Tuesday, March 20, 2012

History of the Four Ewald Quintets

Before reading this article I was aware of basic information regarding Ewalds life, his occupation as an engineer, his mastery of several instruments and basic information about his quintets.  There are many misconceptions about Ewald because of research that was done without complete accuracy.  There is still much we don't know about him, including the exact dates of many of his compositions.  But new research, such as this article by Andre Smith has helped to clear up some of inconsistencies is his history.
Concerning the debate between the use of piston and rotary valve I don't think there is a clear answer.  Because Ewalds music was commonly played by amateur musicians the instrumentation probably varied depending on who was playing and the instruments available to them.  Ewald was known to rework his compositions for different instruments as his string quartet is a transcription of the fourth brass quintet.  For these reasons I don't believe there is a clear answer to which types of instruments the quintets should be played on.  Rotary or piston would be appropriate in my opinion.
Forsyth's comment that "there is no true legato on the trombone" struck me as a bit off.  In the article his ideas of the process for producing sound on the trombone were discussed and his thoughts that before each slide change the trombonists must rearticulate.  I don't think it's necessary to discuss the mechanical process for producing legato because there are many fine trombonists who can produce legato articulations.  As long as it sounds legato it is legato!
The discussion of instrumental choices came into question throughout the article.  Mainly because there is no exact documentation about which instruments were to be played as well as the fact that often times the quintets were being performed by different instruments I think the choice should be left to the performer to achieve the best idea of sound the group wishes to attain.
Froides Werke can be credited with helping to bring the Ewald quintes to the United States when he traded them to the Empire Brass Quintet.  The American Brass Quintet played an important role in premiering the works to larger audiences and helping the works become more well known.
This article was a very interesting read and helped clear up some of the misconceptions about Ewald and his quintets and I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Ewalds quintets.

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