Continuing our look at some of the standard works horn players perform often from the nineteenth century our next topic is the Wagner tuba. Amazingly, just over a week ago [in 2013, when this was originally posted] the Wagner tuba was the topic of a feature article in of all things The Wall Street Journal! So this week the readings will start there for a change of pace:
Some flavor from the article,
The Wagner tubas are most closely identified with the regal music for Valhalla, dwelling place of the gods. Highly versatile, their sound has been variously described as “smoky,” “metallic,” “unearthly” and “majestic.” “There’s more clarity than in a horn,” said Jeff Fair, principal horn for the Seattle Opera, whose Stephen Wadsworth “Ring” returns in August, “but more resonance and darker sounds than in the trumpet.” Anne Scharer, fourth horn in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, called the composer’s eponymous instrument “louder and more rustic than orchestral horns, even strident” at times—qualities in evidence, she added, in passages for the crude, menacing Hunding. By contrast, they lend a solemn presence to the funeral music for Siegfried. And their “husky, rumbling tone,” writes William Melton in his comprehensive history, “The Wagner Tuba,” aptly depicts “the inextinguishable hatred and envy of the Nibelung Alberich.”
The whole article is very nicely written and researched but [UPDATE: 2017] it is now behind a paywall.
For more background on the topic in terms of actually playing one, I have had for years a short introductory article online on the Wagner tuba in Horn Articles Online:
And of course I have my book (and E-book) out as well, which I describe in a short video here:
This week we will play on the Wagner tuba in class and also focus briefly on major works of Wagner, Bruckner, and Strauss that make use of these instruments. And as I say in my article, “Great parts on great works are a joy to perform with a great orchestra.”
This is week 12 of a fourteen week course in horn repertoire, the second semester of a broad overview of horn repertoire, performance, and pedagogy. The introductory article is here, and the series is presented for the educational purposes of our readers.