Review of Four Corners: Tuba Music from Around the World

I just got my copy of the ITEA Journal, and was excited to read Tim Olt’s review of my  CD. Thank you Tim Olt for your kind words, and especially for suggesting to people to take me out to dinner! (hopefully at Waffle House) When you do a recording, especially during the editing process, you start hearing every little tiny flaw, and tend to not want to hear it again. When all is said and done, I am happy with this recording and pleased that it showcases some really interesting music well. I hope I did the music justice.

Here’s the review as printed in the International Tuba Euphonium Association Journal, Winter 2010 Issue:

John Manning needs little introduction. He is a founding member of the acclaimed Atlantic Brass Quintet, and currently serves as Assistant Professor of Tuba/Euphonium at the University of Iowa. In addition, he has performed with the Boston Symphony, Empire Brass, Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, and many other widely diverse ensembles. For this recording he is joined by Shari Rhoads, piano and Shin-Yi Yang, guzheng.

As noted in the title, this recording is a celebration of tuba music from various locales around the world, specifically Costa Rica, Australia, Hong Kong, and the United States. The program is drawn from standard works of the repertoire, commissions, and even an original composition by the artist himself.

Retratos by Vinicio Meza was commissioned by Mr. Manning in 2002. In four movements, the work encompasses various styles, including a flamenco-based vocalise, a waltz, an absolutely gorgeous “song without words,” and a wonderfully playful blues. Appearing on many state contest lists, Fantasy on a Lakota Theme by Kenton Bales has become a staple. The Concerto for Tuba by Barry McKimm has rapidly become a favorite for competitions. Silhouette by John Harmon was originally written for Sam Pilafian, who served as John’s primary teacher.

I have deliberately left two of the works off the previous list, as I feel each of them need individual recognition. Guzheng Suite is an arrangement done by one of Mr. Manning’s former students, Chi-Sun Chan. The work utilizes the guzheng, which is a traditional Chinese instrument similar to the zither. The movements are based on Chinese and Taiwanese folk tunes. Given the juxtaposition of sound colors, both instruments come through with remarkable clarity and balance. In addition, the work shows a wide range, from sparse, delicate melodies to whirling dances.

Dark, the final selection on the recording, is a “soundscape” by John Manning for tuba with prerecorded background. Divided into three movements, the work is designed to be done improvisatorially, with the outcome different each time. Mr. Manning indicates in the program notes that he did only one take of each movement, and there was no editing. I first heard him perform the work in 2005 at Bowling Green State University. In the live performance, he had the lights turned out, which caused the listener to become very ensconced in the experience. I would highly recommend trying this when listening to the work.

As mentioned earlier, Mr. Manning has developed an extensive reputation as a chamber and orchestral player as well as teacher. Unfortunately, his incredible gifts as a soloist have often been overshadowed. With this recording we get a strong insight into his incredible facility on the instrument, combined with an astonishing musical sense. This recording will raise the bar for solo artists. Next time you see John taking him out to dinner for giving us this great work.

~Tim Olt, Miami University of Ohio, Northern Kentucky University

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2 Responses to Review of Four Corners: Tuba Music from Around the World

  1. James M Green says:

    Professor Manning,

    Just wanted to say I really enjoyed your CD, I am glad to own it. Very well played!

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