Concerto for Tuba (Cuong)

From Wind Repertory Project
Viet Cuong

Viet Cuong

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General Info

Year: 2019
Duration: c. 18:09
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Viet Cuong Music
Cost: Score and Parts - unknown

Movements (mvts. 2 and 3 played without pause)

1. Chaconne - 1:55
2. Canticle - c. 9:00
3. Chaconne - c. 6:55


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Concerto for Tuba begins and ends with a chaconne -- a musical form that centers around a repetitive bass line. As a composer who enjoys repetition and exploring ways to draw the most out of limited musical material, I’ve always found chaconnes attractive. However, what I find most compelling about a chaconne is how its repetitiveness can actually cause a listener to hear a bass line as a melody. This is the opposite of what we might normally expect; as listeners we often associate melodies with the voices and instruments that occupy the higher registers -- Maria Callas was a soprano and Luciano Pavarotti was a tenor, after all! As a result, the instruments that perform in the lowest registers more often than not take on the accompaniment roles. I love that a chaconne flips this notion, and I found it to be the perfect way to open and close a piece that pays tribute to the tuba, the lowest of brass instruments.

The piece begins with the tuba soloist performing a bass line that, through the accompaniment, blossoms upward with every note. The first movement builds in energy before it is abruptly “interrupted” by the second movement, and the third movement picks up where the first left off to conclude the piece. Between the opening and closing chaconnes lies a slow, spacious canticle that draws inspiration from the music of Palestrina, Gabrieli, and Vaughn Williams -- all composers who were important to the evolution of the bass line’s importance, brass music, and (in Vaughn William’s case) the tuba concerto itself. I find this movement to be the heart of the piece, where the tuba soloist has the most room to sing and interpret the melodic material in ways that a soprano might in an aria.

The music surrounding the soloist in this movement often mimics the Shepard Tone -- an auditory illusion where music sounds as if it’s constantly rising. In fact, this entire piece turns the simple act of rising into a prevailing musical motive. From the upward blossoming flurries in the work’s opening bars, to the Shepard tones in the second movement, to the endlessly ascending sequential motion in the chaconne’s return, the piece is almost obsessed with the act of climbing.

I realized early on that this approach would be a meaningful way to celebrate the tuba (and lowest register in general), as rising music inherently honors the lowest notes from which it first grew. And, in any piece, all the members of a wind ensemble must similarly look to the tuba for a foundation when tuning or balancing chords. Ultimately, this entire concerto is an homage to the notion that the bass voice is, well, the base of all musical material.

This piece was commissioned by the Purdue University Fort Wayne Symphonic Wind Ensemble and a consortium of wind ensembles. Heartfelt thanks to all the consortium tubists, ensembles and conductors who brought this piece to life, and especially to Dr. Dan Tembras and Chance Trottman-Huiet for asking me to write this piece

- Program Note by composer


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State Ratings

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To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Symphonic Winds (Simon Holoweiko, conductor; Charlie Goodman, tuba) - 20 October 2022
  • University of Miami (Coral Gables) Frost Wind Ensemble (Robert Carnochan, conductor; Aaron Tindall tuba) - 16 April 2022
  • Florida State University (Tallahassee) Wind Ensemble (Patrick Dunnigan, conductor; Justin Benavidez, tuba) - 9 November 2021
  • University of Georgia (Athens) Hodgson Wind Ensemble (Cynthia Johnston Turner, conductor; David Zerkel, tuba) – 23 April 2019
  • Purdue University Fort Wayne Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Daniel Tembras, conductor; Chance Trottman-Huiet, tuba - 28 February 2019 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

  • Syzygy (Flex instrumentation) (2019/2020)

All Wind Works