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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Tuesday, February 11

Music for Two Big Instruments

Synopsis

If the bassoon is rather unkindly known as the “clown” of the orchestra, what does that make the poor tuba?

Just say “tuba” to someone, and they turn into a mime – at least that was the experience of American composer Alex Shapiro when she mentioned that she was writing a new work for tuba and piano.

“The response was usually one of surprised and barely muffled laughter,” said Shapiro. “The exclamation ‘Tuba, eh? What a funny instrument!’ was often accompanied by exaggerated hand and mouth gestures that somewhat resembled a trout attempting to inflate a balloon.”

Shapiro wanted to show how nimble and lyrical a tuba could be. She gave her finished piece – for tuba and piano -- a punning title: “Music for Two Big Instruments.” And that’s spelled “T-W-O” -- not “T-O-O,” folks!

The new work was commissioned by Norman Pearson, Principal tubist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who premiered the work with wife, pianist Cynthia Bauhof-Williams, on today’s date in 2001 at Alfred Newman Hall on the campus of University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Grateful tubists have taken up Shapiro’s piece since then, and this West Coast commission’s first recording was made by New York Philharmonic Principal tubist Alan Baer, so one could say – with a bit of a stretch – “Music for Two Big Instruments” has been a coast to coast success!

Music Played in Today's Program

Alex Shapiro (b. 1962) Music for Two Big Instruments Alan Baer, tuba; Bradley Haag, p. innova 683

Additional Information

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