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Virtual Tour of
"Beethoven & Berlioz, Paris & Vienna:
Musical Treasures from the Age of Revolution & Romance

Use of Timpani During Beethoven's and Berlioz's Lifetimes

NMM 3594.  Pair of timpani, German states, 18th century

A pair of timpani, tuned either a fifth or a fourth apart (the tonic and dominant notes of the key in which the piece is written), was still the standard for Beethoven, but Berlioz departed from the standard practice in his later works. A third timpani was introduced at the Paris Opera in 1828 and on occasion a fourth was used by Meyerbeer and others. Three remained the standard for Berlioz, however, although in his Requiem he called for eight pairs of timpani, tuned in different ways, and ten players.

Pair of Timpani, German States, 18th Century

Click on any image to see an enlargement

Another view of the timpani

NMM 3594 a & b.  Pair of timpani, German states, 18th century. Bowls hammered from sheets of copper. Animal skin heads tucked around iron hoop and tightened by iron tuning rods (six and seven, respectively). Rods received by nuts mounted on decorative iron shields nailed to the bowls. Large internal funnels (schalltrichter) above each vent hole. Three-legged, one-piece, integral stand.  Board of Trustees, 1985.



Smaller Drum

Larger Drum

Diameter of Head

≈ 61.5 cm

≈ 63.5 cm

Bowl Depth

≈ 30 cm

≈ 30 cm

Views of the Schalltrichter (Funnel)

Timpani Interior

Schalltrichter inside timpani

Schalltrichter Removed
from Timpani

Close-up view of internal schalltrichter (funnel)

Decorative Iron Shields

Decorative iron-shield nailed to bowl
Rod and decorative shield

Lit.:  André P. Larson, Beethoven & Berlioz, Paris & Vienna: Musical Treasures from the Age of Revolution & Romance 1789-1848, with essay by John Koster, exhibition catalog, Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, September 12-November 2, 2003 (Vermillion: National Music Museum 2003), pages 13 and 62.

André P. Larson, Beethoven: Musical Treasures from The Age of Revolution and Romance, with essays by John Eliot Gardner, William Meredith, and Gerhard Stradner, exhibition catalog, Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, Santa Ana, California, January 30-March 21, 1999 (Santa Ana: The Bowers Museum, 1999), page 17.

Jayson Dobney, "Historic Timpani at the National Music Museum," Percussive Notes 45, No. 2 (April 2007):  14-15.

Ben Harms, "The World of Historical Timpani," Early Music America 14, No. 1 (Summer 2008), p. 36.

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Go to Checklist of Timpani Made Before 1900

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Most recent update: April 3, 2014

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