Orchestral Excerpts for the Tenor Trombonist: Schubert, Symphony No. 9 in C Major

By Marc LaChance • September 01, 1998 • 3 min read

Though rare on auditions, this work is frequently performed and recorded by orchestras. On older recordings it may be referred to as the 7th symphony. This numbering inconsistency is due to the large number of Schubert's works left unpublished at his death, which has made putting these compositions in chronological order very difficult. The subtitle, "Great C Major," is almost always included, and makes finding recordings easy. Since there are many recordings of this work, there is no shortage of interpretations available, and one will find considerable differences in tempo among these recordings.

This symphony uses three trombones, the first part written in alto clef, second in tenor and third in bass clef. The trombones play frequently in this symphony, and often play melodic material. Listening to a recording and having a score will aid in identifying where the trombone part is melodic or harmonic. It can be difficult to make this distinction just looking at the part, as this work is rhythmically repetitive, and the melodies tend to be made up of several connected ideas.

There is evidence that this work was written between 1825 and 1828, and it has more in common with Beethoven and Classical symphonies than with later Romantic symphonies. The frequently marked fortes and fortissimos should be played with that context in mind.

The primary challenges in this work are as follows:

  1. Much of the trombone scoring is in unison and octaves, making the excerpt considerably more difficult to play with the section than alone. For this reason this excerpt may be seen on the final round of an audition, played with the trombone section to address ensemble blend, balance and intonation.
  2. The dotted quarter - eighth note rhythms in the Allegro section should be clearly articulated. Practice these slowly, making sure the articulation is consistent throughout. Note any rebound of the tongue after the eighth, making the following note less articulated. It is also important that the eighth notes not be crowded by the sound of the dotted quarter notes, so a slight decay on the dotted quarters is common.

Following are several sections representative of these challenges:

The time signature at the beginning is printed in common time in many editions, but should be cut time. This first section is commonly played on recordings at about half note = 62, with a broad feeling in two. Work to ensure the melodic flow continues through both the eighth note and the sudden dynamic changes at the second and fourth measures after B.

The second excerpt is the most common section used in auditions. The entire soli section is scored for all three trombones in unison. It is commonly played legato, yet with good "front" on the notes. The tempo of this section can vary considerably from one conductor to the next, usually within the range of half note = 66 to 82. Intonation can be tricky here, since Schubert changes keys frequently throughout this section, evidenced by the many enharmonic spellings one encounters.

These are just two short sections of the trombone part. The difficulties of these excerpts are evident throughout the work, and the above suggestions can be applied.

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