By Neal Corwell
Dr. Neal Corwell’s professional musical career began in 1981 when he joined The U.S. Army Band in Washington, DC, Pershing’s Own, as a euphoniumist. It was here that he began working with tubist Jack Tilbury, to whom this ITEA Gem Series composition is presented in tribute. Neal participated in the first Army Band Tuba Euphonium Conference in 1983 and also performed alongside Jack in the concert band and the unit’s tuba-euphonium quartet (see photo). Neal departed from the band after nine years of service to successfully launch a career as a free-lance soloist and clinician, college teacher, composer and arranger, and music publisher. In 2002 Neal rejoined Pershing’s Own, to once again work alongside Jack Tilbury, now the unit Sergeant Major.
Dr. Corwell’s first published composition was an unaccompanied euphonium solo titled Four Short Narratives, which was published in a 1982 issue of the T.U.B.A. Journal as part of the original GEM Series. His most recently completed large project was the CD recording Out Sitting in his Field, a collection of humorous original works and arrangements for brass solo that Neal wrote, performed, and recorded. His current contribution to the GEM Series, Improvisations on a Bach Sarabande, is a free interpretation of a movement from J.S. Bach’s Solo Cello Suite No. 2 in d minor. It is appropriate that this baroque work was chosen as the basis of the composition, because the cello suites, in particular the slow and emotive Sarabandes, are personal favorites of both Jack Tilbury and Neal Corwell.
The composition’s title makes reference to the fact that it began as the composer’s free interpretation of Bach’s original dance movement, an improvisatory interpretation that evolved during years of performing the cello suites by memory as a method of relaxing at the end of long practice sessions. In addition to the unaccompanied solo printed in this publication, Dr. Corwell also created a mysterious and ethereal sounding recorded accompaniment by combining nontraditional effects that use the euphonium as a sound source with additional improvisations, performed on a muted euphonium. These extemporizations, based on motivic elements present in the solo part, were spontaneously created in a recording studio, and then blended together to create a unique backdrop for the soloist. At present, only one version of theWhen performing Improvisations, the performer should endeavor to present the composition in such a way as to create the illusion that the soloist is spontaneously generating variants on Bach’s Sarabande. In an effort to assist the performer in creating a rhythmically free and nonmetrical interpretation of the notated solo part, no bar lines or time signatures are used. However, many interpretive instructions and several metronome markings are provided in an effort to accompaniment, in the key of d minor, is available. If interested in obtaining this pre-recorded accompaniment, please contact the composer.
The unaccompanied solo version of the piece may be performed as either a euphonium or tuba solo. Euphoniumists are provided with a B-flat treble part and tubists will probably prefer the bass clef version, which is down a perfect fifth and in the key of g minor. Because tubas come in varied shapes and sizes, it is permissible, if playing without accompaniment, to transpose the Improvisations to any key that suits the key of the instrument being used. Octave shifts may also be made to accommodate the range of the soloist. In passages where two octaves are notated, the larger notes are in the octave in which the composer performs the solo, and the smaller notes suggest an easier alternative.
When performing Improvisations, the performer should endeavor to present the composition in such a way as to create the illusion that the soloist is spontaneously generating variants on Bach’s Sarabande. In an effort to assist the performer in creating a rhythmically free and nonmetrical interpretation of the notated solo part, no bar lines or time signatures are used. However, many interpretive instructions and several metronome markings are provided in an effort to guide the performer toward the composer’s concept of how the work should be presented. These instructions are suggestions only, and therefore do not need to be adhered to in a strict fashion. The soloist should feel free to shape the music in keeping with his or her personal interpretive tastes.
The work is divided into four main sections. In sections “A” and “C”, Bach’s original melodic material is presented in a free fashion with mild variations in the form of added ornamental and dramatic elements. The material thus presented is subsequently developed in the ensuing sections labeled “B” and “D.” Although the latter sections depart farther from the original, they are clearly recognizable as melodic variations of the original material. It is highly recommended that the soloist familiarize him or herself with Bach’s Sarabande in its original form before delving into the Improvisations. The time required to do so will be well worth the effort, because knowledge of the source that inspired the Improvisations will surely result in a better-informed, and more effective performance of the latter.