Twentieth-Century Brass Soloists: A Review
The lives of composers and conductors are carefully documented with historical research and pianists, violinists, and vocalists have their share of musicological research. Michael Meckna has done extensive study into the lives, recordings, and legacy of 100 significant brass performers of this century. He contributes a balanced list of orchestra, recital, and jazz performers with an appropriate balance of high and low brass performers.
Each vignette begins with a birth and death date and the location of both followed by a brief biographical sketch. The education of the performer is provided including formal schooling, private study, and major influences. The professional journey of each brass player is documented with careful dates and supporting information. The essays conclude with assessments of the performer's style, major accomplishments, and how they fit into the worlds of music and brass playing.
This book provides a great deal of historical information that is useful and carefully researched. There are some instances of hyperbole when performance abilities are described, but with the quality of the 100 selected brass giants it is understandable. Each essay is crafted for the personality, style, and performance medium of the player. There is no sense of each performer being subjected to a formula or ritual approach in the discussion, but each is investigated on their particular merits. The lengths of the article vary from one to three pages and, generally, correspond to the weighted significance of each performer.
Meckna has an enjoyable style of writing that will appeal to readers. His anecdotes about his subjects are humorous and humane. They relay a vulnerability to the performers without removing them from a pedestal. With the players who have strived to be teachers of brass, there are numerous ideas and hints that are passed along to the reader that are truly pedagogical. In fact, this book serves as good teaching tool as well as an historical gem.