The Wagner tuba has accumulated a thick crust of fable in the little over a century and a quarter since its invention.
This book revisits original sources to bring the facts of the instrument’s development to light: the scope of Wagner’s vision, the myriad helpers who gave the vision practical form, the musicians who pioneered the playing technique, and the new generations of composers who adopted the curious little tubas.
Though the scholarship is painstaking, all of these elements are woven into an approachable narrative that ranges widely across the European musical legacy.
William Melton (b. Philadelphia, 1954) was a horn pupil of Sinclair Lott (a protegé of Alfred Brain and Otto Klemperer) and a graduate student in historical musicology at UCLA. He has been a career hornist with the Sinfonie Orchester Aachen in Germany since 1982. He is also a charter member of two horn quartets, ”Die Aachener Hornisten” and ”The Rhenish Horns”, and has toured with them in hundreds of performances on three continents. Melton has twice won the International Horn Society's ”Harold Meek Award” for scholarly articles, he translates books from the German for Schott Music International, and is the author of ”Engelbert Humperdinck: An Odyssey through Wilhelmine Germany”, which will be published shortly by Toccata Press (London).
THE WAGNER JOURNAL Vol. 4, No. 1, March 2010 " 'Literature about the Wagner tuba consists mainly of assertions either dubious or erroneous,' wrote Hans Kunitz in 1968. William Melton, a Philadelphia-born Wagner tuba and horn player in the Sinfonie Orchester Aachen, has set about remedying the situartion, in a book he modestly subtitles 'A History' but which is far more -- an all-embracing and microscopically detailed study of this most elusive of instruments, from its inception as a gleam in the mind's ear of Richard Wagner, to its belated invention and development, its place in the orchestral and operatic repertoire, and its surprising latter-day rebirth in Hollywood and elsewhere. … Melton is constantly illuminating, surprising and often amusing; his capacity for telling a good story, his appetite for forgotten facts and fascinating byways, and his horn player's nose for the eccentric and absurd, ensure that the reader's attention is almost constantly engaged. … If there is only one definitive book to be written on the Wagner tuba, this is surely it: an extraordinary and magnificent achievement."
NOTES Vol. 65, No. 4, June 2009 (Music Library Association) "Anyone interested in Wagner's music, the development of orchestration, or the history of brass instruments will find much of interest in Melton's book."
THE BRUCKNER JOURNALMarch 2009 "This very well produced publication developed from a series of articles that appeared in The Horn Call (The Journal of the International Horn Society) between 2001 and 2004. The Author's membership of the Horn/Wagner Tuba section of the Aachen Symphony Orchestra confers the special authority of a practitioner of the instrument. The result is copiously illustrated with music examples and a gallery of photographs of representative instruments, is replete with references, and has a comprehensive index... ...A review can, at best, give no more than the flavour of a book, but I recommend this one unreservedly to all those with an interest in orchestral colour and its development from the late 19th century to the present day."
THE HORN CALL February 2009 (International Horn Society), "[An] almost unbelievable level of research, using a truly amazing number of primary and secondary sources. This is what true scholarship is all about, and the result is a truly authoritative resource for the Wagner tuba, and an inspiration to those who appreciate the act of conducting research. Even just reading the footnotes is totally thrilling ... I offer my highest recommendation, for its content and as an example of the type of work scholars (and scholar-wannabes) should emulate."
THE HORN PLAYER Autumn 2008 (British Horn Society) "This is a significant book which has been carefully researched ... The author makes a very good job of separating fact from fiction during the early history of the instrument ... Melton also deals lucidly with the question of transpositions used in the Ring scores ... Altogether this is a much needed, fascinating and well written book. Highly recommended."