This challenging excerpt is among the most requested passages in orchestral trombone auditions. Usually only the first 8 bars are requested , but the rest of the piece is tricky also, and it would not be unfair of them to ask for more.
The high E-flat is not the only issue to be considerd, although it may be foremost in your mind, and indeed the conductor must know whether the candidate can play it well. Spend the necessary time developing and maintaining your range and security.
The decision as to whether or not to perform this excerpt on alto is a personal one. I prefer to play it on tenor because that is the instrument I am most familiar with. If the conductor insists on alto, however, I would perform it as such.
Know that this is not a solo nor a soli (section solo), it is doubled through the orchestra very effectively. Study the full score and listen to good recordings. (Learn more German this year.) Understand that the trombones are not to stick out! No vibrato, of course.
Because it is highly doubled, intonation will be perhaps even more crucial than ever. (That's another reason I'd prefer my tenor over my alto.) Play it with a tuner. Play it with a recording. Play it with a friend. Also be ready to adjust your own intonation if other instruments need a compromise. Be smart, do not practice this to exhaustion; no need to get hurt.
Tuning this passage may be tricky (and may take substantial rehearsal time). Space does not permit, and this is not the place for, a detailed discussion of adjusting our tuning of selected scale degrees or chord members. For the orchestra I advise doing whatever the conductor asks, and/or whatever your colleagues need. For the audition it may be different, and I'd play it "by the tuner" for the most part, very careful not to go sharp.
Different conductors will ask for differing interpretations of the forte in measures 6 and 8. Listen to several recordings and be prepared to be flexible. Do not insist on being a loud trombonist, but be prepared to be so if that is asked.
The conductor may ask for a remarkably slow tempo. "Feierlich" means solemn, so you'll be wise to practice this excerpt slower and slower, until it is almost dead, but still magnificently controlled.
The danger spots are:
A trombone sectional rehearsal will likely help, yet everything may change when the horns and bassoons are added, you know!
- entrances after breathing, and short breaths
- excellent soft playing
- good legato to the top note
- good descent from the top note
- intonation of the top Eb
- a well managed decrescendo
About the Author...
Tom Ervin is Professor of Music at the University of Arizona, where he has been on the faculty for 29 years, during which time he has also been Principal Trombonist for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. He is internationally recognized as a premiere trombonist in both the classical and jazz arenas and is a past president of the International Trombone Association.