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Alto Trombone by Johann Christoph Fiebig, Berngrund, 1771
NMM 5946. Alto trombone by Johann Christoph Fiebig, Berngrund, Saxony, 1771. Engraved on bell garland: IO HANN CHRISTOPH / FIEBIG MACHTS IN / BERNGRUNDT 1771. Board of Trustees, 1996.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was only fifteen years old, when this ornately decorated alto trombone was built by Johann Chrisoph Fiebig, an important maker of brass instruments in Berngrund, a small town near Dresden.
A beautiful German city near the Czech border—virtually destroyed by bombing near the end of World War II—Dresden was an important center for wind instrument building, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries. August and Heinrich Grenser and Jakob Grundmann are among the leading Dresden makers whose instruments are represented in the collections of the NMM.
Fiebig, himself, worked in Berngrund, a small town on the River Müglitz, some fifteen miles south of Dresden. He was also a miller. Two other instruments by him are known to survive. The bell section of a bass trombone, also dated 1771, is preserved at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum, Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin (#3053), and a natural trumpet, dated 1769, can be found at the musical instrument museum at the University of Leipzig (#1803).
Trombones from this period are remarkably rare. More examples survive from a hundred years earlier, when trombones were a regular member of town and court bands. Then there seemed to be a decline, until they became part of the orchestra at the end of the 18th century. Alto trombones, however, were still being used to play the top voice in three-part music for trombones, as written, for instance, by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) for his masterpiece, the opera, Alceste, in 1767.
Unlike the bell stays on the Museum's other three early trombones (see links below), Fiebig's plain, almost rectangular bell stay is undecorated. It is soldered onto the neck-pipe side, hinged on bell-pipe side, and attached with a pin.
Literature: André P. Larson, "Alto Trombone by Johann Christoph Fiebig, Berngrundt bei Dresden, Saxony (Germany), ca. 1771," The South Dakota Musician 32, No. 3 (Spring 1998), cover and p. 20.
"A Unique Alto Trombone from 18th-century Saxony," America's Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter 25, No. 2 (February 1998), p. 8.
Stewart Carter, "Early Trombones in America's Shrine to Music Museum," Historic Brass Society Journal 10 (1998), pp. 98-99, 110-111.