HISTORY OF THE BARITONE AND THE EUPHONIUM
The euphonium and the baritone have a relatively short history; both emerged in
German military bands in the late 1820’s after valves were patented. In the 1840’s,
Adolphe Sax produced a family of saxhorns, which were used by the French army. They
became popular in England where brass bands eagerly adopted them. The baritone is a
descendant of the saxhorn baryton. At the same time, an inventor named Sommer of
Wiemar, Germany created the Sommerophone or Euphonium and exhibited it at the
Crystal Palace in London in 1851. This enormous trade show exhibited all the latest
technology from the Industrial Revolution, including steam trains, and was viewed by
millions of Europeans.
In the 1870’s, instrument makers at Boosey developed a compensating system to
correct the intonation of the euphonium. By depressing a fourth valve when playing
multiple-valve combinations, the pitch of the instrument (usually sharp) improved. At
the turn of the twentieth century, composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav
Holst were eager to explore the warm tonal quality of the euphonium and wrote many
solos, especially for wind band. Strauss, Wagner, Musorgsky/Ravel and Shostakovich
wrote considerable orchestral music with euphonium. Euphoniums continue to be
appreciated in orchestra and wind ensembles; baritones are more widely used in brass
Until recently, the words baritone and euphonium were used interchangeably in
the United States. However, there are many differences that can visually and aurally
distinguish the two.
The euphonium bore and bell throat are larger than the baritone’s. Euphoniums usually
have 4 valves; the baritone has 3. The more conical bore of the euphonium gives it a
timbre that is deeper in color and weight than the baritone.
Another factor that adds to the confusion surrounding these two instruments are
the European names. In Italian and German, the words for euphonium are baritono and
Baryton respectively. Baritones are known as tenore and Tenorhorn. It is important to
keep this information in minds when using music published in these countries.