Euphonium Repertoire: A Pedagogical Study and Practice Guide forFred L. Clinard’s Sonata For Unaccompanied Euphonium
by Brian Meixner
This popular unaccompanied euphonium solo was written by Clinard in 1978 while he was an undergraduate student at Tennessee Tech University. The piece was written for and dedicated to Alan Clark, a euphonium student at the same university. This work is in three movements and contains a variety of styles, tempi, meters, and has a range of ‘F’ to ‘c2’. The performance duration for all three movements is listed on the score as 6 ¾ minutes. Due to its lack of an accompaniment, this solo offers the euphonium student the chance to develop their interpretive creativity. The player is required to produce great musical effect without the assistance of a piano accompaniment.
Every undergraduate student should have the experience of performing a solo unaccompanied in order to express some level of interpretive creativity. Most undergraduate euphonium students (especially in the United States) were taught within the boundaries of a public or private school band system. Precision of time and pulse is traditionally preached in this setting, at the expense of individual expression. This teaching style is necessary in order for these large ensembles to produce a cohesive sound both on the marching field and on the concert stage. While young piano and voice students are typically encouraged to develop their individual creativity in private instructional and performance settings, the euphonium student may not have been exposed to this style of training. As will be discussed, this piece definitely contains sections requiring the soloist to have a metronomic sense of pulse and rhythm, but this challenging sonata affords the euphonium student an opportunity to develop what may be a somewhat untapped area of expressive performance.
I. Introduction and Allegro
This movement is the most lengthy and contrasting of the three. The formal structure can be defined as a loosely ABA, but it is not ternary form in its truest sense. The movement begins with a slow introduction labeled rubato and is followed by an allegro section that functions as A in our form. This allegro section contains the primary thematic material of the movement and encompasses the remainder of the first page of the piece. The second page begins with a slow, expressive B section, reminiscent of the introduction. The final section of the movement opens with the same motive from our A, thus loosely defined as a return of A.
The piece begins with what many professional brass players will tell you is one of the most difficult aspects of performance, a soft entrance. The first pitch is a whole note ‘e’, a comfortable note in the middle of the bass clef staff, but is made difficult because it is the first note in the piece. Make sure the lips are warmed up sufficiently and use a deep, slow, relaxing breath before playing the first pitch. The composer marks the initial dynamic as piano, but a nice effect can be created with a nearly inaudible entrance followed by the marked crescendo to fortissimo. This immense dynamic contrast within the first measure of the piece will set the tone for a very musically satisfying performance. As with all aspects of any unaccompanied performance, the exaggeration of all musical effects is necessary to create interest when performing without accompaniment.
To feel comfortable with such a soft entrance at the very beginning of the piece, the player should practice daily using soft air attacks across a wide range of the instrument. Once the player feels content with the quality of these air attacks, one may be chosen for use in performance. If not, the entrance should be approached in the same manner as an air attack, but simply “dab” the beginning of the note with a light “dah” tongue. Merely challenging the player daily with air attacks at the extreme soft end of the dynamic range will greatly enhance not only soft entrances but also the quality of soft playing in general.
A common error in performance of this piece is misplacing the peak of the initial crescendo. Many players will make the ‘d’ in measure 2 the loudest note of the crescendo and treat the ‘e’ at the beginning of the measure as if it were a pickup note leading to the ‘d’. One must remember to treat the ‘e’ as the top note of the crescendo not only because it is the highest pitch but also because it is the downbeat of measure 2 and should receive the natural agogic stress. If the composer had intended the ‘d’ to receive the strongest weight, he would have placed that pitch at the beginning of the second measure or marked the dynamic shape accordingly. This concept, along with the aforementioned soft entrance and dynamic swell, should be repeated in measures 3 and 4 after a healthy caesura is adhered to after measure 2.
The tempo marking (quarter note = 46) beginning in measure 4 is extremely slow, requiring a great deal of control from the player. Deep, full breaths should be taken to ensure at least somewhat lengthy phrases. The half notes in measures 6, 7 and 8 last particularly long at this tempo and have the potential to be static and drain energy from the performance. These deep, full breaths will also aid the player in supporting good intonation through this passage that remains in the troublesome fifth harmonic and above.
No dynamic marking is given after the mezzo forte in measure 5 until the diminuendo in measure 9. The player should use creativity and linear sense of phrasing to shape the half notes so interest is maintained throughout this introduction. As a general rule throughout this piece, the player should follow the contour of the line and generate dynamic ideas when the part is void of a dynamic marking. Again, the constant fluctuation of dynamics is necessary for the performance to sustain life and interest.
The introduction comes to a resting point in measure 11 at the fermata ‘c’ marked pianissimo. The following three caesuras should not be taken too liberally, as the material contained between them unifies the conclusion of the introduction. No dynamic changes are marked in measures 11 and 12, but one may choose to insert contrasting dynamics here in order to engage the listener. The player should consider playing the short motives above the staff slightly louder than the lower ‘b-flat’ to ‘c’ motive in the staff. This idea of a “conversation” between registers will present itself again in the third movement.
The player should begin the accelerando in measure 13 at the previous tempo and pace the rate of acceleration consistent with that of the crescendo from pianissimo to the marked forte at measure 15, the beginning of the A section. The manner of articulation from this point to the end of the first page should be somewhat accented (except when noted otherwise) and in stark contrast to the legato articulation used in the opening. The player should use a weighted articulation on the frequently used syncopations throughout this section. Ignoring the syncopated rhythms and accented style that naturally accompanies them would completely alter the intended character of the movement. Along with the syncopated notes, one should feel free to slightly accent the first note of each two-note slurred grouping as well as many of the quarter note values throughout the section. Pay careful attention also to the accented notes in measure 23 and 24 and exaggerate them (and de-emphasize the non-accented tones) so they can be clearly heard. Strict tempo should be maintained throughout this section to clearly display the rhythmic drive that is inherent in this music. Fluctuations in time disguise the clarity of rhythm that gives the music a driving sense of pulse. Frequent practice with a metronome is a necessity.
It is interesting to note Clinard’s frequent use of the interval of a perfect fourth. Many instances here in the first movement, and later in the third movement, he stacks pitches at this interval (ex. mm.15, 17, 21, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37) to create a particular sound. This section of the movement opens at measure 15 with the stacking of four consecutive ascending perfect fourth intervals (c, f, b-flat, e-flat1, a-flat1) and the descending resolution of a perfect fourth from ‘b-flat1’ to ‘f1’. In measures without this stacking, most contain at least one perfect fourth interval. The section concludes at the end of the first page with a series of descending perfect fourths beginning on the highest note of the piece, ‘c2’. The final descending interval of an augmented fourth to ‘f-sharp’ leaves the listener without a sense of resolve before moving on to the B section. Clinard does not insert a caesura before the B section at measure 37 but does add a double bar at the end of measure 36. This gives the performer a license to take a very slight pause to prepare yourself and the listener for the next musical experience.
These consecutive perfect fourth intervals in this piece tend to cause the problem of inaccurate playing and “chipped” notes. Undergraduate students are typically required to play major and minor scales diatonically, in thirds, in fourths, and in fifths. It is much more rare for students to be assigned patterns of perfect fourth intervals, as they do not fit neatly into any one key area. The most standard books of etudes and exercises do not include these types of patterns either, so exposure to them is limited. Because of this lack of exposure, less experienced players have a more difficult time internalizing these patterns, creating the problem of inaccurate playing.
The “Clinard Exercise,” shown on the next page, is one that should be included into the daily fundamental routine of any student preparing the Sonata for Unaccompanied Euphonium by Fred Clinard. These patterns of ascending and descending perfect fourths should not only be played on the euphonium, but should be sung and played on the mouthpiece alone. First, play the first line of the pattern on the piano very slowly to hear the pattern accurately. Next, play the pattern on piano again while singing. This should be repeated until the singing is absolutely accurate. Once accurate singing has been established, play the pattern on the piano once again while playing the notes on the mouthpiece. Once the mouthpiece playing is completely accurate, the pattern can be played on the euphonium. Repeat these steps for each line of the exercise. If done on a daily basis, the player will develop over time a solid grasp of these intervals and will raise their percentage of accuracy on this movement.
The B section, beginning at measure 37, lends itself quite well to sensitive and expressive playing. This section, ending in measure 54, contains only one tempo marking (quarter note = 72) and one dynamic (mezzo piano), both located at the beginning of the section. The player must create musical interest by manipulating the pulse, applying broad dynamic changes, and utilizing other musical devices.
The B section is labeled “Legato,” which not only suggests long note values with a “default” legato-style articulation but also suggests more lengthy and expansive phrases. The player needs to duplicate the style of breath suggested at the beginning of the piece during this section. This breathing method will help create the desired effect. In general, the music of the B section is more conjunct in nature than that of the surrounding A sections, also suggesting a more flowing and connected style of playing. The section ends in measure 54 with the same material presented in measures 11 and 12. Employing the same dynamic concept here as in measures 11 and 12 will help unify the work and highlight the form.
The recapitulation of thematic material from measure 15 comprises what can loosely be considered a return of A. The material linking the B section to the recapitulation has been abridged, as well as this last A section, which is roughly half the length of the earlier section labeled A. The same performance ideas mentioned earlier regarding articulation and accents are valid here as well.
The ‘c2’ fermata concluding measure 68 can be a challenge for the developing player at the end of this long movement of continuous playing. The composer offers a bit of respite from the strenuous accented forte playing with a subito piano marking in measure 64. The player should take full advantage of this sudden drop in volume, as the extra energy might be needed for the powerful fermata. A full breath after beat 2 in measure 67 is warranted to ensure enough air for a sufficiently long fermata. Notice also the poco ritard marked in measure 68. This ritardando is only intended to be slight, thus guaranteeing the air capacity to deliver the end of the phrase. “A tempo” marked in the final measure should be adhered to with a strong and full final quarter note. The composer chooses to close the piece with the more “final” interval of a perfect fifth, giving closure to the movement.
The title of this second movement is adequately named, as it is a slow and beautiful melody. When played with a full resonant tone, this movement can showcase the lyrical qualities of the euphonium and serves as a contrasting middle movement to the allegro and articulate style of the first and third. The range is suited well for the euphonium. The lowest note is ‘A-flat’, avoiding the stuffy range of the instrument below the bass clef staff. The highest pitch is only ‘b-flat’, a note that can be comfortably produced in a singing manner. The marked tempo (quarter note = 72) is merely a suggestion for performance and should not be followed too strictly. Also, the composer marks very few dynamics in the part, leaving plenty of room for interpretation. The player should feel free to take liberties with tempo, dynamics and style in order to create a performance that is unique.
The title of the movement implies a vocal quality of playing. The best way to achieve this quality is by actually singing the music. This will enable the player to be more at ease creating musical shape and nuance without being encumbered by the technical challenges of playing the euphonium. One should take note of the musical shapes formulated while singing and try to reproduce them on the instrument. Singing through this music is not a time to be overly critical. This is a time to be free of this criticism and allow your mind to express your musical thoughts. It would be a sound idea to sing through the music frequently, as musical ideas may change on a daily basis. The player should notice, while singing, that phrases are comparatively lengthy and the style is generally connected. The player should replicate this on the instrument as to convey a “songlike” performance to the listener. As always, recording oneself on a regular basis will allow a third person perspective and aid in musical development.
The player should be encouraged to develop their own individual style of playing this music, but attention to formal structure and harmony might generate ideas that will develop a more authenticated musical performance. This movement is in ternary form and should be played in a way that highlights this structure. It is all too common for students to play this movement with the same articulation, tempo, dynamics, and general style throughout.
The A section ends at measure 16, the end of the third line. Our B section begins essentially with the quartet note pickup ‘c’ into measure 17 and closes in measure 32. What amounts to our A1 starts with the pickup ‘E-flat’ eighth note to measure 33 and continues with a slight rhythmic alteration of the initial theme. Unlike the outer movements, the melodic motion of this middle movement is based primarily on thirds, outlining triads throughout. The opening measures form F minor and G minor arpeggios, setting the tone for an A section that remains predominantly in the minor mode. This mode insinuates a melancholy mood and would be best expressed by an extremely legato and connected articulation. The dynamic is marked mezzo piano with no change in dynamic given until the twelfth measure. The dynamics should not remain stagnant at any time. Let the melodic contour be a guide for the general “default” shaping of the musical line.
Our B section, beginning in measure 17, continues melodically with a disjunct pattern mainly in thirds. The first three measures alternate between A-flat major and E-flat major, and the chords outlined in this section are largely major. The initial dynamic marking is mezzo forte and is the minimum dynamic until the conclusion of the section in measure 32. The rhythmic activity of this section increases with the appearance of a quarter-note triplet in measure 18, sixteenth notes scattered throughout, triplets in measures 20 and 30, a sixteenth-note triplet in measures 23 and 25, and thirty-second notes in measures 22, 27 and 32. The major mode, higher dynamic, and increased rhythmic activity all suggests a more lively musical approach to this section. The player should consider employing a sprightlier tempo here and changing the articulation to create a more buoyant effect, but not heavily accented. Fluctuations in volume are appropriate, but the music should maintain a stronger presence than that of the outer sections of the movement. The player should feel free to take liberties with the tempo, but maintain the integrity of the rhythmic values the composer has so specifically written.
The return of A in measure 33 should also reintroduce the musical style from the opening, highlighting the form. The marked dynamic is mezzo forte, but the player should consider returning to the mezzo piano from the opening to reinforce the return of A. The crescendo in measure 37 and 38 is the strongest of the movement, leading to the highest pitch thus far (b-flat1) and the loudest dynamic. The strength of the crescendo is reinforced with the D-flat major and E-flat major chords in measures 37 and 38 respectively. The movement closes with the descending interval of a perfect fourth (f to c), foreshadowing the dominant return of this melodic interval in the final movement.
This final movement begins in stark contrast to the style of the previous movement. The tempo is marked quarter note = 132–144 and should be played at the brighter end of that marking, if possible, to generate the excitement inherent in the music. The marked tempo is identical to that of the first movement allegro. A comparatively faster tempo here would create a sense of agitation in this closing movement that is very suitable. The articulation should be similar to that of the allegro section from the first movement, especially considering the great deal of syncopation that is present. The agogic accent should be placed not only on the syncopated rhythms, but used strongly to highlight the use of mixed meter. To ensure the accuracy of rhythm through these changing meters, the player should be diligent with the use of a metronome or a click track. Because of the mixed and compound meters that are written, a click track would be quite useful. These can be created by using popular notation software.
The melodic material of this movement is largely based on the four notes of the opening measure, a series of two perfect fourth intervals (b to e1, e-flat1 to b-flat). This melodic fragment is manipulated and varied throughout the movement, beginning in the second measure. The larger theme, starting at the beginning, includes this fragment and continues through measure 10, immediately followed by a rhythmic variation of the initial measure. The theme is set in the key of a-minor, which can be clearly exhibited by the use of strong agogic accents in measures 7–10. These accents highlight a descending a-minor scale.
The opening measures of the theme employ the use of silence, not used by Clinard in the previous two movements. The interjection of these rests results in a contrasting and new musical effect. It is critical for the player to accurately count these rests each time the theme occurs. The correct placement of the silence between the sound is as much a part of the theme as the notes being played.
Measure 11 begins a variation of this theme and continues through measure 25. The energy of this music should never remain static, especially considering its driving rhythmic nature. More effort needs to be made to propel the energy forward when a series of repeated pitches are written. This occurs in measures 15 and 18 (b’s and c-sharp’s) and again at the recapitulation of the theme later in the work. The player should consider adding a slight crescendo to these repeated eighth notes in order to continue the musical flow over the bar line.
The return of stacked perfect fourth intervals from the first movement arrives at measures 22 and 23. The three ‘g1’s’ that are written in these two measures (recurring later in the piece as well) are generally the most commonly missed pitches in the solo. Many students will tend to miss the ‘g1’ too low and play an incorrect ‘f1’ (same fingering of 1–2) from the seventh harmonic. The resulting sound is a d-minor chord in second inversion, much more familiar sounding to the undergraduate music student than the intended stacked perfect fourths. Again, diligent slow practice and inclusion of the Clinard Exercise into the daily routine will help internalize these intervals and ensure accuracy.
Before the recapitulation of the original theme at measure 54, the composer includes what amounts to be a development section beginning at measure 26. This section begins with seven measures of material in the closely related key of D minor, moves through three transitional measures, continues with “conversational” material in the distant key of B-flat minor, and closes with three measures of transition to the recapitulation. The composer marks the dynamic at piano and adds a tenuto mark above the first three pitches of measure 26, clearly displaying an intended soft and legato style. The contour of the melodic line changes to a conjunct, step-wise motion, lending itself well to this style. The tendency here is to slow the tempo when changing to this articulation and volume. The metronome should be used regularly in practice to maintain the underlying pulse.
After three measures of transition, the composer moves to the key of B-flat minor and reintroduces the conversational or accompanying idea from the first movement. Beginning in measure 36, the passage alternates from one measure of slurred, melodic material in the middle to upper register of the instrument to one measure of articulated and separated eighth notes in the lower tessitura. To highlight this compositional technique, the player should consider alternating volume from a strong forte for the melody to a subito piano for the accompaniment figure. This will enhance the musical interest of the performance and further unify the work by clearly illustrating a similarity to the passages in the first movement. A mistake in the published part should be correct in measure 44. Both ‘e1’s in that measure should be labeled as an ‘e-flat’.
Measure 54 marks the beginning of the recapitulation and return to the key area of A minor. The dynamic is marked forte and the style should revert to that of the beginning. Measure 68 is the first exact duplication of the theme in its original form and should be executed with a rhythmic precision that demonstrates this return. The dynamic is fortissimo, the loudest volume written since the close of the first movement, and should be played with much strength and power. The composer adds a crescendo to the last four measures, resulting in the final two bars marked at a higher dynamic than at any other point in the piece.
The last three lines of the movement are written above the staff and at a very loud dynamic. The tendency for the closing of this taxing three-movement work is for the player to use excessive mouthpiece pressure in an effort to produce the desired result. This may create serious problems in the final measure, which calls for three articulated eighth notes at the bottom of the staff. The player needs to be cognizant of this tendency and make a sincere effort not to rely on extreme muscle pressure but use appropriate airflow to create the commanding presence of sound. After the ‘a1’ in measure 77, the player should release a degree of mouthpiece pressure from the lips and use a full concentrated air stream to produce an identical tone quality to that of the preceding notes for the last three accented pitches. Extra weight should be given to the marcato and syncopated final ‘A’.
The Sonata for Unaccompanied Euphonium is a challenging work with a wide variety of musical styles, making it an excellent choice for exposing the developing euphonium student to the genre of unaccompanied solo works. The length of the piece and the attainable range demands make it a quality solo for performance on a semester jury or inclusion in a recital program.