Introduction and Choral Variations on “Now Thank We All Our God” by F.A. Belcke
Friedrich August Belcke (1795-1874) was the first luminary in the Leipzig Gewandhaus school of trombone playing, and an in-demand trombone soloist even beyond Germany’s borders. In 1859 he composed and performed the above-named piece for the dedication of a new organ at his home church in Lucka, approximately 20 miles south of Leipzig. It is scored for solo trombone, organ, men’s voices and trombone choir.
The piece was then forgotten and lost until just a few years ago when Rolf Handrow, retired Gewandhaus trombonist, discovered it and had it published, also graciously sharing it with his friend Carl Lenthe, Professor at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana.
A performance was planned in Lucka for 2017, but personnel circumstances led to a postponement. As such, the first performance since its rediscovery fell to Lenthe, with Handrow’s blessings. This took place as a postlude to an evening service of hymns on Sunday, January 14, 2018 at Faith Lutheran Church in Bloomington. Carl was joined by organist and Cantor Priscilla Gabriel, the men of the Faith Lutheran’s choir singing in the original German, and a trombone ensemble comprised of congregation members augmented by trombonists from the Jacobs School of Music. A video recording of the performance is available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/t_b7Rwy2NGE.
Professor Handrow, a tireless researcher, has written about Belcke and other stars of the Leipzig school in his 2014 book, “Beruhmte Posaunen-Virtuosen: Friedrich August Belcke, Carl Traugott Queisser, Albert Robert Muller, Joseph Serafin Alschausky – Posaunisten des Gewandhausorchesters Leipzig”. [Famou Trombone Virtuosos: Friedrich August Belcke, Carl Traugott Queisser, Albert Robert Muller, Joseph Serafin Alschausky – Trombonists of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra].
The book was reviewed by Dr. Linda Pearse in the ITA Journal, Vol. 43 No. 3, July 2015, pp. 49-50, and begs for translation into English, not only to make this important and fascinating trombone history available to a wider audience, but also in the hope that potential English language readers may be able to fill in some gaps in Alschausky’s biography. Serafin Alschausky (1879-1948) left Leipzig in 1923 and emigrated to the U.S., played for one year with the Cincinnati Symphony and then moved to Los Angeles, where he worked and taught – largely “under radar.”
Both the book and the “Introduction and Choral Variations” are published by Crescendo-Brass GbR, Germany (www.crescendo-brass.de).