Monday, July 30, 2012

Great Tuba Solos: Bydlo from Pictures at an Exhibition

above: Arnold Jacobs performs the solo from Bydlo 

In orchestral Tuba literature there are a few well known great solos. One of my favorite is Bydlo from Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. 

The original Pictures at an Exhibition was composed as a piano solo. It later became a staple in orchestral literature following Maurice Ravel's orchestration. 

Pictures at an Exhibition is the musical embodiment of Modest Mussorgsky's trip through an art gallery viewing the works of his friend Viktor Hartmann. Pictures is a suite of ten movements. Between each "picture" movement is a promenade that repeats the opening theme in a different mood. In my opinion, the various promenades act as palete cleanser between each of the movements.  

Bydlo or "The Ox Cart" is the 4th movement. The creaking, motion of the cart is represented by the droning eighth notes in the basses. The song of the cart driver is the solo. This movement starts with the cart prominently out front, builds and ends with the cart moving off in the distance. 

This solo isn't always played by Tuba player. Sometimes it is played by one of the Trombonists. Gene Pokorny says of Bydlo on his recording Orchestral Excerpts for Tuba

"Bydlo: In spite of the fact that playing Bydlo justifies a whopping 2% at most, of the total job description of an orchestral Tubist, be ready for an ill informed conductor or audition committee to put too much weight on this excerpt in the overall evaluation of the player. Be ready to have it played very slow, or very fast as is demonstrated on this recording and try to find an instrument that has some good in tune slots for the highest notes in the excerpt. Incorporate alot of contrasts with the dynamics. After you win the job, get your ego out of the way and decide who can make more music out of the piece; one of your tacit Trombone colleagues or yourself." 


  1. Great post! I wish I could take Mr. Pokorny's advice, but our principal trombonist has informed me that he doesn't want to play it... haha!

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