Concert: Sparke Euphonium Concerto PremièreSteven Mead and the Italian Brass Band
Rome, 20 March, 2022
To celebrate his 60th Birthday, Steven Mead commissioned a new euphonium concerto from the pen of Philip Sparke. The world première took place last month, and I was in Rome to hear it performed by Steven and the Italian Brass Band.
As there was no printed programme, the pieces were introduced by a presenter in Italian, who kindly welcomed my wife Alison and I during the introduction. We were a little surprised to be the only folks who travelled from England to attend the concert, but we were delighted to be there to hear the rousing overture before the spotlight fell on the evening's star soloist, Steven Mead, for the first performance of Omaggio - Philip Sparke's fourth concerto for euphonium. Described by the soloist as probably the most beautiful work he's ever performed, I predict Omaggio will go on to be a highly regarded addition to the euphonium repertoire. Most cornet players aspire to play the Carnival of Venice and I suspect that in the future the mark of a euphonium virtuoso will be to perform Philip Sparke's Omaggio.
The work is in three movements with a middle movement taking the form of a ballad. The staccato theme from the opening movement repeats in different inventions throughout and the band accompaniment in the third movement is hymn-like, whilst the euphonium solo requires outstanding virtuosity. I suspect the third movement is a rondo, however the recurrence of the theme is not so obvious.
The beautiful Carrickfergus was a fitting encore to Steven's wonderful concerto performance, then, after an interlude from the band, Steven was featured once again, this time joined by 3 more euphonium players to perform a brilliant quartet, before the concert concluded with another rousing work from the band.
The Italian Brass Band were impressive throughout, with several outstanding principal players. Their modest world ranking of 81 is testament to the amazing standard of musicianship in the world of brass bands. I certainly returned to England highly motivated with ever increasing enthusiasm and determination to improve my own euphonium playing.
Thank you Steven and the Italian Brass Band for a fantastic concert in the beautiful auditorium of Filippini College, close to the Vatican. The Italians appreciate colour and design in a way that isn't understood elsewhere, and on this occasion, they clearly appreciated wonderful music making too!
Photo: Steven Mead performing Philip Sparke's Omaggio with the Italian Brass Band in Rome (photo credit: www.clanmills.com)