67 years ago (and a week) the Vaughan Williams Tuba concerto had its premiere. It was written for Philip Catelinet, the principal tubist of the London Symphony Orchestra and he was the soloist in the premiere on 13 June 1954, with Sir John Barbirolli conducting.
On hearing the news Catelinet said “I was quite terror stricken! As a musician, I really couldn’t appreciate the the idea of the tuba being the centre attraction as soloist on a concerto at an orchestral concert. The tuba was too often connected by the public with what was humorous and ludicrous to be considered seriously a possibility on a concert platform.”
Following on the actual performance, the caption over his picture in the paper read, “Wife Was ‘Banned’ From His Night of Triumph.” Catelinet explained that the reason was because of the belittling image invariably linked to both the tuba and tuba players. Even a press announcement of the concert referred to it as being: “…the novelty of the evening…” He said to a reporter who questioned his wife’s absence: “In the past, the tuba has been treated as a rather comic instrument, and I did not know how the public would react. If I had to suffer, I would rather suffer alone.” After all, musicians are sensitive to the feelings of others, particularly those of their wives. If she had been present and the reception other than it was, I would have been that much more embarrassed for her sake.”
To find out more about this piece – decidedly not a novelty but one of Vaughan Williams’ most popular works – check out our soloist Grady Hassan’s helpful programme notes: Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto