The Fruits of Practice Sound Like This: Maurice André

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.

~Beverly Sills, soprano (1929 – 2007)
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Hummel in 1814
Hummel in 1814

The Concerto in Eb by Johann Nepomuk Hummel is a beautiful, inspiring and, of course, challenging piece of music, a pillar of classical trumpet repetoire. One of the most foolish and embarrassing musical moments of my life came in my senior year of high school at a music festival in Alaska for which I played (mangled is a more appropriate term) this piece that  Maurice André plays below so beautifully below. I however, was unprepared for the demands of this very difficult piece, attempted it without help or a teacher (there were no accomplished classical trumpet players in Sitka), and with inadequate practice (I was still flailing away at it just before the performance, yet another lapse in judgment). Anyway, the hapless adjudicator complimented my accompanist, the wonderfully helpful Peggy Brandt, but that’s about all he could say.

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

I had no business trying to play that piece, but I didn’t know any better. The only good thing that came of the experience is that I learned a thing or two, like how important it is to find a teacher who can help you play better, who gives you pieces you can handle, and who can help set yourself up for successful performances.  I was reminded of my own embarrassing experience when listening to a hilarious recording of the Hummel sent in for pre-audition to the Boston Symphony. Hear it here. (from trumpet bloopers)

Another thing to notice is that André and anyone else who plays this well, is playing on an Eb trumpet. Notice that it’s smaller. The standard trumpet is pitched a perfect fourth lower than the Eb trumpet. This puts the horn in a different key in which fingerings and intonations may be slightly more advantageous to the player. It’s still a very difficult piece, but it’s good to have every advantage you can. The best advantage is, of course, the right kind of practice.

Maurice André plays this piece with so much feeling, flair and bravura. The audience loved it, and so did I. Would’ve been great to be there.  Maurice André is one of the most phenomenal classical trumpet players of this or any age. He practiced for a few hours very early in the morning.  Classical tuba master Rex Martin–who was gracious to talk at length about his own practice–mentioned this about André and marveled at his ability to get all that work done early in the day, then have your time completely free until the gig that evening. And Maurice André performed so much. In 1978 he did 220 concerts! He had to practice early in the day so his lip had a chance to recover before the performance. Pretty remarkable. (find Maurice André’s CDs & mp3s)

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. wwayne says:

    Talking about trumpets, I love the trumpet solo that suddenly peeps at the end of this reggae song, because it adds an unexpected and delightful jazz touch to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zOwPBykLOE.

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