10 Classical Trombone Solos You Should Know

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By Kevin Christensen
Last updated: May 16, 2024

Over the years, trombonists have been graced with a plethora of exceptional classical solos that have stood the test of time. From the famous Bach Cello Suites to the masterpieces by composers like Bozza, David, and Ewazen, these solos showcase beautiful melodies, groovy rhythms, and enticing harmonic shifts that highlight the versatility and artistry of the trombone.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an aspiring trombonist, delving into these timeless pieces is sure to ignite your passion for this majestic instrument.

1. Bach’s Cello Suites

Baroque era masterpiece

To truly understand the beauty and genius of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suites, one must examine into the Baroque era where these masterpieces were composed. While these suites were originally written for the cello, their beautiful melodies, groovy rhythms, and exquisite craftsmanship make them a timeless treasure in the classical music world.

Transcription for trombone

An amazing exception to my focus on original trombone works, the Bach Cello Suites are a must for any trombonist. The Prelude of the First Suite is immediately recognizable and a true showstopper. These suites were written without accompaniment, making them ideal for solo performances without needing a pianist.

2. Saint-Saëns’ Cavatine

Assuming you are exploring crucial trombone solos, Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cavatine is a must-listen. This piece, written in 1915, showcases the composer’s lyrical style and gift for melody.

Beautiful, lyrical melody

While performing Saint-Saëns’ Cavatine, trombonists will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a beautiful, lyrical melody that flows effortlessly. The piece’s elegant phrasing and emotive qualities make it a joy to perform and listen to.

Technical challenges abound

If trombonists are looking for a piece that combines musicality with technical prowess, Saint-Saëns’ Cavatine provides just that. The piece features challenging two-octave scales, arpeggios, and brief triple-tongued fanfare figures that require precision and control.

If you want to showcase your technical skill and musicality simultaneously, mastering the challenging passages in Saint-Saëns’ Cavatine will be a rewarding experience.

3. David’s Concertino

Early Romantic era work

Now considered one of the important works for solo trombone, Ferdinand David’s Concertino is a standout piece from the Early Romantic era. With a sublime lyrical theme in the woodwinds, the solo trombone enters belting out a commanding fanfare figure, showcasing David’s masterful composition skills.

Virtuosic trombone writing

There’s a reason why David’s Concertino is highly requested for college and professional auditions – its virtuosic trombone writing demands both technical proficiency and musical sensitivity. The piece features dramatic moments, bold statements, sweeping legato lines, and exhilarating climaxes, making it a challenging yet rewarding addition to any trombonist’s repertoire.

Any trombonist tackling David’s Concertino should be prepared for intense fanfare segments, poignant lyrical passages, and the need to showcase a wide range of emotive playing styles. The piece’s through-composed structure and demanding cadenza require a deep understanding of musical phrasing and pacing to truly captivate the audience.

4. Grøndahl’s Trombone Concerto

Danish composer’s gem

After exploring the rich world of classical trombone solos, one cannot overlook Launy Grøndahl’s Trombone Concerto. This Danish masterpiece has solidified its place as one of the most necessary pieces in the trombone repertoire.

Melodic and technical demands

Clearly, Grøndahl’s Trombone Concerto presents a unique blend of melodic beauty and technical challenges. The concerto showcases bold statements intertwined with sweeping legato lines, creating a captivating journey for the performer and the audience alike.

Technical requirements include precision in both soft, lyrical passages and bold, climactic sections. The concerto demands a mastery of control and dynamics, making it a thrilling yet rewarding piece for trombonists to tackle.

5. Ewazen’s Trombone Sonata

Modern American classic

For a modern American classic, look no further than Eric Ewazen’s Trombone Sonata. Known for his bubbly personality, Ewazen’s joyous presence shines through in this sonata, making it both fun to play and enjoyable to listen to.

Virtuosic and expressive

One of the standout features of Ewazen’s Trombone Sonata is its virtuosic and expressive nature. With disjunct dancing lines juxtaposed with beautiful, lyrical melodies, this piece showcases the trombonist’s technical skill and emotional depth.

One intriguing aspect of this sonata is the way Ewazen balances technical demands with emotional expressiveness, creating a piece that challenges the player while also allowing them to connect with the music on a deeper level.

Any trombonist looking to showcase their technical prowess and expressive capabilities should consider adding Ewazen’s Trombone Sonata to their repertoire. With its engaging mix of technical challenges and emotional depth, this piece is sure to captivate audiences and elevate any recital or performance.

6. Guilmant’s Morceau Symphonique

French Romantic era work

Not as well-known as some other pieces on this list, Guilmant’s Morceau Symphonique is a French recital classic that showcases the trombone’s capabilities in a French Romantic setting. The piece begins with a brooding cantabile theme in Eb minor, allowing the soloist a brief cadenza before transitioning into a lively section in Eb major, featuring scales, syncopated figures, and appoggiaturas.

Beautiful, lyrical melody

With Morceau Symphonique, Guilmant presents trombonists with a delightful, lyrical melody that showcases the expressive qualities of the instrument. The piece moves seamlessly between emotional highs and lows, providing a rich musical experience for both the performer and the audience.

7. Hindemith’s Trombone Sonata

Neoclassical era masterpiece

Despite Paul Hindemith’s belief that there was limited repertoire for wind instruments, his Trombone Sonata stands out as a neoclassical masterpiece. The piece showcases Hindemith’s command of harmony and rhythmic complexity, making it a must-know work for trombonists.

Technical and musical challenges

On a technical level, Hindemith’s Trombone Sonata presents challenges in both the soloist and pianist parts. The piece features intricate rhythmic patterns and demanding passages that require precise execution. From a musical standpoint, performers must navigate through contrasting sections that range from bold and commanding to subtly expressive.

Plus, the second movement of the sonata involves the trombonist playing the same passage multiple times while the pianist performs intricate lines. This requires a high level of ensemble coordination between the soloist and accompanist.

8. Jørgensen’s Romance

Danish composer’s romantic work

If you want a piece where your only requirement is to sing and emote through the horn, this is a solid choice. This Danish work, in a quintcrucial intimate, pastoral mood, provides a glimpse of what Jørgensen might have been seeing out his window as he wrote. The piece is perfect for demonstrating legato playing, with dotted-8th, 16th rhythms juxtaposed with triplets to showcase your technical skills.

Beautiful, expressive melody

If you’re looking for a piece that showcases a beautiful and expressive melody, ‘Romance’ by Axel Jørgensen is the perfect choice. This Danish work exudes a romantic aura and allows the trombonist to convey emotion through their playing. The piece features a captivating lyrical section in E major that will enchant audiences with its melodic beauty.

9. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Concerto

Russian Romantic era work

Many trombonists are familiar with Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Trombone Concerto, a piece from the Russian Romantic era known for its dramatic and descriptive elements. While some may find the concerto repetitive, it still holds a significant place in the trombone repertoire, showcasing fanfare figures, serene movements, and military-sounding marches.

Virtuosic and technically demanding

Any trombonist looking to challenge their technical skills should consider tackling Rimsky-Korsakov’s Concerto. With fast scales, arpeggios, and brief triple-tongued fanfare figures, this piece is a test of virtuosity and precision that requires a strong command of the instrument.

Now, for trombonists ready to showcase their abilities, learning the intricacies of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Concerto will provide a platform to dazzle audiences with the demanding technical passages and expressive opportunities the piece presents.

Russian Romantic era work: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Concerto includes fanfare figures, serene movements in Gb major, and military-sounding marches. Virtuosic and technically demanding: Featuring fast scales, arpeggios, and triple-tongued fanfare figures, this piece challenges trombonists’ technical skills.

10. Bozza’s Ballade

French neoclassical era work

All trombonists should be familiar with Eugene Bozza’s Ballade, a popular French recital piece. This solo showcases both lyrical and dance-like sections, making it a versatile and engaging performance piece.

Technical and musical challenges

Some technical and musical challenges to note in Bozza’s Ballade include the range from low E to high Db, as well as the need for musical pacing in the extended cadenza. Trombonists should also be prepared for a mix of soaring melancholic sections and exciting showy passages, including a challenging glissando.

Summing up

The collection of classical trombone solos outlined above provides a diverse and comprehensive overview of crucial repertoire for trombonists. From the timeless elegance of Bach’s Cello Suites to the bold and commanding compositions of Hindemith and Grøndahl, each piece offers unique challenges and opportunities for musical expression. Whether you’re a student preparing for auditions or a professional seeking new performance material, these ten solos showcase the rich and varied world of classical trombone music.

By Kevin Christensen
Trombone Geek, managed by trombone player Kevin Christensen, is a comprehensive resource for trombone players of all levels worldwide. Christensen's 20+ years of professional experience and training at prestigious institutions provide valuable insights into trombone playing. Trombone Geek offers tips, tricks, and advice on all aspects of playing the instrument. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced player looking to improve your skills, Trombone Geek is an excellent resource for learning and mastering this fascinating instrument.
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