Tuesday, September 23, 2014

306 Trombones

"[The Tuba mirum opens with a lofty phrase that leads nowhere and is impotent.]  Why just one trombone to sound the terrible blast that should echo round the world and raise the dead from the grave [(from the bottom of their tombs)]?  Why keep the other two trombones silent when not three, not thirty, not three hundred would be enough?  [Would this be because the word tuba is in the singular and not the plural?  To attribute [for even] an instant such stupid thinking to Mozart would be to do him an injury.]"

"Le Tuba mirum débute par une phrase sublime, qui n'aboutit à rien et dont l'instrumentation est impuissante.  Pourquoi un seul trombone est-il chargé de sonner l'appel terrible qui doit retenir par toute la terre et réveiller les morts au fond de leurs tombeaux?  Pourquoi faire taire les deux autres trombones?  quand, au lieu de trois, trente, trois cents même ne seraient pas de trop?  Serait-ce parce que le mot tuba exprime le singulier et non le pluriel?  C'est faire une injure à Mozart que de lui supposer un instant une aussi sotte idée."

     Hector Berlioz on Mozart's Requiem (the Tuba mirum), Le rénovateur, 30 March 1834, "echoed in similar terms in G[azette ]m[usicale], 7 September 1834; C[ritique ]m[usicale], 1 [(1823-34) (Paris, 1996)], pp. 204, 376" (Hugh MacDonald, Berlioz's orchestration treatise:  a translation and commentary (Cambridge, England:  Cambridge University Press, 2002), 219-220, as supplemented from the French in brackets by me).  French as quoted in Hector Berlioz, Grand traité d'instrumentation et d'orchestration modernes, ed. Peter Bloom, Hector Berlioz:  New edition of the complete works, ed. Berlioz Centenary Committee, London, in association with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, vol. 24 (Kassel:  Bärenreiter, 2003), 310n13.

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