Post by j/o
No, the 18 tuned anvils are not supposed to be in the pit. RW gives
extraordinarily precise instructions with the minutest details about
the 18 tuned anvils, and he places them _off-stage_ (not in the pit),
9 small anvils: 3 on the right, 3 on the left, and 3 in the
background, tuned to F above middle C; plus
6 large anvils: 2 on the right, 2 on the left, and 2 in the
background, but "not close together", tuned to F below middle C; plus
3 very large anvils: right, left and background, tuned to F below
RW intends (by his explanation, not mine) to create the sound of
unending work, which eminates from all sides to engulf the audience in
the sound of soulless existence. Sabor explains that "[t]he full
orchestra has begun its relentless fortissimo Forge rhythm, which
threatens to drown the trumpets' Liebesnot moitf: in Nibelheim love is
being hammered to death. The Forge motif is now taken over by eighteen
So, again, please, if someone has the answer to the question, I would
be very grateful for the answer and cites: over the last 20 to 25
years, has any orchestra anywhere in the world used 18 tuned anvils for
the transition from Scene 2 to Scene 3 in Das Rheingold?
That's obviously rather difficult to answer, since I don't think anybody
here, even those whose business it is to know the international field,
can rely on picking up such detail. I believe the Decca Rheingold with
Dohnanyi might have tried (emulating the Solti), but otherwise I
couldn't say for sure. I certainly don't remember anywhere else making a
big deal of it, and generally their PR men would.
I do have reason to think it's unlikely in everyday performance.
Firstly, there aren't as many anvils around as there used to be, and
those there are are in serious use. The ENO under Goodall borrowed the
cut lengths of old railway line that BR used in its workshops, quite
effective but fewer than 18 and not exactly tuned. Much better, though,
than the jingling set of metal bars on a cloth some theatres used in the
50s and 60s -- often reinforced with a drum, as on the Karajan
recording, wrecking both the rhythm and the effect. Secondly, eighteen
percussionists comes expensive, especially under US union rates.
Thirdly, amplification has taken over, and indeed electronic effects.
One or two anvils multi-tracked is common enough; I think the Met used
this, and it sounded not at all bad. Somewhere in America, possibly San
Francisco, I remember hearing a synthesized set of anvils -- not very
real, a sort of buzzing metallic croak, but it could be better done, I'm
sure, as easily as an electronic piano samples a Steinway.
Sorry not to be more help.