This Monday, November 7, pianist Stacy Rodgers and I will present the second event in this year’s Faculty Recital Series at Ole Miss, a recital for bass trombone and tuba that I have somewhat humorously entitled “The Big Horns.” I have chosen this particular instrumentation in part as a fitting counterpart to my recital program last year which was on tenor trombone and euphonium, and also because it has provided a good opportunity for me to stretch out my nascent “tuba chops.” As I have discussed previously in this space, despite having studied tuba pedagogy at the graduate level and having taught lessons on the instrument for a number of years, only in the past 18 months or so have I purchased an instrument and begun to seriously hone my performing skills as a tubist. The tuba pieces comprise the second half of the program; the first half is a reprise of a bass trombone program I performed back on August 1 during the Trombonanza event in Argentina. Given my unusually large teaching load this semester and that I have yet to perform any of this material in the northern hemisphere, to repeat those pieces rather than prepare new material was a logical choice for this part of the program. Here are some notes on the planned repertoire.
Fantasie Concertante by Jacques Castérède (1926-2014)
Castérède studied mathematics before becoming a celebrated pianist, theorist, and composer, winning the Grand Prix de Rome in 1953. He taught solfège and analysis at the Paris National Conservatory and later taught composition at the Central Academy in Beijing. Composed in 1960, Fantasie Concertante is reminiscent of the composer’s earlier Sonatine for tenor trombone and piano. The two works share a frequent use of the mordent and a predilection for exotic scales and colorful harmonies. While Castérède’s music extends in some ways beyond the bounds of traditional tonal harmonies and melodic constructions, it remains beautiful and approachable even to listeners without an understanding of the advanced compositional techniques employed.
Stereograms (selections) by David William Brubeck (b. 1966)
Bass trombonist David William Brubeck teaches at Miami Dade College and began composing his Stereograms for unaccompanied bass trombone in the 1990s. Intended as both performance and study pieces, these short works also pay tribute to Brubeck’s favorite bass trombonists and other musical heroes. On this program I’ll be performing three of these pieces, beginning with Stereogram No. 7, which is a funk dedicated to bass trombone innovator David Taylor (b. 1944) and saxophonist and bandleader Bob Mintzer (b. 1953). Next will be Stereogram No. 3, a ballad channeling the beautiful, warm sound of “Mr. Bass Trombone,” George Roberts (1928-2014). Last will be Stereogram No. 21, an upbeat funk-rock dedicated to Bill Reichenbach (b. 1949), a fantastic L.A.-based bass trombonist and multiple low brass doubler—he’s one of those guys that you’ve heard often in movie scores, even if you’ve never heard of him.
Worlds Apart by Frank Gulino (b. 1987)
Ending the first half of the program will be Worlds Apart by the young attorney, composer, and bass trombonist (not necessarily in that order) Frank Gulino. While Gulino began his studies as a bass trombonist at the Peabody Conservatory, he went on to earn a juris doctor from George Mason University; he now works largely in the areas of entertainment and music industry law while continuing to perform and compose, winning ASCAP Plus Awards in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Worlds Apart (2010) betrays Gulino’s familiarity with the bass trombone’s sonic capabilities, exploiting the instrument’s capacities for lush timbres at softer dynamics more than the more aggressive sounds with which the instrument is often associated.
Walking by Anthony Plog (b. 1947)
Anthony Plog began his career as a trumpet player, holding positions with prestigious orchestras throughout the world. As he became more accomplished and known as a composer his career moved inexorably in that direction, and he finally retired from performance in 2001 to devote his energies to composition. Now retired again from his position at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany, he holds a half-time teaching position at the Norwegian Music Academy in Oslo while also giving master classes elsewhere. Walking (2014) is billed by its publisher as an “intermediate”-level instructional piece, yet its high tessitura is typical of more advanced repertoire. Melodically the piece consists largely of the “modified chromatic” (my term) writing—and associated odd fingering patterns—that characterizes Plog’s more challenging works for tuba and other instruments, yet there are sounds strangely reminiscent of the “walking bass” patterns for which the piece is undoubtedly named, and which make the piece an entertaining way to begin the second half of this program.
Tuba Suite by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984)
Gordon Jacob was a British composer of no little renown, having taught at the Royal College of Music for more than forty years in addition to providing music for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. He turned to composing for wind instruments relatively late in his career, though his catalogue includes a number of works for low brass soloists and ensembles, of which his Trombone Concerto (1955) might be the most well-known. The Tuba Suite (1973) is clearly Jacob’s modern take on the Baroque-era dance suite, with several of the movements even sharing the titles and rhythmic patterns associated with those old courtly dances.
Fnugg by Øystein Baadsvik (b. 1966)
Norwegian tuba soloist Øystein Baadsvik is one of the premiere tubists performing in the world today, having premiered over 40 new works for tuba while pursuing a full-time career as a soloist and recording artist. While much of Baadsvik’s efforts are devoted to serious music, he frequently programs and even creates lighter works as well, of which Fnugg (2004) is a prime example. Written for unaccompanied tuba, the piece uses multiphonics in order to create a didgeridoo-like effect, then introduces beatboxing, and then begins to mix these two extended techniques to great effect. It provides an unusual, challenging, and entertaining way to end a solo recital.
The program will take place on Monday evening at 7:30pm in Nutt Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students. All are welcome.