The bass trombone came into prominence as a solo instrument in the mid to late 20th century, and is essentially a larger version of the tenor trombone. Until recently, it has been relegated mostly to supporting orchestral roles, doubling the bass or choral lines with an occasional turn in the spotlight. Higher quality instruments and new types of valves led to an environment for better players, and in turn, have inspired more composers to write for the bass trombone as a true solo voice. The trombone slide is a device found on no other instrument. The slide offers both a hindrance and an advantage; awkward and slippery, it can be difficult to maneuver. However, because of the fluid characteristics of the slide, a trombonist can at a moment's notice, imitate any number of machines and wild animals, or sing the most beautiful songs with vocal expression. Berlioz expressed the characteristics of the trombone best in his treatise on orchestration:
"In my opinion, the trombone is the true head of the family of wind instruments, which I have named the "epic" one. It possesses nobility and grandeur to the highest degree; it has all the serious and powerful tones of sublime musical poetry, from religious, calm and imposing accents, to savage orgiastic outbursts. Directed by the will of the master, the trombones can chant like a choir of priests, threaten, utter gloomy sighs, a mournful lament, or a bright hymn of glory; they can break forth into awe inspiring cries and awaken the dead or doom the living with their fearful voices."
Composers include Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, Alexy Lebedev, Nicolai Rimski-Korsakov, Dmitri Shostakovich, Serge Rachmaninoff, Serge Prokofiev, Modest Mussorgsky,
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