Alexandre Guilmant
Morceau Symphonique und Morceau de lecture:

Arranged by Dominik Rahmer, editor

Trombone and piano

Munich, , Germany
Publisher: G. Henle Verlag
Date of Publication: 2018
Language: German, English, French

Urtext with accompanying Morceau de lecture from the original 1902 notes.


For over a century Alexandre Guilmant’s Morceau Symphonique has been a staple of the trombone repertoire. Virtually every trombonist reading this review will remember his or her first performance of this work, perhaps reliving concerns for the opening ascending minor sixth or worrying about the high c-sharp².

In 1896 Guilmant, widely known as an organist and composer of organ music, succeeded Charles-Marie Widor as the organ professor at the Paris Conservatory. Six years later, in 1902, he was asked to provide a piece for trombone and piano that would serve as the competition piece for that year’s Paris Conservatory trombone class. Guilmant dedicated the work to the man who hired him, Theodore Dubois, composer and then director of the Conservatory. Completed in May 1902, the piece was not published until either late June or early July. The trombonists learned it quickly and performed it for the first time on July 28 accompanied by Guilmant himself.

In the spring of 2018, respected German publisher G. Henle released an urtext edition of Morceau Symphonique. It is only the second work for trombone for which Henle has published an urtext edition; Saint-Saens Cavatine was the first. Working from two primary sources, the autograph and the first published edition, editor Dominik Rahmer has produced a definitive edition of the work. There are fewer than twenty variants to be reconciled. Most relate to the position of expression markings. However, there is one note discrepancy between the two sources—the piano chord at the end of measure 20. Is the soprano note a b-flat or c-flat? This moment is footnoted in the piano score and clarified in the comments.

This edition includes another work by Guilmant, Morceau de Lecture à vue. The Lecture is a simple work that originally accompanied the contest piece and was to be sight-read by the students at the competition. It is in A major, which no doubt would have been jarring to the performers who had just devoted their attention to the E-flat minor/major key structure of the Morceau Symphonique. It sounds a bit like a work designed to bewilder anxious students. This brief composition has never before been published.

The Henle edition provides an important scholarly service to our trombone community. Hopefully it will serve as the inspiration for more urtext editions of important works for trombone. It is reasonably priced, a valuable addition to both personal and institutional libraries.

Reviewer: Paul Overly
Review Published April 2, 2019