Newsletter of the
American Brass Band Association
Vol. 3 No. 2 Autumn 1998
Please forgive the lack of umlauts in this article. We are aware that there are German, English, and American spellings of the word Flugelhorn.
At the beginning of the 18th Century in Germany, the flugelhorn was a large semicircular hunting horn of brass or silver carried by the “Flugelmeister” who directed the various phases of a proper ducal hunt. It became a military instrument during the seven years war in Europe. This instrument of the hunt was the direct parent of the bugle, which evolved into the flugelhorn.
In 1810, Halliday added keys to this instrument, culminating in his keyed bugle. The substitution of valves for keys took place in Germany or Austria before 1840. The resulting instrument made a great impression in France and suggested proportions for the saxhorns of Adolph Sax.
A soprano saxhorn or ‘bugle’ was sold in England from about 1846, and the name ‘Flugelhorn’ entered literature under the influence of the German bandmasters around this time. An equally important instrument in the larger continental bands of Europe is the small flugelhorn in Eb (and sometimes F) known in Germany as ‘pikkolo’ and in France as ‘petit bugle’.
Even today, German Brass bands utilize flugelhorns to a greater extent than do the brass bands of other nations.
To illustrate the difference between the saxhorns and the ‘true’ (or clear) brass—the cornet, trumpet, French horn and trombone—We can say that the flugelhorn compares with the trumpet or cornet the same way the baritone compares with the trombone.
It should be pointed out that a primary difference between the two brass groupings is illustrated by over-blowing. In creasing the blowing in a cornet, trumpet or trombone may cause the tone to become brassy, while the flugelhorn and baritone (both of the saxhorn group of brass) will retain their characteristic mellowness at any volume.
Accordingly, the saxhorn family of brass constitutes an additional brass section in the brass band. The orchestra does not have the distinction of having two brass “sections”.
In band arranging, either brass grouping can be used separately or together at the option of the composer or arranger. This is a primary point in scoring for brass bands, and the principle of two brass sections in brass bands must be fully appreciated.
Combining both brass sections (‘groupings’) produces a more full and less brassy effect somewhat similar to an imaginary great organ. These effects can provide interesting variety to the band and are instrumental in the production of the haunting tone quality and blend of individual brass bands. The saxhorn family of brasses constitutes a bridge between the clear brasses and the reed sections in a military style band.
When a brass band deletes the flugelhorn part, as is often done in smaller bands, the ‘saxhorn family of brass is deprived of its soprano member.
The following table illustrates the two groupings:
Clear Brass (‘True Brass’)
Eb Tenor Horn
Baritone & Euphonium
In French and Italian bands, the 1st flugelhorn is as important as the solo cornet. The instrument is softer, more lyrical, and more flexible than the cornet, with easier emission throughout its entire compass.
The second cornet and/or third cornet parts in brass band can be played by the flugelhorn, making for interesting textures and individualization in sound, voicing, and blend.
Bb flugelhorn is essential to the Brass Band blend. It plays its own part, or may supplement second (or third) cornet parts. It combines well in harmony with the Tenor Horns. One flugelhorn is essential, a section with two or three is a security measure, or if your brass band gets larger than the contesting standard (25).
Flugelhorns have undergone a renaissance in high school bands. They are in Bb, read treble clef, and should present no mysteries to anyone who has ever played a cornet.
Most brass companies are now manufacturing a flugelhorn. I would check out the Getzen as well as the Conn, Besson (Boosey and Hawkes) and Holton. Jupiter manufactures Bb flugelhorns at a very reasonable price, attention beginner’s bands! The Jupiter is a great instrument for the price.
Pitched in Bb, the flugelhorn has the same range and compass as the Bb cornet. It has the conical bore, wide bell, and large format of its parent instrument, the keyed bugle. The mouthpiece cup is deep and almost funnel-shaped. A sliding mouth-pipe serves as the tuning-slide. The tone of the flugelhorn is round and suave, albeit rougher and somewhat bugle-like when playing at louder dynamic levels.
It is imperative that the flugelhorn be played with a flugelhorn mouthpiece, as either a cornet or trumpet mouthpiece will alter the nature of the flugelhorn sound and cause bad intonation. Some report that a french horn mouthpiece is a suitable substitute. The french horn mouthpiece is closer to the funnel-shape of the true flugelhorn mouthpiece.
In Europe, the flugelhorn plays a leading role in many Brass Bands and Military Style Bands. It has thus performed its role for over a century. Military bands in England and the United States do not generally utilize the flugelhorn. In the Brass Band, at least one flugelhorn is obligatory.
The flugelhorn represents the Soprano instrument of the group described as the ‘Saxhorns’. The other instrument so f the saxhorn group of bras are the Tenor horns, Baritones and Euphoniums, and the Tubas. Many consider the ‘true brass’ as being the grouping of cornets, trumpets, French horns and trombones. Balance between these two brass groups may be what individualizes the sound of brass bands.
The flugelhorn plays from its own part, or it is played from the same part as the repiano cornet. In the later instance, the flugelhorn part is frequently marked ‘Solo’ or ‘Unis’ (with the instrument specified).
The word ‘repiano’ is apparently a distorted version of ‘ripiano,’ which means supplementary. The function of the repiano and flugelhorn players therefore, is to supplement the solo cornets.
Flugelhorn players in brass bands then, read from the same part as the cornet player whose part is labeled Repiano & Flugel. In modern scores, there is generally a separate flugelhorn part.
Denis Wright in Scoring for Brass Band (Colne, Lancashire: Joshua Duckworth Ltd. 1935) makes the following statement about the flugelhorn:
“Although most bands nowadays employ one flugel (but one does occasionally meet with two), there was a time when they were more extensively used, as being fuller in tone than the lower cornets for accompanying work. Even now on the continent, the Flugel plays a large part in the brass and military band, often there will be half a dozen flugels and only a couple of cornets but in England, the standard number is one per band.
It is unfortunate that the Flugel should have to double the repiano, for it could be employed far more usefully as a free-lance, available for helping the horn section or the lower cornets. But very seldom do publishers issue separate Flugel parts, so for practical purposes, the arranger may consider that the Flugel will expect to play from the repiano part. Any solo passages for Flugel should be so marked. Second and third cornets can fill in harmonics above the repiano.
The indication “& Rep” should be added where the cornet is to join in. Si9milarly, if only the cornet tone is desired, such passage should be marked, “Rep.”
Wright also states:
“In tutti passages it will usually double the solo cornets’ melody, when a phrase rises too high, the repiano will then join the accompanying sections or even drop down and double the melody an octave lower, above the repiano. The more usual procedure, however, when the melody goes too high for repiano, is for the part to be doubled at the octave below the (sic: in the?) solo horn and for the repiano to join in with the lower cornets on the accompaniment.”
“The flugelhorn in the brass bands of England was, and is, of secondary importance (c. 1930). However, the lower pitched valved ‘bugles” such as Eb tenor horns, baritones and euphoniums and tubas, are intimate parts of the brass band. Keep in mind that the flugelhorn is the soprano instrument of this ‘saxhorn’ group.”
At this point, I would like to give credit where it is due. This article on Flugelhorn was drawn from the resources of Frederick Allen Beck’s DMA Thesis: The Flugelhorn: Its History and Literature, University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, 1979. It is available from University Microfilms International.
The second major resource for this article is The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1980. Anthony Baines contributed the section on Flugelhorn.
American Brass Band Association
Extracted from Vol. III No. II Autumn 1998