Tuba, or not tuba

Tango Nuevo Suite by Astor Piazzolla – live performance from 2014 by the Boulder Brass. This page of the score begins at 3′ 19″
Brass ensemble arrangement available by clicking here

Tortured play on words – sorry.

I’ve had the luxury of writing for some really fantastic musicians who happened to play the euphonium. John Daley was principal trombone of the Denver / Colorado Symphony for close to 40 years, He was also one of my teachers for a brief, but glorious period of time in the mid 80’s. After John, Gerard Morris played with us for a several years. Gerard, who is now the director of bands at the University of Puget Sound, is a former member of the United States Marine Band stationed in Hawaii. Aaron Tindall is assistant professor of tuba and euphonium at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami, and played with us briefly during the years he was working on his doctorate at CU Boulder. There have been other players (some more reluctant than others), but these were the guys that I primarily had in mind when I wrote parts.

Since 2012, Jeremy Van Hoy has been our guy. Jeremy is the bass trombonist of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, did his undergraduate degree in euphonium performance at the University of Michigan with Fritz Kaenzig before going on to do his masters degree in bass trombone with Frank Crisafulli at Northwestern. Jeremy also won the artist division of the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium Competition in 1996, so he’s got chops. As you might guess, Jeremy is also a world class trombonist – yet another luxury.

Knowing we’ve got a fantastic musician who plays euphonium is a double edged sword, I suppose. Not every brass ensemble has a Falcone winner in their euphonium section, but the temptation to write really challenging euphonium parts is great. I like for Jeremy to be happy.

The euphonium has a 3+ octave range. Compensating instruments have great facility, bottom to top – non compensating instruments a little less so in the lower register. The lowest register can be loud, but does not tend to project as well as tuba or bass trombone playing the same register. In my opinion, the best projecting register is from F3 to C5 (and above). I consider the range from F2 to C5 to be the practical range of the instrument. Guidelines, not rules.

As I have previously mentioned, I use the euphonium in several ways – as a tenor voice soloist or in duet with another instrument (I like the way euphonium sounds paired with e flat trumpet or flugelhorn), as a 4th horn, as the 2nd or 3rd tenor / baritone voice in a 4 trombone texture, as the bass / baritone voice of the entire ensemble, and as a tenor tuba. I like very much how Strauss wrote for the instrument in his tone poems, and Holst in The Planets. Unlike Strauss and Holst though, I treat it as a bass clef non transposing instrument, as a rule. I am receiving more requests recently for treble clef parts (transposed at the M9).

final phrase of Tell Me, Daphne

When playing a low voiced harmonic pad, the euphonium sounds different a 5th or octave above the tuba than a bass trombone – it is a rounder and a less present color (it is more easily ‘absorbed’ into the tuba sound). I like both very much, but it is a different tone shade and I treat it as such. On one occasion, I have written a pedal D for the euphonium, a fifth above the tuba playing an G1 below a root-fifth-third trombone chord and it is a really cool sound (see sample on the right).

Multiple tonguing technique sounds very good on the instrument and, like the trombone, it is conducive to great flexibility. In the hands of a great player, the euphonium is capable of wonderful lyricism and extreme virtuosity.

Proud to consider the euphonium part of the family.

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