Norwegian tuba player Øystein Baadsvik came to notice internationally
when he won two prizes at the Concours International d’Execution
Musicale in Geneva in 1991. He is now that rare thing, a full-time
tuba soloist. As part of his desire to expand the repertoire for
the instrument, Baadsvik has premiered some forty solo works.
On this disc with pianist composer Niklas Sivelöv, he explores
the 20th century repertoire for tuba and piano.
They open with
Sivelöv’s own Tres Danzas, written in 2005 for
Baadsvik. The piece uses the rhythms and melodic devices of
South American music, hence the title, but they are filtered
through Sivelöv’s attractively modernist personality. The result
is rather jazzy at times but never lapses into pastiche. Baadsvik
is called upon to be pretty light on his feet when playing this
piece, something he does with ease never making a big thing
of any difficulties. The results are attractively musical make
a fine start to the recital.
off with a striking modern work, the duo continue with one of
the major pieces for this instrument from the middle of the
20th century, Hindemith’s Tuba Sonata. Written
in 1955 it is from a cycle of ten sonatas that Hindemith wrote
for wind instruments. It is a substantial piece, though Hindemith
plays with rhythmic contrasts and capricious, chromatic themes,
the result has a toughness and depth which is entirely suitable
for the instrument. Again, Baadsvik impresses with his fine
playing conjuring a wonderfully mellifluous baritonal tone from
his instrument. Where I was less convinced was with the sound
of the piano. Sivelöv is a fine accompanist and makes a good
partner for Baadsvik, but unfortunately his instrument comes
over as unpleasantly glassy in the upper register.
They follow the
Hindemith by a lesser known work for Tuba and Piano. Gordon
Jacob’s Tuba Suite dates from 1972, but sounds as
if it could have come from earlier in the century. Essentially,
Jacob’s language is not significantly more advanced than that
used by Vaughan Williams in his Tuba Concerto written in the
1950s. But Jacob has crafted an attractive piece, inspired by
the baroque style. Jacob was a master orchestrator and writes
well for the instrument, knowing its strengths and limitations.
The Suite was originally written for tuba and string orchestra
but Baadsvik and Sivelöv play the composer’s own version for
tuba and piano.
I must confess
that I was a little disappointed with Bernstein’s Waltz
for Mippy III. The piece is from a series of brass works
that the composer wrote in 1948, dedicated to his brother. The
pieces are all for different instrumental combinations; the
piece’s title refers to the name of a dog, owned by Bernstein’s
brother. Its name and explanation probably make the work sound
more interesting than it is. But as a work for tuba and piano
by one of the major voices of the 20th century, it
deserves to be heard albeit, only occasionally.
is an American trumpeter who has written a significant amount
of brass music. The Three Miniatures were written in
1990; they are rather angular and technical and show Plog’s
sympathy with and knowledge of the tuba.
Finally the duo
play a group of arrangements that they have made of pieces by
Astor Piazzolla. Essentially they form a lighter, more
melodic finale to the recital. But there is always something
more to Piazzolla than attractive melodies, so these pieces
form an apt conclusion to a well thought out recital. The duo’s
arrangements come over as entirely natural and convincing, making
you believe that Piazzolla ought to have written them for tuba
in the first place, surely the sign of a good arrangement.
performances are of a very high order, if Baadsvik has to struggle
a bit technically, then he never shows it. He is not a showy
player, thrusting forward his virtuosity, instead we get sensitively
disciplined and intelligent performances with fine support from
Sivelöv; my only criticism being the recorded sound of the piano.
A recital of 20th
century and contemporary music for tuba and piano might not
be very high on everyone’s wants list but I urge you to try
it. You will discover some interesting repertoire and some very,
very fine playing.