The euphonium is not exactly familiar, even to most musicians. So when a fine euphonium player like the Army Band's Neal Corwell set out to demonstrate his instrument's expressive range last night, some sat there skeptically waiting to be impressed.
It didn't take Corwell long. From his concert at Fort Myer's Brucker Hall, accompanied by pianist Sharon Ranofsky, one quickly concluded that if you like that most lyric of brass instruments, the French horn, you also would be taken by the lyricism of the euphonium, which is, in effect, a baritone French horn. It shares the French horn's bewitching resemblance to the sound of the baritone voice, except that it goes a little lower, into the same range as the trombone. Unlike the snarling trombone, the euphonium is played with the same mellowness as the horn and when pressed develops the French horn's huskiness.
Among last night's works, the six-movement Hovhaness Symphony No. 29 was a resetting of a series of moody, spiritual songs for baritone and orchestra. Likewise, there was the final of Brahms' Four Serious Songs, based on biblical texts about death. And there were four unaccompanied Short Narratives Corwell had written to show the full range of the instrument. To a novice ear, the performer seemed well on his way to becoming a virtuoso.