Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tuba-Euphonium Quartet Listening Session

In today's Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature class, I led a listening session. To expose my class to tuba-euphonium quartet literature, the natural choice was the play selections from Sotto Voce's CD entitled Consequences. We listened to Mike Forbes's arrangement of Achieved is the Glorious Work from Haydn's The Creation. The arrangement works beautifully for a tuba quartet, but another arrangement is very popular for trombone quartet. The following excerpt is from the liner notes of the CD:

Haydn was inspired to compose his greatest oratorio, The Creation, while in London after hearing Handel's Messiah for the first time. He began writing this piece is 1796 and it received its first premiere two years later. The Creation is a musical portrayal of the world's first week as described in the Bible. Achieved is the Glorious Work (Chorus No. 28) is a microcosm of the entire work in that it praises God for creating all things magnificent and beautiful and states that "His praises shall be our song." This arrangement incorporates both the orchestral and vocal passages from this part of the oratorio.

Up next in the listening session was an original composition for tuba quartet called Profiles for Tuba Quartet. It was written by the group's second euphonium and established composer, Patrick Schulz. It exists in four movements with each movement being a musical representation of each member of Sotto Voce. Below are the liner notes from the CD:

Patrick Schulz's second quartet, written for the Sotto Voce Tuba Quartet, presents a musical portrait of every individual within the ensemble. Each of the four movements attempts to capture the essence of a different quartet member's personality. While the outer movements showcase the playing of the "outer" members in the quartet (2nd tuba in the first movement and 1st euphonium in the last), the inner movements provide a glimpse into the minds of the "inner" players (1st tuba in the second movement and 2nd euphonium in the third).

The first movement, Abrasive, pits the 2nd tuba player, Mike, against the other three players in a battle of styles, tempos, and dynamics. Mutes help the three upper players separate themselves from the often harsh and aggressive playing that Mike must use to portray his own gritty persona.

Light and Playful depicts Nat, who has been known to enjoy the occasional comic book, the toys from various kid cereals (and the cereal), and assorted "gummy" foods. Mixed meter and jazz-like harmonies allude to his incredible improvisational abilities.

Reflective is a portrayal of how the composer imagined himself while writing the entire piece: reflecting on all the quartet's time together. The movement uses some of Patrick's favorite harmonies, key areas, tempos, and quotes from some of his earlier works.

Heroic is a 1st euphonium feature, written for Demondrae, which incorporates two solo cadenzas into an extremely challenging and busy texture. This movement, which begins with a tonal canon, quickly moves toa more dissonant and chromatic context, but maintains common motives throughout. Tight and unrelenting ensemble playing is consistently demanded, in addition to the challenging solos in the 1st euphonium part.

I really enjoy Sotto Voce! A future blog post will be dedicated to them and all the work they do. Stay tuned.

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