Leave it to the horn players to multi-task! Jay Wadenpfuhl, third hornist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra visited CCM today and shared his expertise with the brass department. Obviously in control of his instrument, a wise and experienced teacher, and a fine composer, Jay played, taught, spoke, and conducted. Two hours was just not enough time to absorb a career of wisdom, but it was good, all good.
He provided several goodies to think on. Listening to his three solos performed, I liked the starts of all of his notes, especially the very soft ones. The first note seemed to have already been in progress well before it ever sounded. It was already in motion internally, and became audible with exact precision. He demonstrated that notes must connect and have direction which can be achieved without a crescendo. It's a matter of intensity. He plays very nicely. I would love to have heard more, but there were constraints of time.
Next, his teaching hat. The prevailing theme in response to some very fine playing by Mr. Gardner's students: more air support, a reminder we all need to have refreshed. Tension is the greatest he said, when we are nearly out of air. The lips must then take on the increased demands for sound production. The most ease comes from a full tank of air. Great players survive with 98% air and 2% chops. When the air is flowing in good supply, the lips don't hurt, and artistic creativity is not stifled. Cardiovascular exercise increases blood to brain and lips. This led to his other points of greater volume contrasts, fuller tone, open throat, and relaxed, focused air right on each note. The bigs generally needed to be bigger and better. Improvement was noted quickly as he worked with each student. They were obviously used to fine teaching and were advanced enough to impliment Jay's advice.
Keep your brain involved, he said. Each player has to take charge of himself ultimately. Fix stuff now that needs attention. Don't just blow by it. Another point: find the climax and prepare it for maximum effect. Say something with the horn. Even something off the wall is better than nothing said at all!
No matter what the temperment and personality of the performer, he/she must act and project the appropriate energy intended by the composer. Our knowledge of scores and research should be reflected in the quality and color of our performance. The greater our concept, the greater our chances of entertaining an audience that has paid to hear something that is attention-getting.
Jay ended his session by conducting his composition for eight horns and percussion. No coddling of the horn players in this piece. They worked. Very impressive piece and refreshing to hear him rehearse it. The man is very gifted, and I'd love to hear more of his compositions.
Like other great players who have guested here recently, I was impressed by a quick, soft comment he uttered almost under his breath to himself. Having ever so slightly miffed one or two small notes in an impressive ritard, he smiled slightly and lamented that he could still hear Barrows in his mind, and he just couldn't do it (like that). I disagree. We were quite impressed, slight miff or not. I like that the bar was high, and he reverenced the heros that had so greatly influenced him in the past.