History of Orchestral Excerpt Collections

One way I come up with topics for blog posts is to go back through my files, looking at old handouts, articles, and various other types of research and publications. Sometimes I am looking for material on a particular topic, and on other occasions I just happen across something interesting that I’d forgotten about or shoved in a drawer and didn’t know was there. In the case of this post the latter description certainly applies.  As I was looking through an old notebook from graduate school I rediscovered a research paper I’d written as a doctoral student on the history of orchestral excerpt collections. Luckily, I was able to find the electronic copy I’d saved and copied over to a portable hard drive, thereby making this blog post far less labor intensive. Quoting from my topic proposal, I was interested in the following questions.

  1. When and why did the tradition of extracting and compiling passages of orchestral music begin?
  2. Who was responsible for making these early compilations, and for what purpose did they make them; the same purpose as today?
  3. For which instrument or family of instruments were the first excerpt collections compiled?

I think the paper turned out pretty well, but I unfortunately wasn’t able to determine with any real level of certainty the answers to all of my questions.  I relied heavily on previous research, especially David Wakefield’s disseration  A Guide to Orchestral Excerpt Books for Horn. Ph.D. thesis, The Juilliard School, 1981 (thanks also to Dr. John Ericson for pointing out this valuable resource).  In his chronology of orchestral excerpt books for horn, Wakefield lists Henri Kling’s Horn-Schule, published in Leipzig in 1865 and reprinted in 1879, as the first published example of orchestral excerpts for horn. Quoting myself again, this time from the introduction and the conclusion to the paper, you can see where I ended up in terms of my research.

Most instrumental musicians today are familiar with orchestral excerpt books; these collections, sometimes published individually or as multi-volume sets, often form an important part of an orchestral musician’s training.  Because these collections present only short sections of material featuring the specific instrument for which they were published, they are very useful in exposing players to the wide variety of styles and techniques necessary for orchestral performance.  For many performers, especially woodwind and brass players, excerpt books provide their first experiences with the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms and many other frequently performed composers.  Yet despite their importance to instrumental pedagogy, orchestral excerpt books have been seldom discussed in a historical context.  Important issues which remain unresolved include the questions of how these texts developed, who the first publishers were, which instruments these collections were published for, and how these texts fit into the overall framework of musical training during the years in which they appeared.  Though some examples of excerpted orchestral passages for a specific instrument may exist prior to the middle of the 19th century, the tradition which continues today of collecting and publishing these passages largely began after 1865 and experienced rapid growth through the end of the 19th century.  This growth, perhaps encouraged by the increasing popularity of orchestration treatises, the increasing difficulty of orchestral music, and the greater popularity of the orchestra in general, resulted in the publication of excerpt collections for every orchestral instrument by the early 20th century. (Introduction)

Much valuable information still remains to be found on the history and chronology of early orchestral excerpt collections.  A more thorough examination of early instrument tutors might reveal examples of published excerpts prior to Kling’s Horn-Schule, and a study of the teaching materials and personal notebooks belonging to well known instrumental pedagogues from the 19th century (or earlier) may also yield earlier forms of excerpt books in manuscript form.  In addition, the publication dates listed in WorldCat must be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism.  The possibility of chronological errors in WorldCat entries requires that those dates be verified whenever possible by consulting the actual publications or other sources.  While it may not be possible to pinpoint exactly when the first orchestral excerpt collections appeared, they were definitely available to all the orchestral instruments by the early 20th century.  The growing importance of the orchestra in European and American society during much of the 19th century generated an increased demand for orchestral performers skilled enough to meet the challenges of music by Richard Strauss, Franz Liszt, and Richard Wagner, among many others.  Professors attempting to train a new class of skilled orchestral musicians at music schools such as those in Leipzig and Weimar may also have inspired each other to edit and publish excerpt collections for their students.  Finally, the popularity of orchestration treatises by Berlioz and Kastner likely influenced those musicians responsible for compiling the first excerpt books.  Regardless of these uncertainties of origin and chronology, orchestral excerpt collections and the study of orchestral performance in general have come to constitute an integral part of instrumental pedagogy.  Since the late 19th century, excerpt books have helped expose generations of instrumentalists to large amounts of repertoire, and assisted in teaching them the skills necessary to perform as orchestral musicians.  The 21st century will undoubtedly witness equally important developments in the field of musical training, which hopefully will better prepare performers to meet the demands of their profession.  (Conclusion)

Although I didn’t really come up with anything groundbreaking, I certainly became more familiar with the development of the orchestra and of orchestral pedagogy during the 19th century. As part of my class presentation on the topic I put together the following one page handout listing some important dates and publications in the history of orchestral excerpt collections.

Proposed Chronology for the History of Orchestral Excerpt Collections

  • 1837 Georges Kastner, Traité Général d’Instrumentation and supplement Cours d’Instrumentation, Considéré Sous Les Rapports Poétiques er Philosophiques de l’Art
  • 1843 Leipzig Conservatory established by Mendelssohn
  • 1843/1855 Hector Berlioz, Grand Traité d’Instrumentation et d’Orchestration Modernes, Op. 10
  • 1865 (1879) Henri Kling, Horn-Schule
  • c. 1870 Friedrich Adolph Gumpert, Orchesterstudien: Solobuch für Horn
  • 1872 Weimar Orchesterschule founded
  • c. 1880 Friedrich Adolph Gumpert, Orchesterstudien für Trompete
  • 1881 Leipzig Conservatory institutes a fully staffed orchestral division
  • 1880s J.G. Seeling, Tägliche Uebungen für Contrabass
  • 1886 G. F. Carney, Orchestral Studies: Consisting of Difficult Passages and Solos that Occur in Overtures, Symphonies, Operas and Miscellaneous Orchestra Works for the Clarinet
  • 1890s Friedrich Adolph Gumpert, Orchesterstudien für Alle Instrumente: Faggott
  • 1894 Friedrich Hermann, Orchesterstudien für 1. Violine
  • 1896 (1912?) Emil Prill, Orchester-Studien für Flöte
  • 1897 Friedrich Hermann, Orchesterstudien für Viola
  • 1900s Friedrich Wilhelm Grützmacher, Orchesterstudien: Violoncello
  • 1900s Franz Seyffarth, Orchesterstudien für alle Instrumente: Eine Sammlung der Wichtigsten für Tuba aus Opern, Oratorien, Symphonien, und Anderen Werken
  • 1906 Hermann Pietzsch, Die Trompete: An Orchestral Instrument and its Treatment During the Different Periods of Musical Culture
  • 1908 Ernest Clarke, Orchestral Studies for Trombone
  • 1910 Richard Strauss Orchesterstudien
  • 1911 Emil Teuchert, Orchesterstudien für Basstuba

If this topic interests you there is plenty more research out there waiting to be done.  Who knows, you may come across some dusty old manuscript that turns out to be the first orchestral excerpt book. If you do decide to pursue the subject further, here’s a list of resources where you can find more information.

Bomberger, Douglas E. “Charting the Future of ‘Zukunftsmusik’: Liszt and the Weimar Orchesterschule.” The Musical Quarterly 80, no. 2 (Summer 1996): 348-361.

Berlioz, Hector. Grand Traité d’Instrumentation et d’Orchestration Modernes, Op. 10. Paris: 1843 and 1855. Translated by Mary Cowden Clarke, 1856.  New Edition Revised and Edited by Joseph Bennett.  London: Novello, 1890.

Brun, Paul. A New History of the Double Bass. France: Paul Brun Productions, 2000.

Carse, Adam. “Text-Books on Orchestration Before Berlioz.” Music and Letters 22, no. 1 (January 1941): 26-31.

Charlton, David. “Kling, Henri.” in Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy  <http://www.grovemusic.com&gt;.

Ericson, John. “Crooks and the 19th-Century Horn.” The Horn Call-The Journal of the International Horn Society 30 (November 1999): 49-58.

Ericson, John. “Henri Kling and the Valved Horn in the Late Nineteenth Century.” HornArticles Online. <http://www.public.asu.edu/~jqerics/kling.htm&gt;.

Fairley, Andrew. Flutes, Flautists and Makers. London: Pan Educational Music, 1982.

Fako, Nancy Jordan. Philip Farkas and His Horn:  A Happy, Worthwhile Life. Elmhurst, IL: Crescent Park Music Publications, 1998.

Hardin, Anne F.  A Trumpeter’s Guide to Orchestral Excerpts, 2nd ed. Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1986.

Joppig, Gunther. The Oboe and the Bassoon. Translated by Alfred Clayton. Portland,OR: Amadeus Press, 1988.

Kott, Tama.  An Index of Excerpts and an Overview of Published Orchestral BassoonExcerpt Collections with a Comparison of Three Collections. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, 2004.

Morley-Pegge, Reginald. The French Horn: Some Notes on the Evolution of the Instrument and of its Technique, 2nd. ed. London: Ernest Benn Ltd., 1973.

________ and William J. Rogan. “Gumbert, Friedrich Adolf.” in Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy, <http://www.grovemusic.com&gt;.

Morris, R. Winston and Edward R. Goldstein, eds. The Tuba Sourcebook. Bloomington,IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.

Riley, Maurice W. “A Tentative Bibliography of Early Wind Instrument Tutors.” Journalof Research in Music Education 6 (Spring 1958): 3-24.

________. The History of the Viola. Ann Arbor, MI: Braun-Brumfield, 1980.

Roberts, James E. Annotated Guide to Orchestral Excerpts for Trombone. Lebanon, IN: Studio, 1980.

Solow, Jeffrey. “In Print: Who Was That Guy Anyway?-Historical Editors of Cello and Chamber Music Repertoire, Part I.” Strings 15:8:94 (May-June 2001): 82, 84-86, 88.

Spitzer, John and Neal Zaslaw. “Orchestra.” in Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy, <http://www.grovemusic.com&gt;.

Strauss, Richard. Orchesterstudien aus den Symphonischen Werken für Horn. Ausgewählt und Bezeichnet von Emil Wipperich. Leipzig, C.F. Peters, 1910.

Wakefield, David A. A Guide to Orchestral Excerpt Books for Horn. Ph.D. thesis, The Juilliard School, 1981.

Warner, Melvin. Index of Orchestral and Operatic Excerpts for Clarinet. DeKalb, IL: Moonlight Press, 1990, 1968.

Weston, Pamela. More Clarinet Virtuosi of the Past. London: Halston and Co., 1977.

About the Author

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James Boldin,
I am a violinist from the Filarmoinica de Minas Gerais, Brazil, And I just had read your post. I found it really intresting, and I wanted to ask you if you have any possibility to send me the wole thesis of Wakefield dissertation. I am making a research progect for may graduate at the UFMG(state university of Minas Gerais) about the Don Juan excerpt for violin, and it would help me a lot! Also, if you have any other articles or dissertations about orchestral excerpts for violin, I would apretiate. Anything I could share with you, just tell me and I would do it with plasuere.
Thank you very much,
Márcio Cecconello


Hello Marcio,

I do not own a copy of David Wakefield’s dissertation. For my research I used the copy owned by a university library. You might see if your local university owns a copy, or it might be possible to borrow a copy from a neighboring university. If you aren’t able to find it that way, you can probably purchase a copy from UMI’s Digital Dissertation database. http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?RQT=302&cfc=1 Another possibility is to contact David Wakefield directly.

Good luck!


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