Alexander Nevsky

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Posted by Michael Eastep on April 14, 2002 at 03:42:23:

I just had the privilege of playing Prokokiev's score for the last two nights with the Calgary Philharmonic and guest conductor Gunter Newhold, from Austria. This is the finest writing I know of for tuba in orchestra. Prokofiev always lets you be a tuba--you don't have to pretend to be a different instrument. A full and beautiful sound is desired. A lot of the playing is soloistic, and much of the ensemble writing lets you play with the horn section or the woodwinds, including the contra-bassoon while, half the time, the trombones are sitting around doing nothing. He likes the characteristic range of a big tuba and doesn't make you worry about high range. Nevsky has a top note of E-flat (as I recall) and a low of the E-flat two octaves below that. If you like the low end as I do, this piece is just plain fun to play. I especially enjoyed using my PT-6P, which I found easier to control that the last time we played the piece, when I used my big Holton. The Prokofiev pieces that I have been lucky enough to play include the 5th symphony, the full ballet scores for Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, and the second Piano Concerto. All of these have wonderful writing for tuba. Although I haven't played it, there is a huge tuba solo in the opera (not the suite) the Love for Three Oranges. Interestingly, pretty much everybody one speaks with in the orchestra feels that P. writes well for their instrument. Anyone that does not know these pieces would enjoy hearing them.

Like a lot of people, I have always considered the Reiner/Chicago/Jacobs/Crisafulli recording of Nevsky to be the definitive one. Without neessarily changing that view, there is much to be said also for another oldie by Philadelphia, with Ormandy and either Torchinsky or Kryzwickie. Whoever it is sounds just fine, and it is interesting to hear parts in which Ormandy's interpretation is quite different from Reiner's. It's very atmospheric. This recording is copywrite 1975. I can't remember the year that Torchy retired, but he might have have been the tubist. He was certainly a fine player.

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