Oystein Baadsvik - tuba, Niklas Sivelov - piano
Includes works by Sivelov, Hindemith, Jacob, Bernstein, Plog, Piazzolla
"Norwegian tuba player Øystein Baadsvik came to notice internationally when he won two prizes at the Concours International d’Execution Musicale in Geneva in 1991. He is now that rare thing, a full-time tuba soloist. As part of his desire to expand the repertoire for the instrument, Baadsvik has premiered some forty solo works. On this disc with pianist composer Niklas Sivelöv, he explores the 20th century repertoire for tuba and piano.
They open with Sivelöv’s own Tres Danzas, written in 2005 for Baadsvik. The piece uses the rhythms and melodic devices of South American music, hence the title, but they are filtered through Sivelöv’s attractively modernist personality. The result is rather jazzy at times but never lapses into pastiche. Baadsvik is called upon to be pretty light on his feet when playing this piece, something he does with ease never making a big thing of any difficulties. The results are attractively musical make a fine start to the recital.
Having started off with a striking modern work, the duo continue with one of the major pieces for this instrument from the middle of the 20th century, Hindemith’s Tuba Sonata. Written in 1955 it is from a cycle of ten sonatas that Hindemith wrote for wind instruments. It is a substantial piece, though Hindemith plays with rhythmic contrasts and capricious, chromatic themes, the result has a toughness and depth which is entirely suitable for the instrument. Again, Baadsvik impresses with his fine playing conjuring a wonderfully mellifluous baritonal tone from his instrument. Where I was less convinced was with the sound of the piano. Sivelöv is a fine accompanist and makes a good partner for Baadsvik, but unfortunately his instrument comes over as unpleasantly glassy in the upper register.
They follow the Hindemith by a lesser known work for Tuba and Piano. Gordon Jacob’s Tuba Suite dates from 1972, but sounds as if it could have come from earlier in the century. Essentially, Jacob’s language is not significantly more advanced than that used by Vaughan Williams in his Tuba Concerto written in the 1950s. But Jacob has crafted an attractive piece, inspired by the baroque style. Jacob was a master orchestrator and writes well for the instrument, knowing its strengths and limitations. The Suite was originally written for tuba and string orchestra but Baadsvik and Sivelöv play the composer’s own version for tuba and piano.
I must confess that I was a little disappointed with Bernstein’s Waltz for Mippy III. The piece is from a series of brass works that the composer wrote in 1948, dedicated to his brother. The pieces are all for different instrumental combinations; the piece’s title refers to the name of a dog, owned by Bernstein’s brother. Its name and explanation probably make the work sound more interesting than it is. But as a work for tuba and piano by one of the major voices of the 20th century, it deserves to be heard albeit, only occasionally.
Anthony Plog is an American trumpeter who has written a significant amount of brass music. The Three Miniatures were written in 1990; they are rather angular and technical and show Plog’s sympathy with and knowledge of the tuba.
Finally the duo play a group of arrangements that they have made of pieces by Astor Piazzolla. Essentially they form a lighter, more melodic finale to the recital. But there is always something more to Piazzolla than attractive melodies, so these pieces form an apt conclusion to a well thought out recital. The duo’s arrangements come over as entirely natural and convincing, making you believe that Piazzolla ought to have written them for tuba in the first place, surely the sign of a good arrangement.
Musically these performances are of a very high order, if Baadsvik has to struggle a bit technically, then he never shows it. He is not a showy player, thrusting forward his virtuosity, instead we get sensitively disciplined and intelligent performances with fine support from Sivelöv; my only criticism being the recorded sound of the piano.
A recital of 20th century and contemporary music for tuba and piano might not be very high on everyone’s wants list but I urge you to try it. You will discover some interesting repertoire and some very, very fine playing."
-- Robert Hugill, MusicWeb International