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Thread: The Planets

  1. #1

    The Planets

    So much to unpack - I've been asked to play Tenor Tuba for the YPSO's performance of The Planets next month, woohoo! First time ever with orchestra although I've played band transcriptions many times. I've been listening to recordings trying to get an idea of how different players interpret this part and have come across an interesting conundrum.

    First - let's discuss what I would call "Common Performance Practice" regarding Tenor Tuba with The Planets - that is, I would assume that any Euphonium player with a BA in performance or music education would know these:
    1. Holst was aware of the Euphonium while composing The Planets and wrote the part for Tenor Tuba
    2. The solo parts are to be projected and played WITHOUT vibrato because of this
    3. The horn to be used should be a large bore Euphonium

    Maybe we could argue about some of these points but I feel like, generally, most people would mostly agree with the above. Then, I come across the following recording - Zubin Mehta and LA Phil 1972:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l10ibGxSXGg

    From the research I've been able to compile, the Tenor Tuba player is Robert Marsteller and the Bass Tuba players are his students, Roger Bobo and Tommy Johnson. NOBODY would argue with the pedigree of these three people yet the LA Phil recording featuring all three players contains Mars solos featuring a small sounding horn with COPIOUS amounts of vibrato - not even American vibrato as we commonly understand it but fast, vibrating British Brass Band vibrato. It almost sounds like Robert Marsteller is auditioning to be Solo Euphonium or 1st Baritone in Black Dyke!

    How are we to rectify this? Is this recording an outlier and Robert Marsteller didn't understand or care about Holst's intentions? Or is our understanding of Holst wrong and somehow we've missed out? I don't think I'm doing "paralysis by analysis" - simply wondering what IS the performance practice supposed to be and, knowing that, how can we put this recording in the proper context? Of course, I also want to know whether I should emulate Robert Marsteller or go with the "tried and true" performance practice I've been aware of.

    What do other people think?
    Yamaha Neo w/Trigger, Lacquer
    K&G 3.5D

  2. #2
    I would think that your conductor might have an opinion that matters more than anyone here could give.

    I think a solo part means there is some wiggle room for interpretation via vibrato and the like, unless the one waving the stick says otherwise.

    I say talk it over with the conductor and reference your research in that discussion.
    Clayton M.
    Musician for Fun
    Euphonium Newbie - XO 1270S
    Trumpet Novice - XO 1602RS

  3. #3
    Clearly - part of preparation involves researching your part ahead of time though.
    Yamaha Neo w/Trigger, Lacquer
    K&G 3.5D

  4. #4
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    I would agree that it's should be the conductor's choice. To my ear, the tenor tuba playing in your link is a bit bright and vibrato a bit much. But that's just my opinion. I mean no disrespect.

    I suspect you may have already have found this on 'tenor tuba':

    Orchestration Tip: Tenor Tuba from Mars!

    Congrats on your gig and good luck with it. Sounds very exciting.

    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
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    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    When the Saints Go Marching In (arr. Mashima) at ACB Conference Ft. Lauderdale
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  5. #5
    I get that. It’s also important to ask the questions that you have with the ones that make the decisions. I would hate to practice something on my own, only to be told to play it differently at rehearsal.

    Aside from that, I don’t have any insight into Holst’s intentions and how to interpret the score.
    Clayton M.
    Musician for Fun
    Euphonium Newbie - XO 1270S
    Trumpet Novice - XO 1602RS

  6. I attended an LAPO performance of “Planets” back in the late ‘60’s. I recall the euphonium soloist being Jack Parton from the Congress Hall Salvation Army Band. I remember him having a huge sound with plenty of (I thought tasteful) vibrato. Regarding Jake’s comment in his initial post, I thought he sounded like John Clough, from Black Dyke at the time. Maybe that is how Mehta felt the movement should sound.

  7. In my humble opinion, the euphonium solo in Mars DEMANDS a huge sound, with a noticeable but controlled vibrato. I'm going to be playing this with my wind symphony in February, and this is what my conductor and I have agreed to.
    James Kircoff
    Genesee Wind Symphony - principal euphonium (Adams E3 Custom .60mm yellow brass bell w/ Parker 4G Houser)
    Capital City Brass Band (2019 NABBA 2nd section champions) - 1st baritone (Besson BE956 w/ Denis Wick 6BY) and 10 piece ensemble (Getzen 1052FD bass trombone w/ Bach 1G)

  8. #8
    Sorry - I didn't mean to convey I needed help in my own interpretation - I'll figure it out with the conductor. I found the interpretation of the Mehta recording to be SO different and knowing the players involved, wanted to see what you guys thought of it. The interpretation goes against everything I've ever heard in terms of how to play it. It would be something you would expect to hear from a community or high school orchestra. But knowing the players involved and the organization you know the choice of interpretation was deliberate - I'm just trying to figure out the "why". I suppose I should ask Loren Marsteller if his dad ever discussed why he played it the way he did.
    Yamaha Neo w/Trigger, Lacquer
    K&G 3.5D

  9. #9
    Maybe he was just nervous! Actually, the second time he plays the solo line, it doesn't sound like there is much, if any vibrato. Or maybe my ears are bad.

    Mike

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