Thursday, March 15, 2007

Heckled by Heckelphones

Here's a musical instrument you've probably never heard of. I certainly hadn't, but I just read about it in the AFM newspaper. The Heckelphone, first built by the Wilhelm Heckel GmbH in Wiesbaden-Biebrich (Germany) in 1904, and designed at the request of Richard Wagner, is a wide-bored, double-reed instrument. It's sort of a cross between an oboe and an alphorn and a bass clarinet. About 4 feet tall and quite heavy, apparently. Only 146 were made, with just 50 of them still in use worldwide. Wagner died before he saw the heckelphone, but Richard Strauss used it in several works.

There are about a dozen heckelphone players in the US. Concert opportunities are rare because those symphony ignoramuses use other instruments to cover the parts. (OK, ignoramus is rather strong. Let's say, financial considerations often intervene....or all the heckelphone players happen to be booked at the same time when one is needed by a symphony?)

Man, I wish I could figure out how to include audio clips in this #*!/?? blog. There are some available on various heckelphone websites...(another thing I did not know existed) here's a link instead. And here's the Wikipedia link. If you want to hire a heckelphone player, contact the North American Heckelphone Players Association. I have no idea how you do that. Try the AFM. If you want to be heckled by a heckelphone player, just try performing Strauss' Salomé (op.54) or Elektra (op.58) without one.

Digg! diigo it

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