About this work
Vaughan Williams wrote his Concerto for Bass Tuba in F minor for Philip Catelinet, the principal tuba player of the London Symphony Orchestra, on the occasion of the LSO's golden jubilee. It was given its premiere by Catelinet, with the LSO under the direction of Sir John Barbirolli, at London's Royal Festival Hall on June 13, 1954.
Vaughan Williams's professed aim was to "give a show" for the tuba, and that he certainly did, exploring the entirety of the bass tuba's range of expression. In size and form the work is not unlike one of Mozart's bigger horn concertos, with major cadenzas coming at the ends of both fast movements. The moods of the solo part vary from a kind of genial rumbustiousness, to an ardent lyricism, and considerable virtuosity is required of the soloist.
The Allegro moderato first movement is tuneful and has an easygoing gait. The central Romanza features a graceful, lovely tune of a folkish cast, on which the tuba rhapsodizes. The final movement is a jaunty and virtuosic Finale (marked Rondo alla tedesca). The Bass Tuba Concerto may not be one of Vaughan Williams' most substantial pieces, but he takes the instrument seriously and provides it an attractive showcase.