Author: Matthew Knight
At Beethoven’s funeral in 1827 two of his “Drei Equales” for four trombones were performed. The three Beethoven pieces are without doubt the most celebrated of the Equale genre, but short chordal pieces for trombone quartet were common in Austrian funereal music from the Eighteenth century onwards. And so the term Equale, which literally just means “equal” (referring to equal parts or voices) came to be the generic title for the very first trombone quartets.
The trombone was chosen for this particular funereal task because of its semantic association with divine presence. It’s worth noting that the “last trump” that signals the Day of Judgement in the King James Bible is “der letzten Posaune” in German. And it is perhaps also because of this divine association, along with its technical superiority to other early brass instruments, that the trombone was used from the Eighteenth Century onwards in so many sacred choral works, long before its introduction into the symphony orchestra, often doubling the parts of the choir.
Drawing on these two elements of the trombone’s history, the Equale series consists of choral works (mostly sacred in nature) arranged for trombone quartet.
Despite the vocal nature of the instrument, arranging choral works for trombones presents some difficulties, largely because so much of the composer’s expressive intent resides in the word-setting, which is of course lost in transcription. Therefore great care, and every possible notation, have been used to attempt to retain the details of phrasing and emphasis which the text naturally imparts to the music.
Edited and arranged by Matthew Knight and Joseph Harris, the Equale Series contains the following works, with several others in the pipeline:
- Byrd – Six Gradualia (also available separately):
Alleluia, Cognoverunt Discipuli
Ego sum panis vivus
O quam sauvis est
- Palestrina – Adoramus Te
- Parry – My Soul, There is a Country
- Tallis – If Ye Love Me