Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/544

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632

��OPIIICLEIDE.

��occupied Paris in 1815. In this year its dis- covery is claimed by Halary of Paris, who pa- tented it in 1821, and whose successor is said to possess the original model, with 7 keys and a scale of 2 7 notes. Labbaye added new keys to it, and the number has been since raised to II.

Two of these instruments were employed at the Musical Festival in Westminster Abbey in June 1834. At the Birmingham Festival of the same year an ophicleide as well as a contrabass ophi- cleide were introduced, and are noticed in a peri- odical of the time as ' destined to operate a great change in the constitution of the orchestra.'

The early specimens were termed Serpent- cleides, and seem to have been made partially in wood, like their predecessors the Serpents ; but of late brass has been exclusively employed for the whole construction. The ophicleide has been made in many keys, viz. in alto F and Eb, in C and Bb bass, and in the lower octave of the two first, viz. the F and Eb of the 1 6-foot octave. That now commonly used stands in 8 -foot C, and borrows a single note from the 1 6-foot octave, namely the Bt], one semitone below the lowest note of the violoncello and a whole tone above the last note of the three-stringed double-bass.

The mouthpiece consists of a large metal or ivory cup, not dissimilar to those of the bass trombone and euphonium. The ophi- cleide possesses the usual harmonic series of all brass instruments. The funda- mental tone is not however employed, its compass com- mencing on the first har- monic, as before noted with respect to the horn. We thus have in succession C, with its octaveand twelfth, double octave, major third, and fifth above.

�� ���The first key for the thumb of the left hand, usually standing open, lowers all these notes by a semitone, giving the chord of Bfl with five sharps. The second, which is habitually closed, raises the original pitch by a like interval, giving the chord of Db or Cj. The principle thus stated runs through the remaining mechanism ; the 3rd key giving D and its derivatives, the 4th Eb, the 5th Eb, the 6th F, or seven semitones in all. The 7th key furnishes Fjf, which was formerly missing in the scale, and Ab, the 8th G|j, the 9th Ab, the loth JLt|, the nth Bb.

A compass ia thus obtained of 38 semitones, or a little over three octaves from the low Bfa given above, to C in the treble stave. It will

��OPUS.

be obvious that from the overlapping and coin- cidence of the various harmonic series many alternative methods of producing the same note with slight enharmonic changes are open to a good player. It will also be seen that the seven semi- tonic keys exactly reproduce by a different me- chanism the successive shifts of the violin family, and the slide positions of the trombone. The in- strument is therefore of far greater capabilities for accurate intonation than the three or even the four- valved contrivances which bid fair to supersede it. It is theoretically equivalent to a conical tube which can be shortened by any given number of semitones in succession. This shortening is not however obtained, as in the French horn, from the upper part by means of crooks, but from the bot- tom upwards, by the contrivances of lateral holes and keys. It is the bass correlative of the key or Kent bugle, in which also the method of keys pre- ceded the more modern invention of valves.

The tone of the ophicleide is, from its differ- ence of scale and of material, less tender and veiled than that of its predecessor the serpent, but on the other hand it has greater compass and equality than that rather primitive contrivance. For the reason stated above its intonation is more accurate than that which can be obtained from any valve instrument whatever.

There is very little concerted music for this in- strument. Indeed Mendelssohn, who employs it freely in some of his works, such as the ' Elijah,' where it is written for down to 1 6-foot A, three lines below the bass stave, and the ' Midsummer Night's Dream' music, where it has an important part in the overture, may be considered as the only classical writer who systematically introduces it in his scores. Wagner has replaced it by bass and contrabass tubas. It figures in modern operatic music; and in the hands of its only living player, Mr. Samuel Hughes, is deservedly a popular solo instrument. The serpent parts of the older music are usually allotted to it ; though even these, in the band of the Sacred Harmonic Society and elsewhere, have been transferred to the far more profound and powerful contra - fagotto. It is to be regretted that an instrument which presents considerable accuracy of intona- tion and a characteristic quality, should be al- lowed to fall into entire disuse.

Tutors and instruction-books for the Ophicleide are published by Schiltz, by Berr & Caussinus, and by V. Cornette, of which the second named is the most complete. [W.H.S.]

OPUS, OPUS-NUMBER, OPERA, (EU VRE. A method of numbering musical compositions in the order of their publication, using the Latin word opus (work), began to come into use in the time of Mozart, but was not fully established until Beethoven's time, the numbering not being car- ried out to all the published works of the former master. No rule is observed as regards the size of an opus : for instance, Beethoven's op. i consists of three pianoforte trios, while Schubert's op. i is only the song 'Erlkonig.' The opus-number has nothing to do with the date of composition, but only with that of the publication ; thus some

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