Does anyone happen to know why it is that several major trombone solos (Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture and Scheherazade for example) are indicated in the 2nd Trombone Part rather than the Principal? By that point, alto trombones were no longer in general use, right?

3 Answers 3


This has long been a subject of discussion among trombone players.

Here's an attractive theory: "I just have read in magazine that why the solo was on 2nd... Because Russian Empelor at the Rimsky age loved music and he played the trombone on the 2nd position in certain Russian(Sankt-Peterburg?) orchestra. So you can guess the ansewer easily, Rimsky dedicated for him play such a solo."


  • It's an interesting explanation, although I could have sworn that I'd seen this done in other scores by non-Russians as well. I just went back and checked on the Liszt-Doppler and saw that I was wrong; the solo was in the 1st part after all. Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 17:37
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    The classic Trombone 2 solo is Tuba Mirum in the Mozart Requiem. This was a straightforward decision to use tenor rather than alto of course. As a jobbing trombonist I was sometimes engaged to play Trombone 1 (all the high notes) AND the solo.
    – Laurence
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 12:31
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    I had heard a similar story, but with Rimsky-Korsakov's best friend as the second trombone player in some orchestra. It sounds a bit like a trombonist-specific urban legend to me, to be honest. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 17:34
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    It just always struck me as such an odd mystery. That, and some other strange assignments of parts, like the 4th horn solo in the 3rd movement of Beethoven 9. Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 2:30
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    There's an opinion that Beethoven's 4th horn may have owned an early valved instrument. This is hotly disputed! Plenty of information available from the obvious Google search.
    – Laurence
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 19:09

I was just talking about this with a student this week. The answer is very straight forward and logical. The 2nd trombonist in the St Petersburg Orchestra was generally known to be having an affair with his wife. Rimsky’s way of taking revenge was to write very difficult solos for the gentleman who was not particularly skilled and humiliate him on a regular basis each concert season!

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    Hey, welcome to the site. This answer might be improved with a source or citation?
    – endorph
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 0:19
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    No, it couldn't be improved! If it turns out not to survive investigation, we are all the poorer.
    – Laurence
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 13:50
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    Note the that there's an important difference between this version of the story and the version I posted as a comment on Laurence Payne's answer a couple years ago. Probably at least one version is an urban legend. Commented May 2, 2018 at 17:50

When I recorded the Eastern Russia Festival Overture solo with Svetlanov and the Philharmonia, Svetlanov said that the 2nd trombone player in the St Petersberg Orchestra was a friend of the composer.

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange! Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 16:31

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