Recordings from Black Bayou Brass Recital

For those who might be interested, here are a few recordings from a recital given by Black Bayou Brass last week. We felt good about our performance, and put together a pretty challenging program with a limited number of rehearsals. Multiple rehearsals over several weeks or months is a luxury that very few groups outside of student ensembles enjoy, so being able to walk into a rehearsal with most (if not all) of your part ready to go is very important. In the case of one work on this recital – the Triple Concerto by Anthony Plog – rehearsal time with our collaborative pianist was extremely limited, and we prepared ourselves to put it together quickly by studying the score closely in our own rehearsals, and marking entrances and cues very carefully. The last movement of the concerto (included below) is a study in modern counterpoint, and one section in particular is pretty intense for several measures. Our opener was Eric Ewazen’s A Philharmonic Fanfare, which is really quite a good piece for brass trio and lots of fun to play. Also included is an encore – Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee – arranged by our trombonist Micah Everett. We were in need of something flashy and impressive-sounding for our tours and school performances, and this short piece fits the bill perfectly.  Chromatic scales anyone? The real issue for me on this piece was keeping the left hand loose and facile. It might sound counter-intuitive,  but the more you can let go and relax on something technical like this the better it sounds.

All recordings are live and unedited, performed by Black Bayou Brass on February 27, 2012 (Alex Noppe, trumpet; James Boldin, horn; Micah Everett, trombone)

Performances this Week

There are several performances coming up this week for me, and I’m looking forward to all of them. Tonight things will kick off with a performance by the Black Bayou Brass, in our annual faculty recital. As usual, we have a varied and exciting program, ranging from the Renaissance through the 21st Century. We performed many of the works programmed on the first half on tour last semester, but for the second half we’ll be playing a new work for us, Anthony Plog‘s Triple Concerto (cover image linked from the Editions Bim website).  Plog is an internationally known composer and trumpet performer (though he retired from performing in 2001), with many fine works for brass instruments. In addition to the Triple Concerto (1995), he also has two horn concertos and several chamber works with horn. Originally for brass trio (trumpet, horn, trombone) with orchestra, his Triple Concerto also exists in versions with wind band accompaniment and piano reduction. Pianist Dr. Richard Seiler will join us for the version of the piece with piano accompaniment. For those familiar with Plog’s style this concerto is consistent with his other works for brass.  If you are new to Plog’s music, his writing is full of big contrasts – melodic, rhythmic, and dynamic.  Often within a single movement long arching melodies are quickly replaced with angular, disjunct ones, and vice versa. Each of the three brass instruments gets plenty of solo lines, along with some nice ensemble passages as well. One of the most challenging things for me about Plog’s music is his use of what I call “semi-familiar” patterns – patterns which look like things I’ve seen before, but with enough twists to make things interesting. As an example, here’s a short excerpt from the horn part in the final movement. Notice that the passage looks mostly chromatic at first glance, but there are some whole steps and larger intervals in there as well (World Copyright 1995, Editions Bim).  The tempo here is approximately quarter=132.

These kind of passages can be a nightmare to sight read, but thankfully after plenty of practice they become more familiar.

Tomorrow I’ll be joining soprano Claire Vangelisti to perform a movement of Vitaly Bujanovsky’s Evening Songs for soprano and horn. To hear a recording of the movement – and the entire piece – check out this YouTube video featuring Sofia Kapetanakou (soprano) and Antonis Lagos (horn). It’s a wonderful piece, and great for adding variety to either a horn or vocal recital. One of the most striking things about the movement we’ll be performing (“Evening Vocalise”) is the variety of timbres the composer gets out of just two instruments. For example, one passage is marked a due corni, meaning “as in [the style] of two horns.” The singer is meant to imitate a horn sound, as used in the famous “horn fifths” pattern so common in Classical era works. And later in the piece the hornist is asked to produce multiphonics by playing one note and humming another. If you don’t know this work be sure to check it out.

To cap off the week I’ll be playing 3rd horn with the Rapides Symphony on a program titled “Love and Loss.” Works will include Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Strauss’s Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration). It’s a big program, with plenty of great brass writing. My Lohengrin part says that it has the “concert ending as recorded by Arturo Toscanini,” and includes all the customary transposition changes found in the part – horn in G, E, D, A-flat, and F. I’m not as familiar with Tod und Verklärung as with other tone poems by Strauss, but needless to say there are the usual sweeping melodies and intense counterpoint found in many of his other orchestral works. The Bernstein is also a standard in the repertory, with its own share of cool horn parts.

Here’s to a busy week!

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