Philip Sparke: Pantomime


Commissioned by euphonium player, Nicholas Childs, in 1986, Philip Sparke’s Pantomime has remained a staple work for the instrument. The work is influenced by the Commedia dell’Arte tradition, with the music encapsulating a number of different characters.


The Music

Pantomime has been arranged with both a piano and brass band accompaniment. For the purposes of this blog, I will be referring to the brass band accompaniment. 

Opening with a statement from the soloist, the warm accompaniment sit gently underneath to create a foundation for the soloist. At this point this music is lyrical and the added cornet solo in the background adds to the very rich textures that Sparke creates. As the music organically grows into a climax, the soloist leads the ebb and flow of the music. The glorious wide sound of the euphonium adds to the effect of this music as the sound grows into a sweet upper register. 

The long lyrical opening shifts into short cadenza for the soloist before then going into a fast and syncopated section. The use of off-beats as the accompaniment aids with the drive of the music as the soloist plays their technically-demanding part on top. The excitement of this section completely goes against the opening material, with this section feeling lighter in character. The quick tempo settles somewhat and the theme is taken to new places. This section does not last long before a burst of energy is shot through the band. 

The quick fluctuations between various complex time signatures adds to the bounce of the music, which is part of the appeal of this final section. The driving percussion and cornet section keep the music pushing forwards to the final hugely speedy end section. As the soloist rushes off with fast scalic runs, the band keeps the foundation steady. The soloist shows off their bravura before the thrilling coda section takes hold. The final chord is initiated by the soloist as the band enter the bold last hurrah. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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