4. Repertoire and examples


Despite not having an abundant repertoire, great orchestral composers were able to adopt it for some of their compositions. Anton Bruckner is undoubtedly considered (W. Melton 2008) as the composer who best understood the role of the Wagner tuba in the orchestra and who composed the most important moments for its repertoire. This is mainly due to the close relationship he had with Richard Wagner, who gave him first-hand knowledge of the instrument. Moreover, considering the sound that Bruckner tries to create in the orchestra (making it function as an organ), it is even more understandable that he incorporated the Wagner tuba. Even so, he is not the only composer to make use of it. The following list contains the most important orchestral repertoire of Wagner's tuba accompanied by some sound examples.


  • Richard Wagner: The ring of Nibelung cicle 1876 (Wagner tuba Quartet).
  • Anton Bruckner:
Bruckner 7 1883 : (quartet)
Bruckner 8 1890: (quartet)
Brucker 9 1896 : (quartet)
  • Arnold Schoenberg: Gurre Lieder 1913 (quartet).
  • Richard Strauss: Elektra 1909 (quartet), Alpine sinfonie 1915 (quartet) and Die Frau Ohne Shatten 1919 (quartet).
  • Igor Stravinsky: Rite of spring 1913 (2 Wagner tubas).
  • Bela Bartok: Kossuth 1903 (2) and The Miraculous Mandarin 1926 (2).

Apart from these works, which are considered to be the most important repertoire of this instrument, there are also interesting contemporary compositions. These bring a new approach to the instrument, taking it out of the orchestra and giving it a soloist role. The following pieces are worth mentioning:


The Wagner tuba is also an instrument that has acquired a presence in the popular music of different countries. As David Guin (2011) explains in The Wagner tuba: the orchestra's least known brass member, from the 1960s onwards, many composers such as the English composer Elisabeth Lutyens, the Austrian Friedrich Cerha or the German composers Bernd Alois Zimmerman and Hans Werner Henze, began to compose for the Wagner tuba and to give it visibility. This led to instrumentalists such as David Duke using the instrument in jazz music, or Hollywood introducing this noble sound for their film compositions.

In addition to this, Wagner tuba has a very close relationship to festive music. There is a tradition of using the tenor horn in southern Germany and Austria where brass ensembles use them for ambience and partying at festive events such as the famous Oktoberfest. Groups such as Kaiser Musikanten (https://youtu.be/vMlKoFGRj0k), Die kleine Egerländer Besetzung (https://youtu.be/x5thNQx9ljY?t=18) or Berthold Schick und Seine Allgäu 6 (https://youtu.be/KdxBH3tUQXM). In addition to this, taking into account the great tradition of wind instruments that exists in Spain (generally in the community of Valencia), the Wagner tuba is often used as a marching instrument in fanfares, because its projection is greater, it can play the role of the horn without requiring so much effort from the player.

Tenor horn: John Ericson explains in A Tenor Horn/Alto Horn FAQ that the tenor horn is an alto range instrument pitched in E-flat that is used in British-style brass bands. It looks like a small Euphonium and is built to use a mouthpiece that is roughly half way between a cornet and a Euphonium mouthpiece, somewhat larger than a horn mouthpiece. It covers the same alto range that the French horn plays in.

If we look at the photo, at first glance many could identify this instrument as a Wagner tuba. But if we analyse it in detail, we can find differences such as the bell points to the left, the mouthpiece is bigger and it is played with the right hand. Nevertheless, and even if we do not have reliable evidence, it is very likely that some of these groups use the Wagner tuba in this type of music.

Fanfare: As the Great Encyclopaedia of Navarre explains, the fanfare is a band made up of the most diverse musical instruments: bass drum, cymbals, clarinet, snare drum, accordion, euphonium, trombone, trumpet... which, as well as playing their own music, accompany certain dances and festive events.