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The cimbasso and tuba in the operatic works of Giuseppe Verdi: A pedagogical and aesthetic comparison

Dissertation
Author: Alexander Costantino
Abstract:
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.

iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF FIGURES ......................................................................................................... iiv

LIST OF MUSICAL EXAMPLES ..................................................................................... v

Chapters 1. INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................... 1

2. 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. CONCLUSIONS ...................................................................................... 43 Appendices A. INSTRUMENT PICTURES ...................................................................... 45

B. INTERVIEWS .......................................................................................... 48

C. MOUTHPIECE COMPARISON ............................................................... 56

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

iv 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

v 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

1 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 Verdi’s 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 20 th 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 Verdi’s 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 the

1 Hector Berlioz, Orchestration Treatise: a translation and commentary (Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2002) 208.

2 part on tuba. Although this “instrument replacement” was common practice, Verdi’s 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 19 th 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 Verdi’s 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 Verdi’s 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 Verdi’s 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

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

3 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 I’m 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 playing these two instruments, as well as a discussion of the contrasting aesthetic merit that occurs when playing each instrument in a Verdi operatic low brass section is warranted. This research also allows for a direct comparison, by providing the opportunity to hear the immediate differences when playing each instrument in an operatic orchestral low brass section. It is becoming more common for some American orchestra conductors and/or music directors to request the use of the modern cimbasso when performing the operatic works of Verdi. This inclusion of the modern cimbasso is in part due to the recent uprising in historically informed performance practice throughout the world. Articles have been written on the cimbasso to clarify the instrument’s skewed history. However, the technical aspects of playing the cimbasso are vastly different from the pedagogical approach to playing the tuba. As well, the two instruments differ in articulation, tonal character, and the balance they provide as the bass brass instrument in the opera. These differences provide a divergent musical perspective and overall

3 Bobo, Roger. “Cimbasso: A Comeback That's Here to Stay” www.TubaNews.com, (2007).

4 aesthetic experience for the audience. The goal of this project is to demonstrate the pedagogical and aesthetic differences between the use of the tuba and the modern cimbasso when performing the works of Giuseppe Verdi operas.

5 CHAPTER 2 HISTORY The 19 th century was a time of urbanization, industrialization, and political change throughout Europe. During the 17 th and 18 th centuries Milan went through periods of French, Spanish, and Austrian domination. As a result, Milan became a center for intellectual and cultural activity even amid its long history of political and social conflicts. This political unrest is true particularly during the end of the Napoleonic reign in 1814. Although the second Austrian rule of Milan in 1815 was at first keenly accepted, the Austrians ultimately “established a repressive regime in which freedom of speech and action was rigorously circumscribed.” 4 These attempts to stifle the cultural and enlightened minds that gave Milan its identity for the past century created a rift in Milanese allegiance to the Austrians. Verdi made Milan his home a little more than ten years before the first Italian revolution against the Austrians (known as the Five Days of Milan). Both the political climate in which Verdi lived and Milan’s rich history affected Verdi’s compositions and compositional techniques, namely, his style of orchestration and his aversions to certain musical and instrumental traditions practiced in Central and Eastern Europe. In particular, Verdi’s strong aversion to large conical bass brass instruments, such as the bombardone and the tuba, were due to their “inability to blend with the orchestra” 5 as well as the association and popularity of these instruments in Prussian, Austrian, and German bands and orchestras. Instead Verdi maintained his allegiance to Northern Italian traditions of using small bore bass instruments, whose

4 Roger Parker, “Verdi and the Gazzetta Privilegiata di Milano: An ‘Official’ View Seen in Its Cultural Background,” Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, 18 (1982): 52. 5 Giuseppe Verdi, L. A. Shepard, “Verdi’s Letters to Leon Escudier,” Music & Letters, 1 (Winter 1923)

6 name evolved into the cimbasso. In an attempt to maintain the integrity of the composer’s intent, and a general historical accuracy, today’s opera orchestra is beginning to implement the use of this instrument (figure 1). 6

Throughout the 20 th century, the instrument and term cimbasso have had a very skewed and convoluted history. The word cimbasso existed long before the instrument we associate the word with today. The modern cimbasso is a valved contra-bass trombone, pitched typically in F or Bb. In 1881, when Verdi first heard this instrument in Pelitti’s Instrument Shop, he decided this was the ideal instrument to complete the brass section of his orchestra. As a result of Verdi’s decision, this instrument was soon referred to as trombone basso Verdi (or simply trombone basso or trombone Verdi). 7

Verdi scored specifically for this instrument. This instrumentation specificity can be seen in his final two operas, Otello and Falstaff. After the conception of this instrument was finally realized, Verdi implemented the trombone basso Verdi for all of his previous productions. The dissemination of the instrument and the practice of changing the instrumentation of his earlier operas led to the obscured history of the trombone basso Verdi and how the name eventually evolved into the modern cimbasso. The ambiguous evolution of terminology left us with two separate definitions for the cimbasso. The term cimbasso can be found in scores as early as 1816, specifically in Paganini’s Violin Concerto No.1 in Eb. 8 The term cimbasso is derived from several source descriptions. Author and historian Anthony Baines describes the word as being

6 Appendix A 7 Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (England: Piccolo Press, 2000), 414. 8 Bevan, 407.

7 cultivated from ‘basso scimia’ meaning monkey brass. 9 There is iconographic evidence portraying upright serpents constructed with the head of a dragon or baboon on the bell, possibly an Italian explanation of a Russian bassoon (figure 1.2). 10 Another description, found in Francis Irving Travis’s dissertation on Verdi orchestration, states the term cimbasso being derived from cimba or cymba, which was a “name once applied to a special kind of small metal boat, and more freely, to something else similarly concave.” 11 This definition could be an Italian explanation of a Bass-horn, which was made entirely of metal. However, Travis presents evidence suggesting another theory as to the origin of the term cimbasso. Travis’s research shows that the name of the bass brass instrument indicated in Verdi’s operas often varied in spelling (simbasso, gimbasso, or cimbasso) as well as the actual instrument used (serpent, ophicleide, or cimbasso). This situation occurs not only from opera to opera but also from act to act within a single opera. Irving suggests the reason for this occurrence is likely due to the numerous copyists that wrote out the parts for each act. This phenomenon supports the ideas expressed by the early music scholar Renato Meucci. Meucci believes that the term cimbasso is thought to be an abbreviation of the words corno in basso, which is commonly written c. basso or c. in basso; literally meaning - horn in bass register. He explains that due to Milan's location and history of diverse national dominance, a number of instruments could have been commonly found in Northern Italy and that cimbasso was simply generic terminology. Meucci also believes that this mixed culture

9 Anthony Baines, “Cimbasso,” Galpin Society Journal, 20 (1975): 133. 10 Appendix A 11 Francis Irving Travis, Verdi’s Orchestration (Zurich: Juris-Verlag, 1956), 50.

8 explains the lack of consistency in spelling (simbasso or gimbasso as stated earlier). 12

With this evidence, and the rapid evolution of new instruments during the 19 th century, we can see that the Italian term cimbasso (in its early use) could refer to any bass instrument available at the time in Italian opera orchestras. The instruments used at the start of the 19 th century were most likely serpents, upright serpents (Russian bassoon, bass-horn, and Italy’s unique versions of either), and ophicleides.

Serpent The serpent (figure 1.3) 13 existed as far back as the 16 th century. It is the bass voice in the cornett family. Due to the serpent’s length, the instrument was made in an ‘s’ shape so the player could manipulate the finger holes bored throughout the body of the instrument. In 1743, the French author Abbe’ Lebeuf’s writes an account of how Canon Edmé Guillaume first introduced the instrument in 1590 in Auxerre, France. There are accounts of a few surviving serpents of Italian descent possibly dating back earlier than 1590 contradicting Lebeuf’s claims. However, it is evident that France was the country in which the instrument truly made an impact and established itself as a supporting instrument for the male voice in plainsong chant. 14

The serpent was associated with church bands throughout the 16 th and 17 th

centuries. The instrument was made out of two hollowed out pieces of wood wrapped in leather. It was held vertically, extending down to the knees, and had six finger holes. The instrument eventually disseminated into the military bands in most countries to

12 Renato Meucci, “The Cimbasso and Related Instruments in 19 th -Century Italy,” The Galpin Society Journal, 49 (Spring 1996): 145. 13 Appendix A 14 Adam Carse, Musical Wind Instruments (New York: Da Capo Press, 1965), 268.

9 serve as the bass voice during the 1700s. Instrument makers also began to experiment with different materials such as all metal serpents. Eventually keys were added to allow for more notes to be played as well as better stability in tone and intonation (figure 1.3). 15

Near the end of the 18 th century, when the serpent became a military instrument, some more attention was given to improving it and trying to bring it into line with other rapidly progressing wind instruments; it was then that the serpent was given a few keys, and was strengthened with more brasswork. 16

The playing position of the instrument seemed to pose a problem because of its awkward shape. The instrument was held horizontally, for ease of playing when marching. Eventually, the instrument was bent only once, much like a bassoon, making the instrument more comfortable to hold as well as making the finger holes more convenient for the player to reach. 17 This “upright serpent” was found throughout Europe. This instrument varied in name and the materials used in its construction between countries. The “upright serpents” that show direct influence on Italy’s cimbasso are the Russian bassoon, bass-horn, and ophicleide.

Russian Bassoon, Bass-Horn, and Early Cimbasso The Russian bassoon, bass-horn, and cimbasso are all variations of the upright serpent. Ernst Ludwig Gerber, an 18 th and 19 th century German composer, wrote his Historisch-biographisches Lexikon der Tonküstler in 1792, where he discussed the instruments of the period and their history. In this book, he attributed J. J. Régibo as the first instrument-maker to design a serpent in bassoon-form in the year 1780, which was

15 Appendix A 16 Carse, 272. 17 Carse, 269.

10 eventually named the Russian bassoon. Gerber also attributes the French musician Alexander Frichot as designing a metal serpent in a similar shape to Régibo’s design. 18

Frichot, who was living in London at the time, had the English instrument maker J. Astor create his instrument. 19 The instrument was called the bass-horn (figure 1.4) 20 , but because English musicians commonly used this instrument for some time, it was sometimes known as the English bass-horn. Both instruments had similar attributes, including tessitura and range. However the main difference between the Russian bassoon and the bass-horn were the materials used to create them. The Russian bassoon was made up of three sections, the bottom resembling the butt of a bassoon. The body was made mostly of wood and capped with a metal bell or more traditionally, one decorated or painted as a dragon’s head. The bass-horn was generally made entirely of copper. Both the Russian bassoon and the bass-horn had finger holes as well as keys. Although these two instruments were very similar in design, musicians in different countries found an affinity towards certain types of “upright serpents.” German, Belgium, and French musicians favored the Russian bassoon, while England used the bass-horn exclusively. 21

As described earlier, these upright serpents eventually found their way to Italy as well but as a cimbasso (which has been referred to as early cimbasso). The early cimbasso (figure 1.5) 22 was similar to both the Russian bassoon and the bass-horn. It

18 Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (England: Piccolo Press, 2000), 414. 19 Serpent, Oxford Music Dictionary Online, Oxford University Press 2010, available at www.oxfordmusiconline.com Internet; accessed 29 January 2010. 20 Appendix A 21 Russian Bassoon, Oxford Music Dictionary Online, Oxford University Press 2010, available at www.oxfordmusiconline.com Internet; accessed 29 January 2010. 22 Appendix A

11 has the bell of a bass-horn and the wooden butt of a Russian bassoon as well as both finger holes and keys. The main difference between these instruments and the early cimbasso is simply the arrangement of the keys. After Paganini scored for the instrument in 1816, many Italian composers, such as Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti favored the use of the instrument. Alessandro Vessella, an Italian composer and conductor, wrote many books on the instruments during the 19 th century, describing the cimbasso as: made of wood, sometimes copper, in bassoon shape with six finger-holes and two keys, a metal bell and an S, to which was applied a mouthpiece somewhat larger than that of the trombone. 23

This explanation of an early cimbasso shows the strong connection with the bass-horn and Russian bassoon of Austria, Germany, and England. Eventually instrument makers decided to explore entire instruments with keys leading to the creation of the keyed bugle, which had a very successful existence throughout Eastern Europe. 24

Ophicleide The term ophicleide (figure 1.6) 25 is derived from the Greek words ophis, meaning serpent, and kleis or kleid, literally meaning to close or that which serves to close. 26 In 1821, The Parisian instrument maker Halary created this instrument. He made ophicleides in different pitches including soprano (clavitube), alto (quinticlave) and bass (ophicleide). Halary was influenced by the keyed bugle, which was very popular

23 Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (England: Piccolo Press, 2000), 406. 24 Anthony Baines, Musical Instruments Through the Ages (New York: Walker and Company, 1975), 274. 25 Appendix A 26 Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (England: Piccolo Press, 2000), 140.

12 throughout Austria, as well as the English bass-horn. The ophicleide was immediately popular in military and brass bands as well as some opera orchestras. The use of the ophicleide was particularly prevalent in Italy, and Verdi accepted its use before his trombone basso was conceived or if the trombone basso was not available for certain productions. It should be noted that although the ophicleide was commonly used, one would still find the traditional word cimbasso in the score as the term referred to a generic bass instrument. Unfortunately, after the ophicleide’s rapid popularity, the invention of the valve ultimately led to its demise since the valve led to the creation of the bombardone and the tuba. These valved instruments replaced the ophicleide in many countries. However the ophicleide was able to survive in some areas and was used regularly throughout France, Italy and England until the end of the 19 th century. 27

The ophicleide was thought to be superior to the upright serpents in all variations because of the use of keys instead of finger holes. These keys made it possible to place the holes more evenly along the instrument helping resonance and intonation throughout the scale. Ophicleides were built with nine to twelve keys, however the instrument was typically found with 11. 28

As the industrial revolution progressed, advancements in the art of instrument making grew as well. One of the major steps forward in the development of brass instruments was the invention of the valve. In about 1818 both H.D. Stölzel and Friedrich Blühmel patented the first valve. This breakthrough in technology led to the invention of new instruments. One of the most significant new instruments in certain countries was the creation of the valve trombone. During most of the 19 th century

27 Adam Carse, Musical Wind Instruments (New York: Da Capo Press, 1965), 286. 28 Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (England: Piccolo Press, 2000), 145.

13 valved trombones were commonly used throughout Italy. Throughout the centuries, slide trombones did not have the same quality as they have today. Because the slide trombone was considered to be too demanding, the valved trombone seemed to be a superior instrument. 29

Bombardon In France during the 18 th century the instrument maker Adolph Sax, creator of the saxophone, had success creating instruments for various bands. Sax created entire families of instruments, in particular Sax created the conical family of Sax-horns (figure 1.7). 30 These Sax-horns ranged from Soprano (Sax-trumpet) to Contre-basse (Bombardon). Eventually other countries began to create their own families of large conical instruments. With this explosion of creative energy came the dissemination of instruments still used today, such as the flugelhorn, as well as instruments that are no longer used, such as the bombardon (a type of large conical valved ophicleide which was superceded by the tuba). Italy also had a family of extremely conical instruments similar to the Sax-horns that were very popular in the bands. This instrument was called the flicorno (figure 1.8). 31 Like the Sax-horns, flicorni was found in tenore (narrow bore bombardino – similar to a baritone), basso (larger bore bombardino – similar to a euphonium), Basso-Grave (bombardone-similar to a bass tuba), and Contrabasso (contrabasso bombardone – similar to a contrabass tuba). 32 The range of these

29 Bevan, 409. 30 Appendix A 31 Appendix A 32 Bevan, 262.

14 instruments was greater than the ophicleide. However, Verdi strongly disliked these large conical instruments for his orchestra. Instead he preferred a smaller bore, more cylindrical shaped instrument to create a homogenous sound throughout the brass section. Evidence of his dislike appears in a letter Verdi wrote to Guilio Ricordi shortly before the performance of Aida at La Scala (1880). Verdi stated: I wish to insist once again on a fourth trombone. That bombardone is not possible...I cherish a trombone-basso because it is of the same family as the others; but if it should be too tiring or too difficult to play, then get one of those ordinary ophicleides that reach low B. In fact anything you like, but not that damned bombardone, which does not blend with the others. 33

It has been noted that Berlioz also did not care for the bombardon (bombardone) stating “[t]his is an instrument of very low range, without keys but with three cylinders (valves). Its timbre differs only little from the ophicleide.” 34 However, the family of flicorni was widely accepted throughout Italy and the rest of Europe for use in bands. This acceptance of conical instruments is also evident when Verdi wrote for stage-band (banda). For example, the production of Don Carlo for La Scala in 1884 was performed using two bombadino and two bombardone. 35 This example may illustrate why Verdi chose to write for ophicleide rather than write for cimbasso or his new trombone-basso when he composed his Requiem. It could be that Verdi's sound concept and ideas of orchestration differed for a stage performance, accepting the use of larger more conical shaped bass instruments that would have been popular in bands during the period. During the last half of the 19 th century, discussions were held in a committee known as the Congresso dei Musicisti Italiani. This committee was looking to reform and

33 Bevan, 412. 34 Hector Berlioz, Treatise on Instrumentation (New York: Dover Edition, 1991), 338. 35 Clifford Bevan, The Tuba Family (England: Piccolo Press, 2000), 263.

15 standardize the orchestra because of the immense availability of new instruments that were invented and being used throughout the century. Much to Verdi’s dismay, in 1881 the committee recommended that the orchestra replace the third trombone with bass trombone as well as replacing the bombardone and serpentone with the contrabass tuba. 36 Unhappy with the inclusion of tuba or bombardone in his opera orchestra, Verdi decided to work with the instrument maker G. Pelitti to find an instrument that he felt completed the brass section of the orchestra. Verdi heard a contrabass trombone in Pelitti’s workshop pitched in Bb, exactly one octave below the tenor, commenting: the bass trombone in Bb and Eb…achieved a perfect homogeneity of timbre with the tenor trombones, thus completing the harmony without distorting the bass notes, as occurs with the present ophicleides and similar instruments, all fine for a band, but absolutely out of place in an orchestra. 37

Pelitti named the instrument the trombone-basso Verdi, although, Verdi chose to call this instrument simply the trombone basso when he wrote for it in his final two operas. Later, Verdi returned to the Pelitti workshop with Ricordi and a member of the committee of the Congresso Musicale. Ricordi recounts this visit in letters stating how much he liked the new instrument. He is quoted saying: [I have heard the] new bass trombone in Bb, [pitched] an octave below the tenor trombone. This new instrument gave splendid results in range, sonority, power, sweetness and ease of playing, matching the other trombones perfectly. The final result would be the necessary adoption of two tenor trombones in Bb, one bass trombone, in F, and the new bass trombone in Bb, thus creating a perfectly homogeneous, effective quartet of trombones, without bringing the distinctive sound of the band to the orchestra, which adulterates the blend of the various instruments. 38

36 Bevan, 413. 37 Bevan, 413. 38 Bevan, 413.

16 After this decision, the new trombone basso quickly displaced the tuba in Italian orchestras until the 1920s. Today, the modern cimbasso is often used throughout American opera orchestras for the works of Verdi and his Italian contemporaries. However there are some scholars who believe operas prior to Otello and Falstaff should be played on the instrument it was originally intended for: the early cimbasso. Through the use of the specimens found in a few museum collections, the instrument maker Nicholas Perry was able to make a prototype of the early cimbasso. Clifford Bevan, historian and author on early and contemporary bass brass instruments, notes that this prototype instrument “worked remarkably well…The majority of the notes were strong and clear in tone, not least because the thickness of the wood of the bassoon-like butt enabled him to experiment with the size and position of the tone-holes…suiting the requirements of both the acoustic system and the player’s fingers.” 39 Although this instrument appears to be successful, it is not the best choice when playing with a modern-day orchestra. Also, given Verdi’s emphasis on balance and homogeneity of sound, the early cimbasso does not compare to the modern cimbasso because of projection and bell direction. “Whether used alongside valved or slide trombones the sound [of the trombone basso (or modern cimbasso)] is projected in the same plane, thus making an additional contribution to the concept of four matching tone-qualities, and incidentally solving the problem of the tuba in the pit which can either be lost to the audience when facing through the proscenium arch into the dress circle.” 40

Full document contains 66 pages
Abstract: 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.