TCM Soloists’ Competition Final

Just got back from the Trinity College of Music Soloists’ Competition final. I want to write up what I remember while it’s fresh, so please excuse the late-night incoherence.

The programme was as follows:

Johannes Mnich, Piano
M Ravel – Piano Concerto in G major

Hari Eustice, Tenor Trombone
H Tomasi – Trombone Concerto

Tadasuke Lijima, Violin
J Brahms – Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77

All three candidates played extremely well.

I played 2nd horn in the Ravel and the Brahms, but did not play in the Tomasi, so it was extremely difficult for me to compare the various performances.

In both the Ravel and the Brahms, the tempo seemed to come slightly unglued at points. I didn’t notice this in the Tomasi when I listened to it, but that could well be because I’m not as familiar with the piece. I thought Hari was not loud enough in some places; that or the orchestra was a bit too loud. In playing the Ravel I found it very difficult to hear the piano and strings, just because it’s a different acoustic than the one we rehearsed in before this afternoon; the cor anglais solo was quite wonderful this evening, though. The Brahms had some major intonation problems in the wind section, probably due to the heat; I found it quite difficult to place some of my notes as a result.

The adjudicators had positive things to say about each performance, and limited themselves to one ‘quibble’ per soloist. The fault they found in the Ravel was that the second movement, which is achingly slow, was not lyrical enough in the piano. In the Brahms the complaint was that the violinist was not entirely drawing the orchestra into his performance, there didn’t seem to be the same listening and awareness that was present in the other pieces. The imperfection in the Tomasi was the same one I had picked up when I listened to it: at times, more sound was needed from the trombone.

Having rehearsed with all three soloists, I think on a different night with slightly different circumstances any of the three of them could have won this competition. They are all fine musicians and they all worked extremely hard.

Tonight, though, Hari Eustice was the winner. Many congratulations to him!

Other notes:

The chairs at St. John’s, Smith Square, are rather evil. The seats slope backward and the only way I could sit in them without getting backache was by perching on the very edge. Also, like almost all concert venues I’ve ever played in, there is not quite enough space for an entire orchestra to put their instrument cases and street clothes and assorted bits and pieces away during the performance. I’m not yet at the point where my concert dress packs flat into a pocket of my horn case but I’m getting closer and that is my eventual aim.

E. who was playing third horn in Brahms and first horn in Tomasi had a horrible time today with transport and various other things going wrong. He ended up missing most of the afternoon rehearsal, first by being late and then by having to go back to Greenwich to get his music for the Brahms.

It occurred to me that this might be one useful application of The Orchestra Musician’s CD-ROM Library. They mostly market to people who need lots and lots of parts for learning orchestral extracts for exams and auditions, and they’re a very good idea for that. But if any of us had had a copy of the third volume horn parts, then E. wouldn’t have had to go back to Greenwich to get his music; we could have found an internet cafe with a printer and he’d have had his part again in however long that took. This is definitely faster!

Perhaps since the last two concerts I’ve been involved in have involved near scrapes with people, music or both not being in the right place at the right time, it would be a good idea to get the rest of those CDs (I have the first four or five, I think; they keep bringing out more!), and keep them with my horn music. Oh, there’s plenty that isn’t in those ten volumes and of course it’s still always better to simply make sure that you, your music and all parts of your instrument (you don’t want to know) are in the right place, but it can’t hurt to have a little insurance.

While I have never been late for a concert, I have played in a concert without music. I was about 14 at the time, playing in the Mount Royal College Regional Senior Honour Band. We went up to Edmonton as guests of a concert band there, had a workshop at a school and then went on to play in a few music festival classes over the next day or so. I left my music behind at the school. I was too embarrassed and terrified to tell our conductor what I’d done, so I played all the music from memory. A few weeks later, she got the music in the post from the school we’d been at, and brought it to rehearsal for me. Words were had, not unkind ones, but I don’t think I stopped blushing for quite some time.

That was then, and this is now; we’d worked on that concert band music every week for a few months, and I’ve always been quick at memory work. There is no way I would be happy to play either of the pieces I played tonight from memory, there simply hasn’t been enough rehearsal time for me to gain that level of familiarity with them.

For my part, music I’m working on, in ensembles or as solo repertoire, lives in a music case that I attach to my horn case. If I don’t have my horn with me, I have bigger problems than whether I can remember the part.

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