Last September I walked out on the stage of the kleine zaal (small hall) at the Concertgebouw, one of the most famous concert halls in the world, to the sounds of my great friend Nando Russo, setting up the groove to Thibault Bruniaux’s Souvenirs Méridionaux...and there it was. I had released my first solo CD to an enthusiastic public who frankly, had no idea what to expect from this lunch recital. A packed house, people in the hallway and in the main lobby watching a live-stream of the event; friends, colleagues, enthusiasts, and “newbies” to the tuba world were all in attendance. Actually, I had never expected such a turn out and for the first minute or two, I was trying to (literally) catch my breath as I navigated the first few phrases of Thibault’s piece. I had literally one half-hour to let people hear what a tuba can do in a variety of settings with the hope that their interest would be peaked enough for another hour or so later…somewhere.
After the tinges of nerves went away, I performed the Adagio from the Cello Sonata of Rachmaninoff, followed by a great new work for Cimbasso (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cimbasso) piano, strings and percussion by my friend Steven Verhelst. It is a catchy tune that shows off the sonic qualities of this instrument that one rarely sees outside the orchestra pit. My cimbasso is a real gem, masterfully created by the hands of Bremen instrument builders LÄTZSCH (http://www.lätzsch-shop.com/de/). I concluded the concert with a new arrangement of Etienne Crausaz’ Balkan Dance from his Eastern Folk Dances. It was a very memorable day.
It was memorable not only because of the 30 minutes of attention, but also because it was the end of this part of the journey. There of course will be more (and since has been) performances of some of the music from Pure Imagination, but this was special.
I had been planning to make a CD for a very long time, but never had the nerve to actually put something down. Some of my friends in this business are constantly busy with doing just these sort of things, but for me, it was entirely new. Choosing a sound engineer, musical partners, music selections, instruments, time frame for recording, theme of the CD, scheduling rehearsals, recording location, financial obligations…all were considerations and constant companions for more than the year before we actually recorded. And then, I never realized what a dramatic feeling it was to sit with all those microphones in my old studio at the MCO and have to “put it out there” until it was upon me.
Fascinating…exciting…terrifying…irritating…humbling. All of these feelings were there and many more swirled around for the three solid days we lived at the MCO. Honestly, I was also a bit under the weather with a mild cold (most certainly from stress) and I had been to the doctor the day before pleading with him to give me the “cure” for my respiratory problems. That was not successful but I went ahead anyways. Listening back I hear this in my playing; some phrases not truly completed, some dynamics which didn’t have the power and the finesse in some technical passages which did not happen as I had imagined… critical but realistic.
And now for the real heroes:
Without the undying support of Dominique; my partner/producer/book keeper/reality filter/home…there was no Pure Imagination. With the genius of Guido and Sebastiaan steering the ship, they allowed Gerard and myself Ramble through some nice music without time pressure and negative judgement. My colleagues from the NedPhO were heroes on the day…we needed for them to deliver and they did. Nando just kept grooving and creating during our session on Hogtown, and on Souvenirs he held the reins for the entire sphere of this simple but exciting work.
I was able to learn a great deal about the process of recording and get a feel of why we do it, and why it is important; not only for my own development, but also for the listening audience. Marcello NEVER wrote a Concerto, or anything else for that matter, for the tuba. The instrument never existed. Rachmaninoff knew of the tuba, but used it in their orchestra like most of the later “conservative” Romantics (in the lineage of Brahms). These composers I would imagine (and no one can ever doubt this presumption) would find the tuba performing their music interesting because of its melancholic tone and immense range and dynamics. I am certain that Beethoven would have been VERY keen to write something of great interest, certainly he would have used it in his symphonies to bring depth and support to his ever growing ensemble. However, the tuba didn’t appear on the scene until after 1830. three years after the great Ludwig passed in total silence.
So what can a solo tuba CD “add” to the immense depth of the musical plentitude we can choose from these days? I see it much clearer now. The tuba is one of those instruments that live can sonically move you and emotionally touch you. Mammoth sine waves can deliver just the right amount of insight and beauty that no one would ever expect from an instrument so young, and so typecast. As I listen to my tuba colleagues CD’s over and over I am struck by not only their virtuosity and imagination, but how they have helpt to bring about an evolution of an instrument. It is purely an evolution of technique, style, sonic qualities, repertoire, and so much more. Each one of these CD’s represent an evolution that has certainly never been seen with another instrument, and it is unbelievably exciting to be a part of it all! That’s why I did Pure Imagination, and that’s why I have already begun my next series of planning for the following CD’s… because it feels important to do so. “Keep moving” my dear friend always says…
So I will…
Mozart, Beethoven , Rachmaninoff, Handel…