Win Some, Lose Some

I thought I would talk about some aspects of auditioning pertaining to the brass instrument family, that is trumpet, trombone, horn and tuba. Which excerpts on these instruments can someone win an audition with and which ones are simply there to see if a person is qualified to audition in the first place, or even worse, to knock someone out quickly? Believe it or not, when you think about it, conciously or unconciously, there are many excerpts that are put on an audition just to see if a player can get though them, but are almost impossible to win an audition with.

Take William Tell for example. I don’t think anyone can win an audition on trombone with William Tell, unless they’re some kind of physical freak, but someone could sure lose one pretty quickly. Trumpet players are often asked to play Debussy’s Fetes. I doubt if anyone has won an audition on Fetes, but many have lost an audition on that excerpt. Horn players usually are asked to play Shostakovich 5th on auditions, mainly to see of they can get though the low notes with a decent sound. Unless it’s a 4th horn audition, I doubt whether that except could win an audition for someone. Tuba players are often asked to play things like the Mahler 1st solo, Petrushka, or Fountains of Rome, all difficult, but excerpts that are there to see if a player can get though them without any major disasters.

Die Meistersinger gives tuba players a chance to show style, and musicianship, and STYLE WINS AUDITIONS. The post horn solo from Mahler 3 can win an audition for a trumpet player because it can, (or can’t) show style, and STYLE WINS AUDITIONS. The Tchaikovsky 5th can win an audition for a horn player, because it gives you a chance to show phrasing and style, and STYLE WINS AUDITIONS. The Mahler 3rd trombone solo is a great chance to show style and musicianship, and STYLE WINS AUDITIONS.

For trombonists, the Bolero solo can also give a player a chance to show style, hopefully Tommy Dorsey ballad style and not dull symphonic tenuto, every note even style. A good Mozart Requiem solo can perk up a jury’s ears, and make them interested in listening to the rest of an audition. This means a beautiful sound a nice legato, and believe it or not, phrasing. Russian Easter is a great excerpt that can score big points toward winning an audition. Since it’s a vocal type solo, the player needs to sound like a singer, and preferably a Russian one, and that means a big singing vibrato and not the little quivery one you hear a lot, more about that in a later article. Things like the Ride and Hungarian march, Tannhauser, Zarathrustra and things like this are there to see if the player can get through them.

Trumpet players can show style and phrasing in excerpts such as the Pines of Rome solo, Song of the Nightingale, Mahler 2nd scherzo, Pictures opening, (not Goldenberg and Schmuyle, which needs a note correct performance), Mahler 5th opening. In other words, you can win auditions with basically cantabile type of music (with some exceptions such as Mahler 5), where phrasing is the primary concern, as opposed to say, things like Tckaikovsky 4th and the Firebird. There, a player would take a more cautious approach because these excerpts are there essentially to lose an audition with.

Horn players must get by the opening of Rheingold without a mishap, and not be too heroic about it (by playing too soft), but if you can play the call like Roland Berger on the old Siegfried recording, go ahead. Trombone players shouldn’t try to be a hero (playing too soft) on Saint-Saens 3rd, because it’s hard to control, especially in an audition and only marked piano. Remember sound quality comes first, don’t play softer than you can get a good sound, and don’t play louder than you can get a good sound. The Rhenish is a good piece to show control if you can play it soft (I think it’s easier soft, and soon I’ll write a column on it), but don’t make a crescendo into the forte, because it will sound like you played the whole thing loud. If you’re a 2nd horn auditionee, don’t blow the hell out of the Eroica trio, because that’s not the type of music it is. If your a tuba player, the opening of Berlioz Romeo & Juliet is a control excerpt, and should be a model of controlled bravura. Trumpet excerpts such as Don Juan should always be played in a singing style, no matter how loud the dynamic gets. The 1st 3 notes of the Haydn trumpet concerto are some of the most difficult in all of music, if you want to play them with a sparkling, lively, buoyant style, which will set someone apart from the rest, and that’s what we’re after. Lay for the ones which will set you apart from the rest, (in a positive way of course) and get thru the ones you can’t win with, (but can sure lose with,) and have a strategy before you go in to play to your strengths, and not your weaknesses.

If I got enough requests from the trumpet community, I would do an article on the trumpet audition literature and the strategy needed to win an audition.

On an unrelated note, the Bach people are finally getting my model trombone into production. (No, there aren’t any out there right now.) It features the new thin bells and improved Thayer valve. My reason for developing this instrument is to bring back the characteristics of the best of the older Bach horns and make them available to everyone (and especially myself!) I plan to test as many of these as possible and make sure the quality remains consistent. I believe many people who have switched to other makes would like to play Bach if they could find a great horn, and that’s why I have encouraged, indeed, have hounded them to make this model available to everyone. I still believe the basic design of the 42 to be the best symphonic instrument ever made. I also like the Conn 88H and think it’s possible to have the best features of both, great response and weight and color of sound.

Finally, I want to share with you an email I wrote to MSNBC, a TV news station in the US.

The stock of the major oil companies actually rose dramatically today (9/1/05), so it appears that not only can they gouge the people in their own country into a likely recession and profit from the misery of those in New Orleans, but their stock market value actually rises for sticking it to the public from both ends. It’s not the zealots in the mideast that we have to worry about, it’s this insidious Al-Qaeda-like consortium called the major oil companies that is much closer to home and far more dangerous to this country than any far off two-bit dictator. They won’t be satisfied until they bring down the country and retire with all that money in those off-shore accounts, (you thought those were only wells they were exploiting?) I think this is treasonable activity and should be dealt with accordingly, but don’t expect anything from the administration, because if ever I saw a sweetheart deal, this is it.

And this is one I should have sent:

While the people of New Orleans are going through hell, the pharmaceutical companies are continuing business as usual with their onslaught of erectile disfunction commercials. If they took ONE days worth of limp genitalia commercials and sent that money to the victims of the hurricane, a lot of suffering would be alleviated. If fact you might be able to rebuild the whole city with a weeks worth of those commercials. I don’t know which industry, oil or pills is at the bottom of the slime pool, but they sure are fighting it out for that diSTINKtion.