International euphonium soloist Steven Mead has reviewed Norwegian Euphonium. The article was printed in the Issue 5402 of the British Bandsman in a reduced version and at TubaNews.com in its full version.
Follow this link to read the article as printed on TubaNews.com.
A reprint follows here:
CD Review: Norwegian Euphonium by Tormod Flaten
|by Steven Mead|
With the Eikanger-Bjorsvik Brass Band and the Bergen Symphonic Band (conductors Reid Gilje and Martin Winter) and Craig Farr (percussion)
The growing world reputation of the Norwegian euphoniumist Tormod Flaten will be further enhanced by this excellent new CD which demonstrates his versatility across a large range of musical genres.
Best known to brass band audiences as the solo euphonium with the Eikanger Bjorsvik Band which accompany him on half this CD, Tormod is one of the most active advocates across a wide spectrum of the Norwegian musical life and thanks to recordings such as this his talent is now reaching a wider audience.
What the listener can always expect from Tormod is a rich beautiful singing tone allied to an innate musicality and a beautiful turn of phrase. What separates him from so many other soloists is his embracing of modern music whilst sounding totally convincing in the more traditional literature.
The CD features three ‘serious’ original works for euphonium. The first is Vintage by the American composer David Gillingham, here in its original version with symphonic wind band. It has a two part structure (slow/fast) with a superbly played extended cadenza near the end of the work. Throughout the fast 5/4 section the technique is clear and well articulated. The Bergen Symphonic Band support admirably and the colours of Gillingham’s scoring are revealed to the full.
The second work Sonata de Camera for Euphonium and Percussion by Craig Farr is the most modern and explores some exciting possibilities in this genre. The work was first performed at the BrassWind Festival in Bergen in October 2005. Here the full range of the euphonium and some extremely difficult intervals are negotiated with ease by the soloist. This is an extremely fine piece and given a quite memorable performance here. Not for the faint-hearted, this track benefits from repeated listening.
Martin Ellerby’s Euphonium Concerto is a work that so many euphonium players would like to be able to play. It has everything, sumptuous melodies, driving rhythms, long technically challenging runs, complex finger-work and a marvellous finale. Also the accompaniment, provided marvellously as one would expect by Eikanger Bjorsvik is more than an accompaniment. It really is a symphony for euphonium and band. For me, Ellerby’s work remains the best euphonium concerti out there at the moment. Tormod takes on and overcomes all the challenges sounding meticulously prepared and always with a little time to spare. In the third movement, Rhapsody for Luis, there are some truly sublime moments reminding me why I fell in love with this concerto in the first place.
Five contrasting lighter works complete the disc and for me the highlights are two contrasting ‘songs’ the gorgeous Grieg melody Ved Rundarne and in a more pop style, Michelangelo arranged by Frode Rydland.
The Grieg is scored by another of Bergen’s famous sons, choir conductor and arranger/composer Valter Aamodt. Its simplicity is its strength and here is a melody you will wish you had heard before.
Michelangelo is just fabulous and I hope more band euphonium players will fork out the cash to buy this new arrangement. It is not difficult to play but creates a magical atmosphere in a musical language which is instantly appreciated by audiences young and old. Needless to say, it is given a definitive reading here. Tormod has now his own publishing business and website and so you can get this and four others from the CD, and find out more of his activities at www.tormodflaten.com.
Oslo-based jazz musician Frode Thingnaes has produced elegant light music for a couple of decades now and his Daydream is given a carefree reading here complete with a Martin Winter inspired jazz cadenza. Tormod really sounds like he’s having fun here and it is a super stylistic contrast on the CD.
The Norwegian hymn tune I Himmelen is heard in an original setting by Svein Henrik Giske. His attempt to combine folk music and sacred elements is most appealing with the soloist acting as singing counter-melodist often duetting in octaves with the soprano cornet.
Tormod gets to flex his technical muscles one more time on the final track, Ermano Picchi’s Fantasie Originale, a traditional theme and variation solo dating back about one hundred years. It reminds us of our musical ‘roots’ and puts an excellent musical perspective to the whole disc which I heartily recommend. Tormod is an outstanding euphonium soloist and one that young players would do well to emulate.
Congratulations to all those involved with this project.