15 November 2008

Child Is Papa to the Musician

A memory surprised me this evening. It’s a fact which I haven’t ever lost sight of, one of those landmarks, bullet-points, in one’s own past which never drops off the radar; it’s a book, you might say, and I know exactly which shelf to look to, and the spine will be there.

It wasn’t the appearance of the memory which surprised me, then, but its peculiar force. And detail. I always know the look of the book’s spine, but (to seize advantage of the metaphor) it’s the first in a long time I opened the cover.

While Irina and I were waiting in the car, the radio played Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto. And so I got to explaining . . .

It’s the first Haydn piece I was ever aware of, because we played it when I was in school (eighth grade? ninth?)

It was perforce different to what I might hear my parents playing on the record-player (which my dad generally called, in what was even by then an archaism, the victrola) at home; different to what I might hear on the radio whose sound spilt out the door of the five-and-dime I would walk past on my way to school. It came from a different era, and from a far-off place. The different sound-world intrigued me, stimulated me. It drew me in, and engaged my thought, so in some part, it was a stepping-stone to my eventual desire to be a composer.

At the time, though, I was still learning to be a clarinetist, and fell eagerly to that task. Our school band played a transcription of the accompaniment; and the trumpet soloist was a fellow student, in the next class older. A student like me!

Steve Falker was already a disciplined as well as gifted performer. (Fact is, his purity of tone and facility of technique impressed me to such a degree, that his playing back when I was in junior high school set the standard which — at times unrealistically — I have tended to expect of trumpet-players since.) And knowing a fellow pupil here in my home town, just a year older or so, who was such a good musician, and here he’s been selected as a soloist for such a demanding piece: he was a great positive example. I wanted to try to be as good a clarinetist as Steve had proven a trumpeter.

This is a key, too: I wanted to try to reach somewhere near there. Heck, I could do that was a great distance from my experience.

Playing this piece in my school band stretched my musical thought in unexpected ways. Only one (and a long-since trivial) example: the title of the piece was Concerto in E-flat, and I wondered, why am I playing in F?

Thanks to the aforementioned tangle of aesthetics, personal history and sentiment, the Trumpet Concerto is probably immovable as my favorite Haydn piece, no matter how much of Haydn’s music I have listened to since. Apart from anything else I’ve here recorded, it was just such fun to play.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I grasped the enormity of that entry, but you have me in awe.