Paul Weschke (Part 1)

by Per Gade

Paul Weschke (b. 31. january 1867 – d. 19. March 1940.)]


Paul Weschke was the greatest trombone virtuoso of his era. He was known for his fantastic technique and range on the instrument, as well as a great trombone player, often used as a soloist with piano, organ or orchestras in Germany.

Concerning his repertoire on the trombone, we must remember that in his lifetime the world did not yet know about all the great old original compositions for trombone solo, from Mozart, Wagenseil, Liszt, Speer, and others. These compositions had not been found yet and were still hiding in old manuscript collections and libraries around Europe. Therefore a great trombone soloist such as Paul Weschke, and others from his time, had to make their own repertoire, or persuade composers of their own time to write trombone solo music for them.

This story is long before a certain Herr Hitler destroyed the reputaton of Germany all over the world. Other great trombone players came after Paul Weschke, and two had been before. I shall write about those great trombone artists in another article later on.

The first years on trombone:

Paul Weschke’s first years on trombone was as a student of his father, a Town Musician (“Stadtpfeiffer”) out of that old German tradition. From 1st October 1885, only 18 years old, Paul Weschke got his first professional job (at audition) as a military musician. When transfered to Oldenburg in 1891. He also became the 1st trombonist inThe Royal Court Theatre Schwerin (Hoftheater Schwerin) in Mecklenburg, where he worked until October 1895. Then he won the audition as trombone player in the Royal Court Orchestra (Königliches Hoftheater) in Berlin, later called “Statskapelle Berlin”. From April 1929 he was the 1st solo trombonist of that orchestra.

Solo trombone player at “Staatskapelle Berlin”.

This fine orchestra: “Statskapelle Berlin”, was actually established in 1570 by Kurfürst Joachim II. von Brandenburg. It is one of the oldest orchestras in the world (not the same members today…) In 1701 it was renamed “Königlich Preu√üische Hofkapelle” (The Royal Prussian Court Orchestra)”, which again became “The Royal Court Opera” (Königliches Hoftheater) in 1742 by Frederich the Great, King of Prussia. In 1882 it gained major competition when the Berlin Philharmonic was formed. In Paul Weschke’s time it was named “The State Opera Berlin” (Staatskapelle Berlin). After the last world war in 1945 the opera got its present name“Staatsoper Berlin” or “Deutsche Staatsoper”, Unter den Linden, and is still located in Berlin.

Paul Weschke was the solo trombone player in “Statskapelle Berlin” from 1895 to 1929He played for several years under the famous German conductor Karl Muck, who later also had a career in USA.

Paul Weschke was later invited to play solo trombone in the “Bayreuth Festival Orchestra” (the Wagner Opera site in Germany), where he performed for several seasons at the invitation of conductor Karl Muck.

In the symphony orchestra “Statskapelle Berlin” Paul Weschke played mainly on his Bb trombone (without using the F-valve system). He also used a trombone in C as well as an alto trombone in Eb, all made by instrument maker Edward Kruspe.

The title “Royal Virtuoso Chamber Musician
(“Königlicher Kammervirtuose”)

In 1913 Paul Weschke was awarded the title “Royal Virtuoso Chamber Musician.”In those years “royal titles” were important for artists careers, name and income. The title was a quality stamp and a documentation from government authorities on certain professional skills of a very high level in music.

Professor at “Staatliche Akademische Hochschule für Musik”
(The government’s Academy of Music) in Berlin

Paul Weschke was also working in Berlin as the trombone teacher at “The Government’s Academy of Music” (as they would call it in England. In USA they call it University or College of Music).

At first he was just the trombone teacher. But in 1917 he was promoted to the title and salary of professor. He was the first trombone player in Germany ever to gain this position and title. At “Staatliche Akademische Hochschule für Musik” he gave trombone lessons from 1903 to 1934, a total of 31 years. When he was 67 years old he retired, as it is a law for the age of government retirement. Today retirement age is 65 in Northern Europe.

Paul Weschke was a very serious and demanding trombone teacher. He started his lesson at 8:00 AM sharp every morning and without fail. His students were also expected to be right on time. This was a part of the education to become a fine musician, “right on time with your body and in the music”. His students became the best trombone players in Germany. They could be found in all the finest orchestras and some became fine trombone teachers themselves.

Paul Weschke as a trombone soloist:

He was much in demand as a trombone solo player. Many compositions were dedicated to him (ie; Eugen Reiche (1878-1946) Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra, written in 1902). Paul Weschke also performed other compositions, like the famous Ferdinand David Concertino, with piano or with symphony orchestra. His own arrangement and great showpiece was the composition; “Carnival of Venice,” (with one variation after another becoming more and more difficult) which was very popular among audiences. I have the solo part and some of the orchestra parts for this composition in the hand of Paul Weschke, which I got from Kurt Putzke, a student of Weschke’s.

A gramophone recording of his solo playing of “Carnival of Venice” was unfortunately postponed and was never done, perhaps due to the Great World Wars I and II in Europe. So we only have the words from former students, other trombone players and the audience about this man, his trombone and method of teaching the instrument and music. However Paul Weschke wrote his memoirs and he wrote books and etudes too, plus several hand written manuscripts of trombone trios, quartets, and quintets (I have several of these originals in my collection)..

His instrumental skills.

Paul Weschke mastered the trombone with full sound from pedal low pedal E and pedal Bb up to double high Bb, or even higher.

He also performed “the missing notes in the low register, those notes between low E on 7th slide positions and pedal Bb (Eb- down to low B (H) and he performed these notes without a F-valve, using what he called “a special embouchure” (the same position on the embouchure as usual, but with a special tongue placement inside the mouth, plus involving the open throat and the right opening between the teeth) and he could perform those notes in this low register in any speed from slow to fast. Several statements are confirming all this from former students and people who have heard him playing.

Because Paul Weshke knew the fact “that a F-valve” on the trombone could disturb the air flow inside the horn and create “turbulance” with “less good playing quality and missing notes on the trombone”, he personally had a trombone with exchangable F-valve (with or without F-valve), but prefered the open horn with no F-valve.

He also mastered “multiphonics” (the playing of double and triple tones simultainously). Danish trombone player Anton Hansen learned that from him in 1911.

Paul Weschke’s own trombone model.

Paul Weschke had a special trombone made by the famous German brass instrument maker Edward Kruspe. At least two different models were made for him over the years, to my knowledge. The first one (a small bore trombone) was the one he used as a young musician.

Following is some important measurements of that instrument;

Kruspe Trombone model 21.

Tenor trombone. Model “Professor Weschke”.

With or without F-valve (can be taken off).

Slide bore (single bore): 12 mm (0.472″ inch.)

Bell diameter was 225 mm (0.8.85 inch.).

CONCLUSION: This bore is close to a King model 2B (2102G) which is 0.481″ inches, but Weschke’s bell was much larger than a King 2B, giving a larger tone and a better, rounder tone quality, leaving the impression of a larger bore instrument.

By the way, King 2B was the favorite trombone model for many jazz and dance musicians up to the late 1970’s (Tommy Dorsey, Kay Winding and J. J. Johnson).

A later trombone model is the following, with slightly larger, dual bore slide diameter.

Paul Weschke must have had trade secrets at that time. To the best of my knowledge he did not advertise about his change to a larger bore trombone. You know how students are, as well as other trombone players with gossip and all that unprofessional talk in all corners of the world. Even Denis Wick never played the advertised mouthpiece; 4AL, he played a slightly smaller one (like 5AL diameter, but with a 4AL stamp on it…, all his career… However, here are the bore and bell measurements of the other Kruspe trombone.

Kruspe Trombone Model 22.

Tenor trombone. Model “Virtuoso”.

With or without F-valve (can be taken off.)

Dual bore slide: upper slide: 12,7 mm (0.500″ inch.) & bottom slide: 13.4 mm (0.528″ inches).

Bell diameter was 23 mm (9″).

CONCLUSION: As we can see here, this is a dual bore trombone, starting with a bore diameter on the upper slide similar to that of a Conn 6H (Victor model) which is 0.500″ (slightly larger than King 2B), and on the bottom slide it is a bore diameter close to Bach 36 (0.525″) or Conn 32H (dual bore 500″ and 0.522″).

Paul Weshke’s trombone mouthpiece

At the time of writing this I am unable to tell about Paul Weschke’s mouthpiece, except the inner diameter was 25 m.m. (1 inch) and the cup was deep. – I have one mouthpiece which belonged to Paul Weschke, but there is not time to measure before printing.