THE ART OF THE POSTHORN
From Countryside to Concert Hall
DOUGLAS HEDWIG, posthorn
"...a wonderful recording...Not only is the performance and recording quality excellent, but the CD also includes a very useful booklet discussing the posthorn, its history, and its repertoire...Hedwig is equally comfortable and skilled performing with and without the venting hole [posthorns]...Hedwig's performance radiates music, even through the most challenging registers and passages...he is an excellent posthorn player in every sense...and Jorge Parodi performs his piano reductions masterfully...this CD is a must-own."
International Trumpet Guild Journal - June 2007
“Doug Hedwig's performances are lively and very musical...[the] solos are played with a grace and lilt that complements the idioms...What [he] has presented in this CD in not only his work as a performer and researcher, but a sort of auditory museum exhibit on the practical and musical uses of the posthorn in the 1800s, presented with the social context in which it thrived.”
Flora Newberry, Historic Brass Society [Online CD Review, 2008]
"...of historic interest...this CD is well-recorded both in the performances and the sound quality...."
The Horn Call [February 2008]
"The Art of the Posthorn qualifies primarily as...documentation of a significant European musical tradition that has virtually vanished, and considered as such, it succeeds very well...Trumpeter Douglas Hedwig performs on a variety of original instruments with panache, with a broader expressive range than might have been thought possible on instruments of such limited technical possibilities. Pianist Jorge Parodi capably accompanies him in pieces by Mozart, Michael Haydn and Louis Spohr, among others...an intriguing and attractively produced document of a nearly forgotten musical tradition."
Stephen Eddins, All Music Guide [October 2007]
"Albert Hiller’s Das grosse Buch vom Posthorn successfully occupies the posthorn niche on the brasswind bookshelf. This is possibly why Hedwig, who is himself an acknowledged scholar of signalling instruments and their repertoire, has issued this stand-alone CD: it makes a perfect companion to Hiller‘s book. Even without the book, however, Hedwig’s extensive sleeve notes give ample context to the recordings. Hedwig is clearly a master of extracting real music from the rather limited resources of the posthorn family."
Arnold Myers, Director
Edinburgh University Collection of Musical Instruments
THE ART OF THE POSTHORN From Countryside to Concert Hall
Throughout much of the western world in the 18th and 19th centuries, the sounds of posthorns, bugles, and signal-trumpets were a regular and meaningful part of people’s everyday lives. Indeed, it is unlikely that the average person could have gone a single day without hearing a horn or trumpet call of some kind, as these instruments were used in horse-drawn coach and steamship travel, in religious services and civic ceremonies, for hunting and horse racing, by firefighters, athletic and bicycle clubs, and in military settings.
However, the most familiar and often-heard calls and tunes were those associated with the postal system and the delivery of the mail, and it was here that signal instruments found their fullest musical development and growth. The importance and prevalence of these “post” horns and the music they produced was such that many composers of art music were inspired to incorporate their signals and songs, or adaptations of them, into their compositions.
In its most basic and traditional form, the posthorn was an entirely “natural” instrument, and the notes it could produce were limited to those of a single harmonic series (like the military bugle calls still in regular use throughout the world). In the earlier history of these instruments their tubing was shorter, restricting them to calls spanning no more than an octave. As instruments became longer and the players developed their range and technique, the posthorn calls could become more interesting and varied. The brass tubing of the most common posthorns during the Classical and Romantic Periods (the “Golden Age of the Posthorn”) was configured in a compact circular form, in three or four turns, with the bell-section pointed to the side and back of the performer. The postal-trumpet (bell forward, like the bugle) was used by postal carriers in parts of Northern Europe, while in England and America the straight (i.e., uncoiled) instrument was preferred.
According to the 1832 “Instruction on the Use of the Posthorn for Royal Hanover Postillions [mail carriers],” the primary purpose of the posthorn was “to signal the approach of postal conveyances and thus secure them unhindered and speedy attention.” Signal horns were also used at this time to indicate road conditions, to inform toll-keepers that an express mail coach was coming through and would require free passage, to signal to innkeepers ahead how many passengers were in need of lodging, whether a fresh team of horses was required, etc. Specific calls or signals communicated precise information. Indeed, it may be said that the calls that were performed on these instruments were one of the earliest forms of “wireless communication.”
It is clear, however, that by 1832 the posthorn was no longer simply a signaling instrument, but also functioned as a significant melodic instrument. This same Hanover document goes on to state that “the posthorn also serves to increase the amenities of postal traffic in that it is most appropriate to the performance of attractive melodies.”
In 1853, King Maximilian II of Bavaria instructed his mail-carriers not only to sound the posthorn while transporting the mail, but also to perform folk music, national airs, and popular songs throughout the countryside “for the edification and cultural education of the common people.” And noted German journalist and cultural historian Wilhelm Riehl (1823-1897) wrote of the “posthorn’s noble mission in the service of folk music, good and true.” Thus, the posthorn served an important role in promoting 19th century “Civic Humanism.”
In fact, postillions throughout Europe were required to play the posthorn, and to play it well. In 1839, a notice from the Munich Post Office indicates “that only such persons as are familiar with the use of the posthorn may be employed as postillions,” and that they were to master both the required calls and any other pleasing melodies they might choose. In 1826, the French Postal Council (“Conseil des Postes”) authorized an expenditure of 336 francs for 84 musical lessons on the posthorn; it is not clear what time period this covered or how many postillions were the beneficiaries of these lessons, but it seems clear that excellence in performance on the instrument was considered a job requirement for postal carriers. Further evidence of this was the establishment, in 1839, of a permanent school in Paris for the instruction of the posthorn, as well as the fact that any postal worker who had an unjustified absence from this instruction risked being heavily fined or dismissed from the service. The many published collections of posthorn songs and melodies from this period indicate a surprisingly high level of technical ability and musical literacy.
During the 19th century, in order to increase the range of notes available on the basic signaling posthorn, the instrument came to be equipped with a single tone-hole, or vent-hole, situated two-thirds of the way along the length of the tube. By shortening the tube when opened, this tone-hole raised the natural notes of the instrument by a fourth. Even though the notes produced by using the tone-hole did not match the principal notes in sound quality, this innovation constituted a substantial improvement in the Bavarian posthorn, in particular. From around 1830, posthorns with up to four or five tone-holes closed by keys, followed by posthorns with two or three valves, were developed for use in salon orchestras and wind bands. Combined with their high cost, such valved instruments were too delicate for service use, and were bought and used primarily by posthorn virtuosos for their musical performances.
However, most of these mechanical changes were still in the future when, in the 18th and early 19th centuries, composers such as Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Michael Haydn, Beethoven, and Spohr became inspired to compose music either employing posthorns or imitating their basic stylistic intervals and rhythms. By so doing, these composers effectively completed the musical transformation of the posthorn from a basic signal horn echoing through the countryside, into an instrument of art music appreciated in the concert hall.
Douglas Hedwig was the first trumpeter to be awarded the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the Juilliard School, and is presently Professor of Trumpet and Director of Brass Instrument Studies at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York (CUNY). Prior to accepting his appointment at CUNY, he was a faculty member at The Juilliard School, where he lectured on music history. He was Stage-Trumpeter and an Associate Member of The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra from 1973-2000, and as a member of the Mexico City Philharmonic, performed in virtually every major concert hall in North America. He has recorded more than 50 LPs and CDs on major labels in virtually all musical idioms, including the Grammy Award-Winning recording of Gershwin’s "Porgy & Bess." As Music Director of the Metropolitan Brass Quartet, he recorded the album, "Discoveries; Five Centuries for Four Brass," toured extensively, and oversaw the commissioning and premiere of many new works by prominent American composers. He co-created and served as Executive Director of Orvieto Musica, an international chamber music workshop in Italy, and was recipient of a Telly Award for his work as Executive Producer and Music Director of the TV documentary, "Fanfare." From 1976 to 2004, he was a member and soloist with the world-renowned Goldman Band in New York City, and is currently a member of the Federal City Brass Band, a touring and recording ensemble specializing in the performance of 19th century American music on original instruments. Dr. Hedwig serves on the Board of Advisors of The Historic Brass Society, and was Civilian Bugler for the New York City Fire Department.
Jorge Parodi, pianist, has been a faculty member at The Juilliard School since 1998, and is an adjunct professor at New York University. As a soloist and chamber musician, Jorge Parodi has performed throughout the United States, Argentina, Canada, Italy, Israel and Japan, and is featured in recordings on Albany Records and Aurophon (Germany). He is Vocal Coach of the Brooklyn College Opera Theater, and serves on the faculties of The International Vocal Arts Institute (Tel Aviv, Nagano and Beijing), IIVA (Chiari, Italy), and V.O.I.C.Experience (directed by Sherrill Milnes).
1 Signal: Departure & Arrival of Express Mail (Prussia, 1828)
2 Peter Strecks: Walzer No. 23 – Introduction/Waltz (1846)
3 JOHANN F. GRENSER: ALLA POLLACA (from Sinfonia alla posta, 1783)
4 Signal: Karlsbad Postal Call (from Beethoven’s sketchbook, 1812)
5 Peter Strecks: Ländler No.19 – Introduction/Ländler (1846)
6 LOUIS SPOHR: POLACA (from Notturno, Op.34, 1816)
7 Peter Strecks: Galopp, No. 17 – Introduction/Galopp (1846)
8 Signal: Departure Call (St. Gallen, Switzerland, 1841)
9 WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART: MENUETTO II (from Serenade, K.320, 1779)
10 Signal: Extra-Post Delivery (Austro-Hungarian, 1844)
11 Signal: Freight Coach Delivery (Austro-Hungarian, 1844)
12 MICHAEL HAYDN: MENUETTO (from Symphony in A major, 1781)
13 Signal: Arrival of Extra-Post, Thurn & Taxis (1833)
14 Signal: Departure of Postal Carrier, Thurn & Taxis (1833)
15 MICHAEL HAYDN: MARCIA (from Cantata, Applicatio “Quis dulcis meas?” 1778)
16 Signal: Departure Call (Sweden, c.1850)
17 Galop No.10 (Denmark, 1843)
18 RICHARD B. TAYLOR: THE POSTILLION WALTZ (1839)
19 Signal: Private Postal Delivery (Hanover, 1832)
20 National Song, Schleswig-Holstein – Introduction/Song (1846, arr. P. Strecks)
21 FRANZ SCHUBERT: DIE POST (from Die Winterreisse, Op.89, 1827)
22 Peter Strecks: Ländler No.39 – Introduction/Ländler (1846)
23 CONRADIN KREUTZER: HARK! THE POSTHORN SOUNDS! (1845)
24 O Tannenbaum (1886, arr. Anton Scherleins)
25 Kommt a Vogerl geflogen (1886, arr. Anton Scherleins)
26 HEINRICH SCHAEFFER: DIE POST IM WALDE (c.1860)
27 Peter Strecks: Allegretto No.6 (1846)
28 The Post Horn Polka (anon., formerly attrib. J. Strauss II, c.1855)
Brass Band Music of the Civil War