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Cimbasso and Tuba in Verdi's Operas

Sep 06, 2014

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THE CIMBASSO AND TUBA IN THE OPERATIC WORKS OF GIUSEPPE VERDI: A PEDAGOGICAL AND AESTHETIC COMPARISON Alexander Costantino

Dissertation Prepared for the Degree of DOCTOR OF MUSICAL ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS August 2010

APPROVED: Donald Little, Major Professor Nicholas Williams, Committee Member Brian Bowman, Committee Member Terri Sundberg. Chair of the Division of Instrumental Studies Graham Phipps, Director of Graduate Studies in the College of Music James Scott, Dean of the College of Music James D. Meernik, Acting Dean of the Robert B. Toulouse School of Graduate Studies

Costantino, Alexander. The Cimbasso and Tuba in the Operatic Works of Giuseppe Verdi: A Pedagogical and Aesthetic Comparison. Doctor of Musical Arts (Performance), August 2010, 59 pp., 8 illustrations, bibliography, 22 titles. In recent years, the use of the cimbasso has gained popularity in Giuseppe Verdi opera performances throughout the world. In the past, the tuba or the bass trombone was used regularly instead of the cimbasso because less regard was given to what Verdi may have intended. Today, one expects more attention to historical precedent, which is evident in many contemporary Verdi opera performances. However, the tuba continues to be used commonly in performances of Verdi opera productions throughout the United States. The use of the tuba in the U.S. is due to a lack of awareness and a limited availability of the cimbasso. This paper demonstrates the pedagogical and aesthetic differences between the use of the tuba and the modern cimbasso when performing the works of Giuseppe Verdi operas.

Copyright 2010 by Alexander Costantino

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF FIGURES ......................................................................................................... iiv LIST OF MUSICAL EXAMPLES ..................................................................................... v Chapters 1. 2. INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................... 1 HISTORY ................................................................................................... 5 Serpent ........................................................................................... 8 Russian Bassoon, Bass-Horn, and Early Cimbasso ....................... 9 Ophicleide ..................................................................................... 11 Bombardon ................................................................................... 13 3. PROFESSIONAL COMMENTARY ON THE SIGNIFICANCE AND PEDAGOGY OF THE CIMBASSO .......................................................... 17 Pedogogical Comments ................................................................ 18 Mouthpieces in Order of Preference ............................................. 20 4. PEDAGOGICAL COMPARISON AND MUSICAL COMPARISON .......... 23 Nabucco Overture....................................................................... 23 Macbeth ...................................................................................... 24 Aida ............................................................................................ 29 Falstaff ........................................................................................ 37 5. Appendices A. B. C. INSTRUMENT PICTURES ...................................................................... 45 INTERVIEWS .......................................................................................... 48 MOUTHPIECE COMPARISON ............................................................... 56 CONCLUSIONS ...................................................................................... 43

BIBLIOGRAPHY ........................................................................................................... 58

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LIST OF FIGURES Page Figure A.1: Modern cimbasso (1940). ........................................................................... 46 Figure A.2: Russian bassoon (1833). ............................................................................ 46 Figure A.3: Serpent (w/o keys and w/ keys). ................................................................. 46 Figure A.4: (English) Bass-horn. ................................................................................... 46 Figure A.5: Early cimbasso (c. 1820, Belgium). ............................................................ 47 Figure A.6: Ophicleide ................................................................................................... 47 Figure A.7: Bb Saxhorn (Paris). .................................................................................... 47 Figure A.8: Flicorno (bombardino, Italy). ....................................................................... 47

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LIST OF MUSICAL EXAMPLES Page Example 1: Nabucco Overture; Beginning, Rehearsal No. 7......................................... 24 Example 2: Macbeth, Act 1, Prelude; 6 before Square 1, 2 before Square 4 ................ 25 Example 3: Macbeth, Act I, Scene 2; Scene and Cavatina ........................................... 27 Example 4: Aida, Act I, No. 3, Finale; 7 before Letter D, end ........................................ 30 Example 5: Aida, Act II, No. 5, Finale; Letter K - Letter M ............................................. 35 Example 6: Falstaff, Act I; 10 after Square 8, 3 before Square 9 .................................. 39 Example 7: Falstaff, Act II, Part I; Pickup to Square 25 to end ...................................... 40 Example 8: Falstaff, Act III, Part II; 2 before Square 63 to end ..................................... 41

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In present day performance practice the tuba has superseded closely related historical instruments such as the ophicleide and the cimbasso in the orchestra. The ophicleide fell into disuse because the tuba proved to be a more satisfactory instrument for the purpose of providing the best low voice of the low brass orchestral quartet consisting of two tenor trombones, one bass trombone, and one tuba. Berlioz discusses the difficulty in scoring for the ophicleide in his Treatise on Instrumentation, where he stated that there is nothing more vulgar, I would even say more monstrous and less designed to blend with the rest of the orchestra than those more or less fast passages written as solos for the middle range of the ophicleide in some modern operas. It is rather like a bull escaped from its stable and is frolicking in a salon. 1 The cimbasso, originally designated trombone basso Verdi, was Verdis solution to the search for a low brass instrument capable of playing fast passages and also creating the proper blend in the brass section of his operas. However, the cimbasso was seldom used during the 20th century for very different reasons than that of the ophicleide. Reasons such as the convoluted nomenclature of the instrument; which I will explain later in the paper; and specific nationalistic ties to Northern Italy made the availability of the instrument difficult. Most critical editions of Giuseppe Verdis opera scores seldom specify tuba but usually designate cimbasso or trombone basso. Throughout most of the 20th century, however, tubists would see cimbasso indicated on their part and would usually play theHector Berlioz, Orchestration Treatise: a translation and commentary (Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2002) 208.1

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part on tuba. Although this instrument replacement was common practice, Verdis orchestration provides strong evidence that these cimbasso parts were more of a contrabass trombone part than a tuba part. In 1996 Renato Meucci published an article The Cimbasso and Related Instruments in 19th Century Italy. This article clarifies the term cimbasso and describes and documents how the terminology evolved into the modern cimbasso. This information collected by Meucci as well as other scholars such as Clifford Bevan suggests reasons for the ambiguous nature of the term. Clifford Bevan discusses Verdis fixation with minute differences in sound that obviously affected his instrumentation. It is noted that Verdi was extremely outspoken about his ideas of instrumental sound and blend in his opera orchestra. Evidence of Verdis strong opinions on instrumentation can be found in letters he wrote discussing his displeasure of incorporating a conical low brass instrument in his opera orchestra, such as tuba or bombardon. Verdi states in a letter to his publisher Ricordi, I cherish a trombone basso Verdi, because it is the same family as the others. but not that damned bombardon which does not blend with the others. 2 Although we have strong research clarifying the differences between tuba and cimbasso, it is still common today to hear Verdi performances played on either instrument. However, because we have such strong evidence expressing Verdis idea of blend and timbre, it is difficult to justify playing these parts on the tuba. Tubists Roger Bobo and James Gourlay have realized this, and because of their own curiosities, they had a cimbasso fabricated for them for their own use and experimentation when playing

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Bevan, Clifford. The Tuba Family. England: Piccolo Press, 2000. Pg. 412.

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works by Verdi in the orchestra. In his article Cimbasso: A Comeback That's Here to Stay, Bobo states, [u]nfortunately, I was approaching the end of my orchestral career and had very few chances to play cimbasso after that, just a few times in the Maggio Musicale Orchestra in Florence. I could not help thinking, though, of the potential this instrument had I look forward to watching how this instrument develops in the future and Im a little envious of the younger players of today who will help guide that development. 3 Consequently, an investigation into the differences in the pedagogical approaches to