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Presenting music and discussing the tuba with tubists Arnold Jacobs, Harvey Phillips, Fritz Kaenzig, and Richard Frazier

BROADCAST: Feb. 20, 1987 | DURATION: 00:28:16


Presenting music and discussing the tuba with tubists Arnold Jacobs, Harvey Phillips, Fritz Kaenzig, and Richard Frazier. This mixdown includes recorded and live music in the last three minutes.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel [Tuba playing in background] You recognize that sound, that voice, that's the tuba. It could only be the tuba. And that's being noodled by a tuba virtuoso, Arnold Jacobs, who is the principal tuba, the only one, of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He's been a teacher of brass instruments for students who have come from all over the world. And as Arnold is noodling, seated around the big studio, are other tuba virtuosi: Harvey Phillips, who is a master of this instrument, teaching at Indiana University in Bloomington. And he's known as the impresario of the tuba and he organized big events across the country like Tuba Christmas and more about Harvey and Arnold as we go along. And Fritz Kaenzig is here. He's the principal tuba of the Grant Park Symphony and teaches at the University of Illinois Circle Campus. And Richard Frazier, who was a guest before, a member and moving force of the Chicago Chamber Brass. He's got a recital coming up tomorrow night. And so, as we hear Arnold Jacobs noodling, he can't [Studs laughs], I hear him pressing those valves. We can't get him away from the tuba! Arnold, the big question is, you're the Dean of tuba players, you and Harvey are here and the two younger players are here, Richard Frazier and Fritz Kaenzig. I was thinking somehow we don't associate the tuba with symphonic music. There's a repertory, as a repertoire that is, isn't there?

Arnold Jacobs I wish more people did. [laughing] In other words a violinist, of course, are the most prominent in there but we tuba players, thanks to Harvey and friends of his, we're finding our place in the sun. And we are important on the bottom, somewhere there has to be a bottom to the brass section and that's me.

Studs Terkel And so you were, way back, was at Curtis Institute.

Arnold Jacobs Well, you have a good memory or somebody must because I started there about 1930 and I think I was there for about six and a half years. It seems a long time to me even now. God, I've been with the Chicago Symphony for forty, three years. I was in the Pittsburgh Orchestra for five years before that. Indianapolis two years before that and all those years at the Curtis Institute.

Studs Terkel We always say tuba and at least to Harvey Phillips, you know Harvey is one of the, I know he and his good friend Alec Wilder, that marvelous American composer have responsible for much that is original in American music, too. So there is a tuba repertory, isn't there? Harvey?

Harvey Phillips Oh we're very proud of what we're achieving in recent years. First of all you have to realize that the tuba did not evolve until 1835. So we lost out or the composers, Bach, and Handel, and Mozart, and Beethoven, and others of that vintage lost out because they didn't have a tuba to write for. And the tuba we're very proud to say is one of the two solo voices of the symphony orchestra. The other being the harp. And since 1835 when the tuba was immediately brought into the symphony it's been one of the grand instruments of the brass and wind family. Unfortunately we didn't get a concerto until 1954.

Studs Terkel Not until, let me ask you why, why no tuba until 1835? Was it some sort of new invention that took place with the tuba?

Harvey Phillips Yes. The valve--

Studs Terkel The valve?

Harvey Phillips Had to be invented before we could have a chromatic bass instrument.

Studs Terkel And so from then on, but there was no tuba concerto for 130 years or so?

Harvey Phillips Well you see in the 19th century most of the composers were so taken with writing large grand orchestral pieces and there were really very few chamber works for either winds or brass written in the 19th century and very little solo literature for winds or brass.

Studs Terkel Yeah. I was thinking, Fritz, you and Richard Frazier, I imagine the names of Arnold Jacobs and Harvey Phillips mean a great deal to you?

Fritz Kaenzig Oh, absolutely. I've studied with Mr. Jacobs for, oh, 15 or 20 years now. He was one of my heroes growing up listening to the Chicago Symphony recordings with Fritz Reiner. Boy, what a sound. And then, of course, once I started getting very interested in the tuba I had to listen to the solo records that came out. Harvey Phillips had a lot of the early recordings responsible for a lot of the new repertoire that's happened for our instrument, solo repertoire, since that 1954 concerto.

Studs Terkel Yeah, [let's see I'm thinking?] Richard Frazier, now you have to arrange this together here. But chamber brass, I'm thinking again just as you and Fritz, contemporaries, the two guys seated with you here are really key figures in the, you know, Harvey Phillips and Arnold Jacobs, key figures in the whole matter of the tuba and symphonic music.

Richard Frazier Indeed. It's an honor to be here in their presence. And these two men have defined the word tuba in sound to our generation.

Studs Terkel Now what is it preceded, the tuba? There was an instrument with the quite fascinating name of serpent. What's a serpent?

Richard Frazier Well, a serpent is a, was a type of instrument that was developed as sort of the bass instrument of the shawm, or cornet, an instrument that oddly enough it was like a flute in that it had finger holes but it was played with a mouthpiece like a trumpet mouthpiece and the bass instrument was so long that the player couldn't reach all the finger holes and so they had to curl it up in a rather serpentine fashion. And it was called the serpent. Even in sophisticated circles. And we have some serpent music today we'd like to play.

Studs Terkel Serpent music?

Richard Frazier Yes. These things are still around.

Studs Terkel What are we going to hear now?

Fritz Kaenzig This is a piece from the Royal Fireworks Music. It's actually been arranged for this group the London Serpent Trio. This is a little march. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel I was thinking, hearing this serpent, we've got to ask our two impresar-- our two virtuosi here: Arnold Jacobs and Harvey Phillips. Did you guys ever play the serpent?

Arnold Jacobs I've tried.

Studs Terkel Yeah?

Arnold Jacobs I gave a lesson to a young man who was a bassoon player and he was starting to learn the serpent. He bought a kit and made it himself. And with him fingering and my handling the mouthpiece we made some music. But when I had to finger it I just couldn't make it. And I really didn't much care for the sound either. [chuckles] I was just telling Harvey we tried the Ophicleide tune. The only note I liked was when everything was closed. It went downhill as you opened the valves, it sounded like a water key opening up on a tuba. So I just didn't have the patience to go back 200 years, you know.

Studs Terkel You know, when I think of the tuba my first reaction as a kid [unintelligible], I don't associate it with symphony music, I think of circus music. The tuba. And, of course, Harvey Phillips' own saga is he ran off to join the circus!

Harvey Phillips Well, I didn't exactly run off. I mean everyone knew where I was going. But it was a great opportunity for me because in those days the circus carried a band and of course the great bandmaster Merle Evans was supreme in the circus world. And at that time we would play every kind of music you could imagine. We'd play "The Ride of the Valkyries" to bring the flying act out and we'd play some ascending music to get them up on a wire. We'd play a Strauss waltz and we'd play a jazz number for the clowns to do a walk around and it was great training for me to do freelance work later on in New York where you had to cope with every kind of music.

Studs Terkel But you left, you came from a small town in Missouri and you were 15?

Harvey Phillips That's right.

Studs Terkel When you ran off to join the circus. I like that!

Harvey Phillips Yes.

Studs Terkel Well, incidentally, the tuba. What led you to tuba? Arnold, then you, Harvey. And we'll come to Richard and Fritz later.

Arnold Jacobs So many of us are put on it by bandmasters. I was a trombone player and I lost my trombone while traveling in the country. It fell off the side of the running board of an old Hudson, I think it was a '29 touring car and disappeared. When I got back to school in Santa Monica at Washington Junior High bandmaster said we don't have another trombone to loan you but we have a brand new King sousaphone. So I tried it and I was a instant success. They made me first tuba of the band, you know, [chuckling] and I've been stuck with it ever since.

Studs Terkel So losing a tuba, losing a trombone out of a Hudson, 1925 [sic] Hudson, led you to be the tuba virtuoso. So we think, now you two younger players, Fritz and Richard, what led you to tuba? This is interesting.

Fritz Kaenzig Well I guess the tuba kind of picked me I always like to say because I didn't really choose it, per se. I'd played piano for a number years and then I took general music in seventh grade and the band director was impressed with how much I seemed to do in music so he asked me when they needed a tuba player the next year he asked his daughter who might be a good one to get to play in the band and she suggested me and he said, "Well that seems pretty good. He did all right in the general music class." And when he asked me to play it I thought, "Well, it's as good as any other instrument and his daughter is kind of cute." So I dated his daughter for a year and still date the tuba now 20 years later.

Studs Terkel And you and the tuba, Richard Frazier, Chicago Brass:

Richard Frazier Well, like everyone else I was sort of impressed into the service of the tuba. I had, I didn't play a band instrument and I was going to a country school in Texas and I played the steel guitar and the harmonica and as I, then I transferred to a bigger high school. They had, oh, I'd at least three hundred people in this high school and they had a band program that was fantastic. Over 100 people were in the band. And since there were no steel guitar or harmonica parts in the band I was given the tuba to play.

Studs Terkel I was thinking, you know, one of the popular songs I heard as a kid, now when was that popular, "Yuba Plays the Tuba"? Was that in the 30s? It was the 30s.

Harvey Phillips In the 30s.

Studs Terkel And so what do you think, later on we'll talk about the history of the tuba, what it means in, to different countries and different societies. But what about "Yuba Plays the Tuba", Harvey? Back in the 30s.

Harvey Phillips Well I think it was a grand song. It was a lot of fun to play and a lot of fun to hear. And that's one of the characteristics of our instrument that we want very much to share with the general public. It's a challenge. Our range of the tuba encompasses over half the piano keyboard. It's a grand, singing voice. And to hear William Bell, for example, with Leopold Stokowski perform this with the New York Philharmonic is quite a treat.

Studs Terkel But before we hear that is there, before we hear the William Bell is there another "Yuba Tuba", Richard?

Richard Frazier Well I ran across a friend of mine, Rich [Markow?], he has, you know Rich, Studs, he has a show on and he found the original recording of "Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba" with Joe Tarto doing it. And so we thought we'd would listen to that and then listen to another version by William Bell that was done with Stokowski and the New York Philharmonic. A couple "Yubas": [music starts]

Studs Terkel Let's fade out on this "Yuba Playing the Tuba" and we'll take a little break here. We're seated with Arnold Jacobs, who's the principal tuba player of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and one of the most highly respected teachers around and about. And Harvey Phillips, equally so, teaching the tuba at Indiana University in Bloomington. And I would, I can't get over it, him leaving home and joining the circus at 15. And Fritz Kaenzig, who is the principal tuba of the Grant Park Orchestra and teaches at the University of Illinois Champaign, Urbana. And Richard Frazier. Perhaps before we take our break just a word from Harvey and Arnold about that theme. What do you mean by that?

Harvey Phillips Well I mean the lyricism of the instrument and of course the, no basso or baritone could ever have the range that the instrument has. Now they can't sing as low as we play, they can't sing as high as we play. And this is a great discovery for a lot of composers today because they're utilizing the complete range. And, for example, the second movement of the great Ralph Vaughn Williams Tuba Concerto, the romanza movement, gives the tuba a chance to to sing like any operatic voice who would hope to sing.

Studs Terkel Arnold, do you want to add to that?

Arnold Jacobs I think it's very important that the tuba sing because it's a reflection of the thoughts of the player. And singing is extremely important. It provides stimuli in the brain for reflexes and the embouchure and your tissues. And the more you sing in the head the better chance you have of playing great tuba.

Studs Terkel We'll take our break now and ask more about that and also the tuba in different societies, too. After this break. [tape stops] [tape starts] And now we're resuming with our four guests here in the big studio. The subject is the tuba. The tuba and classical repertoire although we're hearing "Yuba", also. Arnold Jacobs and Harvey Phillips and Fritz Kaenzig and Richard Frazier. We heard one "Yuba". Now we've got Bill Bell. What's the, what will be the significance? How will this differ or should we hear it first?

Harvey Phillips This recording I believe was made in 1950 or 1951 perhaps, and it was for a program that Stokowski had put together to especially entertain children. And Bill Bell was in a state of shock when he got a call from Leopold Stokowski asking him at his, if he would please perform this "Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba" with the orchestra for the children. And I think you'll hear a grand performance. [recording plays]

Recording Narrator I want to tell you a secret about Mr. Bell. [recording stops]

Studs Terkel You know, it occurred to me, you spoke of singing voice, singing tone. Bill Bell here, this virtuoso who influenced so many other tuba players was singing here. Do you guys sing, too?

Harvey Phillips Well I think every tuba player sings. Arnold Jacobs has a beautiful voice.

Studs Terkel That's interesting.

Arnold Jacobs I was offered a scholarship at the Curtis Institute in the Vocal Department after being there six years as an instrumentalist and I did sing for quite a number of years and I still teach a certain amount of singing. I'd only teach resonance and respiration but not literature, not repertoire. But I still work with it quite a bit.

Studs Terkel You were going to add to that? Fritz?

Fritz Kaenzig I've started singing just a little bit. One little interesting item, one of my former students decided not to play the tuba anymore but went into singing full time. He's over in London now and his teacher over there said, "My, you breathe so beautifully! I guess we don't need to work on breathing at all." And that's certainly one thing a tuba player needs to do very well is breathe and I think vocalists are surprised at just how well we know how this, the whole respiratory function works.

Studs Terkel You know I think before we hear Arnold Jacobs playing the celebrated "Beelzebub." Before that, though, one question in my mind, when I hear a jazz band, watch a jazz band playing I see the tuba, the bass replaced by the bass and very often the tuba player plays the bass. And I'm always attracted by that and bewildered by that. Explain that, Harvey.

Harvey Phillips Well, in the early 30s just as the instrument was being converted from a dance band instrument to an orchestral instrument, let's say, more of a solo instrument, tuba players and bass players both started to double on one another's instrument in order to give themselves more job opportunities, obviously. Arnold Jacobs is a supreme bass player--

Studs Terkel You're a bass player?

Harvey Phillips In fact in addition to being a great tubist. This was of that period. I think by the time the 50s came along the demands of the literature and the orchestral demands of the tubist were such that there were fewer and fewer--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Harvey Phillips Doubling taking place.

Studs Terkel So that's how it works. A word about "Beezlebub", Arnold? We're going to hear the recording of that.

Arnold Jacobs Well, actually it's a rather light work and it was requested by Colonel Santelmann at that time the conductor of the Marine Band in Washington. And this was in Gunnison, Colorado where I performed this. And I had worked it up as an encore piece when I would do a recital or if I gave a, what will I say, a solo that had more musical value but it's a rather interesting, light work and it starts out with, [sings melody] "Give My Regards to Broadway". I think that's, there are several other versions of that little melody but it's a nice, it's a nice light piece. I think you'll enjoy it.

Studs Terkel Now that's the tuba in all its own [old?] rotund sounds.

Arnold Jacobs I enjoyed listening to that myself. I was wondering who was playing that! [laughs]

Studs Terkel As we take our second break I want to ask about tubas [of?] high sounds. After this break. Resuming with our four tuba virtuosi: Arnold Jacobs, who is the principal tuba of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Harvey Phillips, Professor of Tuba, Indiana University in Bloomington. And Fritz Kaenzig and Richard Frazier, tuba players here, Fritz with the Grant Park Orchestra and teaching at the University of Illinois. And Richard Frazier who is with the Chicago Chamber Brass. Before [we?] Vaughan Williams you tell me, Richard and Harvey, that the tuba has all sorts of voices. I always associate tuba with a deep, deep bass voice. Richard?

Richard Frazier The tuba is an instrument that because of its recent development really means something different in every country. The word tuba it seems like in France if you say the word tuba you're speaking about a small instrument in C that has six valves that can go quite low. The instrument that Ravel wrote the solo for, the "Bydlo" solo, in "Pictures at an Exhibition" and, or rather not, he wrote it for it, he didn't write it for it, but he orchestrated it for the tuba, and there's this type of a tuba that would be more like our euphonium. And then there would be, which would be sort of a soprano tuba if you could think of that, and then down to the F tuba which is the, was the instrument in the 19th century that was in the orchestras of Europe at the time the great Romantic composers were writing and then Richard Wagner in his Ring cycle thought about having even lower sound so he incorporated more of a band type tuba, one that was used in the bands, a larger tuba with a deeper sound in B-flat which gave him the sounds that he wanted for the mysterious parts like the Fafnir tuba solo in the Ring cycle. And so we have all of these different kinds of tuba sounds and different configurations of the tuba. So sometimes the layman is quite bewildered.

Studs Terkel Yeah. You know, Harvey Phillips says he's looking around for a castrati tuba. [laughter] Harvey?

Harvey Phillips Well, you know, the tuba is very close to the horn and the cornet and the euphonium because we're all conical bore. The brass instrument family being divided into two distinct categories: The cylindrical bore which is the trumpet and the trombone and get very brilliant sounds. Then the conical bore which is a cone shape and gets larger towards the bell as it goes from the lead pipe. This gives those instruments a very mellow quality and the tuba in its upper range is very much like the French horn. And this confuses a lot of symphonic listeners, I think, because they hear a tubist play something like the "Bydlo" solo in "Pictures at an Exhibition" which Richard mentioned earlier and they say, "Oh, listen to that horn. Isn't that beautiful!" Or they'll hear some of the Berlioz works which were written originally for ophicleide. But the tuba inherited those wonderful parts and they say, "Oh, listen to that horn." Well, we say and, I think, with some justification that the tuba family the bass tuba is the orchestral tuba. The tenor tuba is the euphonium, baritone which is an octave higher. The alto tuba is sometimes known as the French horn or the horn. The contralto tuba is the flugelhorn. And the soprano tuba is the cornet. And it disturbs some of our cornet friends whom we call it the castrati tuba. [Studs laughs] It is at the highest of the tuba family.

Studs Terkel Now we [gotta come?] we've been going along and think about the classic composers for the tuba. Here's Vaughan Williams and Arnold Jacobs is going to play, a word about this, perhaps, before we hear it. Arnold:

Arnold Jacobs Well, of course, this was written for, oh, I think his name is, what was it, Philip Catelinet in London. And it was played on a very small tuba of that time, an Imperial Boosey F tuba. And in this recording just to keep to some legitimacy to it I did play it on a very small F tuba. And it's a very interesting work for tuba but I think there have been others that have been written since that I would like to sink my teeth into also. But this I think was the starter of the concertos. It's worth hearing. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel And Vaughn Williams tuba, Arnold Jacobs. You know, I just discovered that Harvey Phillips flew in from Bloomington just for this appearance here on this program to encourage tuba players.

Richard Frazier He's helped all tuba players for many years. He has been the prime force behind the organization, T.U.B.A., Tubist Universal Brotherhood Association, and not only that but all of the other brass--

Studs Terkel Is that what it's called? The Tuba Universal Brotherhood Association? [chuckles].

Richard Frazier Yes. It's like a guild, or like a professional organization. And we saw quite some time ago that basically the tuba does not have a great image in the mind of the public. And a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about the tuba and its possibilities. Too many times when people think of the tuba they, in their mind, the first thing that comes is the limitations rather than the possibilities.

Studs Terkel Well, the first thing that comes is "Louie's Hungry Five."

Richard Frazier Yeah.

Studs Terkel Remember?

Richard Frazier Well, but

Studs Terkel Or the Six Fat Dutchmen.

Richard Frazier So we try to, we have tried to promote the tuba and the greatest promoter of the tuba has been Harvey Phillips. And this is just an example of the way that he just drops anything to help us all in our image.

Studs Terkel We also know that Harvey has to catch that plane back to Bloomington so we're going to hear Harvey now, aren't we? What is this piece of "Two Moods"?

Harvey Phillips In 1960 Donald Swann, who had a two, man comedy act with Flanders, Swann and Flanders, was playing New York and he called me and introduced himself on the phone and asked me if I would come and read through a work that had been commissioned by Gerard Hoffnung of the famed Hoffnung festivals. And this was to be a work of two funny movements. So we read through it and I liked it very much and I said, "Do you have a publisher for it?" and he said, "No." I said, "Well, I have a publishing company. We'd like to publish this piece." About a week later he called me with the sad news that Gerard Hoffnung had passed away and in the meantime we had made plans to record the work. So I said why don't we change the first movement and make it serious. Make it an elegy for Gerard Hoffnung. And then the second movement is a scherzo where we never seem to find the key we want to be in.

Studs Terkel And now we have "Two Moods [for Tuba]" of Donald Swann and Harvey Phillips. [pause in recording] And so that was Harvey Phillips doing the, Donald Swann's "Two Worlds" [sic]. We'll take one more break. We're here with Arnold Jacobs, the Dean of American, well certainly tuba players around and about, and principal tuba man of the Chicago Symphony. And Harvey Phillips just had to leave to catch that plane, teaching at Indiana University. We just heard him. Fritz Kaenzig, who teaches at University of Illinois Circle-- not Circle, Champaign-Urbana, of course, and he's the principal tuba at the Grant Park Orchestra. And Richard Frazier, who is tuba with Chicago Chamber Brass we've heard. And we'll take our last break. And then we've got to hear Charlie Parker. A Charlie Parker piece of Fritz Kaenzig and Richard Frazier after this message. You mentioned Charlie Parker.

Richard Frazier This group is the New York Tuba Quartet and these guys got together and I believe it's Toby Hanks and Steve Johns and John Stevens and Sam Pilafian and they're doing a little bit of Charlie Parker called, "Au Privave."

Studs Terkel But who is this Simone Mantia?

Richard Frazier He was an old baritone player. Do we have time to hear a little Simone Mantia?

Studs Terkel If we could hear just a brief touch of baritone sax and then we'll hear our Charlie Parker. [pause in recording] So that's the euphonium. When was that roughly, do you think? That performance that we heard?

Richard Frazier Oh, I believe that performance was in 1909.

Studs Terkel That far back?

Richard Frazier Simone Mantia.

Studs Terkel Yeah. But now let's hear the Charlie Parker.

Richard Frazier Now we're going to look into some new directions with Charlie Parker and the New York, played by the New York Tuba Quartet. [Music]

Studs Terkel We just faded on Charlie Parker. That is that tuba, The New York Tuba Quartet. And two of our colleagues here are noodling, Fritz Kaenzig and Richard Frazier, both noodling. And that's how the show began, with the master, Arnold Jacobs, doing it. And we thank Arnold Jacobs and Harvey Phillips and Fritz Kaenzig and Richard Frazier for letting us know all about the tuba. [Music]