Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

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DuVall901
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Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

Post by DuVall901 »

I’m thinking of using my alto in Lab Orchestra (conducting lab, no concerts) just so I can get the extra built-in practice time, but in an historically authentic performance setting would alto or tenor be appropriate for Rossini’s “Barber of Seville”? I know the alto was falling out of favor by the 19th century, but this premier was 1816, early enough that alto could have still been used/expected.

Additional question: If tenor, straight small bore or traditional large bore with “light touch”?
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BGuttman
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Re: Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

Post by BGuttman »

I believe the original orchestration called for 1 trombone, and it was a bass.

If you have a 3 trombone arrangement it called for 2 tenors and a bass or 3 tenors.

If you forget about historical accuracy, go ahead and use an alto for the 1st trombone part, but not as the sole trombone (for which a symphonic tenor with F is fine).
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Re: Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

Post by octavposaune »

The single trombone part is low but playable on a tenor. Its too low for an alto.
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Re: Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

Post by BrianJohnston »

Tenor.
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Re: Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

Post by brassmedic »

If you're talking about the 3 trombone version, that was done later, so the idea of being historically accurate is out the window anyway. I have played that "altposaune" part on alto trombone and I thought it laid very well on the instrument. I'm not saying it was necessarily written for alto trombone, but it's essentially an arrangement of the piece, so who cares?
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Re: Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

Post by CalgaryTbone »

Yes, the 3 Trombone version that we have in our library here is an Alto part. Light playing, and some exposed high D's. The end of the Overture is tricky on the Alto - a bit low in the register, and in an unfriendly key. A judicious use of alternate positions ( or a B flat valve) would be helpful for the ending, and a light touch is needed for the first half with all of the high notes.

Jim Scott
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LeTromboniste
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Re: Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

Post by LeTromboniste »

Yes, the original has just one trombone, written for a Bb instrument (whether they then considered it a bass or tenor trombone, it would have been a smaller than even a small bore modern tenor).

No idea when or where the "alto" part was added. If it was for a production in Germany, it's possible it actually was intended for alto, but otherwise doubtful.

Also a sidenote: even in the historical performance movement and playing period instruments, we never claim to be "historically authentic". There's a lot more going into historically-informed performance than just choice of equipment.

And even if we limit it to only that aspect, choosing to play tenor instead of alto because a part is originally intended for tenor doesn't make your performance more historical. Your modern tenors (of whichever bore size), alto and bass are all vastly different from the instruments of the time and place that music was written. So are the instruments everyone else in the orchestra are playing. So you might as well choose the instrument that makes the most sense musically for you in your context.

That being said, I applaud and encourage your curiosity. Whether or not your choice of equipment ultimately aligns with the historical practice, questioning what was originally intended is always good and can shape your musical decisions and your understanding of the soundworld the composer might have had in mind, and is the basis for an historically-informed approach.
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Re: Alto or Tenor on Barber of Seville?

Post by CalgaryTbone »

By coincidence, this just showed up in a folder for an upcoming Young Person's show here in a couple for weeks. The online schedule showed 1 trombone and said original orchestration, but the 3 trombone version with the high alto clef part is what is in the folder. It says "Original Version" - printed on the part, but that may refer to the alto clef part (the publisher might provide a bass clef version). I don't think this version is "original", but once I was searching on IMSLP for a William Tell part when I couldn't put my hands on the ones that are in my library, and found a version of the Overture with an alto clef 1st part, and portions of the familiar scales up an octave. That would really throw you if you ever showed up to a gig and saw that on the stand when you were expecting the usual version!

Jim Scott
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