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A Tuba Concerto About The Mississippi River? Michael Daugherty's Composition Defies Expectations

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Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Tuba Carol Jantsch, conductor Giandrea Noseda, and composer Michael Daugherty at a March, 2015 rehearsal with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

There are very few tuba concertos in the classical repertoire - Ralph Vaughn Williams' 1954 work is among a handful. But in his work, Reflections on the Missippi, composer Michael Daugherty explores the largely untapped lyricism of the instrument.   

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Listen to the re-broadcast of Carol Jantsch and The Philadelphia Orchestra performing Michael Daugherty's Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, Reflections on the Mississippi, on Sunday, August 8th, at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and on Monday, August 9th at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2.

Reflections on the Mississippi came about when composer Michael Daugherty was commissioned to write a concerto by Temple University.  He discovered that, on Temple’s faculty, was tuba player Carol Jantsch, whom he knew from her days at the University of Michigan.

"And I thought, there aren’t really many tuba concertos around," he says.  "I thought that would be a unique thing to do."

Jantsch, now principal tuba of The Philadelphia Orchestra as well as an enthusiastic solo and chamber player, took her instrument out to Michigan, where Daugherty is on the faculty, to explore the musical possibilities.  "He has you play through licks...try this, try that...he really got to know the instrument and knows what sounds good."

Daugherty decided to write a concerto that would defy expectations.

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Composer Michael Daugherty

"Usually the tuba is at the bottom of the orchestra – so the first thing I did was put the tuba above the orchestra, playing lyrically and playing high, which you don’t expect."

Carol Jantsch was delighted.  "I really love playing -  from the gorgeous flowing melodies, to the really aggressive large interval leaping stuff. It’s a fun mix for me."

Reflections on the Mississippi for Tuba and Orchestra was premiered in 2013 by Carol Jantsch and the Temple University Symphonic Orchestra. In 2015, Jantsch performed the piece with The Philadelphia Orchestra, in a concert that will be rebroadcast on WRTI on Sunday, August 8th at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and on Monday, August 9th at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2. 

Listen to more from composer Michael Daugherty and Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Tuba Carol Jantsch
Listen to more from composer Michael Daugherty and Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Tuba Carol Jantsch about how the concerto, Reflections on the Mississippi, explores new musical territory.