for tuba-euphonium quartet

  • two euphoniums + two tubas
c 12'00
I Care to Dance? 3'00
II Convocation 5'15
III Étude/Attitude 3'45
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Reviews | Comments

September 2018

tba4tet is the result of a commissioning project undertaken in 2008, and the piece had its first performance at the ITEC in Cincinnati that same year. In 2016, it was re-published by Potenza Music, and it is in this format that the piece is reviewed here.

James Grant, a lifelong friend and advocate to the tuba-euphonium world, has delivered a terrific work for us yet again; and while difficult, it is definitely playable by college-level ensembles. The work is organized in three movements: Care to Dance?, Convocation, and Etude/Attitude. As usual, James Grant offers the performers helpful performance direction such as indicating when to "come out" or "accompany." The first euphonium part can be rather tiring; however, it is possible for a quartet to decide to rotate who plays first on the different movements. The bottom tuba part calls for a contrabass instrument, while the first could be performed on either bass or contrabass. While the entire piece offers much to the performers and audience, the second movement (Convocation) is particularly poignant and can stand on its own as an individual shorter work. tba4tet is a wonderful addition to the tuba-euphonium quartet or ensemble repertoire and its availability in this new publication from Potenza is most welcome.

Matt Tropman
University of Arizona

Program note

tba4tet, scored for two euphoniums and two tubas, is a three-movement, twelve-minute work composed for a consortium of 48 participating commissioners.  tba4tet was premiered in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the 2008 International Tuba Euphonium Conference, by an all-star group comprised of Matt Tropman and Kelly Thomas on euphonium, and Mark Nelson and Don Harry on tuba. 

Mvt. I is called Care to Dance?  It begins with a non-threatening idea that becomes increasingly curious and twisted as it develops -- as though Fellini and Reger got together for a few beers, then tried to waltz around the room but always found themselves slipping into a congenial, if not slightly off-balance, 5/8. (Much to my surprise, Care to Dance? decided to end as a fox trot.)

 Mvt. II, Convocation, conjures images of an assemblage of people who have come together in unity to acknowledge an occasion of supreme significance in the community.  The spirit of the music, both solemn and celebratory, speaks to integrity, respect, and justice.

The title to Mvt. III gives away its contents:  Etude / Attitude starts off innocently as a seemingly predictable etude for quartet, with the members exchanging phrases and figures based on octatonic scales.  Soon enough, however, 'attitude' comes into play, and the music slowly but surely gets unruly as it morphs into a highly-syncopated rock chart, with an occasionally interspersed chorale thrown in for good measure.

Notes on tba4tet would not be complete without drawing attention to the efforts of my good friend and colleague, tubist Mark Nelson, whose administration behind the scenes served as both the cornerstone and the backbone of this project.  Mark not only came up with this tuba quartet consortium idea in the first place; he served as its secretary, treasurer, and principal cheering section.  Mark's and my 15-year professional alliance shows no sign of letting up -- it continues to be productive, rewarding, and downright fun; and I eagerly look ahead to our next project.

tba4tet is dedicated "to the brave souls of the 2008 tba4tet Commissioning Consortium," and with good reason -- each member of this consortium invested in the project not having any idea what was going to appear before them.  With gratitude and humility, I salute them all for their willingness to step out on this artistic limb with me.

James Grant | July 9, 2008 | Oxtongue Lake, ON

(Note to players:  In Mvt. II, there are two versions of the euphonium music from Reh. E to Reh. J.  The first and preferred version, which is printed in the full score, distributes the highest-register euphonium music equally between Euphoniums 1 and 2.  The second and alternate version, included only in the two euphonium parts, gives all of the highest-register euphonium music to Euph 1 alone. The choice is yours to make.)