Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Monday, 27 February 2017

Berlioz in Brighton

An 1860s Ophicleide
Yesterday I went to a rehearsal for next Saturday's concert with the Sussex Symphony Orchestra, It is a challenging program of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld, Saint Saens' Piano Concerto and the Fantastic Symphony from Hector Berlioz.    I will be playing in the Offenbach and the Berlioz; the Offenbach is actually an Ophicleide part; the Berlioz was also originally written for Ophicleide and later, in the second edition amended to "tuba" but not tubas as we now know them in the 21st century.

The Ophicleide had a short period of popularity as a chromatic bass brass instrument, but like the other keyed bugles it lacked depth of tone and power. Also know as the Russian Bassoon (probably what Samuel Coleridge Taylor was referring to in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner) was soon replaced by the earliest attempts at modern tubas as soon as valves were invented.

Early 20th Century French C Tuba
The popular instrument in France, well into the 20th Century was to British and American eyes a strange little instrument with six (yes six!) valves. The fundamental is the C above the Bb that trombones and euphoniums are pitched in giving it an extraordinarily wide register, the part in the Berlioz going from the F above the Bass stave to the D below.   Many players will now use a modern euphonium to play this part but since my little old Euph only has three valves I can't actually get the bottom notes.

My Baby Besson EEb
New Standard, Westminster, Sovereign.
So for yesterdays rehearsal I took both my Euph and my trusty old Besson EEb.   I don't often use it now as most of the time I use Big Shinny my lovely Conn International CC. I was most gratified to find that although I don't play her much I could still get a good register on the EEb and managed those top Fs

When I moved I had so little space that I sold a tuba, I was devastated at the time, but now I'm so glad that I have held on to my trusty old "Baby Besson"

If this is all far too much Tuba Talk for you, don't worry normal service will be resumed, as  I now start to think about what I will be wearing as much as what I will be playing for my next few concerts.

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