disc offers an enticing programme, but it turns out to be a rather
disappointing ‘curate’s egg’ of an issue. First, there’s the music;
the John Williams is attractive enough, and a useful addition
to the tuba’s concerto repertoire, which consists of the Vaughan
Williams Concerto, and…er that’s just about it! But I doubt if
it would have made it into the catalogue so soon had it not been
composed by a high-profile film composer like Williams. Its style
could be described as mid-century English, with strong overtones
of Walton and R.R.Bennett, plus the occasional incursion from
Carmina Burana. However, the tuba writing seems deft and
Tailleferre was the only female member of Les Six, and
was a famously self-effacing composer. There is much delightful
music in this Harp Concertino, but Tailleferre rather loses sight
of her soloist in the Rondo finale, and the ending is curiously
unsatisfactory. The slow middle movement, however, is probably
the best part, and there are some great tunes throughout. This
may not be one of her very best works, but Tailleferre is a composer
of enormous talent with a distinctive voice of her own.
Saxophone Concerto of 1965 (presumably written for the alto as
we hear it here, though the booklet doesn’t specify) is to me
the most interesting and original in this collection, with disturbing
reminiscences of Ravel’s La Valse, and effective exploitation
of the saxophone’s shady character.
Mayuzumi Xylophone Concertino is a real oddity, but enjoyable
and entertaining enough. It contains an interesting blend of oriental
flavours and jazzy elements, and many passages have a strongly
Gershwinesque feel to them. The ending, however, as in the Tailleferre,
simply does not work, and is fairly embarrassing in its triteness.
there are the performances. The soloists are on the whole excellent;
Marc Easener is a superb tubist (though the booklet, which is
deeply uninformative, doesn’t help by telling us, touchingly,
that he gave the Romanian premiere of Tubby the Tuba!).
Gabriella Dall’olio plays with great flair, as does the redoubtable
xylophonist Jo May. Saxophonist Duncan Ashby has a great feeling
for the style and character of the Tomasi, but is severely stretched
by the technical demands. He only just makes it through
some of the cadenza-like flourishes, with much accompanying clattering
of straining keywork.
greatest disappointment is the standard of the accompaniments.
David Snell is an experienced and widely respected film music
conductor, but seems ill at ease with his role here. There is
much untidy ensemble, and some intonation (from woodwind in particular0
that is quite painful. The playing at the end of the Tailleferre
is slack and unimaginative, and contributes to the generally poor
impression made by the conclusion. In fact the whole CD has the
feeling of a project that has foundered for lack of time;
a couple more hours of orchestral rehearsal, a few more retakes
in the Tomasi and the Williams, and some more meticulous tuning
up would all have made a tremendous difference. A pity, because
this is a fascinating compilation.