Wednesday, March 23, 2016

New Trombone Collective

The most active and significant trombone ensemble in the world today has to be the New Trombone Collective.  The Dutch based trombone ensemble began as a collection of students and teachers at the Rotterdam Conservatory in 2001, and his since grown into a world renowned group.  They have released numerous CD's and have pushed the boundaries of the capabilities of the large trombone ensemble.  Although their CD's have proven very successful, perhaps more significant is their appearances on DVD's and in live performances.  Even in the past 2-4 years, they have exponentially expanded their presence on youtube and through DVD releases, giving visual access to their audiences.

In addition to their incredible abilities musically, I admire their ability to push into the 21st century of classical music in terms of their style of live performance.  The days of a simple walk on to the stage and take a bow at the end are nowhere to be found with this group.  They possess a very refreshing balance of musical satisfaction and audience engagement through visual and/or dramatic means. 

Below are a few recent videos that I have just discovered recently.  Because the group is so active, it's tough to keep up with the material they put out!

This first video is an incredible mixture of pieces and styles that ends in an incredible jazz finale with legendary trombonist Jiggs Whigham as the soloist.  This was part of a historic concert in 2010 that featured over 20 trombonists.  The quality of this live performance is extremely impressive.

This second piece, Alice in Trombone Wonderland, written by Evert Josemanders, is an excellent example of the boundaries the New Trombone Collective pushes and breaks through.

And finally, an Astor Piazolla piece, Maria de Buenos Aires, performed here live in 2013 in Amsterdam.  Again, a complete different genre of music, that is performed to an incredibly high standard.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mahler's "stolen" piece

One of the composers we admire the most as brass players is Gustav Mahler.  While his symphonic music is most popular and significant to the brass repertoire, players and arrangers have found great value in much of his other compositions, particularly his vocal music.  One of the most commonly arranged vocal songs is the "Urlicht"(Primordial Light) from collection of songs, Des Knaben WunderhonMahler also used this piece as part of his Symphony No. 2, sung by the alto with full orchestra accompaniment.  Below our two examples of arrangements of this piece, one by the Concentus Brass Ensemble, and the other by the Vienna Philharmonic Horns.

 Trumpets - Jason Lewis and Shane Brennan
Horn - Mark Bennett
Trombone - Rupert Whitehead
Tuba - Ray Hearne

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Homogenous Ensemble Thoughts

A few weeks ago, we discussed in class the importance of homogeneous ensembles (i.e. trombone choir, horn choir, etc.).  I've been thinking recently about the importance of these ensembles in the the academic world vs. the "real-world" of the music business.  While there is an incredibly rich repertoire for homogeneous brass ensembles and no doubt will be a satisfying performance experience for the musicians, I believe the benefit of such ensembles lies in their ability to isolate the aspects of playing unique to that particular instrument. 

Having played in trombone ensembles of all kinds for many years and taught/conducted trombone ensembles as well, I prefer to think of such ensembles as extensions of the lessons and seminars that are taught weekly in the studio.  These ensembles present a unique opportunity to discuss and implement concepts that might not be addressed in other ensembles, but may (or may not) be vital to a well rounded musician.  These issues may be discussed individually in lessons or lectured through seminars and studio classes, but an ensemble of just one instrument allows students a sort of "lab" experience, where concepts on the instrument are discussed and immediately applied.  I think that this is a critical step in the process for most student musicians. 

All of this of course fails to mention the other benefits of a homogeneous ensemble, such as attention to intonation, uniformity in articulation, extremes in range, chamber music skills, etc.  Although the repertoire is likely not as musically satisfying or significant, by continued isolation of these skills and application to just that particular instrument, students retain much more information than in any larger ensemble. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


A couple of weeks ago, I gave my listening presentation in our ABEL class.  The following is a more detailed list of the pieces I selected for my presentation

1)  Carolina Brass - Brass Quintet No. 2, Mvt. 1; by Arthur Frackenpohl.  From their 2004 album Art Collection.

2)  New Trombone Collective - Limbo Lounge, part 1; by Florian Magnus Maier.  2008. 

3)  German Brass - Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 BWV 1048, Mvt. 1; arranged by Enrique Crespo.  From their 2010 album Bach on Brass.

4)  Pittsburgh Symphony Low Brass - Etre Ou ne pas, by Henri Tomasi.  From the 2008 album, From the Back Row. 

 5) James Markey - Theme and Variations on Camptown Races for Trombone and Brass Quintet.  From Markey's 2003 album Offroad.