musical family in 1956 and grew up in the Delaware Valley in
Pennsylvania. His love of good music, inspired by concert bands and
recordings of the great orchestras and nurtured by the school music system
in his home town Springfield, led him to the Curtis Institute of Music and
a career in music, which commenced at the age of 20 with his engagement as
Solo-Trombonist under Wolfgang Sawallisch (it the Bavarian State Opera in
Munich, Germany. In the course of his 17-year tenure there, he was named
"Bavarian Chamber Virtuoso" by the Ministry of Culture. He is
currently Solo-Trombonist with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.
As a trombone
soloist Lenthe won first prize with special mention at the Prague Spring
Competition and has appeared as soloist with the Leipzig Gewandhaus
Orchestra, Prague Symphony, and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. He is
active in diverse chamber music formations and has, as orchestral
trombonist, been a frequent guest with many renowned orchestras. His
expertise on the Wagnerian Bass Trumpet keeps him in regular demand in
many European opera houses. Having received high-quality instrumental and
musical instruction from the start, he feels a commitment to teaching and
enjoys working with a wide variety of pupils both on an individual basis
and in workshops and clinics in Southern Ger- many, Austria, South Tyrolia
and in the U.S. He lives near Bamberg, Germany, with his wife and four
children, who ensure that he also pursues a great variety of non- musical
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