Notes and Editorial Reviews
Four British composers give the tuba a good workout, beginning with Ralph Vaughan Williams. His concerto from 1954 displays all the hallmarks of the composer: tunefulness of the English pastoral variety, expert scoring, and a thorough knowledge of the instrument’s capabilities, notably its mellifluous upper register. The first movement gallumphs along in 6/8 time, the thematic material recalling the finale of the Fourth Symphony, then a typically mellow slow movement follows. The Sixth Symphony is recalled in the dramatic finale. The venerable master broke no new ground in this piece (as he did in some of his later works); still it is swift, enjoyable, and well crafted.
That description applies to the other concertos as well, all of which were composed in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Edward Gregson has written a lot of music for brass—the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble recorded his brass quintet years ago for Argo—and he is comfortable with concerto form, as witness the fine Chandos CD of his clarinet and violin concertos. His tuba concerto is memorably melodic and heavily (but expertly) scored
Hollywood wide-screen. The first movement’s thematic material makes attractive use of the Lydian mode. I am not acquainted with the work of Roger Steptoe (b. 1953) or John Golland (1946–1993) but their concertos are similarly from the sophisticated end of the British light-music genre. Harmonies are spiced with dissonance, but overall the appropriate adjective is jolly. I particularly liked Golland’s concerto, which boasts a moody and reflective slow movement.
The performances are just right. James Gourlay is both mellow and nimble, while Gavin Sutherland and his band are completely at home in this kind of music. Recording is fine. When I played the CD on a small portable system, the speakers buzzed merrily in sympathetic vibration: that is the nature of the tuba’s full timbre, but it’s not a problem on a regular system. An enjoyable disc, with more variety in it than you might suppose.
FANFARE: Phillip Scott