Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for trombone

Dr. Bob Prescribes Christopher Rouse: Trombone Concerto

The great and eminently quotable English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham famously said: “I never look at the brass. It only encourages them.” Jeepers! Whatever would have prompted Sir Thomas to say such a thing? We consider the brass instruments, the most common of which are trumpets, French horns (as they are called in the United States; “horns” everywhere else), trombones, baritones, and tubas. All of these instruments evolved from instruments meant to be played out-of-doors: from hunting horns, signal devices, and military instruments. There is hardly a trumpet player, trombonist, or tuba player alive who didn’t start his/her musical life playing outside, in marching bands. By their very nature these instruments are loud and the people who play them want to play them loudly. Back then to Thomas Beecham’s comment, which is borne of decades of experience. I would tell you that for many (if not most) brass players, a dynamic of piano is beneath contempt, mezzo-piano is an insult, mezzo-forte is uncomfortably limiting, forte is permission, and fortissimo, well, fortissimo might very well be a mistake on the composer’s part. Why? Because, while the brass may be outnumbered 72 to 11 (or so) in a modern orchestra, they are […]

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