Monday, March 7, 2011

UT Trombone Symposium: Part 3

On Friday night of UTTS was my solo recital.   As I’ve stated in previous posts, one of my main personal goals for the week was to see how much stuff I could cram into a week and still perform to a high standard.   Well, on Friday evening I got a taste of just where my limits were.

In my practice regime during the weeks prior to the symposium, I could easily play through my recital program twice and still be OK.   But… that was without a whole week of rehearsals and masterclasses.  It was also not in between two major concerti, and I was also not staying out late every night catching up with old friends.

I knew it was an ambitious program, but I wanted to push myself.  Wish granted. 

The concert started off fine, with probably my best overall run of the Bozza Ballade.   I felt energized and optimistic.   Then came the Ropartz Piéce in E-flat minor, which I had avoided my entire career because it’s so strenuous and concludes with a high E-flat.   I was very happy with my performance overall (I managed all the high and technical stuff, including the high E-flat) but about halfway through I felt my chops tiring faster than I had expected.    Next up was the killer, the Schumann Romances for Oboe.   I’ve always loved these little romances, but never had a chance to perform them.  The only problem is they stay in the middle and high register, and you never stop playing.   In other words, a death sentence for even slightly tired chops.   Even though I only performed the first two movements, these little romances caused trouble for me the rest of the evening.   About halfway through the 2nd romance, I started having random high notes stop working.   Everything would feel fine, and suddenly I would go for something and it just wouldn’t happen.   In all reality, the few chipped notes were not enough to ruin the performance, and most were probably promptly ignored by most of the audience, but it was hugely frustrating for me.   

In the intermission, I considered dropping a piece or two from the program because I knew at the end were the quintet jazz pieces that had lots of high lead playing.   The quartet guys talked me out of it, and I was glad they did.  I had a good performance of the Crespo Improvisation No. 1, followed by three opera arias.  I was very tired during the arias, but was committed to still taking risks and pouring my heart into the performances.  It turned out to be the highlight of the program for me, a sentiment that was echoed by many people afterward.   

This video contains my favorite moments from the solo portion of the recital:

I took a couple minutes after the arias to try to regain some strength in my chops, and then returned to the stage along with the quartet guys: Jon Walton, Joe Christian, Brian Jennings, and Jeff Mize.    I was really looking forward to this part of the program, and it didn’t disappoint.   Though I was tired and fighting my chops the whole time, I thought we put together some good performances of the Thom Ritter George Aria & Dance, Jim Kazik’s Ballade & Fantasia, and an arrangement of the jazz standard Fly Me to the Moon.   We followed up with 2 Johann Strauss polkas as encores, Leichtes Blut and Pizzicato Polka.   These were my Nanny’s favorite.    For the Pizzicato Polka, we had a very special role for Jeff Mize.   As we began to play, he slowly put on some black gloves and then pulled out of his pocket a single bell from a glockenspiel: an A-flat.   He then used his mouthpiece as a beater and played along with us on the bridge of the tune.   Everyone played really well, and I had so much fun I simply forgot about any tired chops.

Here’s a video of the quintet portion of the recital, including the encores:

In the end, I felt like I put together an enjoyable program of music, and the reactions I got were very positive.   It was exactly what I had hoped it would be… a fun night of music-making and a learning experience.   I got to share the evening with many friends and family that came in for the concert, and having the chance to finish out the evening with 4 great friends was the perfect icing on the cake.

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