Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hakan Hardenberger at CCM

The musical well is very deep for trumpet master Hakan Hardenberger. Whether it was Hummel, Kagel, or Hertel being played for his master class, he had an enormous reserve to draw upon as he wonderfully critiqued solo performances by UC trumpet majors. No one got a kind pat on the shoulder, but rather a swift but well-placed kick. The guys were put through the wringer, as it should be. Each gave his best and so did he. I was reminded of the black cloud monster in TV's LOST that literally hurls its victims about at will. Thanks, we needed that! Way overstated, but this was just the medicine that yields the results of inspiration, a bigger vision for the music at hand, and of course improvement. All of that happened tonight.

Bravo to Rory, Matt and Steve, each responding well to technical and musical challenges as Mr. Hardenberger continued to raise the bar. He's a tough coach, but one who's on your side. I wondered if he'd ever considered coaching football!

A few musical highlights: Be convinced about what you want to say well before delving into a work. Know how you want it to sound. Learn as much as you can about the composer and the period in which he wrote, and so bring authenticity and depth to your performance. Find the tension/release points within phrases. Organize and prepare those dramatic moments for the audience to recognize. Use appropriate theatrics to keep the listeners involved. Avoid boring one-dimensional playing. Create the intended atmosphere.

Imagery was a big item. Rory was advised to catch some of the UC basketball game going on later that night. Hakan wanted him to observe the dribbling ball, (for the pulse and buoyancy of his eighth notes). The trampoline was referred to several times for obvious reasons. Diving off the board pictured momentum, spring and direction. The floating glider fit perfectly for Steve in those amoroso phrases in the Hertel. Rory played better while walking, (pulse, direction). (I'm sure he was relieved. I recall him being asked to hop around while playing Tartini!) Matt gave his all on the very difficult Kagel, yet still left the stage a better player.

Some nuts and bolts practice items: The first note must be absolutely secured before continuing. Lots of very slow soft practice was recommended, emphasizing the word VERY. As a violinist sees and feels the shift on the finger board, we must securely master interval changes, automatically guaranteeing each note. Soft attacks must be wrestled with until they become a natural part of our technique. As in all kinds of music, intonation is critical to greatness.

The huge amounts of time Mr. Hardenberger spent practicing in his 40 years of playing is a big reason for his success. There are no short-cuts. Hakan said that as a boy, if he was awake he was playing the trumpet!

Mr. Ghitalla always reminded us that we will play the way we are. We can only offer the audience some of what we have inside. Again tonight, Mr. Hardenberger challenged us to build our reserve. That reserve will consist of all we invest in our study of, practice of, and love for music. Music talent is a gift. Our musical instincts can easily become dwarfed unless stimulated and stretched. Our thanks to Mr. Hakan Hardenberger for doing that, and generously sharing of himself and his extraordinary gift.

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