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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Concerto for Tenor Tuba and Orchestra (2019)

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Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Concerto for Bass Tuba and Orchestra was first performed on 13 June 1954 at the Royal Festival Hall London, by Philip Catelinet and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli.

During the period June 1954 to November 1956, the possibility of a tenor tuba (euphonium) version was explored, initiated by Philip Catelinet and later by Dr. Denis Wright - both of whom were keen to create versions for tenor tuba with military band and brass band accompaniments.

Correspondence between the composer and Oxford University Press (Alan Frank and John Warrack) confirm that Ralph Vaughan Williams gave permission for a tenor tuba version to be created, transposed up a fourth from the original key. However, subsequent correspondence regarding a sub-publishing agreement between Oxford University Press, Boosey and Hawkes and Messrs Chappell, suggest concerns over the commercial value of a tenor tuba version, which meant the idea did not come to fruition.

Sixty-five years later, with the approval of both Oxford University Press and the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, and the support of Euphonium Foundation UK, a new edition for Tenor Tuba and Orchestra was realised by euphonium (tenor tuba) soloist, David Childs and orchestrator Dr. Rodney Newton.

This new edition, recorded on 3 January 2019 at MediaCityUK, Salford by David Childs and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Ben Gernon, on the Chandos label, features the following authentic orchestration: 2 Flutes (second doubling Piccolo); Oboe; 2 Clarinets; Bassoon; 2 Horns; 2 Trumpets; 2 Trombones; Timpani; Percussion (2 players: Triangle, Cymbal, Side Drum, Bass Drum); Solo Tenor Tuba; Strings.

Euphonium players throughout the globe now have the opportunity to perform the new Tenor Tuba edition of this iconic work. The euphonium and piano edition (including ossias for 3-valved baritone players), to compliment the full orchestral edition, was published by Oxford University Press in 2022. In a Gramophone review, Andrew Achenbach described the new edition as an:

”…outstandingly idiomatic reworking by the brilliant David Childs and superbly accomplished orchestrator Rodney Newton. Given the numerous subtle touches and deliciously deft tweaks in instrumentation, to say nothing of the irreproachable agility and eloquence shown by the expert performers here (the sublime central ‘Romanza’ could hardly be more ravishingly essayed), it’s hard to imagine that the composer would have been anything other than delighted.”

Iwan Fox, Editor of 4barsrest.com, was also complimentary, acknowledging the suitability of the euphonium and the success of the orchestration:

“The Vaughan Williams is reinvigorated; lighter textures and timbres revealed by the lead voice that play off the orchestra in thoughtful dialogue. The music is so well-suited to the higher tessitura of the euphonium, aided in no small part by the soloist’s glorious sense of phrasing and nuance in the yearning, achingly beautiful central Romanza, counterbalanced by his perfect jauntiness in the quirky Finale.”

David Childs stated: “When initially considering who I could ask, and trust, to carry out the adaptation of the orchestral accompaniment, I immediately thought of my friend, Dr Rodney Newton who, in addition to being a well-respected composer and orchestrator, also has a longstanding love of Vaughan Williams’ music and enjoyed a friendship with his close friend and amanuensis, the late Roy Douglas.” When listening to the recording with the BBC Philharmonic, Dr Newton commented:

“It became clear that the upward transposition brings a new brightness to the overall sound quality and I enjoy the sprightliness that the leaner sound and greater agility of the euphonium imparts to the piece. Your adaptation of the solo part certainly works and the whole piece sounds more fleet-footed and less elephantine than it normally does in its original version. I'm glad that OUP approved the project since this new version enables the concerto to be played by more than just bass tuba players, while still keeping it within the tuba family."

The first live public performance of the RVW Concerto for Tenor Tuba and Orchestra took place on July 16th, 2022 featuring David Childs with the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera under the baton of Owain Arwel Hughes CBE, at the Last Night of the Welsh Proms in St. David’s Hall.

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