Hi, my name is Harold Hernandez Lozano. I'm a Tuba / Euphonium, repertory orchestra and Chamber Music Professor at the Jaén Conservatory of Music in Spain and have been a member of ITEA since 1996.
This interview is part of the series "BETWEEN TUBAS AND EUPHONIUMS" made to a series of renowned instrumentalists to publish in my teaching blog where students and other people from all over the world interested in the subject have access to information about the tuba, the euphonium and other related topics.
This time we interviewed Eros Sabbatani. Professor and Italian Interpreter.
Without further ado, let's start:
Name and Surname:
Which instrument/s do you use:
Bass Tuba in F, Contrabass Tuba in Bb, Euphonium
Manufacturer and model of the instrument/s that you use:
Miraphone Elektra 5/4 F tuba with 6 rotary valves
Miraphone Siegfried 6/4 BBb tuba with 5 rotary valves
Miraphone Ambassador Bb Euphonium with 3+1 pistons
Rudolph Meinl Cimbasso in F with 5 rotary valves
Manufacturer and model of the mouthpiece/s that you use:
Miraphone TU 28 for F tuba
Bruno Tilz mod. Walter Hilgers for Bb flat contrabass tuba
Griego Mountpiece for F Cimbasso
Denis Wick Ultra n. 3 for Euphonium
When and where did you begin your studies of the euphonium or tuba?
At the age of 15, I was admitted at the Conservatory of Bologna (1986) after one year of my beginning with the tuba at the Civic School Band of Imola. In that period it was possible to be admitted in Conservatory only in the trombone class because the first official tuba class was created in 1992.
During my studies in the trombone class at the Conservatories of Bologna and Milan, I had private lessons with Giuseppe Savazzi (tuba solo Turin Theatre Orchestra) who studied in the USA with Arnold Jacobs.
After earning my diploma at the Conservatory of Milan (1991) with Professor Bruno Ferrari (solo trombone at the Theatre Alla Scala Orchestra), I studied with the American tuba player and teacher, George Monch (Basel Theatre Orchestra), at the Musikochschule of Freiburg, Germany.
At what age?
My first instrument was the tuba at the age of 14.
What reasons or circumstances led you to study this instrument?
I have a very funny story… My mom Emy, when I was 6 years old, wanted me to play the violin but she found only a guitar teacher and I only studied “solfeggio”. The old teacher died in a short time but he said to my mom, “When your son is older, he needs to study music. Eros has a music talent”.
At the age of 14 years I moved from my native city of Ravenna to Imola and my mom, remembering the words of my first music teacher, applied for me at the violin class at the Civic Music School.
I did the audition and the commision said that I had no musical talent!
So my father Gian Piero told my story to a friend of his that played clarinet in the Band and, after a short time, I started with the free music course organized by the Civic Band of Imola.
It was time to choose the instrument.
I remember one evening, after my father was off of work, my father, his friend, and I were in an old big building without electricity. The band had to move to another location and all the instruments were piled up like a mountain.
Looking at that mountain with a flashlight, my attention was captured by a very old tuba made by “Desidera” (desire).
Who were your main teachers?
Rino Ferri (tuba at the theatre of Bologna Orchestra) my first tuba teacher prepared me for the admission at the Bologna Conservatory and several years later convinced me to buy an F tuba when all Italian tuba players used only the Bb contrabass tuba.
Giuseppe Savazzi (tuba at the Theatre Regio of Tourin Orchestra) introduced me to the tuba literature.
Guido Corti (horn player and brass specialist) introduced me to the organisation of a study plan with basic techniques studies used from all brass players in the world.
Bruno Ferrari (first trombone at the Theatre Alla Scala of Milan) my teacher at the Conservatory of Milan, where I earned my diploma.
George Monch (tuba at the Theatre of Basel – Swiss) my teacher at the Musikochschule of Freiburg, Germany who took my natural talent and gave me a really characteristic tuba sound and international musicality.
Please leave us a little account of your experience as a soloist, member of chamber groups, orchestra, band, etc:
My soloist experience can be translated in a few words: play the tuba like a violin!
When I was young, internet did not exist and it was very difficult to find tuba music in Italy but, I was hungry for music. I played every piece of music that I found in the library, works for violin, cello, bassoon, flute … This experience helped me find my musicality, opened my mind, and gave me no limit when playing.
I played with the most important Italian orchestras like Theatre Alla Scala of Milan, Santa Cecilia of Rome, RAI Sinfonic Orchestra of Tourin but it was not enough. I wanted more satisfaction from my own musicality. I prefer to have a dialogue with the public, to tell about my instrument, and to present my unique repertoire with cimbasso and organ for example.
Please let us know what learning centers you have taught in (as a full time professor, visiting professor, courses, master classes, etc..)
I started to teach tuba at the Conservatory of Monopoli. I was very young, 25 years old. Several times the security personnel asked me: “Where are you going?” I replied, “I am not a student I am the new tuba professor” … “I'm sorry professor”
I think my teaching ability was born during my study in Germany. I had a Russian friend in my class and we practiced together. One time I remember when Igor had a lesson with George Monch and our teacher said “Igor you studied with Eros, right?”
After Monopoli, I taught for three years at the conservatory of Avellino and one year in Salerno. For 15 years, I was the tuba teacher at the Conservatory of Milan, the same Conservatory where I finished my study in Italy.
Three years ago I decided to move from Milan and now I am a full time tuba and euphonium professor at the Rossini Conservatory of Pesaro.
As a visiting professor, I have been in several Spanish conservatories like Castellon, Valencia and La Coruna but also Portugal – Oporto.
Recently, I received the nomination to be the euphonium teacher for the University of Texas at San Antonio Department of Music's study abroad program in Urbino.
More than 20 years of teaching and I find there is always something new to teach and to learn, which is very exciting for me.
TAKING OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST.
Here in Spain, in some centers it is considered that the bombardino/euphonium is an instrument that should have its own specialization. On the other hand, some believe that, as an instrumentalist, one must know and master the tuba and the euphonium.
Could you give us your opinion on this and on how you would approach this issue in the interest of an education and training tailored to the necessary specialization that is required today?
Personally, I play bass tuba, contrabass tuba, euphonium and cimbasso. I started to play euphonium when I created the Italian Miraphone Tuba Quartet. At the beginning I had the feeling that the mouthpiece was too little but I like the sound of the euphonium. I can play with no problem on the same range with my Elektra in F but with the Euphonium the colour of the tuba quartet is more stereophonic and the technical passages are clearer because the bell is smaller.
In Italy the students can choose to study and play tuba at the Conservatory but at the same time they can add an exam with euphonium on their graduation plan.
From my experience it's very interesting to see the student's approach on a new instrument. A student normally with his instrument has a lot of goals but with a new one the approach is more free, without stress. Just fun!
If your current work takes place mainly as a teacher, please answer the following questions:
How do you organize your classes and the subject in general?
With my students in the Conservatory, my classes are one-on-one and the organisation depends of the level of the student. I try to introduce the student to the right way to practice. Sometimes, we need to bypass the brain's automatic control and work the opposite way. My opinion is that problems do not exist, solutions exist!
Many teachers demand the education on studies written from others musician. Why you practice studies? Will you play a study during a recital in your future? Why do you practice it?
I prefer that the students will be able to play everything that is written and that it is very important to practice extremely basic tecniques.
My idea is that when a student plays something extremely difficult, an example being the very high range, very pianissimo, very fortissimo, the student will find be able to find the right way to do it. In the middle range, in the middle dynamic there are a lot of chances to do something wrong but only one way to play it correctly. In the extreme range, the difference between correct and incorrect is more evident. When you can do it, it's right!
How long are your classes?
My classes are a minimum of 90 minutes for each student, we work together on basic tecnique and then solo work, orchestral excerpts or duets. The notes are not important for me, there are 12 of them. It's important how you play the music, you need to find the right musical idea even during a simple scale.
How often do they occur? Weekly, biweekly, several times a week?
My class occurs one time a week from the 3rd of November to the 15th of June. Normally, a student will take 45 hours of lessons per year but I think I do more.
Do you think it is important that the student does public performances during his training years? If so, could you recommend how many times you think it appropriate and from what age or course. Elementary, Professional, Superior?
I remember my first recital with piano. I was very well prepared and it was a strong program but it was very difficult for me to present my program to the audience. I almost couldn't find the right words... a concert is a show, and speaking and presence on the stage are part of it.
The student need to be confident with the stage and playing in front of a public is like playing in front of a jury. I think it's very important for every musician.
Music is an international language. We need to speak with our instrument. We need to transmit emotions.
For the students, it is very important to create this habit of public performance. At the beginning, just play for the family, then for friends, for the class, for the public. Also, playing music on the street is very good. The people don't know what you are playing but they understand the emotions and the student can understand how important it is to communicate and not just play the right note or stop after a wrong note.
The music is created by a sequence of notes but the right sequence of notes is not always music … it depends on the musician. The famous american teacher Arnold Jacobs said: “The student is a musician that performs easy pieces”.
Is there another professor with your same specialty at the center where you teach?
A major part of the course curriculum is standardized and based on the idea that the student should master the solo repertoire, sometimes to the detriment of large group repertoire (Orchestra and Band), when in fact, the majority of tuba and euphonium players go on to be teachers and/or members of a band and to a lesser extent, an orchestra in the case of tubas.
In your opinion, how should one address this issue? How important do you think it is to include the learning and mastering of orchestral repertoire as part of the course curriculum?
I try to include the practice of the orchestral repertoire from the first year of study with me. I think it's very important for tuba. We have 20 very important orchestral excerpts frequently requested on auditions and I tell my students that with a good performance at the first round, normally a concerto with piano, you can go to the second round. However, the final round will be won by the better orchestra player, especially with contrabass tuba. The goal during the orchestral excerpt playing is to give to the audience the orchestra's musical idea and it is important to not only know your part but how it would sound with the orchestra.
Please tell us what the admittance process is to enter your learning center
What repertoire is required on the entrance exam?
The repertoire depends on the grade of study. In conservatory, we do not have a fixed program from grade 1 to grade 8. The student can choose.
To be admitted to the Triennio Superiore (university level degree) the student needs to prepare one concert chosen from a list and play 2 different studies drawn from a pool of 12 obligatory studies (Peretti and Kopprasch). They must also sight-read a piece.
Do you suggest any particular repertoire?
I think the students need to show their quality and everyone has their own personal quality.
Just find the work that you like and that you can play with comfort. Be flexible and listen to the jury requests. It is important for me understand the learning capacity of the student and I might ask them to play more staccato or more pianissimo …
How many works are required and in what format (solo, with piano, etudes, etc.)?
Two work or studies from different styles would be perfect.
Is there an obligatory piece? If so, what is it?
Personally, I prefer when a student plays something originally written for our instrument but is not obligatory.
About how long is the exam?
About 15 minutes
What aspects do you value most when deciding? Musicality, intonation, rhythm, ...?
For me it's very important to value the following elements in this order:
1) RHYTHM you can play everything correctly but if you are out of rhythm you don't have a chance to play with a group
2) INTONATION you can play exactly together with other musicians but if you are out of tune it will be a long rehearsal
3) DYNAMIC CONTRAST you can play all notes with perfect attention to rhythm and intonation but if you play “ff” when your collegue plays “pp” you will destroy the music.
4) ARTICULATION you can play all notes with perfect attention to rhythm, intonation and dyamic contrast but if you play staccato and the section plays legato, the conductor will not say something good about you in front of the orchestra
5) SOUND QUALITY if you have perfect rhythm, intonation, dynamic contrast, and articulation I am sure that you have a good sound. The sound is very personal and changes with time. It's like eating, maybe you like Pizza Margherita but after 1 year of eating the same pizza every day you automatically will change taste and you will start to order a pizza with different ingredients or maybe pasta.
6) MUSICALITY I think this is independent from the first five elements. A student could have musicality but at the same time have ryhthm problems. They can be a musician that plays perfectly with all 5 points but don't communicate with the music, don't have musicality. To have musicality, a musician need to have fantasy, without fantasy the world is grey, the performance for me is boring!
If you had to choose (in a hypothetical situation,) would you have a preference between a tuba player or a euphonium player?
I think the instrument is a way to communicate, in that case I will choose the musician that gives me emotion.
WORK DURING THE COURSE TRAINING
What kind of repertoire do you mostly work on with your students? Solo, with piano accompaniment, chamber music, ....?
We have a big repertoire, most of it is unknown. I try to choose a piece that is a little more difficult than the student's capability. Solo tuba or with piano are indifferent, also duo with percussion is very interesting. In Conservatory, we have a chamber music teacher but I prefer to do tuba quartet lessons myself.
I am very flexible about the music repertoire, I like everything from baroque music to contemporary music, I think there are only two classifications: beautiful or ugly music!
What format does the graduate exam have? Solo concert, Recital with piano, ...?
Normally recital with piano only because is easier to organize it but during my career I had students that played work for tuba alone, solo concert with brass quintet, with wind band or string orchestra. The program is free.
What programing does it have? Works of different styles and periods, ...?
Does the student select the works to be played? or are they chosen by the professor?
The final exam needs to be a recital, the student need to demonstrate that they are a musician and a musician chooses their concert's repertoire. Of course, I know more music than my students so I can help them find the right mix. Building musical energy is important but preserving the body's ability to play for the entire recital is also fundamental.
Is there any work you would deem mandatory? If so, what?
The tuba and euphonium are very young instruments and I think the repertoire evolves every day. In Spain there are a new generation of composers that do very interesting works to improve our repertoire. If you look at the program of international competitions you can see a generalization of the repertoire, USA, Germany, Italy, Korea … it's almost the same. However, in Spain, you can find something new every competition.
The music will go on! We need to evolve with the music and be flexible to understand the direction. This concept is also valid for the interpretation of famous works like R. V. Williams, P. Hindemith that a student needs to know.
SPEAKING OF TECHNICAL ISSUES:
Could you give us your opinion about:
The different concepts of sound and what characteristics define it, articulation, the types of instruments, literature, if you consider the influence of language and musical tradition important in the sound and way of playing?
Music is an art, and the arts always change. The paint and the architecture are a mirror of the contemporary society. I think all musicians are influenced from the places that they live.
P. Hindemith is a famous German composer, and when he wrote the Tuba Sonata he was in the USA and the first five notes of his work are a perfect sequence of a blues scale in C, is that a coincidence?
How can the native language influence the musicality?
The Italian people are famous throughout the world for the “Bel canto” because our language is very melodic. This natural aptidute of the Italian people is a fantastic way to find ideas for the melodic line but not so good for playing with perfect attention to the rhythm. We need to work more on this musical aspect.
To have many short melodic line with considerable high point is a natural Italian tendence that you can also find in real life. If you go to an open air market or in a restaurant in Italy you will listen to the same “sound effect”.
I studied in Germany and I was impressed when I have been in a public location, all people spoke at the same dynamic level with a dark sound.
This natural German aptitude found a way into the classical orchestra music style, a section needs to play at the same dynamic level and one of the most important German Orchestras in the world, Berliner Philarmoniker, is famous for its special dark sound.
I think that the native language also influences the position of the tongue on the oral cavity and the opening of the jaw. I am sure that the brass player's sound is influenced by these aspects.
Talk a little about the making of tubas and / or euphoniums and mouth pieces:
Tell us about your experiences and likes of a particular manufacturer and why?
My first professional tuba was the historic model F tuba 3100 by B&S with 6 rotary valves. After 20 years, the instrument no longer had as rich of harmonics and it was time to change it. In an Italian music shop, I found a great deal for a used B&S. I drove 300 km to test this instrument but it was not so good. In the shop they also had a new Firebird by Miraphone and it was incredible, I bought it immediately!
At that time I was tuba teacher at the Conservatory of Milan, and I created a tuba quartet. We needed to find a name for the quartet and I realized that we all played Miraphone instruments. I wrote to the Miraphone manager Norbert Nold to have the permission to use the name Italian Miraphone Tuba Quartet and, in a short time, I became Miraphone artist.
My Firebird was very good but after 20 years of playing with a 6 valve system, it was difficult for me to change fingerings so I decided to find another instrument.
I went to the Miraphone firm in Waldkraiburg to choose a new tuba for me and I fell in love with an old model's F181. It had a very nice sound but some intonation problems.
Then I said: I'll order this old model and all of the staff was surprise and told me “ It's been a long time since we produced this model, too many intonation problems”.
Isayd “Don't worry. We will resolve it together” and after 9 months, we presented at the Frankfurt Messe the new model Belcanto.
During these 9 months, I remember one time when I visited the firm where I had seen a very big horn. It was a new prototype produced with an old bell found in the cellar. It had an incredible sound and it was similar to my old Hirsbrunner Keiser Bb contrabass tuba but larger. We worked together on this project and the first BBb 6/4 tuba by Miraphone was born, the Siegfried model.
In your experience, do you believe that the diversity of performers, instruments, and the opportunity to train in various specialized schools is becoming homogenized in the interpretative centers that are already established? (Example Russian, American, Germano-Austrian, English, etc).
I think it's a natural process of globalisation and fast communication but our culture, our language will be reflected in the music and I find this aspect very interesting.
Learning different languages, living in a different country, and meeting musicians from all over the world are, for me, ways to increase everyone's musicality.
I am very grateful for your kind attention and for answering my questions.
All will be posted on the blog http://inbbflat.blogspot.com.es/
You are invited to visit the page and colaborate if you are interested.
Again, thank you very much.