Wednesday, August 7, 2019

6/4 tubas

Interesting to see the “6/4” piston valve CC tuba becoming “the standard” around the World. When the “Original York” was created by Pop Johnson for Phillip Donatelli of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Donatelli found it difficult to fit on the chair with his considerable girth. So he recommended it to his student at the Curtis Institute, Arnold Jacobs. At Curtis, Arnold auditioned to play string bass but when the teacher, in broken English, asked him to play a minor scale, Arnold played the C minor scale. The teacher, wanting the A minor scale, rejected him. And so Arnold spent more time with the tuba. The orchestra director at Curtis, Fritz Reiner followed Arnold to the Pittsburgh Symphony and then the Chicago Symphony. And so the 6/4 York was the tuba sound with which Reiner was most familiar. Bottom of Form
Only two of those “6/4” CC tubas were built before York went out of business. Although Frank Holton, who shared many parts with York built his version in the 50’s, it was not exact so the York was not an available tuba. When I studied with Mr. Jacobs in 1968-72, we referred to his tuba as “5/4”. Now it is referred to as “6/4”. The tuba hasn’t changed. It is an arbitrary moniker based on perspective.
Anyway, it is a fascinating story of how the standard sound of the tuba has changed. Then there is the story about why the CC tuba (America only) and August Helleberg.  Another story.