Posted by Jay Bertolet on December 27, 2003 at 00:21:17:
In Reply to: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Opera/tuba question posted by curmudgeon on December 26, 2003 at 18:25:29:
You don't use an F tuba or a compensating euphonium because the Orsi style cimbasso you posted a picture of is but one style of cimbasso. Make no mistake, the instrument you've pictured in your post doesn't sound at all like a euph or an F tuba despite the physical resemblance. Its bore and expansion are quite different from the instruments you suggest. There were several types of cimbassi, including some really unusual configurations. The Bevan book is quite specific about the various instruments that were called "cimbasso". In fact, no one can even decifer what the name means or what its derivation is.
I think the primary consideration here should be to honor the composer's intent. In this, Verdi was extremely clear. The cimbasso sound should blend with the trombone section such that the resultant sound is a homogenous 4 part section. For many years I have believed that a tuba can be the 4th voice in such a setup and be very well blended. I now believe that the cimbasso is superior in this capacity. And why not? Its overall construction is much more like that of a trombone. Is there any wonder as to why it also sounds more like a trombone and blends better with a section of trombones? There shouldn't be.
Using the Orsi style cimbasso is a good choice. Luckily, we have other choices today. As long as the sound considerations that Verdi stipulated are honored, it really doesn't matter if you play on a garden hose right? I'll assume that places like the Met, which have traditionally not used a cimbasso, probably had players that could effectively play those parts on tuba and please the music director. The opera company and the players in that pit certainly had the access and capacity to choose cimbasso had they wished to. You can't argue with their successes. I guess all I'm saying is that I approached the cimbasso with an open mind and was impressed with the results. For me, the cimbasso is the superior choice.
My opinion for what it's worth...
BTW, my cimbasso is not a "late 20th century Jim Self-y contraption". With all due respect to Jim, I don't believe he had anything to do with the design of my Meinl-Weston cimbasso. It is an older design that has been recreated using more modern construction techniques that are currently available. While I'm not able to say definitively (because I wasn't there), I'm guessing that part of the reason these horns fell from favor was because of the poor quality of the instruments produced early on. The newer cimbassi play much better in tune, by all accounts, and have a greater life expectancy because of much more solid construction.