Did We Miss Something? No. 3. Renaissance Duets THESE REWRITE EARLY BRASS DUO HISTORY

Imagine being handed a folder with more than 20 pages of duo music for trumpet and trombone; like an incomplete map to a treasure! The only date? 1595. The only instrumentation? Trumpet in treble clef ‘C’ and trombone in bass clef.

The probable location is Venice, and possibly St. Mark’s, but truly yet to be fully determined.

What could have been the purpose of this music? Were they training duets to prepare the players for the more typical quartets of the Gabrielis and Schutz? Could St. Mark’s, or another Basilica possibly have used just two brass to accompany religious services? This seems likely in the Orthodox Christian Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice, but less likely in the rest of Italy which was dominated by Rome instead of Venice’s patron-Constantinople.

The keys seem to focus around ‘C’ Major or ‘F’ Major, but the presence of accidentals and available notes in the upper part would certainly seem to indicate the use of cornetto-more typical for St. Mark’s and Venice.

The presence of rests throughout at first seemed to suggest a missing part. Could it have been a vocal part or perhaps organ? One can almost hear the missing parts reverberate n the typical Venetian-Brass style.

The range of the trombone would certainly have to be restricted, due to elemental technique and trombone workmanship, at least one would think. No jumping around like, well, the arrangements by Brubeck-Neal or Stereograms. Right?

Recording 270, “Charlie’s Venetian Duets”

With a bit of an air of the musical equivalent of an expedition by Howard Carter or at least Indiana Jones, we set out to sight-read and record (in one or two takes each), these magnificent duos! Duo Brass, featuring Morgen Low and David Brubeck, met for a two-hour stint. Recordings were made direct to iPhone. (Recommended listening on over-the ear headphones!)

We probably made it through about 85% of the impressive stack of mixed brass duo music from the Renaissance. One composition was complicated, another missing a page, yet another a bit unwieldy with multiple pages-an entire MASS for brass duo for goodness sake!

This would be possible at St. Mark’s, where Catholic Monteverdi and Protestant Heinrich Schutz served side-by-side as Co-Music Directors for a time. Although the Catholic Church had a seat placed right in front of the pulpit, this Basilica was traditionally led by someone from the founding 80 families of Venice-Orthodox Christians. (At least until Napoleon, when it became Catholic at his demand in 1807-1809.)

St Mark’s itself, is clearly in the Constantinople (also called Eastern Roman Empire, New Roman or Byzantine), style replete with architectural layout and mosaics. The Basilica San Marco is mentioned as a construction specifically of the Orthodox Christian Church in 1025 AD.

While a Catholic Antonio Vivaldi got his start at St. Mark’s alongside his father-a violinist, other accounts of the time note a Jesuit priest was thrown out of the church for advocating more control from Rome during his guest sermon! (Venice may have the distinction of being the only city to have been excommunicated three times!)

This places the ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN Basilica at the CENTER of instrumental ensemble music history.

The accomplishments were numerous:

The first notated use of specified dynamics

The first notated use of specific instrumentation or orchestration-THIS ARGUES THAT THE ORCHESTRA WAS INVENTED AT St. Mark’s Basilica-certainly the symphony orchestra. (The orchestra has been called by some the greatest invention of mankind.)

The first recorded use of “Surround-Sound” or Antiphony.

Among the first recorded use of homophonic and homo-rhythmic elements.

Among the first regular use of mixed meters and their mastery.


Monteverdi, Albinoni, Marcello… Many of the most notable opera composers were trained in or came from Venice, not Florence. The original treatise “Opera” was published in Venice.

Venice was the home of Catholic priest Antonio Vivaldi for all of his life except the final year spent in Vienna. He composed more than 400 concertos, was a violin virtuoso and a champion for the orchestra-training generations of girls and young women to play professionally through the very important orphanage system of Venice. Not to mention Dragonetti!

Recording 265 Charlie’s Venetian Duets

At first, our tempos might have been a bit slow. We determined that the pieces were clearly for performance and not study. One could easily imagine these for a shorter service in a city like Venice- especially in a Basilica like St. Marks’s constantly beset by tourists attracted to Venice for its unique beauty, the incredible music and the nearly constant carnivals.

Basilica San Marco

There were accents and slurs present in the duos, and they included a wide variety of interesting rhythms and irregular shaped phrases that seemed to meander from time to time. The use of mixed meters was not uncommon, and the prevalent use of syncopation was noted.

Upon performance, the rests were a welcome relief and seemed quite musical! Nothing was deemed missing. Finally, the range of the trombone part reflected that both the Renaissance technique of the players as well as the craftsmanship of the slide must have been superior.

Recording 255, “Charlie’s Venetian Duets”

With the recent advent of mixed brass duo books by Alessi/Sachs and Brubeck/Neal, the mixed brass duo has seen a resurgence, but historically seemed to have been of scant significance and without any significant literature. NOT ANYMORE!

Please let us know if you think we are wrong….

Otherwise, every indication points to the conclusion that this collection, of which these are but a few, will rewrite the history of the brass duo, and provide a solid historic basis for the derivation of literature.

Thank you, Dr. Campbell, for this valuable treasure, and thank you, Morgen Low, for your superb sight-reading, “chops-of-steel” and delightful attitude. One could not hope for a better colleague!

FUN FACT! The Pipe organ WITH AIR was from ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN Constantinople, NOT ROME-Roman organs used water. The pipe organ was introduced to the rest of Europe around 750 AD!

Constantinople also invented the fork, the flame-thrower, the steam engine, and so much more. It was a 1,100 year Orthodox Christian Empire from 330 AD until 1453 AD.

c. 2024 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved.




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