Euphonium Solos: are they becoming too difficult?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by eflatbass, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. eflatbass

    eflatbass Supporting Member

    The title says it all! Listening to our super talented euphonium players, as I frequently do, I wonder just how technically difficult a solo should be. Are we beginning to lose track of the pure euphonium sound in favour of showering listeners with unbelievably difficult pyrotecnics?
  2. John_D

    John_D Member

    I've often thought the same about solos for all instruments. I much prefer a good melody (with variations) rather than some of the 'speed without substance' solos I've heard.
  3. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I do tend to agree with this. When I was a lad, and a serious euph player (before trombone took centre stage), I could get round most of the 'big' solos - Horovitz, Golland Concertos, Sparke Fantasy etc. etc. But now my old fingers can't get anywhere near the modern stuff! Melody, shape, musicality seems to me to be taking a back seat.
  4. adrian90s

    adrian90s Member

    Euphonium solos

    And.. if you hav'nt got a decent top F or even a top G in your armoury you can't tackle most of the modern stuff.
    now where's my Collins lip flexibility book?????
    Question.. Should i be able to get these notes comfortably when in good practice on a 4AL or Alliance 4A or do I have other more basic problems?
  5. eflatbass

    eflatbass Supporting Member

    Hear, hear! Perhaps I am a little long in the tooth now, but I used to derive great pleasure in getting my lips around "La Belle Americaine", and that old Salvation Army war horse, "Song of the Brother".

    The latest solos? I doubt if I could even read the music, least of all play it!
  6. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    I don't think the "problem" is limited to euphonium solos. One of my least favourite aspects of many more recent brass pieces (not just brass band but brass ensemble and solos for all instruments) is that many composers are heading down the "more notes is better" route.

    Having discussed this with some of the composers (oh the joy of late night conference drinking sessions) they point out that some of the solos we now consider part of the "standard" repertoire were, at one point, only playable by a few selected soloists. The general standard of playing has gone up to meet the music available to them.

    I'm not convinced, but I can see their argument - if only they would put some musical phrases in amongst the notes
  7. Playabit

    Playabit Member

    I much prefer a Solo that shows clarity and sound rather than something that flies all over the place and having to use your valves at light
  8. Zappa

    Zappa Member

    It does also show how talented these 'young guns' are (i'm saying that, and i'm only 30)!! Is a top F becoming 'the norm' in a top euph solo? Probably (unfortunately! Lol).

    The solo on Michael White's website is amazing, gary curtain playing bravura is brill. And their slower lyrical stuff is superb. Do the players pick their solos or the MD? I suppose the composers are enjoying stretching the possibilities of the instrument.


    Must say though, a euph player often forgotten or not 'raved' about that much, Robin Taylor ... A player that was just as comfortable and happy playing 'Jeanie with the Light brown Hair' at Grimey concerts, when he had Curnow's 'Symphonic Variants' in his repertoire, and audiences loved it!
  9. Bob Sherunkle

    Bob Sherunkle Active Member


    Did you really play for Grimthorpe?

    I only play second baritone (in the B Band) but find top F quite easy and hit about 7 out of 10 top Gs.

    Once it goes above the stave tho' I'm with you. I just press and hope.

    Bob "Splitty" Sherunkle
  10. Blagger

    Blagger Member


    Back on topic - Matts' solo at BIC was unbelievable - well played to that young lad :clap:
    HOWEVER - I must admit to being a little tired of those types of solos.
    When I was at my best (college era I guess) I could rattle off Carnival D V, Caprice and stuff like that but would never even get near Bravura.
    Is it having an effect on the "sound" of Solo euphs in top bands today?
    Not sure - but given the choice between anybody playing Bravura, Brilliante etc or listening to Lyndon Baglin play ...... well ..... anything - I know what I would choose ;)
  11. eflatbass

    eflatbass Supporting Member

    Lyndon Baglin, or Trevor Groom. It was not my intention when starting this thread to single out individual players, but we all have our favourites. I concede that today's top euphonium players have incredible talent, but I simply wish that they would devote some time to giving us something beautiful to listen to, and occasionally dispense with the 200 beats per minute semiquavers.
  12. bariwizard

    bariwizard Member

    A lot of the "old school" of euph players used to put their band jacket or "coat" around their instrument when they played. Maybe the extra warmth in the pipes translated through the bell?
  13. adrian90s

    adrian90s Member

    euphonium solos

    Yes, I was at Grimethorpe
    My band at the moment are pretty bored of the air varie type solos (perhaps they can't play them judging by the number of slow melody solos at our last concert) but the Euph player, i feel, has to be a little more spectacular. I can hit f's and g's but I want quality of sound and be able to do it half way through a concert!
    I'm on a Alliance 4A after many years on a 4AL Wick, bit easier but not much.

  14. Zappa

    Zappa Member

    Accompanied by the traditional elbow wiggle? :biggrin:

    Adrian, you were at Grimey when in my opinion they were incredible and THE BEST! I've mentioned this before on another thread. Morrison, Walters, Taylor, Kingsley ... And Malc Clegg (legend!) That was such an amazing band, and a band that seemed to me never to change personnel.

    I was a young euph player who once borrowed your copy of The Iceberg for an adjudicator for a slow melody contest ... Anyway this is going somewhere ... Alot of players back then did alot of slow melody contests (young & old) ... Quality of sound and lyricism was key ... I was brought up on (as well as technique) long notes (exercise No.7 in Arban page ??? I've forgotten), hymns, Liddle's or was it Little's Abide with Me , Iceberg etc etc.

    But, it lands on the composers too. A solo can be written with a stunning melody then mixing technique etc.

    To an earlier poster, I used to love 'La Belle' and my favourite part was always the slower minor movement! Awesome!
  15. eflatbass

    eflatbass Supporting Member

    Ah; another lover of "La Belle". I know it's not a British band, but for sheer enjoyment of seeing the music before your eyes as he plays, take a look at Dave Werden's performance on Youtube.
  16. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    And I thought that I was alone in these thoughts.:clap:
    Now in my 50s, I am proud to say that I still compete (and win!) in some solo contests.
    I believe that my sound is better, can still sit on top Fs and still play the 'traditional' Air-varie solos, (which adjudicators seem to prefer).
    I know my own limitations and play within them, most of the time.
    I do however, sometimes wonder where we are going with the note-bashing.
    Area contests are a good example; I am sure that I am not alone in being grateful that we are playing Paganini next year, as it maintains that tradition of challenging the players enough technically, but still containing some beautiful solo passages.
    Some of the music that could be chosen, leaves me shuddering, knowing that the work required just to master the number of notes, is probably beyond most players of my generation.
    I don't want the music standards to stand still, we do need to acknowledge the technical ability of the younger players - but - keep it sensible, we all deserve to be recognised within the choices of music made.
  17. katieeuph

    katieeuph Member

    I thought I was an alright kind of euphonium player until I heard David Childs play 'The Hot Canary'- it made me feel like a beginner.

    (And I always thought players put their jackets round the instruments to stop the metal buttons from scratching their instruments.....)
  18. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Bear in mind, in all of this discussion, that generally speaking composers are told what sort of piece is required when they are commissioned by a player or band. And that these days, one of the stipulations is likely to be that it should contain an awful lot of notes in a short space. Look at recent commissions for the own choice section of the European, for instance.

    It's like a kind of technique "arms race". But more fun to watch.

    I know Peter Meechan has publicly stated that he tried to "break" David Thornton when he was writing solos for him, although I suspect he was at least partially joking, but I'm pretty sure most composers would actually prefer to write something with a bit of scope for genuine music-making than something with 600 notes per minute in it. Apart from anything else, it's bleedin' hard work. ;)
  19. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    A good point was made previously regarding the decline of slow melody contests - and playing. There seem to be lots of young players around who spend a lot of effort on developing their fingering skills, tongueing and extreme range, but struggle to play a simple melody effectively - as an aside, that was what I enjoyed most in Terra Australis, where the euphonium had a straightforward meoldy in a comfortable range.

    Having said that, there are plenty of top-class players who are able to bring out the music in the most complex solo, and I think it's a question of getting the balance right.
  20. Pete Meechan

    Pete Meechan Member

    I think it was a little more than a partial joke! However, what is exciting when writing for great players, and there seems to be a wealth of stunning euphonium players at the moment, is pushing them to their boundaries. And the euphonium players that I have been fortunate enough to work with have wanted to be pushed, try something new etc.

    However, Andy, you are of course correct about composers wanting to write something that allows the performer the chance to make music - a chance to make an interpretation, as this is when your music comes to life.

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