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The trombone has long been associated with the ecclesiastical, as in Mozart’s Requiem, and the supernatural, as in the cemetery scene of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Its long telescopic slide, which changes the length of the tube, gives it a unique agility and expressivity.
Formerly known as the sackbut, the trombone first appeared in the 15th century and was firmly established by the 16th. It was a regular member of town and court bands, and was also used in church music, especially by Schutz and Gabrielli. It could play with a technical agility comparable with the cornett or violin. By the end of the 17th century it was an established member in orchestras. It is traditionally used in a “choir” of three: two tenors and one bass.
Source: The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music, edited by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan Press Ltd.,  ISBN 0-333-43236-3