The next few days will be filled with exciting and enjoyable performance opportunities for me, including a brief solo performance this afternoon and then a chamber concert on Monday evening. Here are some notes on these upcoming performances.
Today: Jan Koetsier’s Allegro Maestoso
Not long after I arrived at Ole Miss I was approached by Dr. Ian Hominick, Associate Professor of Piano at Ole Miss (and my “office-neighbor” across the hall) about performing on a New Faculty Recital at the Mississippi Music Teachers Association 2012 Fall Conference at Belhaven University in Jackson. While MMTA and its national parent organization, the Music Teachers National Association, seem to be primarily focused upon piano teachers, they also host a number of competitions each year for performers in a variety of media. I well remember participating in solo and chamber music competitions at this conference as a student at Delta State, and later serving as a judge for them while I was teaching at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Today’s recital is an opportunity for new faculty members at Mississippi colleges and universities to meet and perform for their new colleagues, and I am grateful for the invitation.
The piece I am performing today is Allegro Maestoso for bass trombone and piano by the Dutch composer Jan Koetsier (1911-2006). I have coached this piece with students in the past but have never performed it myself, though I have considered programming it on several occasions. I chose it for this performance because of its brevity (one does not want to take up too much time on a group recital) and because when planning for this I thought that after performing the Albrechtsberger alto trombone work a couple of weeks ago I might be ready for a respite from high register work. (I was right!) Allegro Maestoso is a short but powerful and energetic work, though it also contains some tongue-in-cheek elements that are characteristic of Koetsier’s music. Koetsier has written a number of works for brass soloists and chamber groups. All are of high quality, and are substantive without being overwhelming for listeners. As I mentioned, in the midst of whatever musical statements he is making the composer seems to “wink at” the performer and listener from time to time. This, in my mind, strikes a good balance between substance and approachability.
Dr. Hominick will be accompanying me on this piece. I’m not sure that he had serving in this role in mind when he invited me to perform, and considering that he is serving as President of MMTA this year, doing so might seem to be either an imposition or a relief, depending on how the rest of the day is going! In any case, I am happy to be working with him today.
Monday: Mississippi Brass
After spending a most of the past few years with brass trio being my primary chamber performance medium (with the Northern Brass Trio from 2004-2005 and then the Chamber Arts Brass/Black Bayou Brass from 2007 through this year), in coming to Ole Miss I have reentered the world of brass quintet performance with the Mississippi Brass, the resident faculty brass quintet here. This group gives me the opportunity to work with my new colleagues Charles Gates and John Schuesselin on trumpet, and Robert Gilbert on horn, as well as tubist Joe Sellmansberger, Memphis area freelance tubist, repairman extraordinaire, creator of fine mouthpieces, sometimes Ole Miss adjunct faculty member, and, most importantly, that delightful contrarian “bloke” from the TubeNet BBS. The quintet is a fine group, and I am glad to be a part of it.
Our concert is on Monday evening, November 5, at 8pm in Nutt Auditorium on the Ole Miss campus. I have performed all but one of the works on the program previously, and this is a good thing. When Dr. Schuesselin and I were discussing repertoire for this concert, I suggested that we program pieces that would be relatively easy for the group to put together and/or were familiar to all of its members, so that the incorporation of the “new guy” into the ensemble would not be hampered by all of us struggling to execute our individual parts. Due to scheduling difficulties, we have had to put this program together in only four rehearsals, so this programming decision was even more wise than anticipated!
The first piece on the program is David Hickman’s arrangement of Tomaso Albinoni’s (1671-1751) Sonata “St. Mark.” This is one of the first brass quintet arrangements I performed as an undergraduate student, and it makes an enjoyable beginning to any program. That said, the members of this quintet were a little surprised by some “liberties” Hickman has taken with Albinoni’s original harmonies!
Next is the only piece on the program that I have not performed, Colchester Fantasy by Eric Ewazen (b. 1954). Ewazen’s music is familiar to most brass players, and thus it has not been difficult for me to figure out how to interpret this piece. Each of the movements is named for a pub in Colchester, England: “The Rose and Crown,” “The Marquis of Granby,” “The Dragoon,” and “The Red Lion.” As is the case with most of Ewazen’s works, this piece is tonal, exciting, and accessible for audiences. Indeed, he makes visiting pubs in Colchester sound like a very noble endeavor!
The second half of the program will begin with Suite Française by Eugene Bozza (1905-1991). Bozza is another composer whose works all have a characteristic sound that makes his works easily identifiable. This particular piece is a bit pedestrian at times, but it includes a number of healthy challenges for the performers, and the second movement in particular includes some rich, full harmonies that brass players in particular will enjoy.
The concert will close with Quintet No. 1 by Victor Ewald (1860-1935). Ewald’s brass quintets are some of the earliest works we have that are originally for this medium, and are characterized by a lush romanticism that is characteristic of Russian composers of the period. Because the original instrumentation had a German-style tenorhorn in the “trombone” role, my practice has always been to use a euphonium when performing Ewald’s quintets, as that instrument captures the sound and particularly the articulation that the composer intended much better than the trombone.
This is a very enjoyable program of some real staples of the brass quintet repertoire, and a great way for me to begin my tenure in the Mississippi Brass.
While today’s recital is, I’m sure, closed to those not attending the MMTA conference, Monday’s event is open to the public, though I think there is a small admission fee. If you live in or near Oxford, I hope you will plan to attend that concert.