Mahillon’s Wagner Tubas Revisited

Arnold Myers, Ignace de Keyser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Various practices were adopted in the 1880s and 1890s for the performance of the 'Tuba' parts in Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle, including the use of instruments specially designed to be played by trombonists. Such tubas made by Mahillon were introduced at the Brussels Conservatoire following the ideas of Henri Séha. Mahillon Wagner tubas were most extensively used in London at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and at Henry Wood’s Concerts; they were also supplied to Rome and Naples. The extant Mahillon tubas have been closely examined and it is shown that although they were made over a relatively short period, the Mahillon firm made significant design modifications. This article discusses the earlier and later designs, comparing them with saxhorns (which Wagner originally envisaged employing), trombones (since Mahillon Wagner tubas were played by trombonists) and modern Wagner tubas (their design becoming established around the time that Mahillon's tubas were introduced). This article gives a detailed account of the origins and characteristics of these instruments, extending the scope of the account given by John Webb in the 1996 Galpin Society Journal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-163, 224-5
Number of pages14
JournalGalpin Society Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2021


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