Bass trumpet - History
“Monster” trumpet (bass trumpet in Bb), H.N. White, Cleveland, Ohio, ca. 1927. An exceptional model that is different from regular bass trumpets; silver-plated (Musikinstrumentenmuseum Schloss Kremsegg, Austria, Streitwieser collection)
In 1828 the German instrument maker Heinrich Stölzel became the first to feature a trumpet in (low) Bb in his catalog. The instrument was described as a tenor trumpet in Bb, which was in fact its true register. Richard Wagner (1813–1883) used this low-pitched trumpet in his Ring of the Nibelung to symbolize the fortitude and dominance of his heroes (“sword motif”). He called for trumpets in (low) Bb, (low) C, D and Eb under the name bass trumpet.
In the 1820s Heinrich Stölzel (1777–1844) also made a trumpet in the true bass range, in the F1 and Eb1 tunings. This instrument was adopted by military bands. Today the “genuine” bass trumpet (in F1) is manufactured by the firm of Thein in Bremen, Germany.
The bass trumpet (in Bb1 or C2) is still used by some German bands.
In the symphony orchestra the bass trumpet in Bb1 or C2 introduced by Wagner has always been preferred, although it is used only rarely. The instrument is found chiefly in late Romantic orchestral works by Wagner, Strauss, Stravinsky and Janacek. In the 20th century the bass trumpet was rediscovered by the Viennese composer Friedrich Cerha.