Today marks the first day of International Trombone Week 2009, and I intend to celebrate! I am going to attempt to write a post a day here on my blog, and I even have a performance planned with the UPEI Trombone Quartet.
It is fitting that I should be performing in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the PEISO this afternoon. This particular work is generally regarded as the first Symphony (the genre, not the orchestra) to use trombones, albeit with one relatively obscure exception. After this, it would become common to have three trombones in the orchestra, and for this we are truly grateful to Beethoven for his influential and extraordinary vision. The score calls for alto, tenor and bass trombones – but not until the last movement. The first note for the alto trombone is a high C, and it is agonizing to sit quietly on stage for three movements waiting for your big moment – it would be really nice if the conductor would stop the piece for a few minutes to let you warm up for it! Later there is a high F (two if you take the repeat!), and a high E near the end. This is the only piece in all the standard orchestral repertoire that asks the first trombonist to play these notes. One might assume that there must have been an amazing trombonist at Beethoven’s disposal for him to have written these notes; on the other hand, maybe old Ludwig just had no idea what he was doing. By all accounts, the first performance of the work was an absolute disaster, although we don’t know how the trombonists may or may not have contributed to this. What is clear is that neither Beethoven nor anyone else would ever write such high notes for the trombone again, perhaps implying that a lesson had been learned!
I do enjoy playing the alto trombone, and look forward to this afternoon’s challenge. And I can’t think of a better way to kick off International Trombone Week!