The other day, an old friend gave me a recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto (with James Gourley). While the orchestral parts are quite nicely written, and fit in well with the rest of RVWs work, I was astounded at how awful the Tuba sounded. It's not that Gourley is a bad player at all, but that the Tuba is an instrument completely unfit for a virtuoso performance. It sounds like a whale being strangled by a giant squid. How anybody can find beauty in such an instrument is completely beyond me. In an orchestra, of course, the Tuba has its place and time, but alone in solo composition I cannot see the point.
It's not that Vaughan Williams is a bad composer, or that I dislike him. The symphonies are all worth listening to, and even Pilgrim's Progress is decent enough. I just cannot see why he would write this concerto if not some kind of sick practical joke upon the listening public.