Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tuba and Horn Pieces brought to you by the CSO

My friend reminded me about this CD that I had after he went and heard the CSO this past week. The CD I have is of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal wind players playing some of the most famous solo repertoire for their respective instruments. The CD is called The Chicago Principal First Chair Soloists Play Famous Concertos. The piece that I guess you could say intrigued me most was Vaughan Williams’ Concerto for Bass Tuba in F minor. It is performed by Arnold Jacobs who played with the CSO for 45 years. He is widely known for his breathing techniques and teachings in addition to his performing career. All of the movements are virtuosic, however the third movement is played brilliantly. The concerto is considered one of the most challenging in the repertoire and Jacobs has mastered it in this recording (we wouldn’t expect anything less from Jacobs though). I think that the first movement would be an interesting topic of conversation with Vaughan Williams just to see what he was thinking about while composing this piece. I know that he originally looking to compose the piece for a vocalist before writing it for tuba, but it would be interesting to know what he was imagining during this movement. Although I enjoyed listening to this movement again, my favorite part of this movement is definitely his cadenza. It really seemed to sum up the mood of this movement very well in a way that was, for lack of a better word, very tuba-esque. It was perfect. My favorite movement would have to be the second movement. It was very much in the style that I think of when I think of the other works that Vaughan Williams composed. The melody, despite its low range, seems to float over the orchestras sound. The tessitura of the tuba never seems to be a problem in terms of balance for the soloist and orchestra. With such a low tessitura, it can easily become problematic for the soloist to get over the orchestra, but I think that a quality recording team and an unsurpassed tuba player in combination with the CSO have made every phrase balance perfectly.

Although this recording has two CDs and all of the pieces are truly extraordinary enough to do an entire blog on, the other piece I wanted to write on was Schumann’s Konzertstuck in F Major for Four Horns and Orchestra (you could probably see that selection coming from a mile away). While at the Interlochen Arts Camp, three other horn player friends and I would meet and try to play this piece at 8:00 in the morning. Needless to say, it is relatively hard on the chops, especially of the high player, at anytime of the day much less at 8:00 in the morning. It is an incredibly demanding and yet invigorating piece. Although I would not recommend trying to play it at 8:00 am (especially when you should be sitting in Theory or Musicianship class with Spiegelberg that time anyways), we had a blast trying to play it. Anyways, even upon first listening, the composer can quickly be identified as Schumann, for it has the flowing melodies (usually in the top horn) and the natural energy of Schumann. The accompaniment that he composed provides a huge amount of energy that would otherwise be hard to maintain for the horn players in a piece like this. The horn part alone is exciting, but the accompaniment really makes this piece both realistic to perform and a joy to listen to. Even Schumann said himself that “It seems to be one of my best pieces.” I would just like to put it out there that I second that.

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