This is a listing for a new Alexander 163 tuba received here in early 2021. Alexander serial 31195 is the second of a run of three 163 tubas all featuring a gold brass bell. The first one is pictured below, and 31195 looks identical to it. As of this writing, the third 163 is not yet lacquered, and can be completed to the player's preference in finish or slide triggers.
163 CC tuba serial 31195
I tested 31195 with several mouthpieces, including its Klier TA1, a Robert Tucci RT-50 and RT-88. The TA1 gives the most centered presence and lively German sound. The RT-50 has less presence down low. The RT-88 would be my favorite with some practice. Its larger size helps me facilitate smoother slurs like from F# to G# and helps give voluminous tone. The Tucci Paul der Groß might be a good choice too.
Pitch on 31195 is good. All the harmonics are really close up and down the range, arpeggios feel good, within just a few cents. The open C lies a little higher than the open G, both octaves, it settles when you fill up the horn. I think a better player than I would line up the C-G better naturally. E below the staff feels better with third valve as is common. Open E in the staff is fine, no need for 1+2. This Alex will work with you, it's not stiff. As you learn where to blow this horn, it's pretty flexible and I wouldn't see myself doing any slide pulling.
One client had concern about the open wrap fifth slide. I don't mind its placement. I can reach right through the fifth loop if I need to pull the first slide, but I haven't yet felt the need to do it. My left hand can support the tuba near the third rotor and its fine. Others may wish to do their first slide handling by reaching through the fourth slide. The fifth loop is inboard from the top bow and bell so remains out of the way during travel.
The Alexander 163 has a nice balance of traits due to its large body and larger .808" (20.5mm) bore through its long rotary valve block. It doesn't back up in the low range like a 186, and it's not too voluminous like a 6/4. Also this instrument is very light for a large tuba. It weighs 20.5 lbs (9.3kg). I think you'll find you can sound louder with less effort on an Alexander CC.
Workmanship is outstanding. All slides are fit very tightly, rotors are silent, all joints and alignment and buffing are perfect. The lacquer is flawless. This tuba is an heirloom. I can ship the Alexander a la carte, in a Cronkhite Cordura case, or in an SKB390W hard case.
I asked Robert Tucci which mouthpiece he likes for the Alexander, and as always, he's a prolific writer:
On the "Alexander" CC-Tuba, it seems you have a unique instrument
compared to all the heavy metal made by others. I would have to play
one of the modern versions. Many years ago, early Seventies, I bought
one but could not come to terms with the intonation. The PT-6 rotary,
christened the "York-xander" by Ivan Hammond, was much easier to play.
I do have memories of listening to Chester Schmitz/BSO when the
orchestra was in DC (1967-68). He sounded very good on both the CC and
the F. Other than that, Ronny Bishop got great results, even with a
rather unorthodox approach to slide manipulation etc. There are various
Szell-era Cleveland recordings where he sounds really good. One is "Hary
Janos" for example. As for a mouthpiece, our larger models might result
in too much intonation spread. My answer for anything old and German is
the PT-82. This is based on the traditional "apple-shaped" cup approach
all the old-times used, but with a larger cup and throat and a decent
time. The RT-72 is in some ways similar yet smaller. That would offer
good control over the intonation. Those who once played the 163 used
much smaller mouthpieces (Sixties-Seventies) than are common nowadays.
-Robert Tucci 1.2.21
/end of 31195 - Steve
The Alexander model 163 tuba has been in limited production for many decades, both in BBb and CC. The modern CC 163 has been redesigned since the old days. It's larger, less quirky, and right in tune up and down. And it's still as light in weight and response as you remember.
This hand made professional CC tuba is custom built in Mainz, Germany. Its rotary valves are .808" bore, and construction is very light yellow brass sheet with optional gold brass bell, or all gold brass body. The bell is made the old fashioned way, with a large hand-hammered piece of brass finished with triangle seams. This method of production requires a fair amount of skill and is considered a superior way to build a bell flare. It doesn't get much classier than an Alexander tuba. These are very light instruments, and they're simply alive when you play them. Similar lightweight models are made by Rudolph Meinl, Gronitz, and Adams, and all these are distinct from the heavier offerings from B&S, Miraphone, and Willson. Older Alex tubas have had a reputation for quirkiness. However these new models are most excellent - this is a modern design. The sound of this horn is a classic orchestral tuba sound: large bore, rotary valves, light bell. The Meinlschmidt rotors are fast and silent. The response is almost immediate and the tone is pure and rich with a powerful sonic quality. Check out the amazing details and hand engraving in the photos. Most players who stop by the shop find this to be one of their favorite large CC tubas.
Who won an audition on an Alexander 163 tuba?
National Symphony - won by David Bragunier in 1961
Boston Symphony/Boston Pops - won by Chester Shmitz in 1966
Cleveland Orchestra- won by Ronald Bishop in 1967
Cincinnati Symphony/Cincinnati Pops - won by Mike Thornton in 1976
Houston Symphony - won by David Kirk in 1982
U.S. Army Field Band - won by David Zerkel in 1986
U.S. Army Band - won by David Zerkel in 1990
Florida Philharmonic - runner up Lee Hipp in 1991
San Antonio Symphony - won by Lee Hipp in 1991
Oklahoma City Philharmonic - won by Ted Cox in 1993
Greenwich Village Orchestra - won by Ben Vokits in 2010