The Tuba in the Symphonic Works of Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler: A Performance Analysis

Published year:

1980

Author:

Jerry
Young

Author email:

JYOUNG@uwec.edu

Institution:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Country of institution:

United States

Language:

English

Abstract URL:

Website URL:

Project PDF:

Description:

This study was undertaken to determine characteristics of Bruckner’s and Mahler’s treatment of the tuba in their symphonies and to identify problems in the performance of the tuba parts in those symphonies. In order to accomplish these purposes, the following sub-problems were investigated: 1) What are the general performance problems of the tuba? 2) What characteristics of Bruckner’s and Mahler’s treatment of the tuba as an individual instrument within the orchestra can be identified? 3) What characteristics of Bruckner’s and Mahler’s treatment of the tuba as a member of the orchestral ensemble can be identified? 4) What performance problems for the tubist does each of the Bruckner and Mahler symphonies present?

A review of related literature resulted in the identification of performance problems of the tuba in areas of range, tone production, dynamics, and intonation. The investigator examined the tuba parts of each symphony to determine the existing performance problems and established possible solutions for the problems. The investigator analyzed the tuba part of each symphony to determine the characteristic treatment of the tuba as an individual instrument within the orchestra. Special attention was given to pitch range, tessitura, dynamic range, articulation, rhythm, and special effects. He also identified the characteristic treatment of the tuba as a member of the orchestral ensemble. He examined the score of the symphony with special attention to the tuba’s overall frequency of use, use as a solo instrument, and function as a member of the full orchestral ensemble and of the brass ensemble.

The analyses enabled the investigator to determine a number of specific characteristics peculiar to the tuba writing of each composer. Bruckner’s style can best be described as highly problematic. Outstanding characteristics include the use of extreme high and low registers, extremely loud dynamics, and wide intervals. Bruckner most often used the tuba as a bass instrument in the orchestra and the brass ensemble, employing it only infrequently in solo or melodic roles. Mahler’s tuba writing, in contrast, is challenging for the performer but is generally not problematic in nature. Characteristics include frequent use of changing dynamics, legato articulations, and strategic use of special effects. Mahler’s tuba parts are definitely within the playing abilities of the average tubist. Mahler, like Bruckner, used the tuba most frequently as an orchestral bass instrument; unlike Bruckner, however, he often employed the tuba in melodic passages and as a solo instrument.