Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra
Symphony No.5 in D
Walter Hilgers (tuba)
Brandenburg State Orchestra Frankfurt
Michael Luig [Tuba Concerto]
Recorded 22-24 June and 24-26 August 2005 in Concert Hall Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Frankfurt
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: June 2006
CD No: GENUIN GEN 86064
Duration: 54 minutes
A release of Vaughan Williams’s music from an unlikely source, one that proves to be interesting and commendable.
Walter Hilgers conducts Sea Songs and Symphony No.5 and plays the solo part in the Tuba Concerto, which Michael Luig conducts. Hilgers (born 1959) was appointed principal tuba in the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra in 1978, and then went to the Hamburg State Philharmonic and the Hamburg-based North German Radio Symphony via ‘guest’ appointments with that orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic. Currently, from 2005, Hilgers plays with the Vienna State Opera and Vienna Philharmonic. He is also a soloist, a teacher, and a conductor.
Hilgers leads a lively and idiomatic account of the march, Sea Songs, and gives a virtuoso one of the concerto, shapely and deft, and with a committed orchestral backing, very well balanced. If the orchestra could be a little more fulsome (certainly in the strings) and the recording a tad more focussed, there is much to enjoy here.
The symphony is the thing, though. Without disturbing existing recommendations (Vernon Handley’s Liverpool recording for EMI probably winning the race by a short head), Walter Hilgers steers an admirable course through this pastoral and ecstatic work – flowing, unmannered and sympathetic – and gets to the emotional core of the music without distraction. The scherzo flies by, maybe not as gossamer as ideal, and rather shoe-horned, but traced with certainty and made vivid, too much perhaps. The heartfelt slow movement draws in the emotions, and if rather too volatile and not ‘distant’ enough, there’s no doubting the vibrancy with which the music is essayed. The finale has a spring its step, and if the ride to the climax lacks poise, there is a fine sense of consolation in the final bars.
The notes and presentation confuse some of the compositional dates, but this is a refreshing view of wonderful music, and recommendable as such.