Instruments | Wagner Tuba | Late Romantic | Classical

A brass instrument with the tubing curled in an elliptical loop ending in a small bell and fingered using four valves, this is a type of tuba probably based on the saxhorn.

When writing the Ring, Wagner wanted a brass instrument to bridge the gap between the French horns and the trombones. The 1853 sketch for Das Rheingold specifies trombones at one stage. This is later marked for Wagner tubas. Wagner recorded that he had visited Adolphe Sax’s workshop in 1853, but that on returning to Germany he found that band instruments there did not offer anything to match the saxhorns he had seen. A quartet of instruments was specially made (two tenor tubas in B flat, two bass ones in F). Although they were doubled by French horns, the sound was intended to be less bright and more dignified than the horns.

The bass trumpet was also developed specifically to play in Wagner’s Ring. The composer approached the Berlin maker C. W. Moritz with an idea for a four-valve trumpet capable of playing in C, B flat and A. With a wider bore than the orchestral trumpet, it is pitched an octave deeper and played by a trombonist. The range runs from G flat to G flat. The instrument commanded the interest of both Richard Strauss and Stravinsky.

Styles & Forms | Late Romantic | Classical
Instruments | Harp | Late Romantic | Classical


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