What do you get if you cross the body of a tuba with the bell of a very big, bass trombone? The audience for Verdi’sRequiem in St Albans Abbey this Saturday won’t have to puzzle too hard because the answer – known as a cimbasso – will be hitting some of the lowest notes in the orchestra.
St Albans Symphony Orchestra decided to hire the rarely-heard instrument after learning that the 19th century Italian composer had always intended its distinctive bass notes to feature in his famously fiery brass music depicting judgement day.
“A cimbasso is constructed like a double-bass trombone with valves. It produces a sound that blends particularly well with the trombone section, which is just what Verdi wanted,” said Chris Ludwig, the orchestra’s regular tuba player who has learned to play the new instrument specially for the St Cecilia Festival Society Concert.
He added: “It may look a Heath Robinson contraption, but the sound a cimbasso makes is remarkable. There are only a few specialist players who own these instruments in Britain so we have been privileged to be able to hire this one.”
Apart from the symphony orchestra, Saturday’s performance brings together the Hardynge Choir, Radlett Choral Society and St Albans Chamber Choir under the baton of John Gibbons. Tickets are available form the St Cecilia Society box office on 0845 058 3912 or from the Abbey information desk.