Euphonium – a wind musical instrument made of copper, belongs to the family of tubas and saxhorns. The name of the instrument is of Greek origin and translates as “full-sounding” or “pleasant-sounding”. In wind music, it is compared to the cello. Most often it can be heard as a tenor voice in performances of military or brass bands. Also, its powerful sound is to the taste of many jazz performers. The instrument is also known as the “euphonium” or “tenor tuba”.
Serpentine is a distant ancestor of euphonium
The history of the musical instrument begins with its distant ancestor, the serpent, which became the basis for the creation of many modern bass wind instruments. The homeland of the serpent is considered to be France, where Edme Guillaume designed it in the XNUMXth century. The serpent resembles a snake in its appearance, for which it got its name (translated from French, serpent is a snake). A variety of materials were used for its manufacture: copper, silver, zinc and even wooden tools were also found. The mouthpiece was made of bones, most often masters used ivory. There were 6 holes in the body of the serpent. After a while, instruments with multiple valves began to appear. Initially, this wind instrument was used in church music. His role was to amplify male voices in singing. After improvements and the addition of valves, it began to be actively used in orchestras, including military ones. The tonal range of the serpent is three octaves, which allows you to perform both program works and all kinds of improvisations on it. The sound produced by the instrument is very strong and rough. It was almost impossible for a person who did not have an absolute ear for music to learn how to play it cleanly. And music critics compared the inept playing of this demanding instrument with the roar of a hungry animal. However, despite the difficulties that arose in mastering the instrument, for another 3 centuries, the serpent continued to be used in church music. The peak of popularity came at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, when almost all of Europe played it.
XNUMXth century: Invention of ophicleides and ephonium
In 1821, a group of brass horns with valves was developed in France. The bass horn, as well as the instrument created on its basis, was called the ophicleid. This musical instrument was simpler than the serpent, but it still required an excellent musical ear to play it successfully. Outwardly, the ophicleid most of all resembles a bassoon. It was used mainly in military bands.
By the 30s of the 1,5th century, a special pump mechanism was invented – a valve that made it possible to lower the tuning of a wind musical instrument by half a tone, a whole tone, 2,5 or XNUMX tones. Of course, the new invention began to be actively used in the design of new tools.
In 1842, a factory was opened in France, producing wind musical instruments for military bands. Adolph Sachs, who opened this factory, developed many tools in which the new pump valve was used.
A year later, the German master Sommer designed and produced a copper instrument with a rich and strong sound, which was called the “ephonium”. It began to be released in various variations, tenor, bass and contrabass groups appeared.
One of the first works for ephonium was created by A. Ponchielli in the second half of the XNUMXth century. Also, the sound of the instrument was used in their works by such composers as R. Wagner, G. Holst and M. Ravel.
Use of ephonium in musical works
The ephonium was most widely used in a brass band (in particular, a military one), as well as in a symphony, where the instrument is assigned to perform the parts of the related tuba. Examples include the play “Cattle” by M. Mussorgsky, as well as “The Life of a Hero” by R. Strauss. However, some composers note the special timbre of the ephonium and create works with a part specially created for it. One of these compositions is the ballet “The Golden Age” by D. Shostakovich.
The release of the film “The Musician” brought the euphonium great popularity, where this instrument was mentioned in the main song. Later, the designers added another valve, this expanded the possibilities of the mechanism, improved intonation and facilitated passages. The lowering of the general order of B flat to F was realized thanks to the addition of a new fourth gate.
Individual performers are happy to use the powerful voice of the instrument even in jazz compositions, ephonium is one of the most sought-after wind instruments that conveys a sublime, meaningful, warm sound and has excellent timbre and dynamic properties. With it, you can easily convey a clear intonation, which allows it to be both a solo and an accompanying instrument. Also, some modern musicians compose unaccompanied parts for him.