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Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbasso

Postby imperialbari » Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:11 pm

The opening of Nabucco is a beautiful chorale for 3 trombones and 1 cimbasso. I had played the overture in the Bb brass band version without knowing the original. The brass band setting is done in the old fashion where everything is set tutti for the whole band. Fortunately I was asked to play the overture in an orchestra also. As 1st trombone. I like sharp keys over flat keys, so the much leaner setting combined with A major was nice in my ears.

For somebody trained in classic chorale setting, Verdi is not a real surprise here. Aside from what would be considered 3 downright errors by my teachers. Happen 2 times through the 8 first bars. One time in bars 13 through 16.

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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby the elephant » Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:57 pm

Are you talking about the parallel 5ths? Not everyone thinks they sound bad. Verdi did not seem to think so, either, and he could have taught a lot of our teachers a thing or two.

Or are you addressing something my cursory scan missed? We just played this and I love the piece! Interesting to chat about such stuff.
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby PMeuph » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:16 pm

Klaus, If you're referring to the "parallel octaves" or "consecutive octaves" between the cimbasso and bass trombone I think I might offer some kind of explanation. The way I see this passage is not really as a 4 part chorale, but actually as a 2 part counterpoint (bass and top voice) with the two other voices "filling in" the harmony.
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby sloan » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:26 pm

Verdi wasn't handing in homework.
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby tbn.al » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:29 pm

I will never forget the choral I submitted recieving a grade of D- in theory. The teacher remarked, "To your modern ear this probably sounds fine, but in Bach's day paralell 4ths, 5ths and octaves were an abomination. I am grading you as if I were Bach." I almost flunked the class because I reminded hin that he was not even close to being Bach.
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby bloke » Sat Jun 23, 2012 12:03 am

I guess Verdi never took a 21st century theory/composition class taught by an expert on 19th century composition practices.
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby Lingon » Sat Jun 23, 2012 8:31 am

Back in the stone age at the Academy I learnt a lot of rules and what not to do when writing this sort of stuff. Then when the courses was finished the teachers said, you have learnt a lot of what you are allowed to write and not breaking the rules. Now when you are entering the real life you should write what sounds and feels good...
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby imperialbari » Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:25 am

This opening chorale clearly is written in a dramatic context. Seen in the score from the tutti contrasts in bars # 9 through 12. And once experienced very much so by me.

A large Rudolf Steiner boarding school for kids with Dow’s syndrome and similar learning problems used operas as a teaching method. Piano accompaniment only, more emphasis on choruses than on big solos. Some would say very digested versions, but I have seen part of one performance in TV, and the sense for drama and understanding of the bigger lines of the message should not be underestimated.

The Rudolf Steiner school had a big square hall with a roof shaped like a pyramid. Open space all the way up to the tip. We were asked to play there. I certainly enjoyed the silent attention during the first eight bars. At bar 9 the crowd jumped up and cheered. And I learned I sat in the exact focal point for the reflections of the timpani roll. For the first time ever I realised my skull was made up of separate plates. Each resonated kind of on its own so I became very aware of the seams between them. I managed keeping control during the next four bars of chorale, but this was an experience for a lifetime.

I don’t know the exact plot of Nabucco, only the bigger lines of the events in The Old Testament. By writing the chorale in a style with strong references to older European church music. I think we could find similar harmonies back before 1600. And I am very convinced Verdi mastered this old style perfectly from his schooling in Busetto.

The old rules prohibiting parallels to my understanding were about keeping up the identity of the separate parts and avoiding their melting together during any movements. So when Verdi deviates from rules he must have known, I only see two possible reasons, none of them being ignorance on Verdi’s side. It carries sort of musical symbolism, or there were performance problems in the original quartet playing the chorale.

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Last edited by imperialbari on Wed May 09, 2018 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby imperialbari » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:09 pm

Original posting and edition both came through.
Last edited by imperialbari on Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby imperialbari » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:10 pm

Just copied this chorale out on separate staves. And saw one more potential reason for the 5 octave parallels between the two lower parts:

Maybe Verdi wasn’t convinced the 4th part would be manned at all in all pits. His writing makes sure the chords are full anyway.

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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby sloan » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:14 pm

parallel posts?

perhaps Klaus wasn't sure that all his posts are read?
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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby bloke » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:30 pm

sloan wrote:parallel posts?

perhaps Klaus wasn't sure that all his posts are read?


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Re: Oddities in a Verdi setting for 3 trombones and 1 cimbas

Postby imperialbari » Wed May 09, 2018 4:03 pm

Prompted by a current thread I went back looking at this old thread. Even looked at the score again:

https://imslp.nl/imglnks/usimg/1/19/IMSLP22601-PMLP51151-Nabucco_overtureIMSLP.pdf

My original point being that the parallel octaves between the 3rd trombone and the cimbasso were odd, because Verdi obviously mastered the classical craft of a true 4-part chorale setting. So either were the octaves part of musical symbolism, or they were rooted in performance problems within the original low-brass quartet of the premiering opera company.

In the said current thread bloke posts this photo:

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I had seen a similar instrument associated with the term of cimbasso before, but that happened maybe 25 or 30 years ago, so it wasn’t exact on top of my mind. Seeing it again made me check the score for the parrallel octaves. And yes, they share one common factor:

They are cadential moves to chords with C#2 as the bass note (A major 1st inversion and C# major, respectively).

I don’t know the key of the bass horn potentially used at the Nabucco-premiere, but it had to go down to A1 or lower. A likely key might have been F. If so, C# is not a note of the core scale. The involved crossfingering wasn’t bound to be acoustically efficient.

So Verdi’s motivation for deviating from the 4-part chorale style simply may have been about making sure that these cadenzas came out with convincing bass notes.

Yes, pure specualtion, but I alway get puzzled, when competent people break the rules that they obviously set out following. In legal and financial matters the reason almost invariably is corruption. Here it may have been a corrupted bass horn note.

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