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Paul Weschke - Horst Raasch

100 Years of Trombone History

This article 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.

 

 100 Years of Trombone History - 

from Paul Weschke to Horst Raasch

 By Carl Lenthe

©1997 ITA Journal

 

 

FOREWORD

The following 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 State Opera. 

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

  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

 

Violinists have 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.

Paul Weschke, "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."

 

 

Unfortunately, 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 Schillings

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,

qualifies him 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 Keilberth.

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 Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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!

 

"THE TROMBONE IS YOUR FUTURE!"

HORST RAASCH IN CONVERSATION WITH CARL LENTHE

 

Professor 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 point? 

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.

How old 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.

What were 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 technique:

"Since an 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. 

He 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:

 

EXERCISES 1 & 2

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 important concepts? 

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? 

Because 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 breathe." 

Did he 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."

   

Professor 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, approximately 1942

Practicing this 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.

Which model trombones did you play?

At the 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? 

I 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.

Professor Raasch and trombone students, Hamburg, 3968

Did you teach jazz too?

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.

Which problems 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.

You obviously 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? 

I 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?

Yes. Today's 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 instrument.

Let’s take the David Konzertino as an example. Is it played differently today than in the past? 

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? 

Yes. 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 end. 

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.

Professor Raasch, thank you for talking with us.

© 1996. Carl Lenthe, IPV Journal, No. 4/1996.

All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission.

 

ABOUT THE WRITER...

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.


Carl Lenthe

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 activities.

 

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