What can you say about Wagner? Spectacular!
For example. Siegfried’s funeral music.
The score calls for the usual strings, but they are used sparingly. They do not open nor close the piece. It is opened and closed by the tympani. The score calls for not one but two sets of tympani placed at opposite ends (cyberchambermusic would be tempted to place them in the audience).
The usual woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon) are augmented by the piccolo and the English horn (an alto oboe). Indeed the English horn has a lovely song half-way through followed by the clarinet and then the oboe. And the oboe version of the song is amongst the great glories of the oboe literature. Did I mention the bass clarinet?
The brass section contains every brass horn in the world, including tubas, four French horns and four trombones in various keys. The percussion includes bass drum, triangle and symbols. Did I mention the contrabass tuba?
The string’s prominence comes when the lower strings reply to the brass choir with the dramatic (sometimes 5-note-group) slow arppegio.
Did I mention that there are six harps in two sets of three.
Its enough to wake the dead.
Mozart’s masonic funeral music is enough to wake the dead. It is striking in its effect because it uses so few instruments. The score calls for the usual strings, violins (first and second), violas, cellos and contra basses. But then only two oboes and two flutes (hardly used). No clarinets and no bassoons. The last is just three more brass instruments. One horn, one trombone and one other (see below). No tympani or other percussion.
The piece opens with only two oboes in a sparing two note group that is just soft-loud-soft. This is repeated by the brass. It is all very simple in every way but one: its effect.
Cyberchambermusic uses only two violins and one each viola, cello and contra bass for the string section (so the orchestra has only 12 instruments total). Why? Because it heightens the effect by not competing with the one remaining instrument. I don’t know who died but he must of been a tuba player.
Schubert was a composer of songs. One was called “Death and the Maiden”. In later life when he turned to composing serious music, he sometimes reused his songs. He did so in the second movement of the great string quartet number 14. The form is that of theme and variations. The theme can be heard throughout but especially by the cello in the third variation.
NOTE Cyberchambermusic does not endorse Wagner’s anti-Semitism.