Willy (Vassily Georgyevich) Brandt The Early Years

Edward H. Tarr

Many trumpeters are conversant with the two method books written by Vassily Brandt, 34 Etudes for Orchestral Trumpeters and23 Etudes ("The Last"). In a recent ITG Journal article, Richard Burkart mentioned using both volumes regularly with his students, and Keith Johnson also mentioned using one or both as specific method books for work on tonguing. In addition, Brandt's two Konzertstucke (Concert Pieces) for trumpet (actually cornet) and piano and his Ldndliche Bilder (Country Pictures) for four trum­pets still occupy a firm place in the repertoire.

What most do not know, however, is that this Russian trumpeter was actually a German. Before emigrating to Russia, he always signed his name as "Willy Brandt," a fact with which his namesake, the late German politician, was probably unfamiliar as well. Here is a brief resume of his career.

Brandt in Germany

The trumpeter, composer, and conductor Willy (Vassily Georgyevich) Brandt (1869-1923) came from Coburg.  Unfortunately, inquiries into that city's archive have not yielded a birth certificate. Perhaps he came from a nearby village. In any case he is said to have absolved a four-year course in the Coburg Music School under director Carl Zimmermann (?-1919), conductor of the town band or orchestra (Stadtkapelle) from 1877 to 1908. Zimmermann's concerts were always well attended, and his young pupils were trained to play in the Kapelle as soon as possible. He was known as a strict, but highly re­spected, taskmaster.

Nothing more is known about Brandt's early ac­tivities or training until the age of 18. At this time he must have been a finished virtuoso, for we learn of him in 1887 as a member of the spa orchestra of Bad Oeynhausen (in north Germany, a short distance south of Hamburg). As we shall see, Brandt spent the summers of at least 1887 and 1888 as a member of that orchestra, leaving there at the end of September to go to Helsinki. In Helsinki he was active in the Orchestral Society - the future Philharmonic - as "1st trumpeter and soloist" during the three winter seasons between 1887 and 1890. Contracts to the first two seasons survive. They were countersigned by the orchestra's founder, the Finnish composer-conductor Robert Kajanus (1856-1933), who was well known for his Beethoven performances and as an early champion of Sibelius.

A concert program of the "spa orchestra of Bad Oeynhausen" from September 16,1888 still survives, in which "Herr Brandt" plays Dimitresco's "Doi Oc[c]hi (Zwei Augen)" as a soloist. (See facsimile. An arrow points to Brandt's name, three lines from the bottom of the left-hand column.) This is the only trace of Brandt that could be found in Bad Oeynhausen, and at that time newspapers did not yet exist there.

Russia as a Mecca for Foreign Musicians

Tsarist Russia was immensely wealthy, and be­ginning at the end of the 18th century (and increas­ingly from the middle of the 19th century) many foreign musicians were attracted to the court of St. Petersburg or to Moscow, simply because of the money to be earned. It was not until after the found­ing of the Russian Musical Society in 1861 by Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) and, more importantly, of the conservatories of St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1862 must have been a finished virtuoso, for we learn of him in 1887 as a member of the spa orchestra of Bad Oeynhausen (in north Germany, a short distance south of Hamburg). As we shall see, Brandt spent the summers of at least 1887 and 1888 as a member of that orchestra, leaving there at the end of September to go to Helsinki. In Helsinki he was active in the Orchestral Society - the future Philharmonic - as "1st trumpeter and soloist" during the three winter seasons between 1887 and 1890. Contracts to the first two seasons survive. They were countersigned by the orchestra's founder, the Finnish composer-conductor Robert Kajanus (1856-1933), who was well known for his Beethoven performances and as an early champion of Sibelius.

A concert program of the "spa orchestra of Bad Oeynhausen" from September 16,1888 still survives, in which "Herr Brandt" plays Dimitresco's "Doi Oc[c]hi (Zwei Augen)" as a soloist. (See facsimile. An arrow points to Brandt's name, three lines from the bottom of the left-hand column.) This is the only trace of Brandt that could be found in Bad Oeynhausen, and at that time newspapers did not yet exist there.

Russia as a Mecca for Foreign Musicians

Tsarist Russia was immensely wealthy, and be­ginning at the end of the 18th century (and increas­ingly from the middle of the 19th century) many foreign musicians were attracted to the court of St. Petersburg or to Moscow, simply because of the money to be earned. It was not until after the found­ing of the Russian Musical Society in 1861 by Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) and, more importantly, of the conservatories of St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1862 and 1866 by the Rubinstein brothers Anton and Nikolai (1835-1881) that a true Russian musical cul­ture slowly emerged. The first professors at these two conservatories, and most members of the Tsarist theater orchestras, were foreigners.

Let us take the violin as an example. At the Moscow Conservatory, the first professor of violin was Ferdinand Laub (from Prague, 1832-1875), whose successor was Jan (Ivan) Hrimaly (from Pilsen, 1844-1915). An im­portant member of his class was Piotr Stolyarski (a Pole, 1871-1944), who then moved to Odessa, where* he taught David Oistrach, Nathan Milstein, Leonid Kogan, Ivan Galamian, and many others. In St. Pe­tersburg, Hungarian-born Leopold Auer (1845-1930), Wieniawski's successor as Imperial Chamber Virtuoso and as professor at the conservatory, is of supreme was principal trumpeter in various orchestras, no­tably the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1919-23, 1929-34, 1935-44)."i8

In September 1912, the first high-level Rus­sian conservatory after St. Petersburg and Mos­cow was opened in Saratov, on the Volga river and in the center of an area where many Germans had settled. A number of renowned professors were engaged to ensure the pres­tige of the new institution, among them Brandt. (An­other was the trombonist Lipaev, who had played together with Brandt and Tabakov in a brass quartet in Moscow, and was later to found the first Russian musicians' union.) In Saratov, Brandt not only taught trumpet, but also managed and conducted the conservatory orchestra. There he died unexpectedly, as the result of a vaccination, on February 2, 1923.

Brandt as a Musician and Teacher

Brandt was renowned for his magnificent tone, his immaculate technique, and his noble phrasing. Like Herbert L. Clarke, he liked to practice double and triple tonguing "dry," while walking in the street. His Russian was very bad, so he often communicated with his pupils by example, demonstrating with his instrument very clearly what was expected of them; daily scales and the Arban method were central in his instruction. He often accompanied his pupils on the piano, and among the pieces he so played were his own Etudes, which only survive today without accompani­ment.  He instilled in his pupils a love for their art.

Funeral Fanfare Written for Brandt

When Brandt died, Konstantin Listov (1900-), then still a student at the very beginning of his composing career, wrote Funeral Fanfare, the three parts of which were performed by 12 trumpeters, a snare drummer, and a kettledrummer. Some 50 years later, Selianin located the composer and persuaded him to reconstruct the piece on the basis of the third trum­pet part, which was the only one to survive. Selianin made a gift of this material to the Bad Sackingen Trumpet Museum, and it is published for the first time as a supplement to this journal.

Brandt Festival in Saratov

The Vassily Brandt International Trumpet Com­petition, will be held September 15-22 as part of a much larger Brandt Festival, at the Saratov State Conservatory in Saratov, Russia. Now that we know more about this remarkable musician, hopefully many of us will meet there in September to see where he spent the last years of his life. I have been there before and was overwhelmed by the hospitality.

Brandt in Helsinki - His Repertoire

At the conclusion of this article, I would like to share some information, previously unknown, which sheds light not only on Brandt's biography, but also on an orchestral musician's working conditions 100 years ago.

While doing research for a Coburg exhibition in 1993, I wrote to Seija Ohenoia (a friend and ex-pupil) in Helsinki, asking her if information could be found on Brandt's stay there, which Bolotin had reported on as being in two seasons, 1887-88 and 1888-89. At her request, a very cooperative archivist of the Helsinki Philharmonic sent me two surviving contracts, some extracts from the orchestral pay ledger that each musician had to sign, some newspaper announce­ments of impending concerts including repertoire, and Rules and Regulations on musicians' deportment.

From the newspaper accounts, we learn which pieces Willy Brandt played as a soloist while in Helsinki:

            • 2 April   1888  and  26 January   1889: Concertino for trumpet by   [W.] Herfurth         

  • 20 October and 27 October 1888: Fantasie for trumpet by [O.] Fuchs
  • 16 February and 5 March 1889: Nordische Fantasie for "Cornet a piston" by [Theodor] Hoch (1843-1906)
  • 19 April 1890: Solo for "Cornet a piston," Carneval de Venise by [J.B.] Arban (1825-1889).

These virtuoso solos, which are invariably in the form of a theme with variations and contain a num­ber of cadenzas, are typical for their time. The Arban solo, of course, is quite well known. In his success ful search for the other pieces, the author found the Herfurth work in a Solobuch filr B-Trompete (Vol. 1) published by Rahter in Hamburg and still commer­cially available, the Nordische Fantasie in the of the Bad Sackingen Trumpet Museum (from the estate of Brandt's contemporary "Mr. Never-Miss," Eduard Seiffert [1870-1965], former principal trum­peter of the Dresdner Staatskapelle), and Fuchs's Fantasy on Weber's Last Thought (on a theme of Weber) in the St. Petersburg Conservatory Library.

A Musician's Life - Brandt's Contracts and the Rules and Regulations

The contracts are interesting. They are written in old Swedish. We remember that Brandt played a solo on September 16,1888, as a member of 'the Kurkapelle in Bad Oeynhausen. On September 9 of that year, in Bad Oeynhausen, he had already signed a contract stipulating that he would appear in the orchestra office in Helsinki before 12:00 noon on October 1st, failing which he risked a fine of 200 Finnish marks, an entire month's salary.

An identical contract from September 22, 1887 survives. It is reproduced here with an English trans­lation. Note his signature "Willy Brandt."

One stipulation, in the fourth paragraph of stipu­lation 8, requires comment: the death of an emperor. At that time, Finland belonged to Tsarist Russia. It-was no joke when an emperor or an empress died, for that meant an obligatory year of mourning, during which time musicians were simply out of work. This was a traditional condition of a musician's life in bygone days, and we recall that in 1694, the City Council of Leipzig gave Gottfried Reiche (1667-1734) a special payment so as to entice him to stay in Leipzig instead of seeking employment elsewhere, during such a period of mourning.

Every orchestra member must have been familiar with the Rules and Regulations document which is printed in German. It was also found in the dossier of Brandt's colleague, Thule Nordin, who was active as 2nd trumpeter in the orchestra from 1887 to 1892. From its numerous prohibitions in addition to those of Brandt's contract, we learn what conditions were to be found in the early days of symphony orchestras in Europe, when musicians' unions did not yet exist. We do not doubt that there were similar provisos in the contracts of other orchestras and invite corre­spondence on the subject. The contract is reproduced without further comment, followed by an English translation.

 

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