Joannès Rochut, the Boston Symphony, and his trombone

Joannès Rochut, the Boston Symphony, and his trombone

by Douglas Yeo

When we look at the long history of the trombone, many notable trombonists come to mind. It’s not possible to say who was the most famous. A case can be made for Arthur Pryor, the celebrated trombone soloist in John Philip Sousa’s band and his own band, who made many recordings, and dazzled audiences around the world. While his name is not so well known today, Homer Rodeheaver, the trombone-playing song leader for evangelist Billy Sunday in the first third of the twentieth century, played trombone for over 100 million people during his lifetime, although his trombone playing skills paled next to the great soloists of his time including Pryor, Simone Mantia, and Gardell Simons.

However, there is one trombonist whose name is known to trombonists all over, although most are probably not aware of many details of his life. But this we know: Joannès Rochut (1881-1952) edited three volumes of vocalises, what he called Melodious Etudes, from the works of Marco Bordogni. These books, published in 1928 by Carl Fischer (New York), have become a standard part of trombone teaching and practicing since they were first issued. For sheer name recognition, it would be hard to argue that Rochut is not one of the most famous trombonists of all time. His contribution to trombone pedagogy is incalculable. What trombonist does not have a copy of at least Volume 1 of “The Rochut Book” (even though there is not a note by Rochut in the books)? [NB: I wrote an article about exercise No. 1 in Volume 1 of Rochut’s Melodious Etudes, an etude that does not appear in Bordogni’s oeuvre and which some people have postulated was written by Rochut himself. It was not. You can read that article HERE.] 


Cover of the first edition of Joannès Rochut’s Melodious Etudes for Trombone Selected from the Vocalises of Marco Bordogni (New York: Carl Fischer, 1928)

This article is a brief introduction to Joannès Rochut with a special emphasis on one of the trombones he played. I intend to write a more in-depth article about Rochut for the International Trombone Association Journal, drawing from my own research and the extensive archive of Rochut related materials collected and recently given to me by my friend, David Fetter (long time trombonist with the Cleveland Orchestra and Baltimore Symphony; we were colleagues together when I played in the Baltimore Symphony from 1981-1985).

Born in Paris, Rochut’s father died when he was seven years old and he was placed in an orphanage where he learned to play the trombone. After volunteering for the French military when he was eighteen—he served as a bandsman for three years—Joannès Rochut enrolled in the Paris Conservatoire in 1902 where he studied trombone with Louis Allard (1852-1940).

Le Temps (Paris. 1861)

Announcement of brass instrument prize winners in the 1905 Paris Conservatoire Concours. Rochut received Premier prix (first prize) in the trombone class; his name appears near the bottom of the clipping. Le Temps, Paris, July 30, 1905.


Sigismond Stojowski, Fantasie (incipit). 1905.

Joannès Rochut won second prize at the Conservatoire in 1903, playing Bernard Croce-Spinelli’s Solo de concours (that contest was won by Eugene Adam, whose name we shall see again later in this article), and second prize again in 1904, playing Morceau de concours of Edmond J. Missa. Rochut graduated from the Conservatoire in 1905 with first prize in its annual Concours; the required solo was Zygmunt Denis Antoni Jordan “Sigismond” de Stojowski’s Fantasie. [NB: Stojowski was born in Strzelce, Poland, in 1870. He entered the Paris Conservatoire at age 17 and also studied at Sorbonne University. He was a friend of Peter Tchaikovsky (Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 was dedicated to Stojowski), and Stojowski came to the United States in 1905 where he wrote his Fantasie for trombone. For a more detailed biography of Stojowski, see: Paul Krzywicki, From Paderewski to Penderecki: The Polish Musician in Philadelphia (Paul Krzywicki, 2016).] 


Holton Trombone catalog, c. 1920. Endorsements by Joannès Rochut and Fortunato Sordillo.

While a member of the Orchestre de la Garde républicaine (French Republican Guard Band) during World War I, Rochut toured the United States in 1918; the band played concerts in 208 cities in 37 states. It was probably at that time that Rochut tried and later endorsed Holton trombones (Rochut’s Holton endorsement is pictured above) but there is no record of Rochut taking a Holton trombone back to Paris.

Following his service in the Republican Guard Band, Rochut performed with numerous orchestras in France including the Société des Nouveaux-Concerts (Orchestre Lamoureux) and l’Opera Comique (Paris); among his many students at that time was Andre Lafosse (1890-1975), who later served as professor of trombone at the Paris Conservatoire (1948-1960). Rochut also helped organize the first of the Concerts Koussevitzky (1921, Paris) which were instrumental in establishing the reputation of Russian conductor Serge Koussevitzky (1897-1951). Koussevitzky was appointed music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1924, and in October 1925, he engaged Rochut as the orchestra’s principal trombonist, a position he held for five seasons. Rochut joined the faculty of New England Conservatory of Music in 1926; among his students in Boston was John Coffey (bass trombonist of the Cleveland Orchestra 1937-1941, and bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony, 1941-1952).


Photo of Joannès Rochut in Paris with his children, part of an article in the Boston Sunday Post, October 11, 1925. The photo inset on top right shows Ferdinand Gillet, who was hired as the Boston Symphony’s principal oboist at the same time Rochut was hired as principal trombonist. Courtesy of Boston Symphony Archives.

Rochut was one of 14 French musicians to join the Boston Symphony in the fall of 1925; he played principal trombone in the BSO through the 1929-1930 season. The addition of Jacob Raichman to the trombone section in 1927—Koussevitzky knew Raichman in Russia where Raichman played alongside Vladislav Blazhevich in the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra in Moscow before leaving for Cuba and then the United States—probably hastened Rochut’s departure from Boston. The Frenchman and the Russian famously did not get along well, and when Rochut returned to France in 1930, Raichman, who had been named co-principal trombone around 1928, assumed the principal trombone position in the BSO. In 1955, Raichman was succeeded as principal trombone by William Gibson who was succeeded by Ronald Barron in 1975 who was succeeded by Toby Oft in 2008.


“New Symphony Virtuosos,” Boston Post, October 6, 1925. Joannès Rochut (third from left) is pictured with three other newly hired principal players of the Boston Symphony Orchestra: Edmond Allegra, principal clarinet, Ferdinand Gillet, principal oboe, and Jean Lefranc, principal viola. Courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives.

The earliest known photo of Joannès Rochut as a member of the Boston Symphony was printed in in the Boston Post on October 6, 1925 (above).


Boston Symphony Orchestra brass section, 1925. Courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives.


Later in 1925, the Boston Symphony brass section posed for a group photo (above). Rochut is standing in the center; the other trombone players are (back row, left to right) Leroy Kenfield (bass trombone), Eugene Adam (assistant principal trombone), and Lucien Hansotte (second trombone). The tubist, far right, is Paul Sidow. Seated in front of Rochut is Georg Wendler, principal horn (Wendler was the son-in-law of Eduard Kruspe, the celebrated German maker of brass instruments); in front of Hansotte is George Mager, principal trumpet. Mager, who also taught at New England Conservatory of Music, was the teacher of Adolph Herseth (1921-2013), who played principal trumpet in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1948 to 2001.


This grainy photo, above, from an undated newspaper clipping from a Boston Symphony press scrapbook, probably dates from 1925-1926. Back row (left to right): Joannès Rochut, Eugene Adam (assistant principal trombone), Lucien Hansotte (second trombone), Leroy Kenfield (bass trombone), Paul Sidow (tuba).


[Above] Boston Symphony Orchestra, performance of Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Serge Koussevitzky, conductor. March 29, 1927. Courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives.


This photo of Rochut on stage in Boston’s Symphony Hall (above) was taken at the time of a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in 1927. The Boston Symphony’s trombone section for that performance consisted of (above, left to right) Rochut, Lucian Hansotte (second trombone), and Leroy Kenfield (bass trombone). 



[Above] Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1928. Courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives.

At the beginning of the 1928-1929 season, the members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra sat for individual photos that were collected into a collage. When Jacob Raichman joined the orchestra in 1927, the trombone section expanded to five players. Shown in the photo are (left to right), Rochut, Lucien Hansotte (second trombone), Leroy Kenfield (bass trombone), Jacob Raichman (co-principal trombone), and Eugene Adam (assistant principal trombone).


[Above] Arthur Fiedler (standing, center) with the Arthur Fiedler Sinfonietta (Boston Sinfonietta), c. 1929. Courtesy of Boston Symphony Archives.

Fiedler_Sinfonietta_Rochut_1929_detailMembers of the Arthur Fiedler Sinfonietta. Back row (left to right): Abdon Laus, principal bassoon, Joannès Rochut, Marcel LaFosse, trumpet, Georges Mager, principal trumpet.

Conductor Arthur Fielder (1894-1979) is well-known for his long tenure as the conductor of the Boston Pops from 1930 to 1979. But what is lesser known is that before he achieved fame with the Pops, he founded the Boston Sinfonietta—also known as the Arthur Fiedler Sinfonietta—in 1924. The orchestra was made up mostly of Boston Symphony players and it played concerts and made recordings for RCA Victor. Rochut played in Fiedler’s Sinfonietta along with many other Boston Symphony principal players including Georges Mager.


[Above] Boston Symphony Orchestra (Boston Pops Orchestra) on the Charles River Esplanade, July 4, 1929. Courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives.


[Above] Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Boston Pops Orchestra). Back row (left to right): Joannès Rochut, Jacob Raichman (playing second trombone), Leroy Kenfield (bass trombone).

On July 4, 1929, the Boston Pops played a concert on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston. A temporary shell had been constructed for the concert and Rochut, Raichman, and Kenfield played trombone. [NB: A second temporary bandshell was built in 1934, and a permanent structure was built in 1940.  The Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell—Bostonians refer to it as “The Hatch Shell”—underwent a major renovation in 2018.]


When Joannès Rochut joined the Boston Symphony, he brought with him two trombones by the Parisian maker Lefevre. Founded in 1812 by François Lefevre, the workshop was particularly known for its woodwind instruments. Extant trombones by Lefevre are few, and the shop went out of business by 1911. Rochut’s Lefevre trombones are both narrow bore (.455″). The straight trombone has a six-inch diameter bell, and the trombone with a piston valve activated  F-attachment (which also has a Stillventil or static rotary valve that can be turned by hand to put the attachment in E) has a 6 1/2 inch diameter bell. 

When Rochut left Boston to return to Paris in 1930, he left his Lefevre trombones behind in Symphony Hall. In the 1970s, they were discovered in a storeroom and put up for auction by the BSO as part of a fundraising program, “Salute to Symphony.” The trombones sold at auction but the buyer did not want to take them. William Moyer, the orchestra’s personnel manager who had played second trombone in the BSO from 1952-1966, took the trombones home for safekeeping. When I joined the BSO in 1985 and told Bill Moyer of my interest in knowing more about Rochut, he gave me the trombones. 


I never considered Rochut’s trombones to be “mine.” I always felt they had been entrusted to me to care for them. They are a part of the Boston Symphony’s history, priceless artificats from one of the most important trombonists to have ever played the instrument. When Toby Oft received tenure as principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony in July 2009, I decided to entrust Rochut’s straight trombone to him. Then, when Steve Lange received tenure as second trombonist of the Boston Symphony in 2011, I entrusted the F-attachment trombone to him. I had small plaques made that I put in the case for each instrument that documented the exchange. Toby and Steve both understood that the instruments were not “theirs,” rather, they were to care for them until they left the BSO at which time they would entrust the instruments to their successors. In this, Rochut’s trombones will always be in the care of Boston Symphony trombonists.

Rochut played his Lefevre trombone in Paris before he came to Boston and during his years he was a member of the BSO; it can be seen in photos throughout this article. Rochut used a Besson trombone for a time in 1927-28 but returned to his Lefevre. Then, on November 22, 1929, Rochut purchased one of the first trombones made by Vincent Bach, serial number 0023 (.514/.525″ dual slide bore, eight-inch diameter bell). How much Rochut used his Bach trombone in Boston and whereabouts of Rochut’s Besson and Bach trombones are not known to me.

Bach shop card Rochut Nr. 23

Vincent Bach’s shop card for trombone serial number 0023, purchased by Joannès Rochut on November 22, 1929. Courtesy of Roy Hempley.

In addition to leaving his Lefevre trombones behind in Boston, Rochut also left his mouthpiece. It is exceptionally small, with a 21.6 mm interior rim diameter. It is funnel shaped, in the style of French trombone mouthpieces of the time. A comparison of Rochut’s mouthpiece that he used with his Lefevre trombone with a Bach 6 1/2 AL graphically shows how small Rochut’s mouthpiece actually was. 

Rochut_trombone_mouthpieceMouthpiece (left) used by Joannès Rochut with his Lefevre trombone, compared with a Bach 6 1/2 AL mouthpiece (right). Photo by Mike Oft.

I recently asked Toby Oft to take some photographs of Rochut’s Lefevre trombone as well as some photos that would show the difference in size between the Lefevre and Toby’s Edwards trombone. I want to thank Toby for taking these superb photos which are not only informative, but display the trombones as works of art, which they are.


Joannès Rochut’s Lefevre trombone. Photo by and © Toby Oft. Note the siphon valve on the bottom bow of the hand slide. Pressing the bottom of the hand slide to the floor activates a spring and allows condensation to drain  out.


The bell engraving of Joannès Rochut’s Lefevre trombone. Photo by and © Toby Oft.


Comparison of Joannès Rochut’s Lefevre trombone with Toby Oft’s Edwards trombone. Photo by and © Toby Oft.


Comparison of Joannès Rochut’s Lefevre trombone with Toby Oft’s Edwards trombone. Photo by and © Toby Oft.


Comparison of Joannès Rochut’s Lefevre trombone with Toby Oft’s Edwards trombone. Photo by and © Toby Oft.


Joannès Rochut’s Lefevre trombone. Photo by and © Toby Oft.

There is much more to the story of the life and work of Joannès Rochut. That will unfold in my article in progress for the International Trombone Association Journal. His is a name that trombonists around the world have known for nearly a century. My hope is that this article has added to our understanding about Rochut, his Lefevre trombone, and his years as principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 

[Special thanks to the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives, Bridget Carr, Archivist, and Toby and Mike Oft for their photos.]