Las Tubas Trio, a tuba trio, took over Newman Recital Hall Tuesday night in a faculty recital hosted by the Thornton School of Music. The group comprises professors Jim Self, Norman Pearson and Doug Tornquist, all three of whom teach classical performance and composition for winds and percussion at the Thornton school.
The evening also featured multi-instrumental performances from various guests, including Self’s musical collaborator John Chiodini and the school’s entire tuba class.
Las Tubas Trio opened the concert with Haydn’s “Tuba Trio Sonata,” a classic number. But by the third performance, no member of the tuba trio was onstage; instead, the USC Bass Tuba Quartet performed its rendition of Mozart’s “Allegro from Symphony 13.”
Bass tuba player and Thornton graduate Beth Mitchell joked about the number’s transposition to tuba.
“Of course it was originally written for this kind of ensemble, so you’re hearing it in its original form,” Mitchell said.
However, the program did not feature only classic or historic pieces. Two of the 10 songs performed were original compositions by Self. Both made their live debut at the Thornton concert. The first song, aptly titled “Scrambles,” served as a fitting transition from classical numbers that came before it, with an exhilarating and fast-paced, staccato tempo.
“Like all of my music, [“Scrambles”] is a little unusual — it’s got some funny little patterns in it, and it’s rhythmically very challenging,” Self said.
Following the intermission was a much larger ensemble performance featuring student trumpet and French horn players. It was also led by Tornquist on the tuba and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra trumpeter Tom Hooten. By “Signals,” it was evident that the show would be more than just jazz and tubas, with nuanced shifts in genre, tempo and rhythm at every turn.
Tornquist spoke about the growing number of performers onstage throughout the recital.
“You can see, it takes a little bit to put it together,” Tornquist said.
The three-part original “Ludus” followed “Singles.”
Las Tubas Trio once again displayed the fluidity of the concert’s genre and instrumental style. Both featured only two performers Self on the tuba and Chiodini on guitar. In fact, Self composed “Brincadeiras,” the second duet between him and Chiodini.
“I wrote [it] originally for the famous tuba player and Portuguese man Sérgio Carolino, and he asked me to write a piece for a solo tuba, saxophone quartet, and xylophone,” Self said. “So I wrote him … the piece and one of the movements was called ‘Brincadeiras,’ [which is] a Portuguese name meaning ‘fun song.’”
Two large-ensemble pieces soon followed with smaller ones. For this, Self, Chiodini and the entire USC tuba class performed “Straight No Chaser,” a jazz piece originally composed by Thelonious Monk. Then, to finish the concert, the tuba class and several graduates joined Las Tubas Trio on stage. The fast-paced classical piece “Moto Perpetuo” featured one of the most diverse arrays of instruments of the concert, complete with tubas, guitar and piano.
The faculty tuba recital gave students an opportunity to understand the musical limits of the tuba as well as the extraordinary range of the instrument.
“There’s not much music for three tuba people, and we’ve played about 90 percent of it tonight,” Self said.