Brian Bowman

The First Carnegie Hall Euphonium Recital

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The title of this Crystal CD is The First Carnegie Hall Euphonium Recital; one may be pardoned for noting that not many would react to such a pronouncement through proclaiming "It's about time!" And such urgency is not called for in this case; Brian Bowman did in fact present the first euphonium recital at Carnegie Hall, but it was in 1976. In 1978, Bowman recorded most of that program for Crystal Records, who issued the result as an LP; however, the LP release was lacking works by Arthur Frackenpohl and Ermano Picchi that had been heard on the original program. Crystal's The First Carnegie Hall Euphonium Recital restores the missing items by way of recordings made in 2008, 30 years after the original release. You can definitely hear the difference between the two sets of recordings; the 1978 recordings, with pianist Marjorie Lee, are very bright and forward, whereas the digital ones are a shade more distant and warmer with more of a true perspective on the euphonium's sound, albeit a little hollow sounding in comparison to the earlier recordings. The Frackenpohl definitely adds something significant to the program as it is written in his most attractive and neo-classic idiom; at the other end of the spectrum is Samuel Adler's Four Dialogs for the potentially interesting and non-blending combination of euphonium and marimba. The Adler work is stocked to the brim with cornball new music clich├ęs and tired-sounding pseudo-serial writing; as a practical and professionally crafted piece for this odd combination, Four Dialogs is sufficient, but as music, it's horrible. However, the quirky and amusing John Boda piece that follows, Sonatina for euphonium and synthesizer (1970), more than makes up for the Adler; the old-fashioned-sounding synth chattering happily away and the euphonium's plaintive, considerably more straight-laced melodic lines make for a combination that works to fill 10 minutes of your time, although it's hard to say how many times the listener will want to return to it.

Nevertheless, this disc fills in a significant gap in the development of euphonium literature. When Brian Bowman gave the first euphonium recital back in 1976 "classic" pieces for the instrument numbered in perhaps no more than two-dozen items and there was no such thing as a euphonium major at the university level. At the time the later part of this album was recorded, Bowman is professor of euphonium and the University of North Texas and the literature for euphonium has gone up into the thousands of pieces. Moreover, Bowman is unquestionably a great player, with a beautifully rounded tone, precise attack, and breath to burn. It's hard to imagine very many apart from euphonium players who will want to seek out Crystal's The First Carnegie Hall Euphonium Recital, but after all it is primarily produced for their benefit anyway. All serious players of the euphonium ought to give this disc consideration in kind.

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