Re: Re: Re: Wagner tuben

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Posted by Chuck on December 01, 1998 at 13:38:53:

In Reply to: Re: Re: Wagner tuben posted by ken on December 01, 1998 at 12:32:41:

Just what I was thinking! Okay, here's MC's great post in toto--copyright notice and all:

Consider this post copyrighted -- permission is given to quote
freely as long as you give me and the TubaEuph List credit.


First off, in the early 1800's, Adolph Sax did make families of "Sax horns"
a family of brasses along the same line as his "Saxophones."
Organologically these are identical with the current generation of Tubas
and Euphoniums. The British-bore baritone horn only fits in this family
marginally due to it's extreme cylindricality, but it's a Saxhorn, nonetheless.

In Europe these Saxhorns caught on quickly -- I'm not sure when folks
started calling them "tuba" -- but every military band tossed out their
ophecleides and went right over to Mr. Sax's invention or some version of
the same.


Along comes Richard Wagner in the mid-1800's. Wagner wanted to add to the
"wall of sound" in the orchestra and had a series of B-flat and F horns
(read "French Horns") made in oval shape with the idea that these
instruments, with their bell upright could make more racket than the
traditional "French Horn." (He was right!)

These are not Tubas by any stretch of the imagination -- they're "French
Horns" wound up differently. They're "French Horn" bore with valves under
the left hand. They're written in "French Horn" traditional transpositions
and they're played by "French Hornists."

Wagner called this instrument a "Tube" -- which means "tube" in German.
The plural is "Tuben" which means "tubes." Neither of these words means
"tuba" -- the German word for Tuba is (are you ready?) "Tuba."

Bruckner took to the new Wagner "tubes" as well, only he decided to call
them "Tenor Tubas." I suspect this has something to do with the
Wagner/Brahms/Bruckner debates that were raging in Europe at the time. It
probably also has something to do with Bruckner's willingness to change
things at the least suggestion from anyone.

So the confusion Bruckner's fault. What he scored for is the standard
Wagner Tube, not a tuba by anyone's definition.

But back to tubas ...


Now, keep in mind that all this time, all the European military bands were
using "real" tubas and Euphoniums and yes, baritone horns. Those folks
didn't talk to orchestral folks and orchestral folks didn't talk to band
folks, so the two traditions blundered on their own paths, pretty much
oblivious to the other.

The nationalism of the 1800's provided fertile growth for military bands
and there was a tremendous market for instruments. Anyone who could beat
brass with a hammer was throwing together horns for the military. To get
around Sax's patents, they just renamed them. One of the neatest names,
IMHO, is the "Hellhorn" marketed by August Hell. It was just a Euphonium.

Eventually, nomenclature settled down with these basic equivalents:

The Tuba was called "Tuba" in orchestras in Germany and France and the
Americas. France tended to use C (8 foot -- i.e. a Euphonium) and F. The
French military bands continued to call their equivalent instruments
"Saxhorns." and bit by bit dropped the higher instruments until only the
B-flat "Saxhorn basse" versions were left.

Germany used BB-flats and E-flats in their military bands.

Eventually, German orchestras went to "Basstuba" in F with the occasional
call for a "Kontrabass" in BBb or even CC.

To cover the Euphonium function, the German bands used a big-bore (.560"or
larger) conical instrument (can't reverse the main tuning slide) called
"Bariton" and for a lighter, more piercing sound, they used the equivalent
to the British-bore baritone and called it a "Tenorhorn" (also in 9 foot

It wasn't 'till late in this century that the Germans began referring to
their Bariton as "Euphonium" -- it's the same instrument, tho. Remember,
now, the Tenorhorn is the same as the British baritone, for all intents and
purposes, though it is traditionally given a whole lot more to do.

The Tuba was called "Bombardon" in England if it was used in a band, but
"Tuba" if it was used in an orchestra. Bands used BBb and EEb and
orchestras eventually settled into F -- a strict tradition which was broken
only recently by John Fletcher. (Remind me to relate a story about Harry
Barlow that Cliff Bevan told me!)

We all know the difference between a Euphonium and Baritone in England, so
I'll let that one go for now.

I'll let Emily sort out the low brasses in Italy -- that's a whole post in
and of itself!


In France, Euphoniums were called "Saxhorn basse" (in Bb) when used in
military bands and "Tuba Ut" when used in orchestras. Saxhorn basse is
written as sounded and "Tuba Ut" is written a whole step off: The "Tuba
Ut" was/is built in 8-foot C and is written such that C is sounded Bb.
This is bass clef, but the same transposition as "Trumpet in Bb."

(Now pay attention to this transposition business -- it's going to pop up


So now, in orchestral traditions, we have Wagner and Bruckner using
increasingly heavier lower brass and adding "French Horns" wound either as
traditional "French Horns" or as oval horns with the bell upright for sheer
racket-effect. The low brasses and the horns are more often than not just
functionally scored as "walls of sound."

Here comes a neat story, so sit back and enjoy:

In the 1890's a young Richard Strauss, full of vinegar, set out to write
big orchestral pieces depicting various stories. He called these
"Symphonische Dichtung" or what we call "Tone Poems."

One of his earliest efforts was _ Don Quixote_ -- about 1892, I think.

Young Strauss wanted something different to set his piece apart. He had
conducted Wagner and was familiar with the Wagner Tubes. He spoke German,
so he didn't confuse these with Tuba, like we are prone to do! He decided
to assign the part of Don Quixote's squire, the comical Sancho Panza (or
was it Pancho Sanza?) to this equally comical instrument -- he specified
the Bb version and wrote using the traditional transposition - bass clef,
off one step.

Well, this was right in the middle of the Wagner/Brahms/Bruckner fuss, so
Strauss just renamed the instrument a Tenor Tuba. That he meant "Wagner
Tube" is well documented in his letters.

I don't have the energy to go look it up, so I can't give you the name of
the conductor who premiered it, but he was pretty famous in his day.
Anyway, the piece was falling together in good order *except* for the poor
Wagner Tube player who was just getting swamped. Wagner never meant the
instrument to be a solo instrument and it just didn't hack it.

Finally, the conductor writes a note to Strauss saying he has solved the
problem by using a "Bariton" player from a local military band. He asks
Strauss to come to the final rehearsal to see what he thinks.

The rest is history -- in Strauss' edition of the Berlioz orchestration
book, he says "The Tenor Tuba is nothing other than what the military bands
call 'Bariton.'" From that time on, no composer takes the Wagner Tube
seriously and it dies a natural death, only to be hauled out from time to
time for performances of Wagner and Bruckner.

In Strauss' next big Tone Poem, _Ein Heldenleben_, he has obviously become
acquainted with the "Bariton" and writes a very masculine part. He no
longer restricts himself to the range of the Wagner Tube (low E), but takes
the player through a virtuosic line right down to pedal B flat and right
back up to high B flat! Hooray Strauss!!


Now along comes Gustav Mahler, who cut his musical teeth in the midst of
all this controversy.

Mahler grew up outside a military post and mentions often how much that
influenced his compositional style.

Sure enough in 1904, with his Seventh Symphony, he gives us an heroic
"Tenorhorn" opener -- right up front! If you've forgotten what a Tenorhorn
is, scroll back up to the descriptions of the German Euphonium.

Again, Mahler knew exactly what he wanted -- he had grown up outside a
military post *and* as a greatly successful Wagner conductor -- and native
German speaker -- , he had no questions about what a "Wagner Tube" was. He
wanted the muscular German version of the British-bore baritone. These
days, the part is played on Euphonium, simply because no-one makes a German
Tenorhorn that plays very well in tune and British-bore baritones are just
too weebly. (True story!)


Ok, let's see, what's left?

Oh, yes -- quickly: Ravel, Janacek and Holst.

Bydlo -- Ravel's orchestration of the Mussorgsky piece -- was intended by
Ravel to be played on the "Tuba Ut" -- essentially a Euphonium in C. Now
don't go getting into any arguments with the guy who writes your pay check
-- if he wants it on F, that's what ya do. Let's not even bother with that
discussion. Just leave it that Ravel wrote for the instrument with which
he was most familiar: the "Tuba Ut."

Janacek used standard Czech instruments -- why he called it a Tenor Tuba, I
have no idea, but he meant the Euphonium or German "Bariton" -- probably
took after Strauss, since most of Czech was controlled still by
German-speaking folk.

Holst -- well, I gave y'all the straight skippy regarding Holst. It's in
his letters -- there's no real controversy here: when he wrote the three
(yes, three!) Suites for Military Band, he scored for the traditions of the
time, Euphonium and Baritone (yes, there is a separate Baritone part to all
the original orchestrations!). When he wrote the Planets, he wanted
Euphonium without vibrato. Again, it's in his correspondence so there's
not much room for argument.

And now, as the gentleman says, "you have the *rest* of the story!"

("Page 2... ")

Why did Sousa use the term Baritone when he meant Euphonium? Yes, there is
a good story here, too and it explains why we are so confused with these
two terms in the USA!

(to be continued when I feel like it!)

"Keep up the *Beautiful Sound*!"

(who conducted the world premier of the Holst Third Suite in 1983 or so!)

NB: Please remember my copyright notation at the top of this post -- I'm
serious now!

(Glenn K. Call)

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