Cimbasso

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Re: Cimbasso

Post by motet » Wed Oct 21, 2020 8:31 pm

Otello and Falstaff (Verdi's last two operas) call for trombone basso. Don Carlo and the Reqieum call for an ophicleide. So maybe the cimbasso was on its way out (temporarily) later in Verdi's career (Aida has a cimbasso).

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Re: Cimbasso

Post by David Ward » Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:18 pm

motet wrote:
Wed Oct 21, 2020 7:47 pm
Puccini only ever wrote the bottom brass part for "Trombone basso." Is a contrabass trombone and a bass trombone the same thing?
No, but the instrument Puccini (and Verdi in Falstaff) wrote for was quite different from the modern bass trombone. Actually for Turandot Puccini does specify a contrabass trombone. Anyway, for a number of good acoustical reasons, houses such as the ROH Covent Garden regularly use a contrabass trombone as the fourth in operas such as Tosca. The complete set of four trombones are all substantially different from those Puccini would have originally heard, but given the use of modern large bore slide trombones, usually two tenor and one bass, for the three higher instruments, it is perfectly logical to use a contrabass for the fourth. However, the whole line-up is inauthentic; but so are many of the other instruments in the modern orchestra. There are period instrument performances, too, of course, but these are still relatively rare in the large opera houses and are mostly confined to operas from the baroque and classical periods.

There's an article here which partly covers an aspect of this http://kimballtrombone.com/2010/03/03/m ... -trombone/
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by David Ward » Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:37 pm

I'll add to that above: in about 1950 the first trombone I ever played was a ‘peashooter’ ie a decidedly narrow bore straight B flat instrument, and my first bass trombone not long after was that curious creature a G bass trombone. It had a rather long slide requiring a handle to reach the 6th and 7th positions, and without the addition of a D attachment could not play anything between the low C sharp and the G pedal. Its smallish bore (0.5 inch?) meant it produced a harsh ‘ripping’ sound if played loudly, which was nevertheless probably what composers such as Elgar and even Vaughan Williams and Walton expected (this was the standard bass trombone in UK orchestras until the 1950s). From that I progressed to a modern bass trombone: a B flat/F instrument with 0.562 inch bore, large bell choke, 9.5 inch bell flare &c. There was no second valve (those came later), but there was a tuning slide one could pull out to make the F attachment an E one for the missing note (low B natural).

In case anyone is remotely interested!
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by motet » Wed Oct 21, 2020 10:32 pm

I am interested! Thanks for the detail.

You're right--in Turandot it says Trombone contrabasso.

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Re: Cimbasso

Post by ebiggs1 » Thu Oct 22, 2020 2:36 am

In case anyone is remotely interested!
I had and started with a Holton TR181. I moved to a Back 50 dependent and am currently using my Bach 50 open wrap independent.
Possibly the best bass trombone I ever played was a Conn 62h owned by my good friend the late Tom Stidham. I know Conn has brought the 62h back but I have not seen or played a new one. If anyone remotely cares.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by Anders Hedelin » Fri Oct 23, 2020 4:07 pm

ebiggs1 wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 2:36 am
In case anyone is remotely interested!
I had and started with a Holton TR181. I moved to a Back 50 dependent and am currently using my Bach 50 open wrap independent.
Possibly the best bass trombone I ever played was a Conn 62h owned by my good friend the late Tom Stidham. I know Conn has brought the 62h back but I have not seen or played a new one. If anyone remotely cares.
That doesn't tell me, a non-trombonist, very much. Can you describe the sound and playability of the contrabass trombone for us others? We might be more than remotely interested, or curious.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by Gareth Green » Fri Oct 23, 2020 4:12 pm

ebiggs1 wrote:
Thu Oct 22, 2020 2:36 am

That doesn't tell me, a non-trombonist, very much. Can you describe the sound and playability of the contrabass trombone for us others? We might be more than remotely interested, or curious.
Try this, as an example; easier than describing it ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8k4rJuQgB0
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by David Ward » Fri Oct 23, 2020 4:56 pm

Gareth Green wrote:
Fri Oct 23, 2020 4:12 pm
Try this, as an example; easier than describing it ...
In case there's any doubt (I don't expect there is) the contrabass comes in briefly at about 4 mins 20 secs, the rest of the 6 min clip is on bass. One physical problem with these very low contrabass notes is to avoid feeling faint when playing a whole lot of them, quite apart from the general cumbersomeness of the instrument. If you follow the link I placed above to a Rath contrabass trombone and scroll down a bit you'll find a short (20 secs) clip of someone playing the spear motive from the Ring on a contrabass and should probably be able to make out that the lowest notes are perhaps more focussed, less flatulent than the identical notes on a bass trombone.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by motet » Fri Oct 23, 2020 6:45 pm

I didn't see him making any heroic slide throws. Is the instrument still in Bb but with more triggers, or does one not use all 7 positions?

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Re: Cimbasso

Post by David Ward » Fri Oct 23, 2020 9:47 pm

motet wrote:
Fri Oct 23, 2020 6:45 pm
I didn't see him making any heroic slide throws. Is the instrument still in Bb but with more triggers, or does one not use all 7 positions?
I can't be sure about the Haag contrabass, which I think is the one in use here, but the Rath one is in F/C/D easily changeable to F/Eb/Bb by putting in different bits of tube, or indeed to a variety of other permutations if required.

The Miraphone contrabass which was popular for a while in the 1980s (Dick Tyack at the ROH Covent Garden had one) was a Bb/F instrument one octave below the standard Bb/F with a slide which was double (ie instead of of getting twice the amount of extra tube per cm of slide movement you got quadruple). This was more cumbersome to play than the F instruments now being made.

On the Miraphone all seven positions were available for the Bb section, six at a pinch on the F as on a normal bass trombone (which is one octave higher). On a contrabass in F/C/D etc there would be six positions just available on the F section, but fewer on the others as the distance between positions becomes longer. In general one would probably use the valves to help minimize slide movement, although sometimes a lower slide position with less valve is the preferred option.

On my bass I routinely used the standard sixth position for the C in the bass clef and F immediately below rather than first position with the F valve, and I would very rarely use first position with two valves for the D below the clef, rather than a long fourth (actually near enough a standard fifth) with the F valve &c &c &c. However, if the music was agile one would use whichever slide position was nearest plus whatever valve combination made that possible. On a Bb/F/D bass one had a single first position for all valve combinations, plus six positions on the Bb section, plus 5 different positions on the F section, plus 4 others equally different on the D. It all quickly became more instinctive than that might suggest.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by ebiggs1 » Fri Oct 23, 2020 10:32 pm

Can you describe the sound and playability of the contrabass trombone ...
I can try. The bass trombone is pitched in Bb exactly the same as a large bore tenor. Its tubing is 9 feet which is identical to the tenor trombone, but it has a larger bore and a larger bell and a larger mouthpiece. The contrabass trombone is also pitched in Bb but one octave lower than the Tenor or bass trombone. The reason for this is how the sound is projected. Especially in the lower and lowest register. Trombones are capable of enormous sound levels. A good bass trombone player can probably do everything a contrabass can do but again it is the sound projection we are after. From sweet low level low notes to notes that rival the second coming.
The contrabass is the same size in tubing as the Bb tuba. It is heavy and expensive. Very expensive and only a few companies even make one. The ones I have seen or had anything to do with have a double slide which is also heavy and makes fast passages difficult.

BTW, while on the topic of odd or somewhat obsolete instruments there is also an alto trombone and a soprano. The alto pitched in Eb and the soprano again in Bb but two octaves above the tenor. Contemporary composers just don't write much lit for these instruments. Charles Vernon, an amazing bass trombone master, can put on a solo recital using a contrabass but he probably won't use it again in the Chicago symphony for a long, long time.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by ebiggs1 » Fri Oct 23, 2020 10:49 pm

In general one would probably use the valves to help minimize slide movement, although sometimes a lower slide position with less valve is the preferred option.
Some contrabass trombones have a handle to help reach the lower slide positions. If you have a contrabass with one rotor it has the same missing notes as the bass trombone with a single rotor. As to extended tubing to change the tuning, that is also a problem because the instrument is so big and stretched out the additional tubes are also big and make an awkward instrument even more awkward. However, there are folks that master it and overcome the difficulties. I am not one of those!

I play 2nd trombone in the Olathe Community Orchestra, 1st in my SCB concert band and bass trombone in the Hallmark Cards Corporate concert band. I play all three chairs, one at a time, in the Kansas University Concert band.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by Anders Hedelin » Sat Oct 24, 2020 10:43 am

Thanks all, for explanations and examples.

Interesting! I wasn't even aware there was an instrument like the contrabass trombone.

Does anyone know if Stravinsky ever wrote for this instrument? I've found nothing so far myself, but I know that he admitted to be a great fan of trombones (to the extent that he might have caught 'trombocitis'.)
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by Callasmaniac » Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:04 am

I think soprano trombone is just ONE octave above tenor - same size as normal B flat trumpet.

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Re: Cimbasso

Post by Gareth Green » Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:32 am

Callasmaniac wrote:
Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:04 am
I think soprano trombone is just ONE octave above tenor - same size as normal B flat trumpet.
It is; it's a trumpet player's "doubling" instrument, using either a trumpet mouthpiece, or one very similar in size/shape. I've played one a couple of times; it is VERY difficult, mainly because the slide positions are so much closer together.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by ebiggs1 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:15 pm

... the soprano again in Bb but two octaves above the tenor

Sorry guys I got interrupted mid reply, :oops: I meant to include the piccolo trombone in Bb which is pitched two octaves above the tenor. The soprano is one octave above the tenor trombone in Bb. Sorry.
soprano.png
soprano


Wessex_Piccolo_Trombone.jpg
piccolo
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by ebiggs1 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:31 pm

The alto trombone is pitched in Eb, a 4th higher than the tenor. Like all trombones even though it is in Eb it does not transpose. It is written and plays concert. Usually only written for in the alto clef. Unless you are a symphony player or trombone ensemble player you won't find much lit written for the alto trombone either.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by Gareth Green » Sat Oct 24, 2020 1:06 pm

Somewhere I have an LP recorded sometime during the late '70's (I think), featuring mostly the trombone section of the L.A.Phil. at the time, plus the trumpeter Malcolm McNab on soprano trombone. It was a recording of a selection of music originally written for the Moravian Church, which was notable for it's use of a trombone choir as the mainstay of it's worship music. Most of the music was scored for a complete "set" of soprano, alto, tenor and bass trombone. Mostly it was arrangements of chorales, but there was also some chamber music written for the combination.

Don't know if it was ever re-released on CD; I think the label was Crystal Records ... (?)
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by David Ward » Sat Oct 24, 2020 1:29 pm

ebiggs1 wrote:
Sat Oct 24, 2020 12:31 pm
The alto trombone is pitched in Eb, a 4th higher than the tenor. Like all trombones even though it is in Eb it does not transpose. It is written and plays concert. Usually only written for in the alto clef. Unless you are a symphony player or trombone ensemble player you won't find much lit written for the alto trombone either.
Quite.

Since symphonic, operatic and chamber are the areas of music in which I am professionally competent, the alto trombone has long been for me a ‘normal’ instrument (although never for me to play). As far as I know, the first trombone player of every major symphony and opera orchestra in the UK and Western Europe possesses and can play an alto trombone when required. That said, it can present problems of intonation and there doesn't seem to be a full consensus about which is the best make of instrument.

It can even be found in semi-professional orchestras consisting of full-time high school music teachers &c. A few years ago I went to hear a performance of Beethoven 5 in Banff (the original Banff in Scotland, not Banff, Canada) by such an orchestra, and the trombone line-up consisted of one alto (the part goes right up to the high F above tenor top C), one medium large bore tenor, and one large bore Bb/F ‘tenor-bass’ (as perhaps preferable to a full-sized bass in this line-up). These were not professional orchestral players, but they still successfully mounted the performance.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by ebiggs1 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 10:05 pm

I am familiar with Beethoven's 5th sym and also the 9th having played them both several times. I play 2nd on the 5th sym and bass on the 9th (a part to die for it is great). Our 1st uses a Bach 16 regular tenor and does very well. I think it is a misconception that you can play higher if you have an alto trombone. Although it facilitates higher notes it really doesn't play any higher for well established players. At least that is IMHO, of course. A further point is the instruments that we think of in Beethoven's time were smaller bore instruments. The modern trombone family would probably be foreign to Beethoven. One reason why I think a large bore bass trombone can do just about all a contrabass can and why we don't see them often. Modern bass trombones specifications have a bore size of 0.562" in the slide and 0.580", or even larger, through the valve section. Bell sizes up to 10 1/2" diameter.

Check out this link which is more in line with the original question.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9WAH0ZaKTw
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by miker » Sat Oct 24, 2020 10:59 pm

What is that instrument held vertically, towards stage right?
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by ebiggs1 » Sat Oct 24, 2020 11:09 pm

This one?
cimbaso.jpg
Cimbasso
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by miker » Sun Oct 25, 2020 1:30 am

Aha! Thanks.
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by David Ward » Sun Oct 25, 2020 8:51 am

And here's a pic https://twitter.com/Contraboneman/statu ... 12/photo/1 of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden trombone section with the cimbasso at the end. (From the Twitter of the ROH principal bass & contrabass trombone, Keith McNicoll.)

According to a recent court case in which a viola player was awarded £700,000 damages for the effects of ‘acoustic shock’, the sound level in the pit near the ROH brass sometimes reaches 130 decibels, which seems quite astonishing (but was accepted in a court of law, including on appeal).
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Re: Cimbasso

Post by ebiggs1 » Sun Oct 25, 2020 3:42 pm

111.jpg
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