This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Die Ventilposaune - The Valve Trombone

21 March 2014

Sunday in the park with trombones. A moment to preserve with a photo postcard. Where would be a good place for a photograph? A monument is always a good choice, so these six musicians chose to pose in front of a pedestal honoring some historic figure.

But who is this heroic person? What is his nationality? I wish I knew because then we might learn where and when this group of trombonists came to stand in front of a camera.

The date of this European postcard image is unknown, but probably 1905-1910.  The men wear suits rather than the uniforms of a military band. They have arranged themselves around a table on which a large goblet or vase is placed in the center. In front is a paper rosette of about 70 cm in diameter that has lettering Posaunen Sextett So...  The word Posaunen is the German word for trombone, and I think this sextet has just been awarded a prize for some musical competition. But though they may speak German, I do not know if they are from Germany. Unfortunately the letters at the bottom of the rosette which might indicate a town name are unclear.

Only the two musicians standing center at the back have traditional slide trombones. The other four have Ventilposaunen or valve trombones, which in this case are the rotary valves common to brass instruments in Germany and central Europe. The older man seated left has a bass valve trombone with doubled coils of plumbing. The valve trombone has a similar sound to a slide trombone and was arguably easier to play with only 3 buttons as opposed to 7 slide positions. Today it is not uncommon in Europe but is rarely played in modern American or British bands.

The mystery with this postcard is the impressive monument behind the musicians. It is a bust of a man with an imperial style beard and flamboyant curly hair. Just below the statue's pediment is what looks like a musical lyre symbol, but the face of the sculpture does not resemble any composer or musician that I am familiar with. He is definitely not Beethoven, nor Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, or any other celebrated composer. The cutaway view of the shoulders limits the shape of his coat, but it looks to be not a military but a civilian fashion and from the 19th century. Men were clean shaven in the first half of the 1800s and did not pick up this chin beard and mustache until after about the 1850s. By 1890 this would seem old fashioned.

The sculptor has depicted a celebrated man of the Romantic era. His tousled hair gives him the air of an artist of some kind, a poet or author as well as musician but he could easily be a revolutionary politician. However his hair style does not resemble that of German intellectuals or Prussian military men of the second half of the 19th century. He doesn't look Austrian either.

Perhaps there is a clue on the back.

The back is signed Gruss Dein E. K. and addressed to Herrn Rud Dryremg_? MinervaStrasse 29, Zürich. Could this group of trombonists be Swiss? There is a sizable portion of Switzerland's population that speaks a variation of the German language.

Wilhelm Baumgartner - Zürich, Switzerland

Only a very short distance from Minervastrasse is the Platzspitz, a park situated in the center of Zürich on the Limmat river. In the park is a monument of the Swiss composer and pianist Wilhelm Baumgartner (1820-1867)., a composer that seems to have written more music for piano and voice rather than for orchestra. His name is new to me and as far as I know he wrote nothing for trombone. Actually very few composers ever wrote any music for trombone. The instrument was very rarely added to the orchestras of Mozart and Beethoven's time and military bands did not take on the trombone, either the slide or valve kind, until the 1860s. {see comment below} though military bands did take on the trombone in the early 1800s.

This photo came from which is a great resource for treasure hunters. The website has cataloged thousands of public structures from castles to sculpture with photographs, brief descriptions, and GPS coordinates.

Wilhelm Baumgartner - Zürich, Switzerland

The vast archives of Wikimedia Commons provides a better photo of Wilhelm Baumgartner. At the base we can see a music lyre emblematic of a musician and composer. It is clear that this is not the same man as the one behind the Posaunen Sextett. But it shows a good example of the sort of monument considered suitable for a distinguished musician.

I don't think these trombonists posed in front of some random statue. While there is only a general resemblance because of the beard, I wounder if E.K., the writer on the postcard, chose to have the photo made in front of a similar statue to the one in Zürich.

There is a hidden meaning, and the stone man is notable for either his art or his connection to this location; or both. Someday a random web search will uncover another image and I will recognize this face and solve the mystery. Until then it's just another day in the park with trombones. We meet only six of them, but seventy more are probably waiting to have their photo taken too.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
click the link for more stone faced photographs.


Special Thanks go to Susanna Rosalie (see her comment below) for quickly solving this puzzle. She unscrambled the foggy last word of the POSAUNEN SEXTETT SONNENBLUME or SUNFLOWER TROMBONE SEXTET. She also identified the monument behind them as a bust of  Ignaz Heim (1818–1880), a German musician from Baden who made his career in Zürich conducting men's choirs. He is celebrated for his vocal compositions and collection of Swiss folk songs. In his honor a monument was placed in Heimplatz in Zürich.

Ignaz Heim (1818-1880)
Source:  Zentralbibliothek Zürich


Wendy said...

I hope you find the answer to this statue's identity because now it's bugging me not to know. He seems to have a kind face, more like a writer than a politician.

Alex Daw said...

The word at the bottom looks a bit like two cents worth for what its worth.

La Nightingail said...

My son played the trombone in high school, but I had no idea there were such differences between them. I just thought a trombone was a trombone was a trombone. Shows what I know! I enjoyed your post and hope you solve the mystery of the first statue eventually.

Susanna Rosalie said...

The band's name is 'POSAUNEN SEXTETT SONNENBLUME' which translates to 'sunflower'. Well, after looking around in the internet I found exactly the same postcard for sale on the Swiss ebay, exept it is postally unused. The vendor does not give a date but the above name and Zürich as the location.
Here is the link (please scroll down on the site):

After searching some more, I found the statue. It is of IGNAZ HEIM (1818 - 1880) a German composer, choral conductor and promoter of folk songs. He was in Zürich since 1852, where he also died. The statue is created by Baptist Hörbst. In 1883 it was placed on the square which is named after Ignaz Heim, the 'Heimplatz' in Zürich. This info is from the following website, which also states that Heim became a honorary member of the General Music-Society Zürich (Allgemeine Musik-Gesellschaft Zürich) in 1862.

Here are two more links about Ignaz Heim, Wikipedia and Wikisource, both in German though.,_Ignaz

Howard said...

Fascinating post Mike and well done to Susanna Rosalie for finding the statue's identity. Now I have to search Youtube for the sound of the valve trombone...

Mike Brubaker said...

Oh Susanna, you win the grand prize for Sepia Saturday Detective this weekend. That was very clever of you to find it on eBay, and make out the full name. I should have thought of that kind of search. I tried Google image search with only the cropped image of the statue. I'm very pleased that I was correct that the connection was in Zürich. I wonder if this trombone group played Heim's choral music in an arrangement. And I think we can confidently say that the color of the rosette was sunflower yellow!

Anonymous said...

Another fascinating article. My grandfather changed from valve to slide trombone c1900 in Geelong.

Boobook said...

I absolutely loved this post. My son plays trombone, and now lives in Zurich!

Bob Scotney said...

As usual I was fascinated by the mystery of who was the man. I'm glad Susanna solved the question for us.

luvlinens said...

76 Trombones led the big parade With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand. It was great to meet IGNAZ HEIM and I loved the way you connected the musical note, Oh Susanna. Fantastic post Mr. Mike and great work Susanna.

Postcardy said...

I am really impressed with Susanna finding the information. I bet you have a photo with 76 trombones too.

Brett Payne said...

Until I read Susanna's answer to your conundrum I thought it looked a bit like Verdi, although not quite enough. What a quick solution.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Thanks to both of you, first one posing a question, giving clues, and then one of you solving. I wonder if my Heym relatives are connected to Mr. Heim and the Heimplatz. Kuddos!

Karen S. said...

Good job Susanna! Hats off to your delightful array of statues.

Tattered and Lost said...

Some fascinating sleuthing with a great outcome. The fellow looks a bit windblown with that hairstyle.

I do like the sound of a trombone, especially in the big bands of the '30s and '40s. I've never figured out how they work.

Jackie van Bergen said...

The power of Sepia Saturday!
I have just had a musical weekend with my niece and nephew who play the cello, piano and bassoon - although only two at a time! Their recitals get better every visit.

Jo Featherston said...

Great, so Lorraine could even ask her son to visit the statue and take a photograph of it, assuming it's still there, unlike the one she was looking for in Tasmania. Serendipitous!

Little Nell said...

Fascinating, A great group picture (even without the other seventy!) and how wonderful that the mystery was solved in this way.

viennabone said...

I'm interested in where you got the information that "military bands did not take on the trombone, either the slide or valve kind, until the 1860s." Here's a quote from Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, a German periodical, in 1803: “The trombone has spread all over Germany since the days of the French occupation, via the French military bands and the modern German military bands, which are modeled after them, so that, for example, in the vicinity of Leipzig almost no dance can be played without a bass trombone cavorting about.”
For numerous visual depictions, see here:

Mike Brubaker said...

@viennabone - Thank you, I stand corrected for I am clearly mistaken about how the trombone was used in European military bands. Since my research was focused on discovering where this Posaune group came from I did not put as much effort into trombone history as I should. As a horn player I sometimes fail to investigate all the details on the parallel paths of our brass instrument heritage which is why I greatly appreciate your comment and interest in my blog.

viennabone said...

No problem. Great post and great website in general!


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP