Instruments | Valves in Brass | Early Romantic | Classical

Baroque brass music was written for natural horns and trumpets. The classical period saw experiments with introducing keys into trumpets: the concertos for trumpet by Haydn and Hummel were both written with a keyed trumpet in mind. Trumpeters and horn players also experimented with using one hand in the bell to affect pitch. However, in the early Romantic period valves were introduced into the brass section.

Valves are really a mechanized version of the old Baroque crook. The difference is that instead of the crooks having to be slotted in or whipped out mid-performance, they are all permanently built into the instrument. The valve acts like a traffic policeman with a set of cones. When the valves are untouched, the player’s breath passes straight down the ‘high street’ of the instrument. Each time a valve comes into play, the policeman cones off the main route, and the player’s breath is forced down a diversion of varying length. These diversions are the crooks.

The invention of valves is attributed to Stölzel and Blühmel of Berlin in the late 1820s, and although older instruments were not abandoned overnight, it was certainly the valve trumpet that Rossini had in mind when he wrote Guillaume Tell. The French horn too became a valve instrument at this time. Schumann wrote for the valve horn in his Konzertstück op. 70 for four horns and orchestra.

Styles & Forms | Early Romantic | Classical
Instruments | The Early Romantic Orchestra | Early Romantic | Classical


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