Timothy Buzbee - tuba, with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jacomo Rafael Bairos
North American Tuba Concertos
Includes works by Bruce Broughton, James Grant, Steven Winteregg, Barbara York
"Timothy Buzbee is a fine tuba player. It is Buzbee’s character as a musician that one notices first and foremost in Bruce Broughton’s Concerto. Broughton’s Concerto is always appealing and, in the finale, positively effervescent. It started life in 1978 as a sonata for tuba and piano and now exists in various versions (there is one for tuba and orchestral winds, too). It only lasts around 12 minutes, but is absolutely delightful.
Buzbee’s ability to move quickly between registers is explored in the first of James Grant’s Three Furies . Again, the piece started life in another version, this time for unaccompanied tuba (Grant composed the accompaniment around the already extant line). Grant has a light touch and, although his musical language is more advanced than Broughton’s, his music is no less appealing, particularly in the Chaplinsque frolicking of the second Fury , where he also includes some swing, a surprising moment that just adds to the fun of it all. The final Fury is by far the most challenging technically, and Buzbee plays magnificently, managing to convey superb definition on an instrument where fast passages can often sound fudged.
Steven Winteregg is a professional tuba player himself. His 1991 Concerto sets out to smash a few myths about the tuba: that the instrument is comical, or that it is best used as an accompanying instrument. The work is well crafted, with a tremendous cadenza that ends by gently introducing the orchestra. The harmonies of the central movement are sophisticated and effective. I can safely say I have never heard notes from the tuba’s lowest register played with such vehemence and accuracy as in the finale here. Winteregg’s music has a serious bent that tends at times towards modernism. Personally, I’d like to hear some more.
Finally, a concerto by Barbara York (how many tuba concertos are there by female composers, I wonder?) subtitled “War and Rumors of War.” There is no political script here—rather, a personal exploration of the effect war has on people. There is actually a narrative story involved, of a young man called to war. The march ideas of the first movement refer to his journey; the second movement depicts his homesickness; and the finale finds the “hero” in the midst of war itself. The achingly effective slow movement shows off Buzbee’s superb legato, while his virtuosity once more surfaces in the active finale (there is a slinky slow section, also). The booklet rightly notes that there are some Russian influences to the writing, a result of the composer’s affinity with the music of that country. It is a territory whose music appeals strongly to me, also, so it should not be surprising that I find myself gravitating towards this piece in preference to the other works. But many will, I am sure, find much that is rewarding in the other three pieces. The conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos accompanies superbly."