Study Materials for the Alto Trombone (Études pour le Trombone Alto): A Review

By Peter Fielding • October 12, 2021 • 5 min read

Benny Sluchin Alto Trombone Tutor CoverSluchin, Benny. Alto Trombone Tutor (Volumes 1-4). Warwick Music, Seckington, Tamworth, UK, 2003. Sheet music or digital download.

Benny Sluchin's Alto Trombone Tutor, (4 vol.) Study Materials for the Alto Trombone (Études pour le Trombone Alto) is an indispensable bilingual English (français) resource for alto trombonists. This 2003 edition, donated for review by Warwick Music, includes Sluchin's original prefaces for the 1997 (vol. 1), 2000 (vol 2), and 2002 (vols. 3 & 4) portions and the value of the work has led to a recent 2020 reprint. These four volumes contain nearly 400 pages of compiled and expertly engraved solo instrumental etudes, alto clef editions of vocalizes that preserve the original key so that preexisting piano accompaniments can be utilized, various alto and bass clef duets spanning a wealth of pedagogical and performative forces, and alto clef concert pitch solo parts of French Horn solo and chamber ensemble repertoire.

Having previously worked through Volume 1, before entrusting it to a colleague beginning their own alto trombone odyssey, I was glad to revisit these materials and explore the larger encyclopedic compilation of pedagogical and solo resources. These materials greatly augment available alto trombone study and solo materials, adding to the growing resurgence of the instrument and development of earlier works such as Ken Shiffrin's The Professional's Handbook of Orchestral Excerpts: Alto Trombone (Virgo, 1986). If you regularly mentor alto trombone students, these four volumes would support the pedagogical and solo repertoire needs of advanced undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral performance students, with multiple recitals worth of solo repertoire.

Volume 1 (TB 196) is 130 pages and provides an excellent historical and technical synopsis of trombones of smaller size than the tenor. It includes materials from two of Victor Cornette's treatises: Méthode de Trombone alto, ténor et basse (1841) and Méthod de Trombone (1831). The 24 Vocalises of Giulio Marco Bordogni will sparkle familiarity, although they remain in the original keys so that anyone who can locate a copy of the original 24 vocalises faciles et progressives can use the piano accompaniments to enrich their experience. This volume concludes with 31 Studies of Michel Bléger, excerpted and transposed from Méthod de Trombone á Coulisse (Method for slide trombone).

Volume 2 (TB 286) includes 93 pages of 19th-century etudes. These materials are drawn from Georg Kopprasch's 60 Études pour le Cor alto, Op. 5., Giulio Marco Bordogni's Méthode de Chant (Book E), Ambroise Thomas' Léćons de Solfége á changements des clefs composées pour les examens & concours du Conservatoire de Musique (1872-1896), and W. A. Mozart's 12 Duos pour deux cors (12 duets for two horns), in alto and bass clef. This volume is an excellent balance of technical and melodic etudes, coupled with some excellent brass duet literature. It continues the legacy of French vocal and trombone pedagogical treatises educating new generations of musicians, reaching a wider readership through this bilingual edition.

Volume 3 (TB 488) contains 85 pages of duets spanning centuries of repertoire through the works of Johannés Ciconia, Francesco Guami, Wenzel Kopprasch, Louis-François Dauprat, Michelle Corrette, Carl Stamitz, and Ludwig van Beethoven. The majority of these are scored for alto and bass clef, with the sonatas of Corrette and Stamitz in paired alto clefs. The breadth of repertoire is refreshing, ensuring a wealth of duets for studio reading and augmenting recital repertoire for alto trombonists spanning a diverse range of ability.

Volume 4 (TB 489) comprises 89 pages of alto clef concert pitch solo parts for 18 standard French Horn solos and chamber works. This volume is valuable for alto trombonists who are not yet comfortable reading transposed French Horn repertoire (i.e. reading Horn in F treble clef as Mezzo Soprano clef and adjusting the key signature, or transposing down by interval). This collection spans the solo horn works of W.A. Mozart and J. Haydn, as well as soloistic horn repertoire of Hoffmeister, Neruda, Stammitz, Förster, Strauss, Quantz, and Rosetti (see Table 1 for listing). The engravings are excellent and a concert pitch alto clef version of these solos afford peace of mind for those wanting to incorporate this repertoire into their recitals.

Benny Sluchin's Alto Trombone Tutor is an impressively curated collection of etudes, duets, and solo materials that will serve both developing and seasoned alto trombonists and tenor trombonists alike. The wide variety of duets are of sound pedagogical value in the teaching studio and satisfying for recitals. For those learning the instrument or teaching in established studios, this is a welcome addition to your library, greatly expanding the pedagogical and solo performance resources for the alto trombonist. Although fixating on the alto trombone, these materials may also benefit tenor trombonists advancing their facility in alto clef.

Table 1: Alto Trombone Tutor (Vol. 4) Horn Solo Repertoire
Composer Solo repertoire
C. Förster Concerto in E♭
J. Haydn Concerto No. 1 in D
Concerto No. 2 in D
F.A. Hoffmeister Horn Quintet in E♭
W. A. Mozart Concerto No. 1 in D
Concerto No. 2 in E♭
Concerto No. 3 in E♭
Concerto No. 4 in E♭
Rondo in E♭
Concerto Movement in E
Horn Quintet in E♭
J. K. J. Neruda Concerto in E♭
J. J. Quantz Concerto in E♭
F. A. Rosetti Concerto No. 2 in E♭
C. Stammitz Concerto in E♭
F. Strauss Concerto, Op. 8

 Professor Robert Kehle curates a comprehensive Alto Trombone resource. Readers might also be interested in the 2005 University of Cincinnati dissertation, "Current Trends in Alto Trombone Pedagogy in the United States" by Douglas G. Warner.