Magical Trumpets

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Where are your St. Louis Symphony musicians this summer? On an East Coast vibe this week, with cellist Alvin McCall beginning performances with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center in NYC, and Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik at the Tanglewood Music Festival in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.

Bliznik sent me a link to the NY Times review of the world premiere of the late Gunther Schuller’s “Magical Trumpets.” The eminent composer, conductor, jazz historian and horn player passed away in Boston in June. Bliznik performed the piece with members of the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood Music Center [TMC] trumpet sections. Bliznik was one of two former Tanglewood students in the ensemble.

The premiere of Gunther Schuller's "Magical Trumpets" at Tanglewood. The St. Louis' Karin Bliznik in the middle of the oval.
The premiere of Gunther Schuller’s “Magical Trumpets” at Tanglewood. The St. Louis Symphony’s Karin Bliznik at the center of the players. Photo credit: Hilary Scott

Times critic Vivien Schweitzer writes: “[Schuller] created the term ‘third stream’ to indicate music that incorporated both classical and jazz, such as some of his own scores, like ‘Magical Trumpets.’ It had its premiere on Thursday at Tanglewood, conducted by Jonathan Berman….

“Mr. Schuller, who often composed for unusual instrumentation, scored ‘Magical Trumpets’ for 12 brass in eight different keys. The work certainly proved enchanting, with the varied timbres of the instruments wielded to ear-catching effect and a creative use of mutes providing additional texture. At one point the musicians evoked the sound of a jazz band guitarist.”

Bliznik told me “Gunther was very involved in TMC and the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood. ‘Magical Trumpets’ was very cool. It’s possibly the last piece he composed, so it felt like a historic moment.”

For the full review: click.

Play Memory

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Where is your symphony this summer? Cellist Alvin McCall is playing in the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in NYC. Tuesday night at Lincoln Center it’s conductor Louis Langree, pianist Emanuel Ax, and soprano Erin Morley in a program that includes the Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major and the Symphony No. 34.

It’s nice to see McCall featured in this cool Meet the Orchestra/Mozart Minute: click.

Alvin McCall
Alvin McCall

When I asked McCall for his 1516 St. Louis Symphony season hot picks, he chose music that connected with childhood memories. “There are a few works that I fell in love with when I was in high school or younger,” he wrote. Three of those works he experienced for the first time at the same summer camp in Switzerland: Holst’s The Planets, Lalo’s Symphony espagnole and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 (“Love that timpani part!” he says). He connects the Mahler Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 with past orchestral auditions (“great section cellos melodies”), and Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings and Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with memories of concerts by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in New York City.

In this season in which so much of the music the Symphony is performing is connected to stories–Cinderella, Don Quixote, the Shakespeare Festival–it may add to the intensity of the concert experience to realize that there are stories within stories at play. Within David Halen’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is the concertmaster’s memory of his father first teaching the concerto to him, as there is McCall’s memory of hearing Zino Franciscatti playing the famous work. And on that stage nearly 100 other memories at play, with the present moment of the performance a conduit to them all–making more stories to tell.