Tasting the Brass Band world - a new challenge
On April 9, 2016, I will be the guest soloist for a Brass Band in Switzerland, the Ensemble de Cuivres “Ambitus”, for their anniversary celebration concert. On this occasion, I was asked by François Roh, their conductor and himself a virtuoso cornet player, to select a piece from a large list of options. Almost completely new to the Brass Band repertoire, I chose a classic – Philip Sparke's Concerto for Cornet.
Practicing it has turned out to be a major challenge for me, as I usually use the harmonic structure as a help in memorizing pieces, something that in this piece and in many other brass band pieces doesn't seem to be of primary importance. Sparke's Concerto, especially in the first and third movement, relies on virtuosic and brilliant rhythmic patterns with a taste of British folk music and a general idea of being easily enjoyable – without being that easy to perform. I am spending every free moment to try and sing it in my head, until I “get lost” and have to give a look at the score, then start from the top of the page again. My favorite is the intimate and somewhat mysterious slow movement, with its dark colors in the low brass and its melancholic mood.
Besides Sparke's Concerto, I will play “Jota No. 2” by my youth idol Rafael Méndez, as well as, for the first time, the four-minute Concerto for Trumpet by the star trumpeter of swing, Harry James. Having started on cornet as a little boy, only to switch to trumpet after a few years, this is an instrument on which I still feel “at home”. I have used it extensively on my first two recordings and will play it anytime someone requires me to. Therefore, when I was asked to join the Rome- based
Italian Brass Band as their principal cornet, I saw it as an open door to enter and explore a world which is very new to me and has a huge upside potential when it comes to offering audiences, even non-classical ones, a spectacular and virtuosic music performance on classical instruments.
With the Italian Brass Band, we will compete at the European Championships (yes, brass bands regularly compete against each other in front of a jury, thus defining who is the best on a yearly basis – something Symphony orchestras should do too, both to keep their level high and their musicians in shape, and to avoid letting some unknown journalists create subjective and arbitrary “rankings” that do nothing but igniting discussions and creating jealousy).
I will get a dedicated show with some solo performances accompanied by the Italian Brass Band in a Concert at the Teatro Quirino in Rome on May 23, 2016, and be a guest soloist with the Sicilian Brass Band in Messina on June 24, 2016.