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Music for Euphonium and Orchestra
Dominique ROGGEN (b. 1948)
Concerto in B flat major for euphonium, strings and basso continuo [9:32]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concerto in B flat major for bassoon and orchestra, K. 191 (1774) [17:06]
Carl Maria VON WEBER (1786-1826)
Concerto in F major for bassoon and orchestra, Op.75 (1811) [17:20]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Andante cantabile (arr. Roland Froscher) (1871) [7:10]
Jean BALISSAT (1936-2007)
Capriccio for euphonium and orchestra da camera (2005) [15:52]
Roland Froscher (euphonium)
Cappella Istropolitana/Dominique Roggen
rec. Moyzes-Saal, Bratislava, Slovakia, 31 October–4 November 2005. DDD
NAXOS 8.570725 [67:19]
Experience Classicsonline

The title of the disc alone probably immediately separates the potential audience into three distinct segments – those who are euphonium fans, those with a taste for the very-out-of-the-way, and the many more who won’t investigate this release at all.  I’d love to say that this last group will be missing out on a major artist and a feast of unusual delights, but in all honesty the pleasures here are pretty subtle, and it’s the euphonium fans who will be the most satisfied.
Certainly, Froscher is a marvellous performer on an under-appreciated instrument.  His tone is dark and mellow, his technique is spotless, and his phrasing is sensitive.  And there is great music to be heard here – the Mozart, Weber and Tchaikovsky may or may not be “masterpieces” but they’re all staples of their respective repertoires, for good reason.  The Tchaikovsky works especially well in transcription, I think.
But the recommendation is a qualified one, for two reasons.  First, the other two pieces here are far outshone.  The piece which opens the program – the composer is the conductor of the whole recital – is a neo-Baroque-by-numbers affair, pleasant but unmemorable.  The Balissat goes through four connected movements and a variety of (sometimes interesting) ideas without seeming to say much of anything.  One is left with the impression that the euphonium world has two options – forgettable original music or not-always-suitable transcriptions.
The other issue is actually the instrument itself.  Unlike the French horn, which gains a pleasing brightness at higher dynamic levels, the euphonium (especially in Froscher’s hands) stays mellow throughout, lending a feeling of sameness to the recital.  I actually found myself longing for something along the lines of one of those old Herbert L. Clarke virtuoso cornet solos, which work well on euphonium.  I’ll submit that may not be as much of an issue if one doesn’t listen to the disc all in one sitting.
The orchestral accompaniment is uniformly excellent, and the recorded sound is very well balanced.  Euphonium fans need not hesitate.  For the curious, there are worse ways to spend a little money.
Benn Martin


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