The trumpet shall sound

Thanks to YouTube’s clever linking system, I’ve just come across a nice blog post about my clip of the first movement of Prokofiev 5 with the State of Mexico Symphony over at Downbeat TV. 

 This is from the blog of an 18 year-old trumpet player in Arizona (he goes by “Vive le Quebec” or “Trumpetfrog”) who points out that this video contains “some of the finest symphonic trumpet playing I’ve ever heard.” I’m glad he noticed. The principal trumpet of OSEM is a guy named John Urness. John and I were actually classmates at the University of Wisconsin in the early 90’s, and it was great to see him again in Mexico. He even played principal when I played Schelomo with the university orchestra.

I’m actually feeling like I have a pretty charmed life these days when it comes to trumpet players. We had a monster section in Pendleton for Mahler 1, the BBC NOW trumpet section is as good as they come, and I seem to be having a great run with trumpet players at various freelance gigs. As a believer in karma, I ascribe this to the fact that for some years I conducted (with infinite stoicism) an orchestra that had, among other qualities, the very worst trumpet section in the history of humanity. I was never in a position to do anything about it (i.e. fire one of them), so I’ve rarely felt more relieved than when the principal informed us he/she was resigning. Talk about regime change! I felt like I’d just come out of a faith healing… “Praise be…. all my prob’ems and suff’rin’s done been washed away!”

VlQ also mentions the recorded sound, saying “The audio on it was clearly recorded right on stage, and as you might discover it’s quite a different experience to hear it on stage from in the audience.” He’s not entirely right. Even today, there is a tendency to record classical music for TV differently than for radio or CD, in that the directors like the ear to follow the eye, and they’re recording with a view to the sound being played back on a TV speaker (though this has changed a lot with the popularity of home-entertainment systems). This means that there is often some use of close micing and quite a bit of knob twiddling, bringing up the flute when the flute is on camera. I’m quite against this, but actually they did very little of that on this occasion, partly because the camera work was not as carefully scripted as at a BBC recording. Part of what VlQ is hearing, I think, is just that it is not a very deep hall- the main stereo pair was about ten feet above and behind my head. 

Anyway, the thing I like most about his post is that he sets us right alongside Placido Domingo. 


c. 2007 Kenneth Woods 

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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