Four Short Narratives, Opus 2 by Neal Corwell

Instrumentation: solo euphonium unaccompanied
Copyright: 1981
Duration: ca. 6:00
Range: AA-Flat to b-1
Difficulty: III-IV
Publisher: Nicolai Music
Price: $10
Other Info: first published as part of the T.U.B.A. (now known as I.T.E.A.) Journal “GEM SERIES”. Two movements were slightly revised in 1996.


Four Short Narratives, Neal Corwell’s first published composition, was written during his first year as a military musician. Each “narrative” is a miniature tone painting depicting a particular time of day. The movements are titled as follows: Morning, Day of Celebration, Dusk, and Night. Although not without any technical hurdles, this set of four short unaccompanied pieces primarily challenges the soloist’s expressive capabilities and lyrical control. Over twenty years later, the final movement, Night, was used by Neal as the subject matter for a new composition titled “Fantasy on Night” for euphonium solo with electronic accompaniment and live sound processing. Dr. Corwell also performs a live rendition of Dusk that also involves live electronic sound processing. Although not currently published, the composer will answer inquiries of those that may be interested in performing this version.

All movements begin with a descriptive theme, which, not coincidentally, contains as many notes as there are letters in the movement’s title. The composer, using a personally developed system, assigned letters of the alphabet to musical pitches. During the unfolding of each narrative, the opening theme or motive is subsequently developed using techniques borrowed from the "serial method" of composition. Morning and Dusk are lyrical and generally quiet, the latter movement calling for use of a mute. Day of Celebration, by contrast, is vigorous and, at times, fanfare-like. Night, which depicts the eerie and frightening aspects of nighttime, is the most dramatic and least tonal movement. It makes use of flutter-tonguing, half-valve glissandi, and harsh dynamic changes. It does, however, end softly and peacefully, bringing the work to a quiet conclusion.