The Tuba Concerto was originally written in 1976 for brass band. The orchestral version was made in 1978 but did not receive its first performance until 1983 when it was premiered by its dedicatee, John Fletcher, at the Scottish Proms in Edinburgh with the Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson.
The concerto is in three movements, following the usual quick-slow-quick pattern: Allegro deciso, Lento e mesto, Allegro giocoso. The first is in a sonata form shell with two contrasting themes, the first rhythmic in character, the second lyrical. There is a reference made in the development section to the opening theme of Vaughan Williams’s tuba concerto, but only in passing.
The second movement unfolds a long cantabile melody for the soloist, which contrasts to a ritornello idea which is announced three times by strings alone. The central climax of the movement triumphantly heralds the main theme from the full orchestra.
The last movement is in rondo form, alternating the main theme with two episodes. The first of these is a broad sweeping tune, the second is jazz-like in style with prominent solos for the clarinet and vibraphone in conjunction with the tuba. After a short cadenza, reference is made to the opening of the concerto, and the work ends with a triumphal flourish.
… for Gregson is an accomplished orchestrator, knowing just what a glockenspiel doubling the tuba line or a vibraphone colouring the texture can do for the music.
The most imaginative part of the concerto is its slow movement, whose post-impressionistic atmosphere – mingling Debussy, Bartok and jazz – appeared perfect for a hot summer night.
Meirion Bowen, The Guardian, July 1986
There is a certain eldritch quality to this music. However those cobwebs are completely exorcised by the British film music optimism of the finale. For all that Gregson adds a light overlay of angst this is delightful music.
Lewis Foreman, MusicWeb International
The programme opens with the very agreeable piece by Edward Gregson composed in 1978 for brass band and heard here with orchestra. I have heard the jaunty I quite often but am less familiar with the brooding II and propulsive III with its surprising blues section. This excellent reading makes me realize again what a fine piece this is.
American Record Guide, May 2006