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Subject: Re: Instrumentation in the Ring (was AC's Question about Solti)
From: Jon Alan Conrad <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Alan Conrad <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 31 Mar 2009 11:18:36 -0400

text/plain (54 lines)

On Mar 31, 2009, at 11:02 AM, Joe OConnell wrote:

> Are there sections where _both_ bass clarinets play at the _same_  
> time?

No, _because_ (as in other scores that use both types of bass  
clarinet) there is only _one_ bass clarinettist, who is asked to play  
either the A or Bb instrument in any given passage, according to  
Wagner's decision as to which will provide for the easier key  
signature (or, perhaps, if that lowest semitone is needed).

> Which operas;  what page numbers?

Does not apply.

The 4 Wagner tubas are not technically tubas, but modified (French)  
horns, and are played (in the occasional passages for Wagner tubas)  
by horn players 5 through 8. (There are 8 horn players total.)

Wagner of course did not call them "Wagner tubas"; the nomenclature  
is "tenor and bass tubas," 2 of each (which required him to rename  
the standard bass tuba a "contrabass tuba"). The transpositions for  
these instruments are too complicated and ridiculous to go into here. :)

The mystery about Wagner's harp writing is that in most of his operas  
it's so unidiomatic (harpists pass along standard "editing" of the  
parts to make them playable), and then in DIE MEISTERSINGER it's  
remarkably harplike, playable, and effective, totally unlike his  
earlier and later writing for the instrument. I've always wondered if  
he got special help or advice on that one. (One old book I own --  
about Gilbert and Sullivan, of all things -- makes a casual reference  
to the effect that "we have been told by Maestro Richter that he  
actually did the orchestration of DIE MEISTERSINGER"; which I've  
certainly never seen supported elsewhere, and I'd like to know what  
if anything Richter actually said. Maybe he did advise on the harp  
writing in that one case.)

Jon Alan Conrad
Department of Music
University of Delaware

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