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Brass Consort von Humboldt Programs

Brass Consort von Humboldt is an ensemble devoted to the musics, instruments, and historically informed performance practices of the renaissance and baroque eras. Also added are “missing links” of continuo (bass and chords) and drums and other percussion. Founded in the summer of 1998, BCvH concertized extensively, appearing at the conferences (California Music Educator's Association and Historic Brass Society), community concerts, an organ concert at San Francisco's Palace of the Legion of Honor, for the H.M.B Endeavour (replica of Captain Cook's 1768 ship), and in numerous California churches, cathedrals, and missions. BCvH recorded a full-length audio CD which employed cornetti, sackbuts, natural trumpets, serpent, continuo instruments, string orchestra, and other resources. Since valves were not invented and refined until the 19th century, the modern brasswinds and their fully chromatic capabilities were not known in earlier times, when "natural" brass could only play tones of the harmonic series. Developments ensued, and at a high point from about 1550 to 1650, “Cornetti e tromboni” were favored consort instruments -- until the arrival of, and subsequent domination by, the violin. The cornetto is a hybrid combining a very small trumpet-type lip-reed mouthpiece with a body having a fingering system resembling recorder. Termed “Zink” in Germanic lands and prized there for its unique sound, it remained in use until the 1700s in settings from civic bands to the cantatas of Bach. The trombone was an offshoot of “zugtrumpet,” the long trumpet of the renaissance having a single slide -- and the trumpet moving back and forth on that slide -- allowing additional notes beyond the basic “bugle tones.” In Germany the trombone (an Italian name so common we take it for granted) was, and still is, termed Posaune; in England it was “Sagbutt” (alternatively Sackbut), a seeming derivative of continental (French and Spanish) terms meaning “push and pull.” A research grant led to the exclusive design and construction for BCvH of a true quart/quintbass sackbut, able to play in low F and low Eb, and with the requisite slide so long that the player must use an extension handle.

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