is a versatile and gifted composer, whose wide-ranging,
consistently fine output is now reasonably well represented
in the commercial catalogue. He has also made a considerable
reputation with his many often innovative, superbly crafted
works for brass band and wind band. I have always had a soft
spot for his splendid Connotations for brass,
probably the first piece of his that I ever heard. The inclusion
here of his fine Tuba Concerto is doubly justified,
since the first movement briefly alludes to Vaughan Williams’
concerto by way of homage to what must have been the first tuba
concerto by any British composer. Gregson’s Tuba Concerto,
originally composed with brass band, also exists in a version
with wind band (once available on Caprice CAP 21414) and one
with orchestra. It is a very enjoyable work in which the soloist
has many opportunities to display agility and musicality, particularly
so in the beautiful slow movement.
It is good to have
the opportunity to hear a substantial work by Roger Steptoe.
Collectors probably remember a pair of long-deleted LPs of chamber
music and songs released by Phoenix in 1981 and 1982, as well
as a more recent CD including his Elegy on the Death of
Cock Robin (Meridian CDE 84158). His Tuba
Concerto is a rather more serious affair than any of
the other works here, although none of them is by any means
slight or derivative. Steptoe’s twelve-tone writing is often
harmonically tense and comparatively austere, though never rebarbative.
Quite the contrary, for the music is strongly expressive all
the way through. The slow movement contains some of Steptoe’s
finest music. Here is a composer whose music has been overlooked
for too many long years. This superb performance of his utterly
serious, but attractive Tuba Concerto could well
renew interest in his varied output.
I suppose that I
need not go into many details concerning Vaughan Williams’
delightful Tuba Concerto in F minor.
It always seems to me to be a musical portrait of my favourite
Shakespearean character, Falstaff. Surely, the slow movement
is Falstaff surrounded by the fairies in Windsor Forest.
This most desirable
release ends with another nice rarity, John Golland’s beautiful
Tuba Concerto Op.46. It’s a work
new to me and it came as a minor revelation, although I knew
some of Golland’s music before. It is a colourful piece with
many fine touches of effective scoring and full of melodic charm.
The slow movement is a beautifully atmospheric, exquisitely
scored Nocturne. Undoubtedly, one of the real gems in this release.
musicality, agility and firm tone are a joy from first to last.
Sutherland and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia partner him most sympathetically.
Make no mistake:
these pieces are all remarkably well-made and quite serious.
Forget about Tubby the Tuba, for this is music-making
of the highest quality. I hope that all concerned will join
forces again for another such release with other British tuba
concertos. I know of Gordon Jacob’s Suite, but
there may be others and I would not be surprised if there was
one by Alan Ridout. In short, a most desirable and lovely disc
in every respect.
see also Review
by Christopher Thomas