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Zampa Overture by Herold

Postby Yane » Thu Sep 27, 2018 7:06 am

Looking forward to Zampa with my community orchestra, but have a question about my opheclyde part: as written or octave down? Reading up on notation conventions for opheclyde was inconclusive. As written the part is mostly with bass trombone, which stikes me as pointless. Yes, I’ll ask my conductor, but I want the wisdom of the hive mind as well.
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Re: Zampa Overture by Herold

Postby the elephant » Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:23 am

Can the part be played down an octave with no alterations? Can it be played as written with no alterations?

Most Berlioz parts (some for ophicleide) are in unison with the trombones or 1st trombone. It is not pointless. It is a sound blend. It would sound different with either instrument missing or an octave off from the other. It is no more pointless than having the flute and oboe playing in unison on a line.

I think it is played where it is written, unless you have some silly arrangement or the part was altered by the editor.

My recommendation in such a situation is always to try it both ways.
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Re: Zampa Overture by Herold

Postby bloke » Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:04 am

I'll raise my hand and admit to having never played it, but I've heard it performed live, on the radio, and in old cartoons :oops: , and I don't see anything in Hérold's ophicleide part, range-wise, that is out of the norm from other ophicleide parts that have been republished as tuba parts and/or are handed off to tuba players. The only times where I have played obsolete instrument parts 8va basso have been when the part indicated *"serpent or contrabassoon", as the contrabassoon reads at the octave (and always has, to the best of my knowledge). That having been said, I picked and chose which passages to play 8va basso and which passages to play in the written octave. Attempting to superimpose music theory or history in such decisions often seems a bit dubious (particularly as most of the orchestral instruments have undergone serious transformations since the times that ophicleides and serpents were in use), whereas pre- or post- rehearsal brief consultations with music directors (or our own decisions based on "what seems/sounds best") seem to be the most productive.

more opinions of mine, which mean nothing:
Were I to encounter this part, I would play it as written and either use my F tuba or view the opportunity to play it as an excuse to drag out my newest toy: a German rotary kaiser baritone (American name: "tenor tuba"). Were it that I only had an Eb, Bb, or C tuba, I'd play it on that - as written. Finally, my own ears (have a listen below, and see if you don't agree) don't point to anything "ponderous" in this overture, but completely to "light and frothy", whereby lower range extension of the wind section seems to not be beneficial/appropriate/required. I can understand your perception of the part seeming to be "pointless", but many lines in orchestra (and endless other types) of music are reinforced at the unison. The four or five parts in vocal choirs are always reinforced at the unison, with the "colors" of the various human voices offering a more complex resonance, and of course the strings in symphony orchestras accomplish the very same thing, the sound of which is often referred to with the adjective, "lush". The "in-octaves bass trombone/tuba" thing began to become more common (yes?) thirty-or-more years later, ex: Tchaikovsky used that resonance so often (likely [??] with a BBb tuba). A strong demonstration that Tchaikovsky (vs. the early composers of the 1830's) considered the tuba (not ophicleide/serpent) to be a ~lower~ pitched instrument than the bass trombone was in Tchaikovsky's overture to Francesca da Rimini, where the bass trombone ceases to play a descending passage, and the tuba takes up where the bass trombone leaves off and continues downward with the descending passage.
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*example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._5_(Mendelssohn)
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Re: Zampa Overture by Herold

Postby MTFULRUTUBA » Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:13 pm

When I played the serpent part on Mendelssohn 5, I used an F tuba and played in the octave written. Worked well enough. It was a smaller regional orchestra and the conductor felt that an octave lower was too heavy. Plus, they didn't use a contrabassoon on the concert, couldn't afford it and it was cheaper to let me play it since I was already there. Since I'm the employee, I was happy to play it where ever they wanted ;)

Very cool to get to play a Mendelssohn symphony even if it wasn't exactly a tuba part.
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Re: Zampa Overture by Herold

Postby bloke » Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:22 pm

yeah... The serpent/contrabassoon Mendelssohn parts are really a bit off-topic, but I brought them up so…

In the Reformation, I play most things where written – as would have a serpent - but play the big D major trombone section 8va basso, as would a contrabassoon. That having been said, I play that low part on my F tuba, and play conservatively - " inside" the trombone sound. I'm certain that others approach it completely differently, and perhaps with better results.

All of that having been said, if I'm lucky enough that there is a contrabassoonist on board, I'm home an hour earlier, and with the same paycheck. :wink:
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Re: Zampa Overture by Herold

Postby Yane » Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:03 am

Thanks all for the suggestions, they were helpful. We will be doing the Mendelssohn 5 later this season, and I look forward to applying insights gained here. I am inclined to avoid switching horns, and the rest of the program sits well on Bb. I asked the conductor and his advice was “do what works”. After the first rehearsal I think I’ll do most of Zampa as written, and join the double basses softly in a few spots. It doesn’t help that the double bass section leader is also a tubist who is always ready to encourage me to crank pedal tones. 8)
David

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