Tuesday 21 June 2022

Giving voice to unconventional instruments: the Lawrence Graduate Bayreuth Tuben Quintet

Eve Beglarian, Alex Temple, Moondog, Rei Colman, Arvo Part, John Cage; Lawrence Graduate Bayreuth Tuben Quintet

Eve Beglarian, Alex Temple, Moondog, Rei Coman, Arvo Part, John Cage; Lawrence Graduate Bayreuth Tuben Quintet
Reviewed 14 June 2022 (★★★½)

A quintet of Wagner tubas in a remarkable reinvention of repertoire, demonstrating the instrument's versatility

Lawrence Graduate Bayreuth Tuben Quintet is a Wagner tuba quintet that is "comprised of at least six members who identify as, know, or would like to know, someone who is LGBTQ+. By queering Wagner, we celebrate and give voice to unconventional instruments and non-traditional ensembles.". The ensemble's eponymous first disc was released in May 2022 (somewhat disrupted by the pandemic), and it features contemporary music by Eve Beglarian, Alex Temple, Rei Coman and Arvo Pärt alongside music by two 20th century disturbers of the standard order, Moondog and John Cage.

The Wagner tuba (German plural 'tuben') is a four-valve brass instrument commissioned by Richard Wagner, inspired by his experience of Saxhorns. The size and bore is midway between a euphonium and a French horn, and the instrument is played with a horn mouthpiece. Most of the music on the disc was not written for Wagner tuba quintet, and each piece creates its own distinctive sound-world.

Eve Belgarian's I am really a very simple person was written for six or more indeterminate instruments, and she sets up a regular rhythm, over which unfold melodies to create a work of appealing directness that benefits from the instruments' lovely warm sound

Alex Temple is assistant professor of composition at Arizona State University and a lover of both Western classical and pop cultures. Thick Line was originally written for a wind trio, but it using flexible scoring as all the instruments read from the same score which specifies rhythms, dynamics, contours and character markings but not pitch. This creates intriguing rhythms combined with dense, opaque harmonies.

Louis Thomas Hardin, known as Moondog, was a largely self-taught musician who was blind from the age of 16. His music has an unusual approach to rhythm and time signature, and he remained determinedly outside the mainstream classical world, and was often to be seen busking on the streets of New York. The ensemble play his Two instrumental rounds in snaketime, each one involves an angular snaking melody which is heard in canon, to striking effect.

Rei Coman's Gaelic Call, for solo Wagner tuba, was commissioned by the quintet in 2019. Here the work is divided into two, with Arvo Pärt's Summa in the middle. An expressive piece for solo tuba, Colman has created a piece that almost seems to extend the Moondog works. Then in the middle comes the remarkable re-invention of Arvo Pärt. Transferring Summa to the tubas creates a very different sound-world, earthy and far less ethereal. Baltic minimalism is some distance away, yet the notes are all Pärt.

John Cage wrote his Suite for Toy Piano in 1948 and it is here performed in an arrangement by Rei Colman. The booklet notes also point out that the composer Lou Harrison arranged the suite for orchestra in 1963. This new version creates a piece that is strong and vivid with not hints of the toy about it. The disc ends with Arvo Pärt's Solfeggio, another reinvention creating a work that is darkly atmospheric.

This is a lovely disc, the quintet take a group of instruments that are not known for their intimate sides and create some remarkable reinventions of repertoire. The group's title might be something of a pun, but their musical intent is clear, they "celebrate and give voice to unconventional instruments and non-traditional ensembles."

Eve Beglarian (born 1958) - I am really a very simple person
Alex Temple (born 1983) - Thick Line
Moondog (1916-1999) - Two instrumental rounds in snaketime: round 1
Rei Coman (born 1999) - Gaelic Call (first half)
Arvo Pärt (born 1935) - Summa
Rei Coman (born 1999) - Gaelic Call (second half)
John Cage (1912-1992) - Toy Piano
Arvo Part (born 1935) - Solfeggio
Lawrence Graduate Bayreuth Tuben Quintet (Lee Cyphers, Ann Ellsworth, John Gattis, Mariel Lopez, Kyra Sims, Leander Star, Lydia Van Dreel )

Available via Bandcamp

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I'd be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog

  • Madcap theatre & magnificent music: Janacek's The Excursions of Mr. Brouček at Grange Park Opera - opera review
  • A strong affinity to melodic music: I chat to composer John Brunning about his works for guitar - interview
  • Strong meat: Grange Park Opera stages Ponchielli's rarity, La Gioconda in a performance that full embraces the work's drama - opera review
  • Rising to the challenge: the Young Artists of the National Opera Studio in Sondheim: Before & After - opera review
  • Vivid & vibrant: Poul Ruders' Harpsichord Concerto from Mahan Esfahani, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Leif Segestam - record review
  • Young Artists performance of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at Opera Holland Park - opera review
  • On a highly concentrated scale: Verdi's Macbeth at The Grange Festival - opera review
  • Baroque mind games: Handel's Tamerlano at The Grange Festival - opera review
  • Violinist Midori Komachi has not only recorded Vaughan Williams' Violin Sonata but is planning performances of the composer's music in Japan - interview
  • A romantic woodland walk with Igor Levit and Simon Bode at Wigmore Hall - concert review
  • i berzs, i smilgas... (and a birch and grasses...) - Latvian song across the generations from Emils Melngailis & Kristaps Petersons - record review
  • Precious Things: a lovely survey of Bernard Hughes' recent choral music from Epiphoni Consort on Delphian - record review
  • Hearing with new ears: Italian pianist Pina Napolitano wants her Conway Hall recital Tempo e Tempi to make the music of Carter more familiar and that of Beethoven more unfamiliar - interview
  • Home

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month