Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Four Dialogues for Euphonium and Marimba, by Samuel Adler

Chamber music involving marimba is my favorite kind of music to perform.

Last December I performed Samuel Adler's Four Dialogues for euphonium and marimba with Joel Collier, a doctoral student at James Madison University.  Our video is now live on YouTube, recorded with three mounted GoPro cameras: two on stands, and a third attached to the upper end of the marimba, which provided some really interesting shots!

Mallet Choices

All mallets are made by Innovative Percussion.

Movement 1
Janis Potter series (IP403) and Casey Cangelosi series (CGL3)
My Potter mallets are really worn out, which works well for the opening high B tremolo.  That pingy timbre mixed well with the deeper sound of Casey's mallets for later chords. I alternated the mallets in my hands [CC, JP, CC, JP] to facilitate the opening and closing tremolos.

Movement 2
Casey Cangelosi series (CGL3)
The weight of Casey's mallets complements the euphonium's rich sound, even through acrobatic lines.  I'm using four CGL3s since the required playing area does not spend much time in extended ranges.  The top mallet is a prototype - one I've had for years that still shows no signs of wear! 

Movement 3
Casey Cangelosi series (CGL3; CGL1Y; CGL2Y)
My CGL3s were an obvious choice for this apathetic movement.  Halfway through, Adler calls for soft timpani mallets for low-range cluster chords.  I decided to use four bass yarn mallets from Casey's series instead, as I interpreted the sound Adler wanted as something without attack with indiscriminate length and decay.  (Some may say I'm breaking the rules by not using timpani mallets, but given the date of this piece as nearly 40 years ago, I'm apprehensive to say there would have been a marimba mallet already in existence that would have been appropriately "woofy." I should research this, though.)

Movement 4
Pius Cheung series (PIUS2; PIUS3)
The clarity of Pius's mallets works well with the moderately fast lines in the upper register, while maintaining body of sound.  I like that they are clear in the lower register without fearing for a "two-tone" kind of timbre. 

Four Dialogues (for percussionists)

Composed by Samuel Adler in 1978 for Gordon Stout and Brian Bowman.  Bowman is regarded as one of the best euphonium players in the world.  And we all know who Gordon is. :)
At first glance, the score to Four Dialogues is - dare I say - not surprising and difficult to read.  If you order this score, you will receive a new printing of the engraved original, complete with its omissions and errata.  

Nobody loves a beautifully engraved score more than I do, but that is not Four Dialogues. Expect wrong time signatures, illegible notes, and rests that don't seem to add up.  In addition, some of the notation isn't how we intuitively write for marimba today, so I typed my part to two movements simply so I could read them. It took hours, and I wasn't a happy camper. For anyone else who used Adler's book on orchestration in school, there's a bit of pleasant irony here, no??  If I thought the publisher would actually include my edition I'd notify them of it, but considering they're still distributing the original version I won't hold my breath.

Through the rehearsal process I learned that this piece is huge for euphonium players, both in its difficulty and its existence as the first piece to demand so much. This was an important fact to learn, as it confirmed that the marimba part is not the unique part of this piece.  It certainly has its challenging bits, its big leaps, and its mallet changes, but knowing that the euphonium part was the "surprise" helped me understand how to approach my part: matter-of-factly.

I had fun working with Joel, the euphoniumist...euphonist...euphonium-erer...
It was a different, challenging, yet fun listening environment. Perhaps I'll send my edition along to the publisher after all. 

If anyone out there is playing this piece and would like to see my editions to movements 2 and 4, just give me a shout in the comments below.  

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