Today is the Orchestra Toronto concert featuring Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. This marks for me the end of a mini saga. R&J has brought me through a great journey. I’ve had the part for 4 months, one lesson, the prospect of auditioning for school, life decisions, new high notes and James Thompson’s buzzing technique. My playing and musicianship have taken leaps forward. It’ll be really sad to say goodbye to the piece, but I know that mores pieces will come along which will push my limits and challenge me – and I’ll fall in love all over again. Did you know a tuba player could be so sentimental?
I’m just dying to say “hey guys, you’re out of tune!” “you’re not breathing together” “you should play louder there” “that note should be more accented” “you should bring that out more because it’s practically a solo” “you should do a lot more buzzing for your warm ups” — and other know-it-all comments. Continue reading
Through a tuba group on facebook, I recently be-friended Panagiotis Kamvisidis (Hi!). He’s principal tuba with the City of Athens Symphony Orchestra in Greece (only just established in 1996?!?). He sent me this video today of his group ‘Too Bass’ performing a Romanian dance by Ionel Dumitru –
Now there’s some great tuba ensemble playing, not to mention solo work! Clear, nimble, articulate and … mesmerizing. That melody is going to be in my head ALL DAY LONG!
But seriously, like any aspiring and growing musician, I’ve got role models I want to sound like. I’m going to keep Panagiotis’ sound in mind when I’m practicing and performing!
I’ve got a favourite recording of Prokofiev Romeo & Juliet excerpts (not the suites) by Montreal and Dutoit that I would have liked to have found on youtube, but I found this instead which is a great substitute –
The start of the march is marked ‘forte’ for tuba and bass trombone. The sound I’m hearing here is a lot of edge from the bass trombone and a solid foundation from tuba. I’ve heard Gene Pokorny play it in person at a masterclass and he made my jaw drop with the FAT sound he was creating – lots of brassy edge and attack and in tune too! So, relating that memory back to this video: I wonder how much of the edge here is tuba. The trombone-tuba edge ratio? 75:25, respectfully?
I’m listening to the Montreal recording on CD and there’s much less edge from the bass trombone but a lot more weight from the tuba. For the big lick though, the three trombones don’t shy off. I’m liking the more-weight idea for tuba. I’ll leave brassy to the cadential low E’s.
Considering the dynamics now (of both performances) – I think it’s more of a pomposo and pesante kind of forte. There’s no missing the bass trombone and tuba in the march. That might sound “too loud” from within the low brass section, but the outer balance should be good. I have to leave it up to the conductor to tell us to back off. For now, she’s worried more about the piece as a whole vs. fine-tuning our balance.
My playing lately has been on fire. I’ve been intensely practicing my C (while not ignoring my Eb, though). As you’ve been reading in previous posts, with the upcoming concert with OT, Prokofiev’s R&J has been on my mind (and my embouchure) – and of course, the Dance of the Knights. Well, earlier this week I reach a new milestone in the sound of my low F. Up until then, it had a minor, unstable vibrato/shake to it. I remember going to the Summer Brass Institute in San Fran in 2008 and playing in a piece that was in F major and which ended on a low F – it was so instable that it was nearly in a flutter. I had been happy with my low F on my C before then and since that summer, I’ve been on a mission to stabilize it again. Low F# hasn’t been super hot either, but other notes around it have been nice and fat – Ab, G, E, and Eb.
Let me clarify some – I’m being critical of the sound for sure, but since 2008, it did have some moments where I was happy to avoid low F. It wasn’t showing me at my best, though it has been improving bit by bit. Fast forward to this week… Continue reading