Musical Impromtu by Vladislav Blazhevich: A Review
Blazhevich, Vladislav. Musical Impromtu. For twelve trombones or ten trombones and two tubas. Ithaca, NY: Briar Music Press, distributed exclusively by Ensemble Publications, 2004.
Most trombonists are familiar with the compositions of Vladislav Blazhevich due to the popularity of his Clef Studies, Sequences and Duets. In addition to these famous method books and duets, there are many works by Blazhevich which are less familiar or have been altogether unavailable or unpublished. Musical Impromtu is such a work which has been unearthed and made available through the efforts of bass trombonist Andrey G. Kharlamov. In his introduction to the Impromtu, Kharlamov writes:
"Among his ensemble works, Blazhevich wrote two "Fantasies" for ten trombones, two tubas, and timpani, the first of which is also given the title Musical Impromtu. In performance, the timpani part was often omitted due to the inconvenience of transporting timpani to the performance venue. The Musical Impromtu is dedicated to Ivan Lipaev on his 50th birthday, Blazhevich's colleague and Bass Trombonist of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra. The piece was likely composed in the early 1920s and existed only in manuscript until this publication."
As the title suggests, Musical Impromtu is a short work lasting only 51 measures. It is scored for 12 trombones (or ten trombones and two tubas), with the lowest part descending to pedal F. Strong players are required at the top end of the ensemble as well, as the upper part includes several high Cs and a high D. The upper two parts are written in alto clef and alternate tenor clef versions are included on the opposite sides of the parts. The print quality is excellent and, as Kharlamov points out, the publisher has taken great care to preserve the integrity of Blazevich's original intentions. In addition, the Blazhevich family will receive publishing royalties "for the first time in the publishing history of the Blazhevich compositions in the West."
Musical Impromtu has a short fanfare-like introduction and proceeds through three contrasting sections. The first is a march marked energico in F major which modulates to the second section, a lyrical A-flat major melody. The final section returns to F major and is marked possible leggiero, pp, with a sixteenth note rhythm in the top parts punctuated by an arpeggiated melody in the lower half of the ensemble. The piece draws to a close on a marcatissimo unison 7 note chromatic scale ff, with a big F major chord at the end.
This piece is in Blazhevich's typical style of composition and its melodies could easily have come from the Clef Studies. It is charming and clever in that it offers a great deal of musical variety in a very short time span. There is something challenging in every part (one can always count on Blazhevich for a challenge!) and there is ample opportunity for a good trombone choir to fill up a concert hall with thick resonant sound.
This is an important work by one of the foremost pedagogues and composers for trombone. Briar Music Press, Andrey Kharlamov and Distributor Ensemble Publications are to be commended for making it available, especially in such a high quality format. A note from the publisher states that this is only the first installment of Blazhevich's work for three or more trombones. We can expect the remainder of this body of work in the future and, indeed, are greatly indebted to Kharlamov, Briar Music and Ensemble Publications for their very fruitful collaboration.