Songs of Ascent
Roland SZENTPALI (b. 1977)
Concerto for Tuba [18:37]
Torbjörn Iwan LUNDQUIST (1920-2000)
Landscape [15:15]
John WILLIAMS (b. 1932)
Concerto for Tuba [17:39]
Roger KELLAWAY (b. 1939)
Songs of Ascent (1. Gateway; 2. Spirit of the Kingdom; 3. Desires of the Heart) [28:34]
Aaron Tindall (tuba); Margaret McDonald (piano)
rec. November, 2009, Grusin Music Hall, University of Colorado at Boulder College of Music. DDD
POTENZA MUSIC PM1011 [79:44]

A few generations ago, a tuba virtuoso was almost a contradiction in terms: who could make a career on an instrument best known for its Sousa oom-pahs? Life has become considerably more interesting in the past few decades, however, for fans of the low brass instruments. Those who love the velvety depths of the tuba have quite an entertaining disc in this new and wide-ranging recording by the Michigan-born tuba player Aaron Tindall.

Recorded with pianist Margaret McDonald at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Tindall is completing his doctorate in tuba performance and pedagogy, Songs of Ascent includes four extremely varied contemporary works in performances distinguished by Tindall’s tonal beauty and wide interpretive range.

Remarkable for both its solid power and its delicacy, Tindall’s tuba offers more than the usual bravura technical finesse we have come to expect from today’s brass virtuosi. His use of vibrato is nicely judged, expressively underlining key phrases and melodies, but not a wearying constant in every tone. Tindall conveys an incisive energy in the John Williams Concerto for Tuba, which at times has some of the high-octane, roistering quality of Williams’ adventure-film scores (the “Indiana Jones” series), and the tuba player handles the spiky lines with their wide intervals with an even touch that makes these leaps sound simple.

Tindall also plays with an easy, jazzy sensibility that sounds downright improvisatory in the three movements of John Kellaway’s title work (Songs of Ascent). The technical challenges of the strongly rhythmic, cadenza-filled Roland Szentpali Concerto for Tuba are met with alacrity - although the very capable pianist McDonald occasionally overpowers the solo instrument in places. It is no surprise to learn that the composer is also a prize-winning tuba player; the Szentpali Concerto is very idiomatically written for the instrument.

Most attractive of all is the single-movement Landscape of the late Swedish composer Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist (1920-2000), an evocative and sometimes haunting piece that draws the listener right in.

Melinda Bargreen

Those who love the velvety depths of the tuba have quite an entertaining disc in this new and wide-ranging recording.