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46th Season Highlights


Photo by Anne Peterson


Norfolk Chamber Consort, Øystein Baadsvik, tuba 

Chandler Recital Hall, November 10, 2014 

Review by M.D.Ridge

Twenty years ago, Andrey Kasparov and Oksana Lutsyshyn were in Chicago; they were asked to perform with a talented young tuba player from Norway. They said yes, and asked when the concert was to be.

"In three days."

Kasparov recalls, "And the Hindemith was the easiest thing on the program!" After a couple of all-nighters, he and Lutsyshyn performed with Øystein Baadsvik-since then, the only tuba player to make a living solely as a soloist.

November 10, at ODUs Chandler Recital Hall the Norfolk Chamber Consort concert, "Together Again," showed exactly why Baadsvik is such a phenomenon. It's not only his virtuosity and spectacular technique, but a musicality that makes the dizzying technique look almost easy.

Hindemith's 1955 Sonata for Bass Tuba and Piano began with Kasparov's crashing chords, while Baadsvik nodded approval and launched into a tuba melody over the sizzling piano. The Allegro movement was fast, with a barrage of notes and a light, surprise ending. The Variations movement was a dialog - dramatic phrases of tuba melodies over busy, fast piano perpetual motion.

Clad in a black jacket embroidered on lapel, sleeve and back with a sunburst design, the fair, balding Baadsvik explained the next work and demonstrated double-tonguing and other wonders. He had intended to play William Kraft's Encounters II for solo tuba, but the technique involved singing into the instrument while playing and, he said, he doesn't have the high notes anymore. So he substituted a piece inspired by Kraft, his composition Snowflake, that incorporates Norwegian folk tonal vocabulary and rhythms, as well as a weird vocal sound on top of the tuba pyrotechnics and percussive effects, culminating in a long spiral up to the end.

In his arrangement of Bach's Flute Sonata in E-flat Major, with Lutsyshyn on harpsichord, the tuba became the flute-light and quick, with challenging rapidity. The second movement-Siciliano-was romantic and melodic, evincing extraordinary breath control. The Allegro movement showed off light, quick runs, with superb attention to dynamics-and amazing trills. Lutsyshyn's harpsichord had precision and sensitivity.



Reviews cont'd


Three works by Grieg followed the intermission. First, the familiar "Anitra's Dance," then "A Dream," from Grieg's Six Songs, which was balladic, insistently romantic. Lutsyshyn's closing flourish brought a big smile from Baadsvik. "Norwegian Dance No. 1" had a different sonority, and a lovely floating tone; the inhumanly fast ending finished on a blast of deep notes.

Kasparov returned to the piano for Baadsvik's own composition "It'll be Alright," a tender, melodic ballad rooted in the dark Norwegian winter and the reappearance of the sun in February; it had a blues feel, the tuba swapping the melody with the piano and playing a countermelody - just gorgeous.

Three works by Astor Piazzolla followed. Milongo del ángel, one of the composer's "angel" songs, uses dance rhythms and melody. Invierno Porteño, the "winter" section from Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, featured percussive slapping of the tuba with the piano rhythms. The tango rhythms and quick ornaments of Adiós Nonino segued into tender melody with a very elegiac vocal quality.

Lutsyshyn was back on harpsichord for "Winter," from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Baadsvik was "air conducting" with one hand while going wild with virtuosic techniques, very rapid ornaments and impossible triple-tonguing. The middle part was straightforward, with beautiful tone. The final part was marked by increasing tempo, very fast triple-tonguing, heavily ornamented-all at blinding speed.

The three joked around for the encore-Vittorio Monti's familiar violin showpiece Czardas. Lutsyshyn started to play-Kasparov came out apologizing-and they settle into piano four hands, while Baadsvik did his virtuoso tuba thing. . . very fast. At one point, while playing his tuba, Baadsvik walked down the aisle to serenade a girl in the audience, blowing her a kiss as he returned to the stage-much fun, but some heavy-duty music making going on.

It's probably safe to say that no one in the audience will think of tubas in quite the same way ever again.


This review was originally broadcast on WHRO 90.3 FM's "From the other side of the Footlights."