Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Eric Ewazen - "Bass Hits": Concert Pieces for Bass Trombone - Concertino for B.T. & Trombone Choir - Ballade for B.T., Harp and String Orchestra - Concerto for B.T. & Orchestra - Rhapsody for B.T. & String Orchestra - Capriccio - Alabany Records 2001

Those of you familiar with the music of Eric Ewazen, whether through my blog or as longstanding Ewazen fans-know how uniformly beautiful and lyrical his language is. This disc of works for Bass Trombones and Bass Trombone with string orchestra and full orchestra is no exception. It is one of best collections of his compositions imo. When I think of Trombone music, only Alan Hovhaness's
singing, often mystical applications offer me as much pleasure. I am typing out the booklet notes, as they are by the composer himself and he might just know his works better than me. Everything here is just gorgeous!! (Okay I do have an extra soft spot for the Rhapsody for Bass Trombone & Orchestra...)

Concertino for Bass Trombone and Trombone Choir

Having been a friend of David Taylor's since 1980 when he recorded my piece, Dagon II for 9 tracks of bass trombone, I have long known of his legendary playing in so many different musical styles—from classical to jazz to popular to experimental. With the Concertino, I wanted to write a work for him which captures many of his musical personalities. The piece was premiered by David Taylor with the University of Illinois Trombone Choir, conducted by Elliott Chasanov at the 1996 International Trombone Association festival at the University of Illinois. The one movement work alternates soulful chorales with hard-driving rhythmic passages. The trombone choir provides a buoyant intricate accompaniment for jazz influenced gestures and melodies in the soloist's line. At the culmination of the piece a virtuostic cadenza leads to a final rousing coda.

Ballade for Bass Trombone, Harp and String Orchestra

Ballade for Bass Trombone, Harp and String Orchestra began life as a work for clarinet. I made the arrangements for Charles Vernon, to whom the piece is dedicated in 1996. Charlie premiered the work at the 1996 ITA convention at the University of Illinois. I well knew of his reputation as one of the genuinely great orchestral and solo bass trombonists of our time. At that convention I had the pleasure of accompanying him on a program which included such diverse pieces as Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and the John Williams' Concerto. The Ballade showcases Charlie's wonderful ability to float long, lyric lines and to dazzle the listener with his energetic vitality and golden tone. In an ABABA form, these two polar extremes are highlighted. The piece seems to rise out of a mist…sing, dance and play… and quietly, peacefully disappear again into the mist.

Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra

Stefan Sanders, whom I am proud to count as one of my music theory students at Juilliard, won the low brass competition held at the school in 1997, resulting in his premiere performance of my Concerto for Bass Trombone (or Tuba) and Orchestra. Stefan's commanding sonority and his heartfelt expression resulted in a premiere performance both riveting and soulful. This is a large 3 movement concerto—modeled after the concertos of the classical period. The first movement's introduction and coda is a lilting song framing an extremely playful sonata allegro form. Much of the movement is contrapuntal, allowing the bass trombone to combine and recombine with various soloists in the orchestra. The second movement is a genuine aria, a melancholy song without words. The final movement is frenetic and agitated, sometimes angry, sometimes heroic and even joyful…but always filled with momentum and drive.

Rhapsody for Bass Trombone and String Orchestra

John Rojak has been a friend for almost 25 years, since we were students together at Juilliard. As the extraordinary bass trombonist of the American Brass Quintet, he has performed on some of the most celebrated brass chamber music recordings of the 20th, now 21st centuries. Equally adept as a terrific soloist, John approached me about writing a piece for him in 1996. This resulted in the Rhapsody for Bass Trombone and String Orchestra which he premiered at the 1997 ITA Convention in Boulder, CO. All three movements of this work are in minor keys. Although pastorale, uplifting gestures and moments of sunlight appear, the net effect of this piece remains haunting, mysterious and dramatic. In the first movement, mournful, expressive bass trombone lines are supported by high shimmering string chords. The second movement is a melancholy waltz. The third movement contains thundering, agitated themes and gestures.

Capriccio for Bass Trombone and Trombone Choir

The finale of Bass Hits is a Capriccio for Bass Trombone and Trombone Choir. It was written for David Taylor as a companion piece to his Concertino which opens Bass Hits. The rapid, spinning compound meter calls to mind a wild, ecstatic tarantella. The bass trombone dances over the punctuated, aggressive trombone choir chords, creating a feeling of boundless energy and exhilaration.

-Eric Ewazen

Track listing:

1) "Concertino for Bass Trombone and Trombone Choir" [9:54]

David Taylor, Bass Trombone, Glen Cortese, Conductor. Trombone Choir: Joseph Alessi, Blair Bollinger, Glen Dodson, Otmar Gaiswinkler, Erik Hainzl, Dietmar Küblböck, Mark Lawrence, Hans Ströcker.

2) "Ballade for Bass Trombone, Harp and String Orchestra" [13:44]

"Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra"

3) Andante con moto—Allegro Vivace [5:35]
4) Andante Espressivo [6:49]
5) Allegro Ritmico [7:02]

Charles Vernon, Bass Trombone, Jessica Zhou, Harp. International Sejong Soloists

"Rhapsody for Bass Trombone and String Orchestra"

6) Andante Misterioso [5:56]
7) Allegretto Cantabile [6:15] 
8) Allegro Molto [6:56]

Stefan Sanders, Bass Trombone, Paul Polivnick, Conductor Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra

9) "Capriccio for Bass Trombone and Trombone Choir" [5:20]

John Rojak, Bass Trombone, Paul Polivnick, Conductor, Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra


Eric_Ewazen_Bass_Hits(Albany 2001)


cjvinthechair said...

Do like Ewazen's music...along with so many other 'modern' US composers. Not sure if I know these pieces, though, so thanks as always !

Anonymous said...

SUUUUUUUPER THANKS FOR EWAZEN,TROMBONCONCERTI,FASCINANT,GRACIAS Don Tzadik,Master of the muses!!,Doc Tapirman le manda un fortisssimo abrazo!!

Tzadik said...

Cjv if you do not know these pieces I'm sure you will be happy to get acquainted, it's a fantastic survey. Tell me what you think if you get the chance


Tzadik said...

Hola Tap, esta es una gran hora de música seguro! Disfrutalo mucho! Todo lo mejor de los Estados,
su TZ