Tuba takes centre-stage for premiere

RSNO and Principal John Whitener will perform European Premiere of new concerto


The tuba makes a rare appearance as a soloist instrument this week, when RSNO Principal Tuba John Whitener and the Orchestra perform the European premiere of American composer Jennifer Higdon’s Tuba Concerto, at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Friday and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday.

The new concerto has been commissioned by the RSNO, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. The world premiere was performed by Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Principal Tuba Craig Knox at Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh in March this year, which was met with critical acclaim, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette saying that, “…Ms Higdon’s concerto was engaging throughout, with angular, dynamic melodies and short bursts of virtuosity…providing a convincing case for the solo potential of the tuba.”


Composer Jennifer Higdon: “I am thrilled that the RSNO is a commission partner on this new work. Your orchestra will always be a part of its history. I’m especially happy that John Whitener is the soloist. He was a student of mine at the Curtis Institute of Music. At that time, I taught a class on contemporary music and it’s wonderful that he is taking on a new work and carrying on this important tradition.”


RSNO Principal Tuba John Whitener: “I am very much looking forward to performing this work from Jennifer Higdon. It’s rare that a tuba concerto written by such a reputable composer gets commissioned. Off the top of my head I can only think of three, the most famous of which is the Ralph Vaughan-Williams, and after that the Edward Gregson and the John Williams. I have to say, hats off to the RSNO, Pittsburgh Symphony, and Curtis Institute for collaborating on such an exciting project, with particular mention to Craig Knox and Jennifer for spearheading the project.


“This concerto is written really well for the tuba. It strikes the perfect balance of pushing the instrument to its limits, while not doing anything impractical, and yet still managing to bring out the expressiveness that the tuba is capable of (and so rarely gets shown off). Tuba players usually have to steal music from other instruments to share these qualities, and it’s exciting to see a new original work that captures them so well.”


The European premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Tuba Concerto appears in a programme which also features Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik’s Landscape and Holst’s The Planets (with the sopranos and altos of the RSNO Chorus), conducted by John Storgårds.  For more information please visit www.rsno.org.uk.