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Orchestral Excerpts for the Tenor Trombonist: Till Eulenspiegel

Lawrence Borden  - Lawrence.Borden@Vanderbilt.edu
Principal Trombone, Nashville Symphony Orchestra
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  When practicing the first solo, you should be careful to bring out the humor that is in the work. This is hard to do if you try to play too loud, but a light touch with a rapid decay on each note will give this passage the lithe, carefree quality that is desired. The rhythm here is very important. Take care not to 'crush' the last eighth of each triplet into the first eighth the succeeding triplet. If you do, the rhythm will acquire a limp that ultimately robs the passage of an even, forward drive. Allow appropriate accents to be present on the beginning of each of the major beats.

The next passage, with its succession of high dotted quarter notes, is often played without enough length to the notes. Each note should be full and should lead clearly toward the high C5. After the C5, allow the line to diminuendo slightly to prepare for the next scale. The second scale should be slightly stronger than the first and the feeling should always be communicated to the audience that the piece is moving forward: not breathlessly, but relentlessly.

The passage just before the usual audition passage is often neglected by the performer. It appears easy, these eighths and sixteenth notes, but in order for this passage to help the orchestra move toward the climactic triplet runs, you must include a slight crescendo with these repeated notes. Drive forward with articulation and with a crescendo, not with tempo!

The usual audition excerpt is difficult technically, but even more difficult musically. I suggest gentle, slow, musical practice that emphasizes accurate rhythm and intonation. The necessity of slow practice at first is crucial to the final musical product. From the beginning it is important to play the accents which are specifically marked, but it is not necessary to 'pound' them. Play these lines with a variety of rhythms different from the ones printed so that you become intimately acquainted with the tune independently from other factors. Try to get a sense of perspective. It is not just a tough excerpt - it is the climax of this section of the work!

In so many auditions that I have heard and played, many players "beat the daylights" out of this line (and hit the accents even harder) without regard for the fact that the trombone part is only one of a number of lines which have to fit together seamlessly. There must be a clear intent to "arrive" at the end, having brought the audience with you! The phrase should be played only as loud as marked and have a musical shape that goes with the direction of the line. Take care to hear the 'missing' parts of the line during your solo performances of this excerpt. Don't make the mistake of thinking that heavy, big, and fortissimo is the only way to play this. It is much better to keep the line lithe and supple. Yes, it should also be loud, but it must be clean; it is completely unnecessary to play it fff.

The final loud sections which immediately follow are often played so loudly that intonation and quality suffer. Go for a big, strong, solid sound that IS loud, but also centered and clear. If your section practices this with the aim of perfect intonation, the result (for the audience) is both powerful and compelling.

Enjoy this excerpt. Try to bring out the humor and merriness that exist throughout this wonderful work. Spend lots of time practicing mezzo-forte and with nimble accuracy. Remember that you are playing for the audience. It does not matter if that audience is an audition committee or a full house at Orchestra Hall, they deserve your best, musical playing. Be careful to work with your entire section to communicate your thoughts. If you keep the audience in mind first--they will love it!


About the Author...
Lawrence Borden is Principal Trombonist of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Assistant Professor of Trombone at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, and co-designer of "Music and Cognition," a new course designed to create an interdisciplinary view of the perception of music as seen from the joint viewpoints of psychology and music performance. Borden is an active trombone soloist, clinician, and composer