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Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra

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John Williams

John Williams (trans. Paul Lavender)

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General Info

Year: 1984-1985 / 2016
Duration: c. 16:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: U.S. Army Band
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


1. Allegro moderato – 6:20
2. Andante – 6:20
3. Allegro molto – 4:20


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

John Williams's Tuba Concerto was written as a centennial commission from the Boston Pops. Cast in three connected movements, the concerto trains the spotlight on an instrument that is more accustomed to playing a supporting role. Its combination of lyricism, agility, wit, and emotional drive makes us wonder that this behemoth of the brasses doesn’t get more concerto outings. The instrument’s virtuosic possibilities reach a high plane in the first-movement cadenza, while the second movement casts the tuba in gentler light, its mellow timbre emerging out of orchestral writing of mysterious mien. In the finale, a rondo that includes some brashly jazzy outbursts, the tuba emerges as an acrobat, bustling along with the vivacity normally encountered from instruments a fraction of its size.

- Program Note by New York Philharmonic

To celebrate the centenary of the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1985, Williams was commissioned to compose the Tuba Concerto, dedicated to Chester Schmitz, the group’s solo tuba player. Premièred in May of that year with Williams on the podium, the concerto highlights the technical and tonal ranges of both the tuba and its performer. A fragment from the Superman theme can be heard in the first movement. In the words of soloist Simon Wildman, “I’ve always thought this concerto was like a long Superman étude. The writing really seems to suggest flying, action punches, and soul-searching at the fortress of solitude.”

Williams has written about his concerto:

I really don’t know why I wrote it—just urge and instinct. I’ve always liked the tuba and even used to play it a little. I wrote a big tuba solo for a Dick Van Dyke movie called Fitzwilly, and ever since I’ve kept composing for it—it’s such an agile instrument, like a huge cornet. I’ve also put passages in for some of my pets in the orchestra—solos for the flute and English horn, for the horn quartet and a trio of trumpets. It’s light and tuneful and I hope it has enough events in it to make it fun.

- Program Note from United States Marine Band concert program, 16 August 2018


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Mark Davis Scatterday, conductor; Juan Enrique Alonso, tuba) - 26 April 2023
  • New York Wind Symphony (Central Valley, N.Y.) (Richard F. Regan, conductor; Alan Baer, tuba)) – 6 October 2019
  • Butler University (Indianapolis, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Michael Colburn, conductor; Anthony Kniffen, tuba) – 18 April 2019
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Bryan P. Sherlock, conductor; Simon Wildman, tuba) - 16 August 2018
  • United States Army Band (Ft. Myer, Va.) (Leonel A. Peña, conductor; Simon Wildman, tuba) – 4 February 2017
  • Boston University Wind Ensemble (David J. Martins, conductor) – 20 November 2013 *Premiere Performance of Wind Ensemble Version*

Works for Winds by This Composer

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