December 13

The Ophicleide

What do Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn, Giuseppe Verdi, Sir Arthur Sullivan, and Richard Wagner have in common? They all composed for the ophicleide! Patented in 1821 by French instrument maker Jean Hilaire Asté, the ophicleide was used in military bands and orchestras well into the 20th-century, though it has now been largely superseded by the tuba.  Moreover, author, composer, and organist Dr. Orlando Mansfield described this instrument as “ugly” and “curious” in a 1929 issue of The New Music Review and Church Music Review.

The New Music Review and Church Music Review, Vol. 28 No. 335 (October 1929): 407.

An early image of an ophicleide designed by instrument makers Griesling & Schott.
Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, Vol. 6 No 2 (10 January 1829): [1S] 16/17.

Hector Berlioz wrote briefly about the ophicleide in his Grand traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration modernes.  This text was later translated and reprinted in Dwight’s Journal of Music.

Dwight’s Journal of Music, Vol. 10 No 22 (28 February 1857): 170.

An illustration of an ophicleide with a fingering chart and compass.
Cäcilia, No. 34 ([1828]): [1S] 128/29.

Berlioz selected this “monstrous” “bull” of an instrument to feature prominently in the fifth movement of his Symphonie fantastique.  When paired with its bass wind instrument cousin, the serpent, the duo creates an ominous atmosphere when performing the Medieval Latin hymn, “Dies Irae”. Let’s listen to it.

Nevertheless, the ophicleide’s “growl, grunt, or roar” led it to be the subject of humorous caricatures and some pointed comments in the press.

The Musical World, Vol. 9 No. 208 (23 December 1841): 404.

This caricature depicts, in a refreshing manner, the ophicleide as brazen and powerful.
L’Illustration, Vol. LXXXII (28 July 1883): 61.

In fact, the effort required to produce a sound on the instrument even led some to speculate that it could cause health problems.

The Musical World, Vol. 9 No. 196 (30 September 1841): 215. 

Caricatures also depicted the large size of the instrument itself.
L’Illustration, Vol. XXV (4 February 1860): 77.

While the ophicleide may have developed a reputation for being unwieldy and odd, a small community of musicians continues to perform on this unusual instrument. Some, like the Sydney Ophicleide Quartet, achieve an admirable level of tonal beauty and virtuosity.

RIPM search tip: To read more anecdotes and reviews of the ophicleide, search “ophicleide” as a keyboard in RIPM’s Retrospective Index and e-Library of Music Periodicals.

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December 6

RIPM’s “Illustrations of the Week”
The Covers of Ars et labor

Today, we feature five sumptuous covers from the Italian journal, Ars et labor: Musica e musicisti (1906-1912), issued by the famed Milan publishing house, Ricordi.

Vol. 63 No. 12 (15 December 1908)

 

Vol. 61 No. 3 (15 March 1906)

 


Vol. 61 No. 7 (15 July 1906)

 


Vol. 67 No. 12 (15 November 1912)

 


Vol. 63 No. 6 (15 June 1908)

 

RIPM search tip: Ars et labor: Musica e musicisti (Milan, 1906-1912) can be found in full text in RIPM’s e-Library of Music Periodicals. To view this journal specifically, select the periodical in Browse Mode!

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The Covers of Ars et labor
December 1

Some Tidbits and Anecdotes from RIPM:
Jenny Lind

Proposed By Marten Noorduin

Here are a few entertaining anecdotes from the musical press about Jenny Lind. As today is Friday, perhaps they will set the right tone for your weekend.

 

Strenna Teatrale Europea, Vol. 11 No. 1 (1848): [II pc].

 

In the 1850s American showman P.T. Barnum arranged a tour of the United States for the Swedish Nightingale, the celebrated soprano Jenny Lind. These three anecdotes and two illustrations reflect the immense success of the tour.

 

The sale of tickets for a Jenny Lind concert in America
L’Illustration, Vol. XVI (23 November 1850): 325.

 

Saroni’s Musical Times, Vol. 1 No. 51 (14 September 1850): 601.

 

The Musical World, Vol. XXVI [XXIX] No. 38 (20 September 1851): 605.

 

The Message Bird, Vol. 2 No. 36 (15 January 1851): 590.

 

Punch; Or, London Charivari, Vol. 19 (1850): 146.

 

Throughout her career, musical tributes for the Swedish Nightingale abounded. In fact, the collection of The National Museum of American History holds the sheet music of an 1846 piece written in honor of Jenny Lind composed by Anton Wallerstein and entitled, “Jenny Lind’s Favorite Polka”. If one believes that the popularity of her name was limited to the 19th-century, here is a surprising 1956 example reflecting its presence in the 20th.

RIPM search tip: Searching “Jenny Lind” as a keyword in both RIPM’s Retrospective Index and e-Library of Music Periodicals generates a list of 4,554 results!

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Jenny Lind
November 29

RIPM’s “Illustration of the Week”
Making Waves at the Opera

This week’s illustrations feature three 19th-century images offering a unique operatic vision from the depths of the ocean and from above its surface. For an 1843 production of the now obscure three-act opera, Le naufrage héroïque du vaisseau, Le Vengeur (The Heroic Sinking of the Ship, The Avenger), this is how extras at the Cirque-Olympique created the illusion of a calm sea …

The calm of the sea
L’Illustration, Vol. II (23 December 1843): 261.

… and one turned violent.

The rough sea
Ibid.

Though there were many technological advances on the stage during the 19th-century, by 1866, charting the seas was not one of them.

L’Illustration, Vol. XLVIII (29 September 1866): 205.

 

RIPM search tip: To browse numerous images of opera scenes in RIPM’s Retrospective Index and Online Archive, fill in the following fields: Keyword = Opera; Type = Illustration. Those records labeled “ROA” are available in full-text.

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Making Waves at the Opera