Monday, April 19, 2010

American Brass Quintet - UW-Madison Residency (pt. 1

Last week I visited my old stomping grounds, UW-Madison, to attend the American Brass Quintet 2-day residency at the school of music. The group is currently on tour, celebrating their 50th anniversary. I was very fortunate to attend two rehearsals, a masterclass, and a recital (and even get a lesson from Kevin Cobb). ABQ's mission, from their website, states:

"Founded in 1960, the American Brass Quintet seeks to promote brass chamber music as a serious chamber music medium. We continue to enlarge the repertoire for brass quintet by commissioning, performing, and recording new works for brass quintet; and unearthing earlier music and compiling pieces into viable suites. In addition, within this site, we have made available a database of original works for brass quintet - more than 1400 works written since 1950. It is our desire that the availability of this database will encourage student and professional groups alike to perform original works for brass quintet."

The American Brass Quintet resides as chamber music and brass instrumental faculty at the Juilliard School of Music. Musicians include Ray Mase and Kevin Cobb on trumpet, hornist David Wakefield, trombonist Mike Powell, and John Rojak on bass trombone. During their visit to UW-Madison, they were greeted by two former members of ABQ: Prof. John Aley (trumpet) and Prof. John Stevens (tuba).

Aside from my lesson with Kevin, the most interesting ABQ event was their rehearsal. A few members of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and I were the only audience members (I'm still not sure if the rehearsal was open to the public). While it is always special to see great artists perform, I think it's even better to see them work and rehearse. They played very little in their rehearsal, only running predetermined sections. Some rehearsal techniques I found very interesting included a member playing his part in the style he imagines the composer intended while the others simply listen and decide whether to follow or offer a different musical approach. They were very concise with their comments and each one was directed specifically to an individual, sub-group (e.g. low brass trio, trumpets), or the whole group. I saw very little of typical chamber music critiquing - namely, "I know I've been making this mistake or playing too loud" [whether that's true or not], "but we are too loud or making a mistake here..." They were very straightforward with no sugar coating, yet also not condescending. Powell said, "Kevin, you're too loud at rehearsal E." And that was that. I also remember Powell saying he thought the composer didn't intend for the style the trumpets were employing in a section and then followed up with his evidence.

ABQ's rehearsal was efficient and highly productive. Their second rehearsal which I attended was the morning after their recital. They briefly talked about (and rehearsed) sections of works that didn't go quite well in the performance and then moved onto other works they needed to prepare for the rest of their tour. I will post next on their recital and masterclass.

No comments:

Post a Comment