O.J.'s Trumpet Page Artists and personalities

Matthew Arbuckle

"The Great Favorite American Cornet Player"

Matthew Arbuckle

Matthew Arbuckle (1828 - 1883)

Matthew Arbuckle was born in Lochside, near Glasgow, Scotland 1828, into a very musical family.  His father was an excellent violinist, his mother  a fine vocalist. At the age of 13 he persuaded his father to let him enter the English Army as a musician.  He joined the band of the 26th Cameriorians, serving with them during the "Opium War" with China and the "Sikh War" in India. When he came back to England he started studying music, devoping his skills. He studied cornet in London with Herman Koenig*1). Even if Arbuckle soon was one of the best cornet players in the Army, he realised that this was not the best place for a soloist. He took what is called a "French leave" - in other words he deserted the Army. (This is also why he never came back to England on tour).

In 1853 he came to Canada. He was a bagpiper and
drum major with the Royal Scottish Regiment of Canada, as well as cornet soloist. In 1857 he became a member of the Troy Brass Band in New York. A warm summers day in 1857 in New York, Isaac Fiske*2) saw and heard Arbuckle play with the Troy Band and was very impressed. He persuaded Arbuckle to join Fiske's Cornet Band of Worcester (which used Fiske instruments only).  When Fiske went back to Worcester the next day, Matthew Arbuckle accompanied him. Arbuckle remained in Worcester for three years marching at the head of Fiske's band in the finest uniform Isaac Fiske could buy.

The famous Gilmore Band visited Worcester in 1860 and Arbuckle put on such a show that Patrick Gilmore felt he had to have him for his band. In spite of a lawsuit by Fiske, Matthew Arbuckle joined Gilmore's Band.

Arbuckle played solo cornet at the National Peace Jubilee*3) of 1869 and the World Peace Jubilee of 1872, both held in Boston and organized by Patrick S. Gilmore. At the National Peace Jubilee in 1869, Arbuckle played the trumpet obbligato, accompanying Madame Parepa Rosa in the famous aria from Samson by G. F. Handel, "Let the Bright Seraphim". At the World Peace Jubilee of 1872, Arbuckle conducted the opening fanfare of fifty trumpeters and played the same trumpet obbligato part with Madame Ermina Ruggersdorf.

In 1880, he became the musical director and bandmaster for the Ninth Regiment in New York. He held this position until his death.

Matthew Arbuckle died suddenly in New York, 23 May 1883, at the age of 55.

Levy and Arbuckle rivalry
Jules Levy and Arbuckle were cornet solist in Patrick Gilmore's band. They developed an immediate rivalry which Gilmore exploited. In 1879 he billed them both soloist during a series of concerts at Madison Square Garden. A student of Arbuckle, Hi Henry*4) , wrote about this event:

It was an exceptional privilege to hear these two great masters, Levy and Arbuckle, night after night in the same program, each great and so different, the former exciting wonder and admiration by his wonderful cadenzas, his spirited staccato and rapid chromatic runs, his wonderful intervals and extreme high and low notes; the latter with his beautiful, passionate tone, his heart winning sympathy, his artistic breadth, his deliberate lights and shades; the former stirring his listeners to highest enthusiasm, the latter hushing them to the stillness of the sleeping chamber; the former retiring amid clapping of hands, the latter drawing tears and retiring only for his hearers to find themselves spell-bound by his skill.

A just comparison of these two great artists is no disparagement to either. They were not at all comparable. Levy may be said to play that which no other living man can as brilliantly repeat. Arbuckle, while playing nothing others could not render, delivered it in such finished style that none could simulate it.
(ITG Journal, May 1990, page 32)

Said about Arbuckle
Mr. T. H. Rollinson:
"Probably no musician in Boston has ever been closer to the hearts of the people and his fellow musicians, than Matthew Arbuckle. All of the older musicians expressed great admiration for him, both as a great cornetist and a fine gentlemen.
Arbuckle was a fine singer, a fact many thought contributed greatly to his fine rendition of songs and operatic arias, in which he excelled. Many people were moved to tears, after hearing him play a simple song. His performances were never of the skyrocket variety, with inartistic stunts displayed, to dazzle audiences. He was an artist in every sense of the word.
When he came to Boston, very little was known of triple tonguing, but Arbuckle set about to learn it, through the coaching of a Mr. Jacobus, who was then cornet soloist at the old Boston Museum, who also had a fine reputation as a teacher." (From Glenn Bridges: Pioneers in Brass)

Mr. Tom Carter (bandleader): 
"When I first heard Arbuckle play he was using an old Bailey cornet, a very peculiarly shaped instrument and the upper G was infernally sharp, however he soon discarded that model, and when I next heard him play at the Jubilee in 1872, he was using a "Fiske" Rotary with action similar to the first piston valve cornet." (From Glenn Bridges: Pioneers in Brass)
Arbuckle's 1875 Courtois Cornet
Arbuckle's Antoin Courtois Cornet
Cornet in Bb, by Antoine Courtois in Paris, 1875.

This is the cornet that was given to Matthew Arbuckle by Patrick S. Gilmore. The owner of the cornet today, Robb Stewart, has several other pictures of the cornet here .
One picture show the engraving of Gilmore and Arbuckle's name.

Cornet Method
J. B. Arban published his  famous and still used method in 1864. Only two years later in 1866,  Arbuckle's Complete Cornet Method was published in Boston, by Oliver Ditson & Company.

In March 1931, Herbert L. Clarke wrote an article about Arbukle in Jacobs' Band Monthly. About his method Clarke said in 1931:

    "It is now out of print, and I doubt if a copy would ever be found."

In spite of what Clarke said in 1931, David Baldwin found a leather bound version of Arbuckle’s Cornet Method.

More about the whole method here, including the whole book in PDF format.

Matthew Arbuckle's abilities were so renowned that many composers wrote pieces for him to perform.  Among them were
John Hartmann:
    Arbucklenian Polka,
    Lizzie Polka,
    The Ocean View,

    Grand Concert Valse,
    West Brighton Polka,
F. M. Steinhauser:
    Culver Polka,
    Fantasie on le Desir,
    La Comptesse,
    Surf Polka
Calixa Lavallee:
    Grand Fantaisie

A letter from Arbuckle
Walter F. Smith*5) wrote a letter to Matthew Arbuckle in 1880 asking if he could take lessons from Arbuckle. He got e reply from  Arbuckle dated October 8th, 1880. Here is part of what Arbuckle wrote:

I cannot teach anymore, every moment of my time is taken up with the
band and my concert co. [= company]

I would not advice you to come to N.Y unless you are able to take a postion as
Solo Cornet at once. N.Y. is full of Solo Cornete players, and plenty
of good ones too.

The whole letter here!.

*1) Herman Koenig was a German, living in London. He played cornet in in the Drury Lane Orchestra in 1840. Koenig was also an instrumentmaker (Pask & Koenig)
*2)  Isaac Fiske from Worcester, Massachusetts, a maker of musical instruments.
*3) Gilmore arranged the National Peace Jubilee. It opened on June 15, 1869. It was five days of music featuring over 1000 instrumentalists and 10,000 vocalists. The concertmaster for the event was the great Norwegian violinist Ole Bull. Arbuckle was soloist with Hartmann's Alexis.
*4) Hi Henry was a student of Matthew Arbuckle. Henry was a cornetist with Harry Robinson’s Minstrels.
Walter F. Smith (1860 - 1937). Smith played in the Sousa Band from 1892 until 1898 and went back to the Marine Band, retiring in 1921
* Glenn Bridges: Pioneers in Brass
* The Cornet Compedium
* David Baldwin: Arbuckle's Complete Cornet Method (1866) - ITG Journal, Feb. 1990, page 31 - 37
* Herbert L. Clarke: Famous Cornetist of the Past -
ITG Journal, Feb. 1990, page 32 - 33
* Robb Stewart - Arbuckle's Courtois Cornet.
* The Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections - Arbuckle's letter
*  Eliason, Robert E: Early American brass makers, The Brass Press

Thanks to:
* Carole Nowicke for copy ot the Arbuckle letter.
* Sharon Carlson, WMU
Archives and Regional History Collections, for permission to use the Arbuckle letter
* Robb Stewart for permission to use an image of Arbuckle's cornet and for info about Fiske.
* David Baldwin for scanning the Cornet Method

o.j.2008 - 2009