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SymbiosisDuo CD Review: Playground

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New CD of euphonium and tuba music.
There is a new SymbiosisDuo album called "Playground" and you should run out and get it (virtually speaking)! This one has some nice new ideas, but it retains some of the concepts that were so successful on their first album. There is a risk in producing an album like this, because the main instruments are so far from what might normally be heard on a few of the well-known selections. The same was true with the first album, but the musicians took that chance and the result is excellent.

Some of the songs here might be categorized as pop/jazz. The album can work on two levels. You can seriously listen to it, as I tend to do with most tuba/euphonium recordings. If you do so you are rewarded with very fine execution and musicianship. Or you can just have it on for general-purpose entertainment, where it also works nicely (party music, anyone?).

I won't go through every piece on the album in this review, but here are some directed comments.

The title of the album, Playground, comes from the first movement of James Grant's Double Concerto for Euphonium and Tuba. The piece is simultaneously accessible and fresh-sounding.

The album begins with a suite called Kentucky Delights, which falls into the pop/jazz category of my mental card catalog. The duetists handle the style with ease and their accompaniment is right on the money.

Sometimes I can look at a track list and predict which ones I will enjoy the most. These artists have surprised me before, so I should have known better. I especially enjoyed Time to Say Goodbye, which is not one that stood out when I first saw the song list. Not fancy - just pretty music, played prettily.

All Strung Out: Funeral March of a Marionette starts with the expected original concept, and then it branches out with some enjoyable "variations." Even though it originated as a full orchestra piece, in its reduced form here it works amazing well! Credit for that is due to a combination of clever arranging and the skills of the players.

Euphonium players may especially appreciate the inclusion of a Harold Brasch favorite, Serenade from the Student Prince. The duo is joined by Deborah Eastwood on trumpet. So again the result is not just a restating of well-known material, but is a freshened by the interchange of tuba and euphonium and the addition of a (gasp!) cornet. It all works very well together. (Serenade is one of two tracks that are extracted and extended from traditional euphonium solos. The other is Bellstedt's Napoli.)

Those are random comments, and not by any means the only interesting material! As with any album, each listener will have favorite tracks, but I suspect each track on this album will "find a place" on someone's favorite list.

The one suggestion I might offer is that the visuals of cover and tracklist be tailored with more consideration to the wide age range of fans to which this album will appeal. Older eyes (ahem) might find the low-contrast color combinations a bit of a challenge.

In summary, this album is a must-have item for your music collection. Not only is it a professionally-done performance throughout, but it represents some new ideas and settings (euphonium-tuba duo plus other instruments) that help grow our art.

Available as CD or MP3 download from Amazon:

Or as a download from iTunes:

You can download a PDF of the complete liner notes here: Playground Liner Notes

The SymbiosisDuo site has the biographies of all the personnel on the album (it's quite a list!): Playground CD Personnel

Here is the complete track list:

1. Kentucky Delights: I. Sunrise in Possum Trot
2. Kentucky Delights: II. Twilight in Brightshade
3. Kentucky Delights: III. Moonrise in Blue Diamond
4. Elegie (Arr. By Gail Robertson)
5. Wallstreet
6. Time to Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiṛ) [Arr. By Gail Robertson]
7. Andronico: Act II. Duet "Nel Seggio Placido" (Arr. By Gail Robertson)
8. Double Concerto for Euphonium and Tuba: I. Playground
9. Double Concerto for Euphonium and Tuba: II. Passage
10. Double Concerto for Euphonium and Tuba: III. Sprint
11. The Student Prince, Act I: Serenade (Arr. By Gail Robertson)
12. Die Zauberflote, K. 620: Act II, No.21f. Duetto (Papageno/Papagena) [Arr. By Gail Robertson]
13. Stabat Mater: 1. Stabat Mater Dolorosa (Arr. By Gail Robertson)
14. All Strung Out: Funeral March of a Marionette (Arr. By Chris Sharp)
15. Intrepideedoodah
16. Napoli: Variations On a Neapolitan Song (Arr. By Gail Robertson)
17. I'll Be Seeing You (Arr. By Gail Robertson)

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Updated 08-13-2015 at 07:41 AM by davewerden

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