CONCERTO FOR EUPHONIUM AND ORCHESTRA
Program notes by the composer, May 8 1994
This concerto was composed in the spring and summer of 1990. It has an unusual form, consisting of three movements (moderate - fast- slow) connected by cadenzas for the solo instrument. Its neo-Romantic style is also unusual for the twentieth century, written in this way deliberately in order to give the euphonium an example of "standard" concerto literature. This instrument, one of the most beautiful representatives of the brass family, has until recently lacked the variety of literature so common to other instruments.
The first movement, Legend, is a dramatic/lyric work in traditional sonata form. In typical fashion, some thematic groups are introduced by the solo instrument and developed by the orchestra, others by the orchestra and developed by the solo instrument. At the end of the movement an unmeasured and unaccompanied cadenza for the solo instrument leads directly into . . .
The second movement, Burlesca: this movement is typified by false entrances, false starts, false stops, "wrong note" passages, exuberant bravura passages, and colorful orchestration effects featuring the percussion section. The movement is in a rather loose rondo form, tinged with a Spanish flavor; originally it was planned to call to this movement Saltarello until the comic elements took over; in its present form it appears that the performing forces are often confused as to whether they are in Spain or Mexico. Much of the cadenza linking this movement with the third is played against a long, sustained B-flat pedal in low strings.
Meditation is the third movement, a slow elegy in 7/8 time which winds the work to a quiet close. The strings' harmonic background supporting the clarinet's opening thematic statement is built on the circle of fifths in such a way that, when this passage returns halfway through the movement, this theme can be repeated in canon at eight different tonal levels by the same number of solo woodwinds. A long coda to the work is based on a Bach chorale, chosen not only for its image of praising God through music, but also, at its climax, for its harmonic progression -- a retrograde of the progression on which the earlier portion of the movement is based -- which brings the work to a quiet close. Phrases of the chorale, played by the winds of the orchestra, alternate with "commentaries" on its substance by the solo euphonium and strings -- much in the manner of a minister or rabbi elaborating on the scriptures chosen for a particular service. This movement is dedicated to the memory of Roger Behrend's father Jack, who was a friend of the composer during their military service in the U. S. Army Band, Washington D.C.
The style of the work is rather traditional and straightforward, as mentioned above, with the euphonium's lyricism the first consideration. There are no "extended techniques" as such for either orchestra or soloist. The work is roughly 27 minutes long, with the Legend 11 minutes long (including a two-minute cadenza), the Burlesca 6:30, and the Meditation 9:30. The Burlesca, however, has been marked intentionally at a moderate tempo; a virtuoso soloist may prefer a faster tempo which would shorten the work accordingly.
The first performance of this work took place on May 12, 1992 at the T. U. B. A. International Convention in Lexington, Kentucky. Brian Bowman premiered the work, as he had premiered Dr. Bach's Concert Variations for euphonium and piano in Los Angeles back in the late seventies. The concerto has since been played in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Raleigh, North Carolina; Oulu, Finland; Tokyo, Japan; and elsewhere.