The tuba already has a central role in my opera Insect Life (1985–87), where it is the instrument played by the main character, a vagabond, and one of the scenes in the opera even contains a major, very demanding cadenza for tuba and alto saxophone. For the present work I started to sketch the fundamental musical material in August-September 2000, when I was hiking in the hills of eastern Lapland, far off the beaten track. I had some manuscript paper with me and, whenever I arrived at the summit of a hill, I wrote down a new tuba theme. Using the material written on three different hilltops as my starting point, I then composed the concerto between the autumn of 2000 and the early months of 2001.
By nature the tuba is a very songful instrument, and its melodic, cantabile quality is at the heart of the concerto. The instrument is also capable of expressing pow- erful emotions, as on occasion the concerto features overtly operatic, impassioned musical gestures. Moreover, the tuba is technically a surprisingly agile instrument. Here, however, both the super-virtuosic aspect and also the use of innovative play- ing techniques are subservient to the cantabile element: in this concerto the display of technical brilliance is not an end in itself. Nonetheless, large intervallic leaps, played legato, and the wide range of the solo part mean that the piece is extremely demanding for the soloist. The only ‘new’ playing technique to be used is simul- taneous singing and playing at the end of the finale.
Many tuba concertos are rather short, and I thus decided to write a three-move- ment concerto lasting about half an hour – the sort of work that could hold its own as a solo item in the grand style at a symphony concert. The movements differ in character: the opening movement is mostly lyrically songful, whilst the second is fast – and also includes a solo cadenza. In the finale, slow and fast tempi are com- bined. Among the orchestral instruments, an important role is played by the tuba’s little brother, the baritone horn, which on several occasions plays duets with the tuba or continues the tuba’s phrases in a higher register.