Friedrich Wilhelm Wieprecht January 20 2014, 1 Comment

Contributed by Jack Kopstein


One of the most important German bandmasters and arrangers in the 1800’s was Friedrich Wilhelm Wieprecht. His seven-volume Königliche Preussische Armee Märsche, which contains full scores of his instrumentations, für die jetzige Stimmenbesetzung (for the present-day instrumentation) of selected works arranged in the chronological order of their composition from the mid-eighteenth century to 1853.

Wieprecht’s work is the ultimate in German military band instrumentation of that period, and you can see his chosen instrumentation below. Instruments of that era lacked the sophistication of the modern day instruments. One ingredient that later helped to add a blend to the mid-range of bands had not been introduced into the military band, the saxophone by Adolphe Sax.

Woodwind and Brass Basses: 2 Bassoons ("Fagotts") 1 Contrabassoon ("Contrafagott, Tritonikon, Sarrusophone") 1 Bass Tuba ("Bombardon, Helikon, Saxhorn Basso )

Co-Clarinets, Including the Highest Woodwinds: 1 Piccolo Clarinet in A-flat ("Kleine Clarinette") 2 E-flat Clarinets ("Mittel-Clarinetten") 4 Clarinets in B-flat ("Grosse Clarinetten")

High Woodwinds: 1 Piccolo in D-flat 2 Oboes (“Contrabasso")

Brasses: 4 Trumpets in E-flat ("Trompeten") 2 Tenor Trombones ("Zug-Posaunen im Tenor") 2 Bass Trombones ("Zug-Posaunen im Bass")

The Basic Saxhorn-Flügelhorn Group and the French Horns: 2 Sopranos in B-flat ("Hoch Flügelhörner, Saxhörner Soprano") 2 Altos in E-flat ("Alt Flügelhörner, Saxhörner Alto") 2 Waldhorns in E-flat ("Waldhörner") 2 Tenor Horns in B-flat ("Bass Flügelhörner, Saxhörner Tenore") 1 Baritone ("Bariton-Tuba. Euphoneon Saxhorn Baritone")

Percussion: Drums and Cymbals ("Militair Trommel, Grosse Trommel mit Becken").

This is a large band, but forty-two musicians could do justice to Wieprecht's instrumentation, if that is what American bandmasters had in mind. It is likely that Wieprecht's international reputation as the reorganizer of the Prussian military bands made him a powerfully influential figure, particularly among those favorably disposed to things German. A fascinating aspect of Weiprecht is that he transcribed the nine symphonies of Beethoven for the instrumentation listed above. He was certainly known and respected in New York, and early in the Civil War, a Boston critic wrote an article about Weiprecht’s influence in the military band field.

“In Prussia there is a band master general, who organizes and controls the entire music of the Prussian army. Every band in the whole kingdom must conform, in numbers, in the selection and proportion of various instruments, in the particular structure, compass, pitch, &c., of each kind of instrument, to his unitary standard. He is thoroughly master of his subject, and probably knows more of the capacities of wind instruments and the best ways of combining them, so as to obtain the most effect, for every kind of service, than any man in Europe. Wieprecht is his name. He is preparing a treatise on wind instruments, which will be invaluable. Liszt and Berlioz, whose work on ‘Instrumentation’ is well known, have owed much to Wieprecht.”

Wieprecht was responsible in large part for the organization of German and Prussian bands. His  standard instrumentation formed the basis for the great marches which have been written by composers such as Teike, and Blankenburg. These wonderful masterpieces may be heard on albums such like Gott, Kaiser, Vaterland: Music of Imperial Germany and Hoch Deutschlands Flotte! Music of the Imperial German Navy, both of which feature archival recordings of German military bands. You can also hear traditional German military marches in Heritage of the March, Volume 1 and Heritage of the March, Volumes 3 - 4. If you want to read more about military band music of this era, check out this great chapter of an online textbook, devoted to the history of wind bands.

- Jack Kopstein