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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Inside Out
Sam PILAFIAN (b.1949)
Relentless Grooves II; Armenia [7:58]
Jorge SALGUEIRO (b.1969)
Concerto for Tuba (c.2008) [13:22]
Frank ZAPPA (1940-1993)
Outside Now Again (1984) [5:16]
Juraj FILAS (b.1955)
Sonate (1991) [15:59]
François THUILLIER (b.1967)
Rebellion (1999) [7:17]
Elizabeth RAUM (b.1945)
Tribute (2008) [5:29]
Tom McCaslin (tuba)
Gail Novak (piano)
rec. September 2008, Tempe, AZ
Experience Classicsonline

Once again Crystal Records casts its capacious net and lands some fish. The tuba and piano combination is not one that immediately brings to mind many imperishable masterpieces but this disc runs the gamut of stylistic affiliations to produce some intriguing examples of the genre - and also not of the genre.

For example the disc actually kicks off with Sam Pilafian’s Relentless Grooves II: Armenia which is written for Tuba and pre-recorded accompaniment. The opening is indeed striking - saturnine and compelling. Then the second of the four brief movements encompasses Armenian folkloric writing - plenty of percussion and rhythmically intriguing melodic lines in the terpsichorean music-making. The third movement is a lament and hits plangent depths before a finale - with the same effect as the second movement - sweeps us along grandly.

The original of Jorge Salgueiro’s Concerto for Tuba was written for wind ensemble. Actually the piece is written cONCERTO fOR tUBA in that maddeningly silly way some composers have of plastering their works. Still once past lower and upper case things improve. There are Harley like rumblings here, fast and surprisingly nimble, and multiphonics in the cadenza (yes, it’s actually a cADENZA). The multiphonics actually work well and so too does the really lovely slow movement, rich like a pop song, before abruptly seguing into a virile and exciting finale.

Frank Zappa’s Outside Now Again was written for solo tuba back in 1984 - a fast lipped virtuosic statement. Juraj Filas meanwhile composed his Sonate later, in 1991, and it’s a far more extended piece. It ranges from neo-classical strength to piano stasis and quietude. The piano writing at some moments is almost Janáček-like. The jousts between the tuba and the piano are exciting, but the main trajectory of this quarter of an hour work is to a gradual dreamlike slowing up and reverie, and it achieves that end with real accomplishment.

Thuillier’s Rebellion is a commissioned examination piece for solo tuba - full of jazzy articulation and testing lip work. Finally Elizabeth Raum’s Tribute is a beautiful song, poignantly conceived and ravishingly well played.

Splendid performances then are allied to good sound and an eclectic, never off-putting repertoire.

Jonathan Woolf 























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