Discussion:
18 Tuned Anvils?
(too old to reply)
j/o
2006-11-04 21:20:24 UTC
Permalink
Does anyone have verified information (with cites) about orchestras
anywhere in the world that have used 18 tuned anvils in Der Ring des
Nibelungen in the last 20 to 25 years?

This is for a serious scholarly project. I well know that most
orchestras make substitutions, but does anyone have verified
information . . . ?

Thanks in advance.
Richard Loeb
2006-11-04 22:25:04 UTC
Permalink
This queston has already been answered here - check the archives Richard
Post by j/o
Does anyone have verified information (with cites) about orchestras
anywhere in the world that have used 18 tuned anvils in Der Ring des
Nibelungen in the last 20 to 25 years?
This is for a serious scholarly project. I well know that most
orchestras make substitutions, but does anyone have verified
information . . . ?
Thanks in advance.
j/o
2006-11-05 18:33:17 UTC
Permalink
Thank you, Richard, for taking the time to reply. However, although
the HMCW and RMO archives include a few threads that mention anvils,
there has been no answer to the question I posed. So I repeat:

Has any orhcestra, anywhere in the world over the last 25 years, used
18 tuned anvils?

Of course, Solti's Vienna Philharmonic recording by Culshaw employed 18
anvils, but that was more than 40 years ago!!

Is it a fact that no one in our generation has ever heard a live
perfomance of the Ring with 18 tuned anvils?

Nowhere?! Not even at Bayreuth?!
Richard Loeb
2006-11-05 20:00:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by j/o
Thank you, Richard, for taking the time to reply. However, although
the HMCW and RMO archives include a few threads that mention anvils,
Has any orhcestra, anywhere in the world over the last 25 years, used
18 tuned anvils?
Of course, Solti's Vienna Philharmonic recording by Culshaw employed 18
anvils, but that was more than 40 years ago!!
Is it a fact that no one in our generation has ever heard a live
perfomance of the Ring with 18 tuned anvils?
Nowhere?! Not even at Bayreuth?!
I believe the question was answered in that it would be well nigh
impossible, even if in any other way feasible, to fit 18 anvils into an
orchestra pit - since there were no answers to yur question in the
affirmative, I don't know how much you really wish to pursue the matter
here. Now if you want to know if anyone here would like to hear 18 anvils
hammering away correctly in a live performance, well I would!!! Richard
j/o
2006-11-05 22:10:31 UTC
Permalink
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),
as follows:

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
lower C.

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
anvils, off-stage."

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?

Thanks
Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
2006-11-05 23:04:10 UTC
Permalink
In truth...I think that now-a-days...many opera houses have the concerted
sound of many anvils recorded and then they are gradually made to sound
louder and softer as the conductor diminishes then brings the orchestra back
into sync. At least that's what it sound like to me.

No American company is going to pay extra for percussionists to beat some
anvils then go home for the evening. Now in 'Siegfried'...that's probably a
most different matter. Even though the singers are supposed to perform
their own beating on their respective anvils...I think there are those
places where the orchestra does the job. I could be wrong.

Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
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
lower C.
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
anvils, off-stage."
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?
Thanks
Bert Coules
2006-11-05 23:48:33 UTC
Permalink
Now in 'Siegfried'...that's probably a most different matter. Even though
the singers are supposed to perform their own beating on their respective
anvils...I think there are those places where the orchestra does the job.
I could be wrong.
Ina rather extreme development of what you're talking about, the new ENO
Siegfried rather splendidly dispensed entirely with the entire forging
business. There was no furnace, no bellows, no anvil, no hammer, no tools,
no nothing: in a deliberately non-realistic staging, Siegfried forged the
sword with his bare hands, his brute strength, his courage and his sheer
need to succeed. It was far and away the best scene in the entire
production, a theatrical tour-de-force unmatched (sadly) by anyhting else in
the company's entire new Ring.

Bert
www.bertcoules.co.uk
Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
2006-11-06 00:55:34 UTC
Permalink
Bert: How the hell do they accomplish that with just his bare fists against
the music? I simply can't imagine the effect at all. Although the way of
which you speak...it must have been some kind of staging coup!

Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
Post by Bert Coules
Now in 'Siegfried'...that's probably a most different matter. Even
though the singers are supposed to perform their own beating on their
respective anvils...I think there are those places where the orchestra
does the job. I could be wrong.
Ina rather extreme development of what you're talking about, the new ENO
Siegfried rather splendidly dispensed entirely with the entire forging
business. There was no furnace, no bellows, no anvil, no hammer, no
tools, no nothing: in a deliberately non-realistic staging, Siegfried
forged the sword with his bare hands, his brute strength, his courage and
his sheer need to succeed. It was far and away the best scene in the
entire production, a theatrical tour-de-force unmatched (sadly) by
anyhting else in the company's entire new Ring.
Bert
www.bertcoules.co.uk
Bert Coules
2006-11-06 08:49:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
Bert: How the hell do they accomplish that with just his bare fists
against the music? I simply can't imagine the effect at all.
Sorry, I should have been clearer: the hammer-blows were produced by a
percussionist in the pit. They were presented as purely musical rather than
realistic. Siegfried didn't pretend to do any conventional forging at all.
The whole thing was completely surreal.
Post by Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
Although the way of which you speak...it must have
been some kind of staging coup!
It was very exciting, theatrical and bold. It was almost like a dance
sequence, brilliantly choreographed and lit. And it supported the
character, the situation and the music. If you're going to ignore the stage
directions then that's the way to do it.

Bert
www.bertcoules.co.uk
Mike Scott Rohan
2006-11-06 13:07:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bert Coules
Post by Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
Bert: How the hell do they accomplish that with just his bare fists
against the music? I simply can't imagine the effect at all.
Sorry, I should have been clearer: the hammer-blows were produced by a
percussionist in the pit. They were presented as purely musical rather than
realistic. Siegfried didn't pretend to do any conventional forging at all.
The whole thing was completely surreal.
Post by Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
Although the way of which you speak...it must have
been some kind of staging coup!
It was very exciting, theatrical and bold. It was almost like a dance
sequence, brilliantly choreographed and lit. And it supported the
character, the situation and the music. If you're going to ignore the stage
directions then that's the way to do it.
Not for me, I'm afraid -- idea interesting, execution unconvincing.
It's interesting how many "adventurous" productions seem to be most
adventurous at ducking the difficult or expensive bits, the forging,
Fafner etc. usually by symbolic substitutes. One production I saw had
Siegfried, in a tweed sports jacket with a breastplate beneath,
"forging" the sword by ripping pages out of the score and chucking them
in the stove. Or the current Munich one, where he dunks the sword in an
old lavatory. It all shortchanges the music, and underlines the artifice
of staging instead of transcending it. There is room for something
beyond literalism, both in Siegmund's acquisition of the sword and in
Siegfried's recreation of it; but it should be something within a
realization of the drama, rather than just sidestepping it. In other
words, we should be watching a character within the frame of events,
rather than just a miming tenor.

Cheers,

Mike
--
***@asgard.zetnet.co.uk
Bert Coules
2006-11-06 14:15:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Not for me, I'm afraid -- idea interesting, execution unconvincing.
Ah, well. All I can say is that it worked for me (at the dress rehearsal -
I wonder if anything was changed by the run?) and I didn't find it at all
incongruous - or rather, on reflection, I did, since it was a standalone
(and standout) sequence in an otherwise wholly unconvincing production.
Unlike what were obviously intended to be similarly non-realistic moments -
Fafner as a man's shadow behind a sheet, made large by the lighting and the
angles, sticks in my mind as a particular failure - the combination of idea,
action, staging, lighting and sound really did strike me as something
special: something theatrical in the best sense of the term.
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
...we should be watching a character within the frame of events,
rather than just a miming tenor.
Ah, well (again). I was, you weren't. The chap at the Coli (and shamefully
I can never remember his name) made me believe in what he was doing in a way
beyond the reach of many a would-be realistic forging scene made utterly
ridiculous by inept staging and/or incompetent acting.

Bert
www.bertcoules.co.uk
Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
2006-11-06 14:21:25 UTC
Permalink
There...you see...THIS is what makes opera so interesting beyond the theater
itself. The intelligent discussions of the production, singers, conductor &
orchestra...adds to the total experience for us all. What was...IMHO...a
lame post to begin with...turned out rather OK!

Of course it's good to have knowledgeable posters such as Bert &
Scott...along with many other in this NG.

Jon E. Szostak, Sr.
Post by Bert Coules
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Not for me, I'm afraid -- idea interesting, execution unconvincing.
Ah, well. All I can say is that it worked for me (at the dress
rehearsal - I wonder if anything was changed by the run?) and I didn't
find it at all incongruous - or rather, on reflection, I did, since it was
a standalone (and standout) sequence in an otherwise wholly unconvincing
production. Unlike what were obviously intended to be similarly
non-realistic moments - Fafner as a man's shadow behind a sheet, made
large by the lighting and the angles, sticks in my mind as a particular
failure - the combination of idea, action, staging, lighting and sound
really did strike me as something special: something theatrical in the
best sense of the term.
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
...we should be watching a character within the frame of events,
rather than just a miming tenor.
Ah, well (again). I was, you weren't. The chap at the Coli (and
shamefully I can never remember his name) made me believe in what he was
doing in a way beyond the reach of many a would-be realistic forging scene
made utterly ridiculous by inept staging and/or incompetent acting.
Bert
www.bertcoules.co.uk
Bert Coules
2006-11-05 23:43:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by j/o
9 small anvils: 3 on the right, 3 on the left, and 3 in the
background, tuned to F above middle C; plus...
Is it actually possible to tune an anvil? If so, I presume that it's done
by cutting bits off it until it produces the right note. If that is the
case, then it's hard to imagine any opera company hiring the things in for a
Rheingold, since the anvil-renter (assuming that such an individual or
company exists in the first place) would presumably object to having his or
her merchandise hacked about. Unless of course, somewhere in the world,
there's an enterprising anvil-stockist who has pre-tuned sets available.

I've heard it said that the ENO used lengths of railway track, but how many
I've no idea.

It might be worth mentioning - and then again, it might not - that the sound
of a blacksmith working is *not* the sound of a hammer hitting an anvil.
It's the sound of a hammer hitting a piece of metal being held against an
anvil. Which might appear to be a small point, but actually isn't: the
noise is quite different: the workpiece tends to bounce, however slightly,
which produces a multiple impact sound, not a clean single ring. Our ears
are accustomed to the latter, both in Rheingold and in Siegfried, but it's
really not the right effect at all...

Bert
www.bertcoules.co.uk
Mike Scott Rohan
2006-11-06 00:20:45 UTC
Permalink
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
lower C.
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
anvils, off-stage."
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.

Cheers,

Mike
--
***@asgard.zetnet.co.uk
Terry
2006-11-06 09:39:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by j/o
Does anyone have verified information (with cites) about orchestras
anywhere in the world that have used 18 tuned anvils in Der Ring des
Nibelungen in the last 20 to 25 years?
This is for a serious scholarly project. I well know that most
orchestras make substitutions, but does anyone have verified
information . . . ?
Thanks in advance.
Not in any of the many Rings I have seen in Europe and the USA. I agree
with those who have suggested that iit would be difficult and
show-stoppingly expensive to achieve.
Perhaps the closest I experiencd was the ROH concert Ring in the Albert
Hall a few years ago. As we awaited the E flat, some of my party
wondered about the row of black cloth-covered tables lined up in front
of the orchestra. At the appropriate time, a group of percussionists
filed out and took their places in front of the tables. (I don't
remember how many but it may have been nine rather than 18). They
folded back the black cloth to reveal strips of metal (a deconstructed
xylophone?) lying on the tables.
I only vaguely recall that the sound was not quite as powerful as some
of the recorded anvil effects but I was mesmerized by the black clad
figures hammering away. Does anyone with a better memory than mine
remember how many percussionists were used and did anyone count the
metal strips?

Terry
Mike Scott Rohan
2006-11-06 12:57:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Terry
Post by j/o
Does anyone have verified information (with cites) about orchestras
anywhere in the world that have used 18 tuned anvils in Der Ring des
Nibelungen in the last 20 to 25 years?
This is for a serious scholarly project. I well know that most
orchestras make substitutions, but does anyone have verified
information . . . ?
Thanks in advance.
Not in any of the many Rings I have seen in Europe and the USA. I agree
with those who have suggested that iit would be difficult and
show-stoppingly expensive to achieve.
Perhaps the closest I experiencd was the ROH concert Ring in the Albert
Hall a few years ago. As we awaited the E flat, some of my party
wondered about the row of black cloth-covered tables lined up in front
of the orchestra. At the appropriate time, a group of percussionists
filed out and took their places in front of the tables. (I don't
remember how many but it may have been nine rather than 18). They
folded back the black cloth to reveal strips of metal (a deconstructed
xylophone?) lying on the tables.
I only vaguely recall that the sound was not quite as powerful as some
of the recorded anvil effects but I was mesmerized by the black clad
figures hammering away. Does anyone with a better memory than mine
remember how many percussionists were used and did anyone count the
metal strips?
This was the arrangement I mentioned in my other post; I've seen it in
one or two places, and in all cases they had substantially less than 18
players -- about 4 or 5, some using both hands on different bars. The
sound is usually made up by amplification, with only partial success.
The bars are much heavier than a xylophone's strips. I've got the Baden
telecast of Simon Rattle's concert Rheingold, also done at the Proms,
lying about somewhere; I seem to remember they used bars as well, but
I'll have a look. And there may be something in that San Francisco Ring
documentary "Sing Faster!". When I've got a moment I'll check.

Cheers,

Mike
--
***@asgard.zetnet.co.uk
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