Subsequent to my recent article “Ophicleide, A Hint of Primitive” about the present day use of the ophicleide, I received a most remarkable CD from Australia; I’m assuming it was sent to me in response to my article, which, in summary, concluded that the ophicleide was an obsolete instrument and inappropriate in modern instrumental settings.
Back from Oblivion is a wonderful CD that needs to be heard by every tubist. Not only is it a stunning example of great ophicleide playing but also it’s a very impressive demonstration of the superb musicality of ophicleidian Nick Byrne, trombonist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
It’s significant that Nick Byrne is a trombonist; most ophicleide playing I have heard in the past has been done by tubists with results not nearly at the level of Mr. Byrne’s playing. As I look back on the ophicleide repertoire, it’s clear that it’s an instrument that functions best in the tenor and baritone tessituras and that has become evident from this CD; it’s also obvious that the ophicleide functions much better with a trombone type mouthpiece than with a tuba type.
Still, it seems to me that this very pleasant, sweet and impeccably in tune tone would be inappropriate in a modern symphony orchestra with modern instruments. However, this CD has opened a door of my curiosity; I would very much like to hear a performance of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture with Mr. Byrne playing the ophicleide part, the orchestration of the Mendelssohn is a very light and in my mind’s ear I can imagine ophicleide, as played by Nick Byrne, working very well.
Back From Oblivion is 67 minutes of a great and diverse program played by a great artist. Bravissimo Nick Byrne!