In the spring of 2010, University of Arizona Associate Professor of Music Kelly Thomas invited me to join him in designing a project that would result in a new and challenging large-scale work for the euphonium repertoire. I eagerly accepted; and after tossing around a number of ideas, we decided that a double concerto for euphonium and tuba with wind ensemble accompaniment would not only be great fun to put together, but also would contribute significantly to the growing repertoire of new music designed specifically to show off the virtuoso capabilities of these two low brass instruments.
Along with tubist Dr Mark Nelson, one of the leading commissioners and proponents of new music for tuba, and Dr Patrick Stuckemeyer, President and CEO of Potenza Music (publisher of this composition), we convened a consortium of over 20 individuals and ensembles to officially commission the work. The University of Arizona Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Maestro Gregg Hanson, was named Lead Commissioner in this consortium, and on March 25, 2012 they presented the first in a series of premier performances by the Commissioners that will take place over the next several seasons.
Movement I, “Playground,” needs little description beyond its title. Together, the two solo instruments make their way through a relentless maze of technical challenges (imagine seesaws, sliding boards, swing sets, obstacle courses, and trampolines) accompanied by the wind ensemble, which is faced with its own insistent array of fun and games.
Movement II, “Passage,” is best described as the recollection of a journey — as though the two soloists have returned from a noble quest and are recounting their adventures. Unique to this movement is the challenging role played by the ensemble’s two euphoniumists and two tubists — the instrumentation commonly referred to as a tuba quartet. One might easily imagine that this tuba quartet has accompanied the soloists on their journey, as they are featured prominently in the movement supporting the soloists’ unfolding narrative; and twice, all six instruments briefly join forces to present unaccompanied triple two-voice canons — just think Frère Jacques on steroids, played by three euphoniums and three tubas.
Like the title to the first movement, the title to movement III, “Sprint,” speaks for itself. The music is based on materials from a previous work originally scored for tuba quartet, called “Étude/Attitude,” and is a breathless, high-energy romp from beginning to end.