Euphonium Guide

Guide to the Euphonium Repertoire: the euphonium source book
Eds. Lloyd E. Bone Jr. and Eric Paull under the supervision of R. Winston Morris. Indiana University Press, 601 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404-3797, USA. ISBN 0-253-34811-0. 589 pages. 2007. $75.

Since 1996 tubists have turned to The Tuba Sourcebook when researching anything to do with their instrument’s repertoire, players or composers. Guide to the Euphonium Repertoire is a companion volume in identical format for players of the companion instrument.

The lists in this sourcebook have been compiled by 16 different authorities under 15 main headings and 47 sub-headings, making for ease of reference. There are also composer and player biographies, a guide to trombone/euphonium doubling and a discussion on the euphonium in jazz. I missed references to euphonium in the film studio (e.g. Henry Mancini’s Oklahoma Crude), theatre pit (e.g., John Barry’s Billy) and opera house stage band (e.g., Giuseppe Verdi to Alban Berg and beyond) but this is still, like its predecessor, an eminently practical resource.

Of particular interest to HBS members is the "Short History of the Euphonium and Baritone Horn" by Michael B. O’Connor. Little here will be new to musicologists, but of real value (and an improvement on the equivalent article in the Tuba Source Book) are the illustrations, many of them unfamiliar, clearly the result of diligent research. The author’s contentions that the earliest tubas and other low brasses were "more or less as replacements for various sizes of ophicleides" and that "the earliest valved basses were designed for cavalry bands" are questionable. In the lengthy introduction to his Bass-Tuba Patent of 1835 Wieprecht notably excludes the ophicleide from his list of instruments to be superseded by the tuba. Furthermore, the lower valved brass instruments originated in German-speaking countries where the ophicleide was scarcely known.

The repertoire lists are comprehensive and easy to use, although since the bulk of the repertoire consists of transcriptions of pieces originally for other instruments it is a pity that the opportunity was not taken to devise a method of identifying original euphonium works. This would be of real help to those planning recitals.

Elsewhere the devil lies in the detail. The mis-spelling of one of the associate editor’s names in the displayed list of Editorial Board Members at the beginning of the book gives cause for concern, and throughout there are places where one queries the degree of editorial scrutiny. The compiler of the biographical sketches understandably refers to problems caused by questionnaires being incomplete, but the lack of oversight which has resulted in some entries being inordinately long while others consists of only a few lines is evident. It is not always clear which instrument the performer played in various circumstances. Arthur Doyle, for example, is listed as having played in several bands and symphony orchestras, but it is not obvious that he played euphonium in the bands and tuba in the orchestras. Here, as elsewhere, there is no uniformity in the names of the orchestras and one wonders about the amount of supervision by the publisher’s editor, since this book does appear under an academic publisher’s imprint. There is no entry for the British recitalist Charley Brighton, but his existence was known as he is credited with supplying one of the illustrations in the historical chapter. Is the John Wilson with a one-and-a-half line entry not the same musician who subsequently became the most admired English tubist before John Fletcher? And was Bernie Perrins of the Hedon Band not really Barrie Perrins of the Hendon Band? (I like his description as "One of the most wildly traveled euphonium players!") We find "C.S.W. Band" for "C.W.S. Band," "Black Dykes Band" for "Black Dyke Band," "Gus Foorwear Band" for "G.U.S. [Great Universal Stores] Footwear Band." There are plenty of sources where this material could have been checked. Lacking cross-references, anyone looking up Philip Catelinet here will be disappointed. His biographical entry is actually under Composers, where his performing activities are listed but no titles of compositions, yet much information on this eminent player is available elsewhere.

There are anomalies in the composer biographies also. One of the strangest relates to Gordon Jacob, the sole work to be identified his obscure and irrelevant Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano. Bearing in mind that elsewhere the book advocates the use of trombone material by euphoniumists, ought not some of his many pieces for this instrument be included, particularly the outstanding Trombone Concerto written for Dennis Wick? The ambitious euphoniumist would be well advised to look at this piece, if only because of its compass from Bb1 to f".

There are errors in a list of Works Often Played on Euphonium Today. Elgar's Wand of Youth Suites and Stravinsky's Petrushka have only parts for tuba. The ophicleide part in Mendelssohn's Overture: A Midsummer Night's Dream would need an exceptional euphoniumist to play the solo E to B1 passages, and in the Ravel/Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition only the Bydlo movement is played on euphonium. Elsewhere the forte pesante passages in the F# to F#1 register would require a truly wondrous performer!

There is one particularly regrettable statement, in a consideration of ways to earn a living as a freelance euphoniumist: "Teaching is almost unavoidable by any euphonium artist trying to make a living." Rediscovered teenage diaries tell me that I gave my first lesson on 15 January 1954, and I’m still teaching. Am I therefore a masochist, or simply pathetic? The would-be professional should be advised that teaching is not something to be avoided but an activity that brings the joy of helping the student to acquire and improve skills, improves one’s own skills by making the instructor analyse his or her own technique, allows the teacher to share in the student’s enjoyment of an enhanced understanding of music, stimulates the teacher’s delight in music when reinvigorated by the student’s enthusiasm, etc, etc. Of course, if you don’t enjoy teaching it’s a tremendous chore. You’d do better to retrain as a lawyer or plumber and make some real money.

Verdict: a comprehensive reference work with much information not easily found elsewhere, but needs considerable revision to make it really invaluable. Best advice: use your public library copy, wait for the revised second edition, and then go out and buy.

-- Clifford Bevan