Corrections added by Brassworks 4 Publishing are in italics
Volume 35 Number 3 - Spring 2008
Suite for Six Tubas by Barton Cummings for three euphoniums and three tubas. Brassworks 4 Publishing. 461 Sunrise Pkwy (4301 N Dustin Ave), Farmington, N.M. 87401. www.brassworks4.com. $18
The Suite for Six Tubas is a veritable study in contrasting styles, consisting of the four movements “Spanish March,” “Elegy,” “Fantasy on Chester,” and “On Parade.” The Spanish March (3 min.) has the tuneful melodies reminiscent of movie soundtracks of the Wild West, including a barn burning accelerando to the last flourish. Its percussive character contrasts well with the slow, smooth, and thickly textured second movement, “Elegy (5.5 min.),” which contains a surprising variety of timbre effects while maintaining a flowing style throughout. Although the chorale-style writing of “Fantasy on Chester (4 min.)” initially appears to contrast less with the style of the second movement, the piece soon turns to a Persichetti-esqe middle section of frequent changes of meter and tempo before returning to a grandiose version of the original chorale. The last movement, “On Parade (2 min.)” is a light march, complete with well-voiced harmonies for the euphoniums and a boisterous dogfight section in the low register for the tubas.
Every movement in the Suite could very easily stand on its own, yet fit well together by offering such a variety of styles and compositional ideas. Tessitura is quite reasonable for a college-level ensemble, with c1 being the highest note in the first tubas and a1 in the first euphoniums; pedal Es appear in the third tuba part. Dynamic and articulation marks are perfect for each stylistic effect, and the orchestration is effective. Because of these attributes, I would not anticipate a great expenditure of rehearsal time to bring the piece up to performance level, though the “Fantasy on Chester” would require more than the others in tightening up the metric and tempo transitions. This is a great example of traditional music in that works well for tuba-euphonium ensemble, and contributes a great deal of valuable learning opportunities in a relatively short work.
~Jason Byrnes, University of Northern Colorado