Vibraphone performance continues to be an expanding field of music. The earliest accounts of the presence of the vibraphone and vibraphone players can be found in American Vaudeville from the early 1900s, then found shortly thereafter in jazz bands as early as the 1930s, and on the classical concert stage beginning in 1949 with Milhaud’s Concerto for Marimba, Vibraphone and Orchestra.
While we are still within 100 years of the invention of the modern vibraphone, it is important that we account for “firsts” in the repertoire timeline, and formally establish milestones in the history and lineage of the instrument. While much attention is given to the first concerto featuring vibraphone (Milhaud’s Concerto in 1949,) and the first inclusion in an opera (Lulu by Alban Berg in 1937,) little attention is given to the first concert solo piece written for vibraphone.
Composed in 1959, Three Pieces for Vibraphone, Op. 27 by James Beale is the first solo concert piece written exclusively for the instrument. This work is a true hidden treasure with substantial historical significance. Not only does the compositional language portray relevance today, but it is logical to infer that Beale’s solo paved the way for many works that followed, including some that are valued as “landmark” pieces in our repertoire. Some of these include Prelude No. 1 by Serge de Gastyne (1963,) 3 Caprices for Vibraphone, Opus 70 by Rene Leibowitz (1966,) and Three Pieces for the Winter Solstice by John Bergamo (1968.)
In spite of being written by a prolific and accomplished composer, Three Pieces for Vibraphone, Op. 27 does not get the widespread attention it deserves. There is scant evidence of it being performed on recitals and festivals, only one commercial recording available of the work, and the only place to purchase it sells a copy that is littered with rhythmic, melodic, and articulation errors. The recordings found on this page showcase my performance of all the correct notes, rhythms, and articulations, as taken from an original copy of the work I obtained. I hope you will agree with me that PASIC Focus Day 2018 is the perfect event by which we can shine a spotlight on this important “first” for concert vibraphone.