Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra
notes by Lalo Schifrin
I. Allegro assai
II. Andante ma non troppo
III. Allegro molto
First performance: March 3, 2018, Redlands, California. Gene Pokorny, tuba. Redlands Symphony conducted by Ransom Wilson.
In my early music curiosity, it came to my attention that the tuba was generally used as a resounding instrument to mark the strong bass that rhythmically helped the rhythm of marches and common popular music. In my inner ear, I heard a different quality after asking some virtuosi of the instrument to experiment with me in a melodic and linear way. For instance, one thing that caught my attention was that, in the high register, the tuba is an extension of the French horn and can be very tender and expressive.
This is why I decided to write the Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra. In this composition, I emphasized the results of my discoveries, as well as the technical virtuosity that can be achieved, because there are two approaches to the instrument. The most common use is without valves. (To tell the truth, I confess that I never knew historically when valves were added.) The second, and less common use, is with valves, which added the possibility of speed and extension of expressive ideas.
This is the approach I used to write this concerto. By a joyful coincidence, I met, via telephone, Maestro Gene Pokorny, who happens to be one of the best tuba players in the world. It is incredible how communications have improved in our time through electronic devices, allowing both of us to awaken our interest in this project. As a matter of fact, for a long, we used only this form of contact. It was only recently that we met at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. He is the tuba player with the Chicago Symphony, and I took advantage of their concert tour to meet him personally. All the positive vibrations I felt from him on the telephone were confirmed. Our personal meeting was a “blind date” for both of us, but he is very open and easy to communicate with. I feel that my reaction was mutual.
The concerto is divided into three movements, and I decided to use a musical language that oscillates between baroque, 20th-century music, and American jazz. During our meeting, he said that some passages were very difficult, but he was working on them. It would have been easy for me to sacrifice some of my ideas, but his diligence made this unnecessary. After his return to Chicago, he never asked me for any changes. Needless to say, I am extremely happy about this, and I am looking forward to the premiere with the Redlands Symphony Orchestra.