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Paul Mealor Euphonium Concerto (2017)

In 2012 Paul Mealor followed in the footsteps of Sir Karl Jenkins when he was named the UK’s most popular living composer through Classic FM’s Hall of Fame.

Following the success of the Jenkins concerto, and with an element of synergy in attempting to generate a work of similar broad appeal, David Childs and Euphonium Foundation UK commissioned Paul Mealor to compose his Euphonium Concerto in 2016. The première of Mealor’s Euphonium Concerto was given by David Childs and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Owain Arwel Hughes CBE at the 2017 Last Night of the Welsh Proms on 29 July 2017.

Writing in the Western Mail newspaper, critic Peter Collins gave the evening a four-star review, highlighting the Euphonium Concerto as, '...the undoubted highlight'. He went on to say that; '...it was played with great subtlety and skill' with the work having 'a mysterious, haunting quality... but also a lively sparkling edge that seemed to capture the essence of the Celtic soul'. Collins added: 'The evocative opening and closing sections had a lilting beauty which enchanted the capacity audience', before summing the composition up by saying; 'This is a genuinely impressive new work which deserves to be heard in concert halls around this land and beyond'.

Mealor, also a Welshman, came to worldwide attention in April 2011 when his motet, Ubi caritas was sung at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. During the same year he topped the Classical Charts for six weeks with his bestselling album, A Tender Light, which also saw him break records by becoming the first classical composer to hold both the classical and pop chart No 1’s at the same time (December 2011). His Euphonium Concerto falls into four episodes and is prefaced by the last verse of a Gaelic song, ‘Fear a’ Bhata (The Boatman):


I am all too sad and tearful

Like a white swan that has been torn

Sounding her death-call on a small grassy loch

Having been forsaken by all

 

The work begins in elegiac mood with the euphonium keening this ‘sad and tearful’ song, supported by a long pedal bass before high strings enter with a more intense harmonic backdrop. A dynamic Allegro section follows, in which soloist and orchestra exchange rapid figuration derived from the song theme, set against insistent repeated rhythms. An Adagio third section transforms the florid themes we have just encountered into a plangent song, from which the material of the cadenza is derived. An energetic Allegro con spirito follows and unlike the song which provided the spark of inspiration, the Concerto ends positively. As the composer writes, ‘Hope always remains...’

Published by Novello, a piano reduction was released in 2020, and in addition to performances and recordings by David Childs, other euphonium players are beginning to embrace this new addition to the repertoire with euphonium soloist, Philippe Schwartz and Philomusica of Aberystwyth having performed.

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