The Solo Tuba Music of Robert Jager-Part 4 by Kenyon Wilson
Three Ludes for Solo Tuba and Tuba/Euphonium Quartet
Robert Jager’s most recent contribution for solo tuba was commissioned by students and alumni of R. Winston Morris in celebration of his thirtieth anniversary, 1996-97, as the tuba professor at Tennessee Technological University. Since Jager’s first composition for tuba was written as a gift to Morris during their first few years working at the same university, it is quite fitting that Morris’s students would turn to Jager for this tribute to their teacher. The composition of the piece actually began in 1971, when Jager and Morris first met. Jager wrote the middle movement at that time with the intention of making it part of a larger work. This commission gave him that opportunity, although almost three decades later, and he composed the two outer movements in 1997.
While Jager considers the work essentially “serious” throughout, the title was chosen to reflect Morris’s sense of humor.’ The movement titles are “Prelude,” “Interlude,” and “Postlude;” thus the title Three Ludes for Tuba is appropriate. The scoring of the work is also a reflection on Morris. In 1970, Morris founded one of the first tuba/euphonium ensembles ever to be offered as a university course. Morris’s commitment to the idea of an ensemble with multiple tubas is represented in Three Ludes for Tuba by its scoring for solo tuba with tuba/euphonium quartet accompaniment.
The program notes describe the “Prelude” as “a fanfare-like movement which presents material that will be used throughout the complete work. It is also a dialogue between the soloist and the quartet. After a vigorous exchange between the two forces, the movement ends quietly, in preparation for the second movement.”2 This dialogue between the soloist and the quartet takes the form of short passages – usually four bars or less – in which the quartet presents material without the soloist. This is interspersed with passages in which the quartet assumes an accompanimental role while the soloist joins with melodic material. Since the soloist is at no time unaccompanied, the dialogue described manifests itself in the quartet’s change of function between ensemble and accompaniment.
Encompassing the first four measures, the quartet’s opening fanfare consists of bell tones with each member of the quartet striking a new pitch on a specific beat, resulting in a composite rhythm of straight quarter notes. Vertically, the ensuing chords are not of primary significance, although they result in seventh and ninth chords of varying qualities. The harmonic foundation is found in the two lower parts in which arpeggiated B-flat tonic triads overlap (Example 1).
Although the tonic triad is present vertically at a few points in the fanfare, harmonic stability in B-flat is prevented by the presence of an added seventh or ninth. The pitches account for every member of the B-flat natural minor scale except for the sixth scale degree. Although the establishment of B-flat minor is a result, Jager’s main focus for the opening five bars was the creation of “dynamic intervals to announce the [soloist’s] entry”.3
The soloist enters with the anacrusis to measure six in B-flat minor, but the mode is immediately changed to B-flat major in measure six. The solo part remains in this major key until the coda, utilizing the pitches of the B-flat major scale with few deviations. The opening solo statement continues for six measures while the quartet punctuates with tonic triads.
Measure twelve marks the beginning of the second fanfare section. With the exception of the first tuba’s initial pitch. these five measures are identical to the opening five bars transposed up a major second. This lack of transposition of the first note in the first tuba part is the result of harmonic concerns. The resulting perfect fifth at the downbeat of measure twelve between the solo and first tuba parts is a more consonant interval than the perfect fourth that would have occurred if all the pitches had been transposed. In addition, the resulting open fifth implies a functional half cadence in the key of B-flat.
Although the tonal center shifts briefly to C minor, the solo part returns the tonal focus to B-flat with the anacrusis to measure seventeen. The melodic material in the solo tuba part differs from the opening section but is based on previous material. Accompanimentally, the quartet now plays repeated eighth notes instead of the punctuated chords followed by rests found in the opening section. Despite the traditional tonal stability of the solo part, the quartet plays a repeated quartal chord.
Measures twenty-two through thirtyfive are a brief development section. Tonal centers of D, E-fiat, and B – all identified by long tonic pedals in the second tuba part – are interspersed with tonally unstable areas. The melodic line in the solo part is based on previous material, the most noticeable of which is the soloist’s opening motive of four sixteenth notes followed by a dottedquarter note. In measure twenty-five, for example, this motive is freely inverted, producing a descending line.
Measure thirty-six marks the beginning of a brief retransition back to the opening material. This retransition contains a harmonically stable version of the fanfare material. The conclusion of the retransition, measures forty-one to forty-two, is marked by one of the few times in the movement that all five parts are homorhythmic.
The recapitulation begins in measure forty-three, and it employs the same material as the second fanfare section, which began in measure twelve. As discussed above, the first time this material was presented, the fanfare was an exact transposition of the opening fanfare with the exception of the first pitch, which remained untransposed for harmonic reasons. The recapitulation is an exact duplication of those measures except for the solo tuba’s pitch on the downbeat of measure forty-three. Whereas in measure twelve this passage resulted in a perfect fifth between the soloist and the first tuba, a perfect fourth occurs in measure forty-three. As a result, Jager begins the recapitulation with harmonic instability. Jager explains that “the tuba has by this time changed the harmonic basis or the harmonic level of the piece… so [the fanfare] has to change accordingly.”4
The solo part departs from the tonal center of B-flat in measure fifty-four, thus initiating the transition to the coda.’ This is accomplished by the consistent use of A-flats in both the solo and quartet parts. Up to this point, Jager has primarily confined the solo part to the pitches of the B-flat major scale with the occasional use of D-flats for mode mixture. Although the pitches of the E-flat major scale are being employed, there is not a strong harmonic reference to E-flat. Whereas earlier composers would emphasize or modulate to the subdominant at the beginning of the coda, Jager chooses to use the pitches of the subdominant scale as a contemporary adaptation of that function.
As explained in the program notes published with the score, the first movement ends quietly in preparation for the interior movement. Beginning at measure fifty-seven, the texture has thinned considerably with only one member of the quartet moving at any given time. It is at this point that Jager once again inserts humor into his music. At the beginning of the coda in measure fifty-eight, the first euphonium quotes the opening bar of The Tennessee Tech Hymn, a hidden tribute to Morris’s thirty years at Tennessee Technological University (Example 2).6 Beginning in measure sixty-two, each member of the quartet presents a final motive followed by a sustained pitch of either F or C. This open fifth creates a half cadence in preparation for the second movement, which is in B-flat.
Gene Pokorny, Principal Tubist of the Chicago Symphony, presented the premiere performance of this work accompanied by the Tennessee Tech Alumni Tuba Ensemble in September 1997. With regard to preparing this movement for performance, Pokorny suggests that the first thing to do is to examine the final movement. He explains, “You want to make sure that the last movement… ends in a blaze of light, which means that everything before it will be not so blazing.”7 Therefore, he “would make sure that the first movement, no matter how exciting, is slower and less brilliant than the last movement.”8
Since the nature of this ensemble limits the tone colors available, the success of the first movement lies in the various articulations of the solo and ensemble lines. Pokorny explains, “This is an exciting piece. The rhythmic activity is varied with many accents and articulations that are not always happening on the beat.’9 Pokorny uses the passage from measure thirty-seven to forty-three as an example of how to approach the rest of the movement:
The slurs need to be almost like a portamento to make them effective, especially when surrounded by accented, staccato notes. [At measure thirty-eight], I suggest the player first imagine those staccato notes as being played by a string bass or a cello playing pizzicato and then imitating that sound in the mind, as best he (she) can, with the tuba.’10
Another potentially difficult passage begins in measure twenty-nine. Pokorny suggests, “When leaming the passage, I suggest playing all but the first three notes down the octave, so instead of it being an “instrumental” line with an uncomfortable seventh,… it becomes a “vocal” line with only an interval of a second.”11
Jager chose to score the second movement with the soloist tacet, which, as he describes it, follows a Baroque tradition in which the second movement is at times played by the strings, rather than by the soloist.12 The scoring of the second movement also has symbolic significance related to the work’s dedicatee, R. Winston Morris. The soloist is instructed to conduct rather than perform the second movement.13 This symbolizes Morris’s influence on his students as teacher and conductor, since all of his students have served under his baton in the university tuba ensemble. Gene Pokorny suggests that the soloist must do more than just conduct the movement:
In order to really get the whole picture, I would want to know [emphasis added] the second movement of the piece. The best way to do that is to approach the movement as if I had to teach the movement… [to] the other players in the group. By taking on that responsibility, it would help me get to know the composer’s idea for the entire piece, which would help in how I would approach the movements I do play. If it were a student taking on that role as the soloist, I would try to encourage the student to take that second movement on as a special project with his (her) music theory instructor; to analyze the mavement harmonically, structurally, etc. This would help the player become more of a musician which, theoretically, is the whole idea of going to music school.14
Jager composed the second movement after meeting R. Winston Morris for the first time. His inspiration for the movement was an event that happened at the conclusion of Morris’s faculty recital in October of 1971. Morris was presented flowers on stage, which he humorously tossed into his bell. He then performed the commercial jingle for Plunge®, which was a product similar to Draino®. Jager decided to use the j ingle as the ground bass for this passacaglia.15 Although the rhythm has been changed and the last note displaced by an octave, the relationship between the jingle and the passacaglia theme is apparent (Example 3).
The form of the “Interlude” is a passacaglia with seven variations and a coda. The second tuba performs the passacaglia theme nine times in its entirety. The variations are divided into two sections, variations one through four and variations five through seven, each starting with only one voice added to the passacaglia theme and building until the entire quartet is performing. These sets are further indicated by a slowing of tempo at the end of each section.
Following the initial statement of the ground bass, the first variation begins with the entrance of the first tuba part in measure four. While the additional part is only a one-measure motive sequenced up by thirds, its two eighth-note, two quarternote rhythm serves an important unifying function in subsequent variations. Each of the next two variations sees the entrance of the second euphonium and first euphonium, respectively, and the absence of the motive introduced in the first variation. The impetus is towards the building of the texture. The harmonies are mainly the result of stepwise voice leading, but they retain some aspects of functional harmony, such as the subdominant- dominant relationship of the last two measures of each variation. It is not, however, until the last variation of each section that a complete voicing of the dominant-tonic progression occurs at the variation’s final cadence. The latter part of the first section, i.e., measures eighteen through twenty-one, contains the retum of the first-variation motive in a modified form. The sequence down by step in the first euphonium part and the poco ritardando aid in the conclusion of this section.
The second section follows a similar pattem, beginning with the tubas performing together. Measures twenty-two through twenty-four are identical to measures five through seven, including the anacruses. The familiar motive is sequenced up a second as before. Each subsequent variation builds upon that foundation as the lower voices repeat the same material unchanged. Each euphonium entrance begins a third above the previous variation, resulting eventually in the upper voices planing triads above the ground bass. The music builds to the climax of the movement with the fermata in measure thirty-three.16 Following, in the coda, is a repeat of measures eighteen through twenty-one at a softer dynamic and a slower tempo.
After conducting the second movement, the soloist once again assumes a performing role in the spirited “Postlude.” The tempo of this movement is slightly faster than the first movement and more than twice the tempo of the second movement, thus completing the traditional multimovement pattem of fast-slow-fast. The form of the final movement is temary, with the outer sections characterized by technical passages whereas the interior section contains more lyrical lines and mixed meter. The first section ends in measure 40; the second section consists of measures 41 through 69; the third section consists of measure 70 through 103; and the coda begins in measure 104 and continues to the end. Jager retums to the use of a germ motive as the basis for the melodic and accompanimental material. This three-note motive, initially presented by the first euphonium, is present in each of the three large sections of the movement (Example 4)- This germ motive is often performed incorrectly; as Pokorny wams, “There is a tendency for some brass players to compress the sixteenth notes at [the beginning]. So, I will ask the student, ‘can you make those sixteenthnotes go as slow as possible at this tempo?’.”17
Following an opening flourish from the quartet, the soloist enters in measure two with a statement of the germ motive, which typically occurs in pattems of three with an extension on the last one. While the soloist performs, the quartet texture is primarily homorhythmic, punctuating the solo line with openly-voiced chords. During two of the transition sections when the soloist is tacet, measures eight through thirteen and measures twentyeight and thirty-three, the quartet is scored with the euphoniums and tubas employing opposing rhythms. Jager also continues to develop the germ motive in these transitions, employing both the original and inverted forms (Example 5)
At measure fourteen, the soloist presents the second theme of the first section. While this begins a twelvemeasure passage without a single occurrence of the original germ motive, the motivic material is still based on the opening few measures of the movement. In this case, Jager uses the final portion of the opening melody of the solo part in measures six and seven as the basis for the next theme (Example 6).
Likewise, Jager brings motivic elements from the solo part into the accompaniment beginning in measure twenty-two. This time, Jager uses the opening three-note motive from measure fourteen as the basis. The motive is found in both its original and inverted forms in measures twenty-two and twenty-four (Example 7).
When the soloist retums with melodic material in measure twenty-six, the original germ motive from the opening bar retums as well, including one of only two occurrences of the germ motive in its inverted form in the solo line in measures twenty-six and twenty-seven. When the soloist drops out at the beginning of the transition, the quartet reuses measures eight through thirteen as measures twenty-eight through thirty-three. Measure thirty-four marks the retum of the opening theme. At the beginning of this passage, the quartet has essentially the same chords as the opening section; the melody has generally been transposed up a tritone, but the transposition is not strict.
The interior section of the temary form begins in measure forty-one following an elided cadence from the previous section. The first four bars of this section, although transitory, function as an introduction to the middle section, which is characterized by the use of both asymmetrical and changing meters. “Rhythmically,” Jager explains, “it follows in the very spirit of this whole movement… it’s just a lyrical version of it.”18 Indeed, the syncopated aspects of the first section are retained, as is the use of the germ motive in the melody.
Harmonically, this section is more functional in its progressions than the opening section of the movement. The first four bars, for example, contain only tonic, subdominant, and dominant triads in root position. Furthermore, the melody is an outgrowth of this progression. Indeed, this is the only section of the entire composition in which Jager wrote the accompaniment before writing the melody.19 With the exception of the lower neighbor tone created by the germ motive, the melody generally complies with the harmonies – often with arpeggios. Measures forty-one through forty-eight contain two-measure repetitions of the tonic-subdominant-dominant progression; this is followed by two one-measure sequences down by step, followed by two measures guided by half-step voice leading in which the soloist proceeds downward while the second tuba proceeds upward (Example 8).
The next seven bars are a varied repetition of measures forty-five through fifty-one, with a three-measure extension of the descending half-step idea sequencing every quarter note, producing a hemiola. This leads to a fifteen-measure transition beginning in measure sixtythree, which employs the germ motive as a retum to the opening-section material.
The final section of the movement begins in measure seventy-eight. It is a literal repeat of measures two through twenty-seven. The coda begins in measure 104 over a tonic pedal point in the second tuba part. The coda combines aspects of the various sections. The first euphonium and first tuba parts are taken from measure eight (Example 5), whereas the second euphonium part is an inverted form of the motive from measure one (Example 4). These motives are repeated as ostinati, over which the solo tuba part recalls the theme of the second section, finally ending with a quote from the first movement (Example 9).
As a final thought for the movement, Pokorny again suggests the soloist watch the tempo: “There is a certain tendency for people on our instrument to play things so fast, that by the time they get to the end, they are out of control and it sounds almost desperate… because it is! The trick is be really be in control but let the music give the illusion that IT, and not the performer, is in control.”20
1 Robert Jager, Three Ludes for Tuba (Boca Raton, Florida: Masters Music Publications, Inc., 1998), ii.
3 Robert Jager, interview by author. Tape recording, Cookeville, Tennessee, 20 November 2000.
5 The last three and one-half beats of measure fifty-four were incorrectly edited out of Symphonia’s La Morte dell’ Oom compact disc. TTiis will be corrected on future editions of the recording. R. Winston Morris, interview by author. Tape recording, Cookeville, Tennessee, 19 November 2000.
6 Jager, interview, 20 November 2000.
7 Gene Pokorny, interview by author. Tape recording, Chicago, Illinois, 1 February 2001.
8 Gene Pokorny to Kenyon Wilson, 8 February 2001, personal e-mail.
9 Pokorny, interview, 1 February 2001.
10 Gene Pokorny to Kenyon Wilson, 8 February 2001, personal e-mail.
12 Jager, interview, 20 November 2000.
13 Jager, Three Ludes for Tuba, ii.
14 Gene Pokorny to Kenyon Wilson, 8 February 2001, personal e-mail.
15 Jager, interview, 20 November 2000.
16 In measure twenty-two, the parts should read “cresc. poco a poco” rather than “dim. poco a poco.” Robert Jager to Kenyon Wilson, 12 February 2001, personal e-mail.
17 Pokorny, interview, 1 February 2001.
18 Jager, interview, 20 November 2000.
20 Gene Pokorny to Kenyon Wilson, 8 February 2001, personal e-mail.
21 All excerpts from Three Ludes for Tuba are ©1998 Masters Music Publications, Inc. Used with permission 2000.
22 The Tennessee Tech Hymn is based on God Save the Prince of Wales, composed by Henry Brinley Richards in 1862, with words added by Joan Derryberry in 1943.
About the Author…
This fall, Kenyon Wilson is in Azerbaijan teaching at the Baku Music ( Academy as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar. Following his retum to the states, he will be serving as Visiting Assistant Professor of Tuba/Euphonium at Central Michigan University for the Spring 2003 term.