Friday, November 19, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #25

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #25. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #24

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #24. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #23

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #23. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #22

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #22. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Audio Post - Arvo Pärt, Variations for the Healing of Arinushka

Fast Forward

Marco Bordogni was born in 1788. Bach and Telemann were both born about 100 years before in 1685 and 1681, respectively. And Thomas Tallis was born 180 years before them.

Suffice it to say, the musical worldview expressed on the recordings on this blog has not been exactly "contemporary". As a counterweight to the powdered-wiggery I've offered to this point, here is my own arrangement of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's (b.1935) "Variations for the Healing of Arinushka" (1977). While it often seems that there's very little that's truly "new" in the world, I'll venture to say this this is the first euphonium recording of this piece...on YouTube...this month.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #21

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #21. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Audio Post - Thomas Tallis, Canon

Did you ever make a discovery, say, a restaurant or a TV show, and you think you've just found this great little gem that no one's ever heard of, and it turns out you're the last one to the party? "Hey check out this great book I just's called 'Catcher in the Rye,'" or "you should check out this cool old movie I just's called 'Citizen Kane'!"

That's kind of how I'm feeling right now about Thomas Tallis's Canon. A week or so ago, I had never heard of Thomas Tallis. A few weeks prior I had stumbled across this video--it's Steven Mead leading a large group of euphs down in Campinas, Brazil, and they're playing some unspecified canon. Well, that's pretty, I thought. I had wanted to do a proof-of-concept multi-track recording with my current setup, and for some reason I had been procrastinating. This tune seemed like it would be just the thing. So I shot a quick post to my friends on the Euphonium Forum on Dave Werden's site hoping to get a name for that tune. The replies were quick. The piece was Thomas Tallis's Canon, which is apparently a pretty well known piece. I think it shows up all over the place in hymnals under the name of "Glory to Thee" or "All Praise to Thee" or some other two syllables followed by "to Thee." While I'm quite familiar with some of the great religious works of the Classical Music Masters (Mozart's "Great" Mass, and the Requiems of Mozart, Verdi, and Brahms, all rank high on my list of Best Music Ever); aside from the periodic Easter or Christmas brass quintet gig, I have had very little exposure to the contents of a hymnal. But hymnals are really the great laboratory for gorgeous 4-part harmony. I have scribblings in various old staff books littering my studio with transcriptions of a few hymns. I used to have some old hymnals that I'd picked up at used bookstores here and there for a buck. Lamentably, it looks like none of them made the cut when we moved to Fallsington two years ago. Perhaps a more diligent search of the stacks is in order, or, failing that, a trip to the local used bookstore.

English composer Thomas Tallis was born on some unknown date in the early 16th century. He died in 1585, exactly a hundred years before the births of Bach and Handel. His Wikipedia biography contains this intriguing bit:

In 1575, Queen Elizabeth granted to him and William Byrd a twenty-one year monopoly for polyphonic music[15] and a patent to print and publish music, which was one of the first arrangements of that type in the country.[16] Tallis's monopoly covered 'set songe or songes in parts', and he composed in English, Latin, French, Italian, or other tongues as long as they served for music in the Church or chamber.[17] Tallis had exclusive rights to print any music, in any language. He and William Byrd were the only ones allowed to use the paper that was used in printing music. [The citations can be seen at wikipedia]

Well that's pretty cool. I wouldn't mind being granted a 21 year monopoly on polyphony, and exclusive rights to print any music in any language. I'm thinking that could be pretty lucrative...what with iTunes and all.

The recording setup this time is different from my usual fare. In this case I recorded directly to Audacity on my very beat up old Dell laptop. Perhaps that was somewhat unwise: after I had recorded all the parts and almost finished editing, the application crashed, taking my unsaved recording with it. Fortunately I wasn’t deterred and just recorded the whole thing again. The mic I used is a Shur SM57 which I can plug directly into my USB port with the help of a nice plug and play interface cable. I forget who makes this cable, but it works beautifully.

Thomas Tallis, Canon. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #20

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #20. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ah, Bach...

While my initial mission on this blog was to record the Telemann Fantasias on my euph, I think it's time I finally confess where my true loyalties lie. The truth is that if I were stranded on a tropical island with a functioning CD player*, an electrical outlet, and one CD (an admittedly unlikely scenario), I'd have little conflict over which composer to bring along. The tough decision would be whether to bring a recording of the cello suites, the Goldberg Variations, the violin partitas and sonatas, or the two- and three-part inventions. If none of those were available at the tropical CD library, only then would I have a tough decision--late Beethoven quartets, a Mahler or Shostakovich symphony, Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, et al.

I'm banking on that scenario not arising, so I won't dwell. The point is that I was excited to record the second Cello Suite (see the immediately preceding 6 posts). I actually recorded this suite once before--maybe a decade or so ago. The second suite is particularly alluring for low brass players: the range, the key signature, and the phrasing are more friendly than other suites. The very familiar prelude to the first suite, for example, is (essentially) two pages of non-stop eighth notes. The prelude to the third contains a long passage of broad arpeggios--a flick of the wrist for an accomplished cellist, but an acrobatic feat on a low brass instrument. The prelude to number five contains an implied fugue--quite magnificent, but not particularly kind to those who appreciate the occasional intake of oxygen. Number two, held up next to many of the others, is downright reasonable.

While I'm of course going to keep plugging away on the Telemann and Rochut/Bordogni recordings, you can expect to see more Bach posted here, as well as some other perhaps less conventional offerings.

*I realize that, to many, the concept of a CD player is now a somewhat arcane notion; however, I haven't really embraced the whole i-pod thing yet. I barely even use a cell phone, except for work. Admittedly, if stranded on a tropical isle, the i-pod would be infinitely more convenient.

Audio Post - Bach, Cello Suite #2, VI. Gigue

Bach, Cello Suite #2, Gigue. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Audio Post - Bach, Cello Suite #2, Menuets 1 & 2

Bach, Cello Suite #2, Menuets 1 & 2. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Audio Post - Bach, Cello Suite #2, IV. Sarabande

Bach, Cello Suite #2, Sarabande. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Audio Post - Bach, Cello Suite #2, III. Courante

Bach, Cello Suite #2, Courante. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Audio Post - Bach, Cello Suite #2, II. Allemande

Bach, Cello Suite #2, Allemande. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Audio Post - Bach, Cello Suite #2, I. Prelude

Bridge Out

The other morning I was tuning my cello, when CRUNCH!!, my bridge snapped in two. Believe me, the sudden sound of wood violently splintering is most unpleasant to the ears of any string musician (unless perhaps you play in the Who). I can feel the acid churning in my stomach just imagining that sound.

So the nice folks at Wamsley Violin will need to hold on to my cello for a week or so while they cut me a new bridge and make a few other repairs. The thought of a week without my cello is almost (though not quite) as sickening as the sound my bridge made as it exploded under the pressure of 4 almost-tuned strings. By way of compensation, I'll spend the next days quickly trying to relearn and record Bach's Second Cello Suite on euph. Here's the Prelude.

Bach, Cello Suite #2, Prelude. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Audio Post - Telemann, Fantasia #2

Telemann, Fantasia #2. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Well, I certainly took my time getting this one recorded. I posted some notes on this Fantasia about a month ago.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #19

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #19. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Audio Post - Bach, Cello Suite #6, Sarabande - For John Rendeiro

I'd like to post this recording in honor of John Rendeiro, my father-in-law, who died this past Saturday, a month shy of his 79th birthday. He was truly a larger-than-life character to everyone who knew him. He was a self-made man--tireless, curious, fearless, and strong as an ox--who lived his life to the fullest. He loved life. He loved to help people. He loved to work hard. And perhaps most of all, he loved to sit down with family and friends--a plate of food and, of course, a glass of wine for everyone--and share old stories.

I learned a lot from him and I'm a better person for having known him.

The music is the Sarabande from Bach's Cello Suite #6 in D major. I'm playing from Doug Yeo's arrangement.

Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Slow and Fast in Telemann's Fantasia #2

Telemann's Fantasia #2, which I hope to record quite soon, consists of four movements: a very slow Grave, followed by a speedy Vivace, followed by another very slow movement--this time Adagio--and then another fast movement, Allegro. Telemann's key is A minor--I'll be recording Alan Raph's version, which is a clef transposition in C minor.

The opening Grave opens very gravely indeed. Telemann opens with a slow C minor triad and then drops down on the fourth note to an A-flat. A measure later he repeats the phrase one step down, starting on a B-flat. And another measure later, he brings us down another step, starting the phrase on A-flat. It feels like we're sinking--deeper and deeper. We then get two measures of slow sixteenth notes that feel like we're trying to climb our way back upward, though we keep getting stuck on a slow trill between B and C. Finally, two measures later, we start moving up and up in a series of ascending arpeggios built around an F-minor chord. We work our way up to a high F, and then quickly slide down an octave. The movement worms its way back down to a low G. It no longer feels so dark--in fact it just feels expectant--something's about to happen.

And indeed something does happen: the second movement Vivace. The Vivace is a bright and fast dance in three--there are intervals galore. We're swooping up and down. As soon as you feel you're settling in in one direction, you quickly turn the other way. The widest intervals (with the help of some intermediary almost-grace-note-sixteenths) stretch to two full octaves. The strings of leaps are broken twice--once in the middle and once a few bars from the end--by generally descending sixteenth note runs. Our final measure descends from C, down to G, down to the lower C. The third of the chord is deliberately left out, perhaps to create some ambiguity as to whether we're in major or minor (we're definitely in C minor at this point, but it feels very bright and light).

Whereas the Vivace clearly wants some rhythmic strictness, the third-movement Adagio seems comfortable with a much freer tempo. A recurring dotted 16th/32nd note pattern is preceded or followed by various patterns, either with 16th note sextuplets or regular 16th notes. Although quite slow like the Grave movement, this movement keeps the three flats of C minor, but now we're in E-flat Major, and the mood is quite peaceful, but not at all somber.

The final Allegro is as exciting as the Vivace. This movement feels more like a chase or a race than a dance. The motion is a vibrant 2/4. I believe I used the image of a "hunt" to describe the mood of the final movement of Fantasia #5. I could use the same imagery here--though, while #5 reminds me of guys in tweed on their horses with horns and hounds, this last movement of #2 makes me think of the poor fox, sprinting and dashing and winding his way through the woods to escape his pursuers.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #18

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #18. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #17

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #17. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Candy Man Delivers

First of all, a quick word of thanks to Neighbor-Friend-Plumber-Candy Man-and-now-Computer-Rescue-Guy, Craig, for saving the day. Buried deep among Craig's ziplock bag full of CD-R's was the highly sought, difficult to obtain XP install CD, which, after about 16 hours of false starts, allowed me to recover my un-backed-up files off my ailing laptop. There weren't too many files that I needed, but still, I was more than a little delighted to restore my WAV files and all my work files for Rochuts #12 and #13, which I feared were e-vapor. Needless to say, I'm now obsessive about backups, and my files are safely backed up in multiple locations on various media. Thanks Craig!

I've been working on getting my (sort-of) restored laptop set up as a dedicated multi-track recording station. Hopefully we'll see (hear) the fruits of that sometime soon. That, and a substantial amount of time trying to restore the machine have kept me from getting any recording done this week; however, I have still be practicing, and I hope to record and post Rochut/Bordogni #17 and #18 next week. I'm pretty close to recording my next Telemann Fantasia as well (Fantasia #2); however, I want to do a little more work on ornamentations.

Funnily enough, I recorded Fantasia #2 about eight years ago. I just listened to the recording a few seconds ago. It's not so bad. But it's not so great either. I'm looking forward to taking another crack at it and listening side by side. Not sure if I was technically a better player back in 2002. I was playing my horn quite a bit back then--I would do these nice long practice sessions, complete with Clarke Studies, lots of scales, long tones, double tonguing, triple tonguing, high-register work, low-register work, a Rochut, a Bach Cello Suite (a whole one!), some solo literature, some Arban, perhaps some Kopprasch or Blazhevich. I don't practice like that at all now. Not even close. Now, if I get in 10 minutes I feel like I had a good day. You'd think I should have been much better then. But I do have one advantage now over the 2002 me. I'm 8 years older. I feel like my musical vocabulary and my musical brain are much broader and deeper and smarter. Am I better now at 44 than I was at 36? I don't know. Even if some elements of my technique aren't what they were a few years ago, I think I'm now better able to formulate and convey a musical idea than I was back then. And really, I guess that's the goal.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Audio Post - Telemann, Fantasia #8

Telemann, Fantasia #8. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Six down, six to go. I discuss some aspects of #8 in the previous post.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Coming Soon - Telemann, Fantasia #8

The weeks have a way of getting away from me, but with any luck I'll have an opportunity to record Telemann's Fantasia #8 one day this week. Number 8 is fun to play from start to finish. The tempo marking of the first movement is Largo, and it begs a very loose tempo. The motion in the movement gives a sense of yearning and searching. In the fifth and sixth measures, Telemann gives us a rare-for-him pair of descending chromatic scales. I haven't thumbed through all of the Fantasias lately, but I don't recall any other chromatic runs. For me, this is the definitive movement of this piece--very pensive and quite moving. I'll be recording the Largo movement with a number of ornamentations, largely in the second half.

The second movement is a 12/8 Spirituoso. While it's difficult for me to pick out an implied fugue in this movement as we did in Fantasia #1, Telemann repeatedly restates his theme, starting at odd beats, suggesting layers of different voices. The driving triplet pattern in the Spirituso makes for a breathless and exciting ride.

The final Allegro, like many of the final movements in the Fantasias, feels most like a dance. This 3/4 movement is strongly syncopated--the accents coming primarily on the upbeat of beat one and the downbeat of beat three. I know little--okay, nothing--about Baroque dance, but if anything feels like a Baroque dance, this one does. Every note is a step or a turn or a twist.

I'll be playing from my own transcription. I do a straight clef transposition from Telemann's E minor to my G minor. I look forward to recording this one and marking the halfway point in my Telemann project.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #16

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #16. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


While I've posted a number of Rochut recordings and one Telemann Fantasia over the past couple of weeks, I just noticed that it's been some time since I've posted an entry with actual words. I'll take this opportunity to get a little caught up.

Rapid fire Rochuts

If you're paying attention to the dates on these posts, you'll notice a gap in activity followed by two quick Rochut recordings (14 and 15) posted on successive days. The thing is, I had to post 15 quickly to wash the taste of 14 out of my mouth. The recording for 14 came out okay (I'm rolling my eyes as I type okay--perhaps I'm being too kind); working my way through it was a humbling experience. I've written before how we brass players tend to find our comfort zone in those nice flat keys and tend to loathe those dreaded sharp keys. I know in some cases Rochut changed Bordogni's original key to make an etude more challenging. I believe number 14 is one such case. This otherwise relatively simple piece is in the key B major (5 sharps). The thing is, I thought I had gotten myself past all that. After spending years diligently avoiding all the sharp-keyed Rochuts, I one day decided if I wanted to be a good player, I needed to embrace the other half of the tonal spectrum. So I went back and boldly confronted all those etudes in A, E, and B major until the sight of a cluster of tic-tac-toe boards didn't stimulate the urge for a xanax. My time in the trenches forcing myself to work on sharp keys did pay some dividends--the notes weren't a problem at all--I didn't have any problems with any fingerings. It's the relationship between the notes that killed me this time out. If this were in Bb instead of B, it would have been a walk in the park. That one little half step made all the difference in the world. Instead of a walk in the park, every interval felt like a treacherous step on a high wire.

It shouldn't feel that way, and I have only myself to blame. While I did spend that time in the trenches with those less-than-comfortable keys, I haven't necessarily been maintaining. And that's why we['re supposed to] practice our etudes.


One more Telemann Fantasia will get me to the halfway mark. The one in the queue right now is number 8. I'm doing some homework to get some ideas on ornamentations--particularly in the last movement which seems to beg for them. I expect it will be a few weeks before I have this one worked out to my liking. I'll post more on that as the process unfolds.

The upside of complete system failure

The other day my laptop (which has been hobbling through a slow death the past year) greeted me with a blue screen and the heavily dreaded and much documented mup.sys error. As of yet I haven't gotten the system to boot, so I don't know if I'll ever see the data on my hard drive again. While I've been pretty good about doing regular backups, my data files and finished WAV files for 2 of the Rochuts aren't backed up (along with a recent transcription I did of a movement for a Canonic Sonata by Telemann). I believe I'll be able to get into the system with an XP boot CD. Unfortunately, I've torn my office apart and can't find mine. Now I begin the process of asking everyone I know: do you have an XP boot disk? We'll keep our fingers crossed that I can get a few files off the machine without having to lay out excessive piles of cash.

So, what's the upside? The upside is that I got a new laptop. While I could do multi-track recording on my old laptop, eventually the machine became sufficiently hosed that it made the process of multi-track recording a somewhat prohibitive hassle. Now, I'm looking forward to taking a look at some recording projects I had put on hold (including the afore-referenced Telemann Canonic Sonata).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #15

Rochut/Bordogni, Melodious Etude #15. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #14

Rochut, Melodious Etude #14. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #13

Rochut, Melodious Etude #13. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Audio Post, Rochut, Melodious Etude #12

Rochut, Melodious Etude #12. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reading Ahead

I'm pleased with how my recording of Telemann's Fantasia #3 came out. Pleasantly surprised may be another way to phrase it. I didn't feel 100% prepared going into the recording session; however, when I played back what I recorded I liked what I heard. As I had mentioned before, and as you can hear if you listen to the recording, both movements of #3 are kind of fast, and the notes come at you quickly, particularly in the second movement. In order to play something like that well, you need to have it "under your fingers," i.e., you don't want to be reading it as you're going along--it should be at least somewhat memorized. Otherwise, the notes go by too fast and you can't keep up.

I must confess though that I hadn't prepared it to the point of being almost memorized. So I ended up relying on another technique. But before I get in to that technique, let's go back to last Tuesday.

Last Tuesday, my father was kind enough to snag me a ticket to join him at the Kimmel Center to catch Michael Tilson Thomas conducting Mahler's 2nd Symphony, with the SF orchestra and the Westminster Choir.

Michael Tilson Thomas did the "conducting thing" that drives me crazy*--the thing that I see conductors of top orchestras do at least half of the time. He conducted ahead of the beat. In other words, he was conducting in time to the event that was going to happen a half second in the future. This isn't at all unusual, but I always find it very disconcerting--like watching a movie where the sound track is a tiny bit off. I've played in lots of ensembles under lots of different conductors over quite a few years, and for some reason, the conductors I've played under always conducted ON, not ahead of, the beat. Sitting in an audience behind a conductor conducting this way, I always wonder how I'd even be able to play behind the beat like that.

This brings us back to Fantasia #3 and the technique I used to compensate for the fact that I didn't quite have this piece under my fingers. I basically did what Michael Tilson Thomas did. I read ahead a few beats for most of the piece. While my fingers were playing beat two, my brain was reading beat three. By the time my fingers got to beat three, I was looking at beat four. Totally different from the way I usually play. It was somewhat jarring, but once I got in the groove it was okay.

* - This isn't a critism of the conductor, by the way. He and the orchestra and choir were awesome. It was one of the best concerts I've ever attended.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bath Time

If you play a brass instrument, you know that from time to time you need to give your horn a bath. I'm notoriously lame about getting my horn a good cleaning when it needs one. From the mid 90's through the late 00's I was fortunate that my friend Andy had access to the cleaning equipment at Stu's Music. The routine went something like this:

a) I'd determine that my horn was in need of a cleaning

b) I'd wait an additional 6-12 months

c) Then I'd beg Andy to bring my horn to Stu's for a chemical cleaning, or in more recent years, a sonic cleaning.

And that way I'd end up with a clean horn every two or three years. However, a year and a half ago, we packed up and moved away from Westminster, MD, to our new-old home in Fallsington, PA. Sadly, Andy didn't come with me.

I contacted Dillon Music, whose shop has a very good reputation. They charge a hundred bucks for a chem cleaning. While that doesn't sound too unreasonable:

a) I've been spoiled all these years with the free cleanings that I feel a sense of righteous indignation at the thought of having to pay someone to clean my horn, and

b) I couldn't really justify it because it wouldn't even save me time. Dillon's is an hour away from here. Round trips to drop it off and pick it up would suck 4 hours away from my life. Not to mention perhaps a week without my horn.

So today, with a little help from my boys, who obligingly couldn't have been more fascinated at my completed dissected euph, I rolled up my sleeves and gave my horn a bath for the first time in a long time.

A little dishsoap, a snake, a bottle brush, some rags, some Simichrome polish. It came out great. The valves are flying and the euph is much easier to play. And now I feel kind of stupid for not doing it myself all those years.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Audio Post - Telemann, Fantasia #3

Telemann, Fantasia #3. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

First Telemann in a while. I discuss some of the aspects of the piece here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #11

Rochut, Melodious Etude #11. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leaps and Bounds in Telemann's Fantasia #3

I think I mentioned Telemann's Fantasia #3 the other day.

That's next up on the Telemann hit parade, and if Life doesn't throw too many surprises and distractions my way, I hope to try to cut a recording this coming weekend.

I'm playing my own transcription of #3. Telemann wrote it in B minor. Alan Raph's edition is a clef tranposition to tenor clef in A minor, and mine is a clef transposition to bass clef in D minor.

I had posted this picture a while back when I first started talking about clef transposition. Number 3 was my example (remember, Raph doesn't use Telemann's numbering). Again, if you look at all three editions (Louise Moyse's on top in Telemann's original key and clef, Raph's on the bottom left and mine on the bottom right), you can see the point, which is that if you cover up the clefs and keys, the three editions look identical.

Anyone who slogged through those earlier posts knows I beat that horse well to death already, so I won't do it again here.

I mentioned previously that this Fantasia has only two movements. Interestingly, both movements are fast ones. Sure, the first movement switches back and forth from slow to fast--it's marked Largo-Vivace-Largo-Vivace--but the Largo sections are really just a tiny introduction and a tiny interlude, making up a mere two measures at the start and then another four measures later on. Not to say that the slow measures are insignificant--they're actually quite beautiful and compelling and they set the stage for the fast measures to come.

One interesting thing about playing this in D minor is that the opening triad of the piece--D-F-A, which is a D minor chord--is identical to the opening triad of the Prelude to Bach's 2nd Cello Suite, a piece I've worked on extensively over many years. It's hard for me to play the beginning of this Fantasia without hearkening back to the Bach.

Often in fast movements, you see things that look like scales, i.e., lines, i.e., runs--strings of notes, often consecutive notes in a scale, going up and down in order. Telemann does little of that in this movement. This vivace is all about jumps and leaps and hops and skips. We hear repeated higher notes against moving lower-note patterns. We hear low note lines against repeated high note patterns. And then we hear lines moving on the top and bottom going back and forth at the same time. Before the second largo we have strings of sixteenth notes jumping up at tenth intervals--a whole bunch of them in a row.

We've certainly seen this technique of jumping up and down through intervals in the other Telemann Fantasias, and it's a very useful technique in a monophonic work. It's a way of tricking the listener into hearing multiple voices. Actually, that's not quite accurate. The listener IS hearing multiple voices in the music. The trick is that the multiple voices trick the listener into filling in some blanks, i.e., implying chords and lines that aren't explicitly written on the score.

The second (or Other) movement in this piece is marked Allegro. While I play it with a similar sense of speed as the Vivace in the first movement. It has a very different feel. While the Vivace barrels forward with hops, skips, and jumps, the Allegro contains much closer notes. This movement is in 6/8 and really moves in clusters of threes. The opening triplets slide down like this (from the original Telemann edition):

Very close little swirls of notes. In fact, this movement is a Gigue, a Baroque jig, and it's very similar to the gigue from another Bach Suite. The 12/8 gigue from Cello Suite #4 bounces close-knit threes in very much the same fashion, with a very similar effect. Here's the opening of the Bach gigue:

Telemann's Allegro goes on with this pattern, but also includes some wide intervals. In fact, we see some groupings of the same 10th intervals we saw in the first movement. Whereas the intervals in the Vivace were written as straight 16-note leaps, the jumps here are bouncy quarter-eighth-quarter-eighths, which gives us that gigue-y feeling.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #10

Rochut, Melodious Etude #10. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Oh my.

A kind poster at called my attention to the fact that my posting of Rochut #8 was actually just a re-posting of #7.

I have replaced the erroneous link with a corrected version.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I like having made a recording; however, I can't say I particularly like making the recording. While I appreciate that sound engineering and mic placement and editing are fascinating disciplines that require measures of both art and science, I would always rather play my horn and leave the record-making to someone else. Alas, no one is banging on my door offering to produce these recordings for me, so I'm on my own.

With that said, I take a pretty minimalistic approach. Fortunately, single-voice recordings can allow for some minimalism. My set-up is very simple. I use an Edirol digital recorder (the R-1). In the past I've tried plugging microphones into the Edirol; however, I prefer the unit's own internal mics. I set the recorder on my stand, hit record, and then start playing my horn. That's it.

The output of the R-1 is a WAV file which I copy to my laptop and then edit in an open source program called Audacity. Audacity is both incredible and free. I use about a millionth of the application's functionality. I do some very basic editing, and apply two effects: normalization, and Audacity's built-in reverb effect, which is called Gverb. I've heard some awful artificial reverb added to recordings. I think the settings I'm using for Gverb are reasonable and tasteful. I hope any listeners agree; though I'll certainly accept any constructive feedback.

I then output the file to WAV (for eventual compilation on a CD perhaps), and MP3 (for postings on the web). Using the movie maker app which ships with Windows, I load the MP3 to a Windows video file and load up to YouTube, which I then embed into the blog (I discovered early on in this project that loading video files directly to blogspot was quite unreliable).

The act of recording a given piece seems to take up about 5-10% of the time of the actual process of recording, editing, and posting to the web.

Oh, and I should mention, because horn players always want to know the answer to this question, and really, these are the most important tools in this undertaking: My euph is a silver Meinl-Weston 451, and my mouthpiece is a gold-plated large bore Schilke 51D.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #9

Rochut, Melodious Etude #9. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Comes the Spring

Some welcome signs of spring have begun appearing here in Fallsington. There are very few traces of snow left in a few shady corners of the neighborhood, and yesterday and today a sweatshirt is more than enough to keep me comfortable. My checkbook can start breathing a sigh of relief as I notice the wheel on the gas meter is spinning much slower and much less frequently. Normally I'm little bothered by the winter weather. Perhaps it's me just getting a little older, but my sense of relief at seeing the thermometer shift to the mid-50s from what was very recently the mid-20s is quite palpable.

Although I can't think of any reason why, with the change in season outside, I'm suddenly feeling ready to return to the Telemann Fantasias. While I've had a number of surprise distractions during this past couple of weeks of self-imposed Telemann embargo, and didn't necessarily work on the things I expected to work on, I did manage to record a number of Rochut etudes. I also did arranged a little transcription of Bach's "Bist du bei mir," which is a gorgeous piece of music (and which I recently learned may be spuriously attributed to Bach). I'll try to do a two-track recording of that one of these days. I spent some time messing around with the encore piece "Hailstorm," which is great fun to play and is an excellent triple-tongue workout, and I spent some time with the Bach Cello Suites, which I used to play all the time on euph, but not so much lately.

In addition I got some cello playing in, though not so much as I had hoped until the last couple of days. Fortunately, I think I have momentum on my side with that now. Finally, I've recently started working my way through the 69 Chorale Melodies (Bach, again) on piano--one every morning while my computer is booting up. Let me assure you, I'm no piano player. However, these little tunes, each with only two voices, are just easy enough that I can plink my way through them, but just hard enough to challenge me. Also, they're quite beautiful and amazingly satisfying to play. I figure if I play through the book 10-20 times perhaps I can move on to something like a two-part invention. From there, I imagine it's a short dotted line to Prokofiev's 2nd and 3rd Piano Concertos.

My next Telemann recording will be Fantasia #3. This one breaks the mold that we've seen up to this point in that this Fantasia contains only two, not three, movements. The first is marked Largo-Vivace-Largo-Vivace, and the second is marked Allegro. I'll post some analysis of this piece and a discussion of my transcription over the coming days.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #8

Rochut, Melodious Etude #8. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

[note: I had inadvertantly posted Etude #7 in this spot with the tag Etude #8. This is the actual #8. Sorry about that. --Jeffo, 3/13/2010]

Friday, March 5, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #7

Rochut, Melodious Etude #7. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #6

Rochut, Melodious Etude #6. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #5

Rochut, Melodious Etude #5. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Word About Rochut

I started posting the Rochut Melodious Etudes a couple of weeks ago with little or no fanfare, and it occurs to me they warrant at least some introduction.

The Melodious Etudes are Rochut's transcriptions of Vocalises of the Italian tenor and teacher Marco Bordogni (1788-1856). In my (quite limited) research, I've been able to find very little evidence that these vocalises (vocal studies) are much in vogue among singers. In a sadly lost moment of personal history, I once, years ago, caught part of an old B&W movie on TCM--in the background, someone was singing along with a piano--a recital of some sort--I recognized the music as one of the Bordogni vocalises. In the fuzzy image of the movie that remains in my failing memory, the movie must have been from the 1930s. For the life of me, I have no idea what that movie was--for all I know it was a Marx Brothers or an early Three Stooges film--they always loved harassing large divas. So, if that counts as some small evidence that the Bordognis were in use by singers in the early 20th century, a quick trip through Google and seems to show much less interest here at the beginning of the 21st.

The same can't be said about the trombone transcriptions. These are still highly popular among low brass players. While there are a number of different sets of Bordogni transcriptions out there, the most ubiquitous (I can hear my high school English teachers "tsk tsk"-ing me for assigning degree to ubiquity) set out there is Rochut's three-volume compilation of "120 Melodious Etudes," published by Carl Fischer in 1928. While they offer many challenges with rhythm, range, key signatures, breathing, and articulation, for me, their greatest value is in the inescapable reminder that what we're doing on our instruments isn't just playing notes--we're making a song. Rochut puts it right there in the name of the studies: Melodious Etudes. When you play these, you don't just play--you have to sing through your horn.

I've crossed paths with many low brass players who call these the Bordognis. And many others who call them the Rochuts. Which is correct? Perhaps it tells something about your personality like Coke vs. Pepsi; Beatles vs. Stones; Boxers vs. Briefs; Ginger vs. Mary Ann. Or perhaps it's just habit. Mrs. Holmes, my first euphonium teacher, would always have me play a Rochut--not a Bordogni. Every single lesson, by the way. So to me they will always be the Rochuts.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Not even the end of February and I've just posted my fourth Telemann Fantasia recording. I was kind of thinking I'd go at a clip of about one per month, so it's nice to actually be ahead of schedule on something for once (I have equally good intentions with my taxes this year--let's see if my Telemann enthusiasm rubs off and I can beat my usual April 14th submission date).

That being said, I think it's time to think non-Telemann thoughts for a week or two. This project isn't a race, and I don't want to accidentally turn it into one. Over the next few weeks I'll surely record a few Rochuts, play some other euph music, and perhaps spend some extra time on my beloved, and slightly neglected cello (which I was playing almost daily until I started recording these Telemanns, and now I'm lucky to play 2-3 times a week).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Audio Post - Telemann, Fantasia #6

Telemann, Fantasia #6. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

My second day in the studio was better than the first (though I did use the Dolce from the first session). For purely comedic value, I'm tempted to post a rather lengthy set of outtakes in my struggle to record this one, particularly the second movement; however, I'm equally tempted to delete those files and pretend the whole thing never happened.

I discuss some of Telemann's rhythmic techniques in this Fantasia here.

Strike One!

I went into my studio last night to record Telemann's Fantasia #6, but I came out empty handed. I was debating whether or not to even bother recording last night. Somehow, I didn't think the mojo was quite right. I should have listened to that little voice.

First I blew a few notes and got a nasty rattle whenever I played E natural. I searched all around the room puffing E's. Finally, after about 10 minutes I found the offender: a loose strip of clear plastic window insulation. So I sat back down and hit record. A few false starts later I realized that my first valve needed some oil--it was sticking just a tiny bit, but enough to cause some problems.

Having now blamed the window insulation and my sticky valve, it's time to 'fess up and acknowledge that I was playing pretty crappily. I was struggling a lot, including areas that shouldn't be a struggle. I had this weird sensation that I was sight-reading the music--never a good sign. Still, I persevered. I struggled my way through all three movements, trying to decide if anything I'd recorded was presentable. Then I looked down at my recorder and noticed that it had stopped with a low battery error. I had gotten a lot recorded, but I wasn't happy and I needed an excuse to scrap what I'd done and try again another time. So thanks to my cheap-o Aldi's batteries, I'll take another crack at this one another time. It's for the best.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #4

Rochut, Melodious Etude #4. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #3

Rochut, Melodious Etude #3. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Telemann's Use of Rhythm in Fantasia #6

Don't take my recent activity with the Rochut Etudes (1 here, and 2 here) as an indication that I'm swaying from the Telemann project in favor of Rochut. I hope to try to record Fantasia #6 this weekend.

Number 6 is written in D minor--I'll be recording Alan Raph's edition which is in F minor. The first movement is marked dolce, which means sweetly. Interestingly, Raph has his edition marked Andantino (dolce). I assume he adds the Andantino marking because dolce by itself only indicates style, but not tempo. Andantino is somewhat interesting because there's some ambiguity in the textbook definition of the term. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music:

In present usage, usually slightly less slow than andante. The term is ambiguous, however, in part because of the ambiguity associated with andante. In the late 18th century, andantino seems to have called for a tempo slower than andante. Beethoven wrote to his publisher in Edinburgh, George Thompson, that the term could be used for a tempo either faster or slower than andante.

So if andante is a walking tempo, what's the diminutive of a walking tempo? Slower or faster? What's the diminutive of toast? Or vanilla?

Fortunately, I think the character of the notes drives a likely conclusion. Much of this movement contains eighth-note lines--not fast lines, but driving ones. These phrases need a strong sense of forward motion or I think they kind of die. So in this case, I think Raph's Andantino is telling us, sure, it's a walking tempo, but we're walking to the bus stop a block away and I think I see the bus coming, so let's keep it moving. I've added some ornamentation on the repeats, including a descending 16th-note run which turns each 16th-note into a triplet three measures from the end of both the A and B sections. I hope to try that same ornamentation at the end of the much faster third movement.

A few days ago, I suggested that Telemann does some interesting plays with rhythm in this Fantasia. One trick his does is shifting the beats of a phrase to an unexpected place in a measure. He does this right in the first measure. When you have a piece written for a monophonic instrument, you can (and Telemann does) get a neat effect by starting the song on beat two. This movement (Allegro) is in 4/4, and the first four notes we hear are quarter notes. However, the first beat of the first measure is a quarter rest. So the first five beats are as follows:

1.[rest] - 2.F - 3.E - 4.G | 5.C ..

where the "|" is the break between measures. Since there's no bass line to tell you where you are in a particular measure, you hear the song like this:

1.F - 2.E - 3.G - 4.C | ..

In other words, you think beat 2 is beat 1. This messes you up as a listener because it leaves you struggling to find beat 1. Just when you think you've found it, Telemann does it to you again in measure 11. He throws that rest in on beat 1 and starts the party on beat 2. Then, a few measures later, at the end of measure 15, Telemann repeats the phrase (in a different key), but he starts it on beat 4. It has the effect of slamming on the brakes and hitting the reset button (those metaphors don't really work well together, but still, that's the effect). The beat is very easy to find; what's tricky is predicting where the next measure and phrase is going to start.

Telemann challenges his listener rhythmically again in the third movement, Spirituoso. The movement is in a lively 3/2. It's clearly a dance. Even though the meter is 3/2, it works more like 6/4. The cool thing about "6" is that you get to pick if you're in 3 (accents on beats 1, 3, and 5), or if you're in 2 (accents on beats 1 and 4). Think of the song "America" from "West Side Story".

"I like to be in A-mer-i-ca"

That's the same thing but in 12 instead of 6. The accents are on "I" (beat 1/12), "be" (beat 4/12), "mer" (beat 7/12), "i" (beat 9/12), and "ca" (beat 11/12). So the rhythm is 123-123-12-12-12, where the accents are on the 1's

Telemann shifts back and forth, somewhat irregularly. In the first few measures of the Spirituoso movement, the accents want to fall like this: 123-123 | 12-12-12 | 12-12-12 | 123-123 | 12-12-12 | 12-12-12. Looks like a pattern until you get a little deeper into the movement, where occasionally we get a extra "3" thrown into the mix just to make sure we're not getting complacent. This is a very cool rhythm. Whenever I play this movement, I can imagine a bunch of Riverdancers stomping in, tapping the accents where you least expect them to land.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Game Changer

Fact #1
I played cello for a year in high school, and about 3 years ago (23 years after I stopped playing) I decided to pick it up again and see if I could teach myself to be a decent cellist. Still have a long way to go on that, but I have been pretty dedicated and continue to force myself to practice and play things that will raise my level of playing, even when it doesn't sound so good. I try to play at least something from this list most every day: Bach Suites, Haydn Concerto #1, Dotzauer studies, Marcello Sonatas, Gabrielli's Ricercari, Schroeder Foundation Studies, orchestra or quartet excerpts, something by Popper.

Fact #2
I try to play a little euphonium every day. Things I like to try to touch include: the Telemann Fantasias, the Bach Cello Suites, the Rochut book, Arban's method, Clarke studies, excerpts, Euph/Trombone/Trumpet solo repertoire, etc.

Fact #3
I do a fair amount of arranging and transcribing--some of which I do down at my computer, but some I do in a fat book of staff paper, right by my music stand.

Fact #4
In addition to a large collection of printed sheet music and books, I have a lot of unbound sheet music (my own arrangements, parts I've copied, scores I've downloaded) in no fewer than 15 one-inch binders.

Fact #5
Tools I use in my daily practice include tuners, metronomes, pencils, a sharpener, cello mute, euph mute, rosin, valve oil, digital recorder, stand light.

Fact #6
I'm terrible at putting stuff away.

My Manhasset music stand is a good stand. No bandroom would be complete without about 100 of them. However, to say I pushed mine to the limit would be an understatement. My stand was always so stacked with music, books, pencils, and accessories, that every time I turned a page the whole thing was at risk of collapse. Whenever I'd put a binder on the stand, I'd have to toss a pile of music on the floor to make room. When I record, I keep the digital recorder on the stand, so I have to toss more paper on the floor. When I tune, same thing. The worst thing is when I try to mark up my music. If you're holding onto a cello or euph with one hand, that only leaves one pencil hand, with nothing to steady the stand. Unfortunately, Manhasset stands swivel and tilt, so scribbling in a dynamic marking or an ornamentation tends to require a certain amount of acrobatism to keep the whole production from dumping on the floor, and because the stand keeps moving, the resultant scribbles on the score are illegible half the time. Don't even get me started on the perils of trying to erase one of those unreadable markings.

Then I discovered the very informative video postings of David Finckel, who is the cellist with the Emerson String Quartet. In these short videos Finckel talks about all sorts of aspects of playing, performing, and practicing. In one, he shows his practice space and the large board he uses as a music stand.

It was like a thunderbolt. A music stand is NOT the best music stand. The simple and obvious solutions are often the best. I remembered an old drawing table that I had stashed in my parents' basement almost 20 years ago. I finally picked it up this weekend. Went to Home Depot yesterday and spent eight bucks on a chunk of door frame molding and a handful of metal brackets.

Behold! The Super Wonder Stand. It easily holds 3-4 times as much music as a regular stand. It doesn't spin or tilt. You can mark and erase your music without knocking anything over. You can keep all your accessories in easy reach. Even with all the music and accessories, there's room on the bottom ledge to set my cello bow down.

I think I can say with no hyperbole whatsoever, that this is the single best thing ever.

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #2

Rochut, Melodious Etude #2. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Audio Post - Rochut, Melodious Etude #1

In between working on the Telemann Fantasias, I think I'll try to record my way through the Rochut Melodious Etudes. Why, here's one now:

Rochut, Melodious Etude #1. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Up Next

Three down, nine to go.

The next Fantasia I'll be recording is #6. Telemann's original key is D minor--I'll be playing Alan Raph's transcription which is in F minor.

The big story for #6 is going to be rhythm. In the second and third movements (Allegretto and Spirituoso) Telemann has some fun moving the beats around, throwing the listener (and player) off balance. I'll try to dissect that a little bit in an upcoming post.

Although the first movement is slow (Andantino) I'm going to have to spend some time in the woodshed working out some sections because I've scribbled in a few ambitious ornamentations. My fingers don't move that fast yet. The third movement presents a similar issue on a similar ornamentation. The second movement is perhaps the toughest: the combination of some up-tempo sixteenth-note runs, fairly low on the staff, in the key of F minor (4 flats) leaves me with some fairly gnarly fingerings to work through (For low brass players out there, these would remind you of your Clarke-Gordon Technical Studies).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Audio Post - Telemann, Fantasia #1

Telemann, Fantasia #1. Copyright 2010, Jeff Lazar. All rights reserved.

In my previous 3 posts, I discussed descending scales and implied fugue, as well as some factoids about my transcription of this Fantasia.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Going Down - Descending Scales in Fantasia #1

Word on the wire is that this weekend we should expect a snowstorm of somewhat epic proportions here in Fallsington, PA, along with most of the rest of the east coast. I like that kind of weekend. Snowbound, I tend to have a decent chance of getting something done, like recording Telemann's Fantasia #1.

There's one more aspect of Fantasia #1 I wanted to discuss before recording and posting, and that is the magic of the descending scale. If you have ever studied and trained as a musician, you've surely spent countless hours working on scales. First-year clarinetists and world-class violin soloists alike include all sorts of scales as part of their daily practice rituals. Take a look at most any score by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, or about a google other composers, and you won't have to look hard to find examples of scales or parts of scales all over the place. Listen to a solo by Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. Scales, scales, scales. They're everywhere. However, we hear and play scales so often, and perhaps consider them more a chore than a part of the music-making experience, that I think musicians and listeners often forget that there's a basic and real beauty built right into the major scale--particularly, the descending major scale.

My brother once told me a story about a friend's young daughter who was taking violin lessons. "Want to hear my favorite song," she said. "It's called D Major Scale."

Listen to this little sample from Wynton Marsalis's incredible epic work, "In This House, On This Morning."

Absolutely gorgeous. And it's nothing more than a descending major scale down to the third. How many times have I played descending major scales and forgotten to listen, and forgotten to hear THAT? I don't necessarily play scales every day--though there have been some long stretches over the past few decades where I have--but I get a pang that I have often treated them like a chore, when they pack as much beauty as Wynton demonstrates. Now consider the clip below. This is me playing two lines from the second movement of Fantasia #1. Here also is the excerpt from the sheet music.

OK, I recognize the brazeness of putting my audio clip right under Wynton's and saying, "isn't that pretty?" But isn't it? And believe me, I'm talking about Telemann's notes, not my playing of them. If you think that Telemann passage is beautiful, which I certainly do, you have to acknowledge certain neat things that Telemann is doing here. For one, look at that descending line in the green boxes (you may need to click on the score image to enlarge it). It's a plain-vanilla descending D major scale. Telemann calls special attention to that descending scale in two ways. First, the eighth and sixteenth notes he wraps around the scale don't change, i.e., if you take the green-box notes away, you just just hear the same (kind of dull) repeated phrase. Put those notes back in (i.e., put the descending scale back in), and you get this thing of magical beauty. The other thing he does is he keeps pinging those D's at the top of each line. So he's playing the scale against an implied drone on the D, just to remind us where this is going. Listen to the first part of that example again. This time I'll use a wee bit of technology to call attention to the descending scale.

See? Just a descending major scale. Now listen to example two again while following along in the sheet music. Pay special attention to the surprise low G# at the beginning of measure 35. It catches you by surprise because it feels like Telemann is going to descend all the way down the D major scale. Instead he descends down to the 5th (D down to A) but suddenly, he throws us a curveball--this G#, which is totally unwelcome in D major, but is the 7th, the leading tone, in A major. Telemann switched keys on us. And then he uses that as a jumping off point for another descending major scale--this time A major (look at the red boxes). When he descended from D, he went down to the 5th, and now in A major, he picks up at the 4th. And it's just as beautiful this time. Plus it's very warm and fuzzy and satisfying because this time he descends all the way down to the A.

Looks like the snow will be coming soon. Hopefully this weekend I'll record #1.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Clefs and Keys Again - Fantasia #1

I've written a couple of posts, here and here, about the various clef transpositions that Alan Raph used and that I used in our respective transcriptions of the Telemann Fantasias. I promised (or threatened, depending on your point of view) to talk about clefs and Fantasia #1 at some point. Well, that bell is finally a-tollin'.

As you surely recall, in all of the other transcriptions Raph just replaces the existing treble clef with a tenor or bass clef and makes a choice of two possible key signatures. On the ones where he went to tenor, I repeated the process for my own arrangements, i.e., I just replaced the tenor clef with a bass clef and picked the appropriate key signature. In one case, #9, I didn't like where that landed me, so I set it in a different key.

For Fantasia #1 there was an interesting twist. Raph's is in tenor clef, but in this one instance, he actually keeps the original key--A major--he just sets it in tenor clef. So his arrangement is really just taking Telemann down an octave. As I look through his arrangement, I noticed it's very slide-friendly. Raph is a trombonist and I can see the appeal of playing this one in A major. You can play most of the first movement either in second position, or with the slide very close to second position.

My version is in D major, which--you guessed it--is the clef transposition to bass clef from Raph's tenor clef. So in this case instead of doing 2 clef transpositions (Telemann's treble to Raph's tenor to my bass) like I did with three of the other transcriptions, I'm taking Raph's clef change (the transposition is just down an octave, so I won't count that for this discussion--or, I'll treat it as something different from the other clef changes which come with key changes), and doing a single clef transposition off of that (Raph's tenor to my bass).

Geeky? Certainly. Esoteric? For sure. Deathly boring to almost anyone looking at this? Indisputably. I wish I knew why I find that so interesting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Implied Fugue in Telemann's Fantasia #1

I had originally planned on talking about this in a video; however, after that last video I did, I'm thinking that perhaps that's not the most friendly format for me.

So let's talk about this "fugue." Before I do that though, I need to make a couple of stops. First, the New Harvard Dictionary of Music:

Fugue: The most fully developed procedure of imitative counterpoint, in which the theme is stated successively in all voices of the polyphonic texture, tonally established, continuously expanded, opposed, and reestablished; also a work employing this procedure.

I like that "also a work employing this procedure" part, because that's what we're talking about. Here's a tiny snipped more from the next paragraph in the Harvard dictionary:

...In a fugal exposition, the subject is presented alone in one voice...then imitated or answered, usually in the dominant, by a second voice...Typically, the third voice enters with the subject in the tonic, the fourth in the dominant, and so on until all voices have entered. After stating the subject, each voice continues with a countersubject or free counterpoint...

OK. I'll stop there. We've all heard fugues. You kind of know them when you hear them. Now think of Bach's Art of the Fugue. The Contrapunctus I starts with that all-too-familiar melody, then, four measures later, just like the New Harvard Dictionary predicts, the answer comes in on the dominant while the opening subject continues to do its thing. Four measures after that we hear the third voice back on the tonic. In this Contrapuctus I there are four voices. And we see that's part of the definition of a fugue, ie, "in which the theme is stated successively in all voices of the polyphonic texture." Polyphonic. Multiple voices.

Now, let's stay with Bach for one more minute and consider the Prelude to his 5th Cello Suite. After a dramatic introduction, it takes a breath and jumps into a 196-measure fugue. Sort of. It sounds like a fugue anyway. You have an opening subject. A few measures later you have an answer that comes in on the dominant. Then you have subsequent voices coming in while you hear earlier voices develop. It sure sounds like we're hearing multiple lines weave in and out of each other. Fugue, right? Not quite. With a few minor exceptions for multi-stops on the cello, this piece is monophonic--we only hear one note at a time. Bach tricks us--he starts a familiar phrase and then moves on to something else, letting the listener fill in the blanks on an implied subject or response. he bounces back and fourth with successive eighth or sixteenth notes between the third subject and the first countersubject, giving you just enough information to think you're hearing multiple parts when all you're hearing is one.

Telemann does pulls that same fast one on us in Fantasia #1 (though in much smaller scale--his monophonic fugue lasts for only 16 measures). He develops this implied fugue quickly. It starts halfway through the first movement (vivace). The subject lasts for 2 measures. He brings in the answer on the dominant, bopping back and forth with eighth notes to imply the development of the original statement and barrels through different keys in single-measure or partial-measure chunks--jumping from voice to voice. You can't miss the fugue, even though technically no fugue exists. The challenge--and fun--as a player is to tease out the different parts and to recognize each note as a crucial part of one or more voices.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I was pleased this evening to discover that euph/trombone player Kevin Thompson has posted a free .pdf of his euphonium edition of the Telemann Fantasias here. I just printed them out in the past hour or so and have noticed a few interesting things. First of all, and quite significantly, he has changed the keys from the originals (down a major 10th), but he has maintained the original key relationships across all 12 pieces.

So, Telemann's original keys, in order, are: A maj, A min, B min, Bb maj, C maj, D min, D maj, E min, E maj, F# min, G maj, G min. And Thompson's corresponding arrangements are: F maj, F min, G min, Gb min, Ab min, Bb min, Bb maj, C min, C maj, D min, Eb maj, Eb min.

I generally like to maintain key relationships when I'm arranging a set of pieces that "go together"; however I didn't do that in this case. I could blame the fact that for half (+1) of the Fantasias I'm using someone else's arrangements, but that's not it. I like where Alan Raph's and my arrangements sit on the horn, and I really I think I had convinced myself that to maintain the key relationships, this set would become prohibitive to play either from a range or a key signature perspective.

Thompson blows my assumption out of the water. His arrangements go a bit high in some cases, though never above high C (5 spaces above the bass clef staff)--high, but not unreasonable. And he never goes below Bb (2nd line on the bass clef staff), which is one of the most comfortable notes to play on the horn. As far as key signatures go--I'm not even sure how this managed to work out this way--there's not a single sharp key in the whole set. He goes from C maj (no accidentals) to Eb min (6 flats) and never touches a sharp key. That's another way of saying, the keys he's using are all very euph friendly (or, in the case of Eb min, at least modestly euph friendly).

As I've been thumbing through his edition, it seems to be very well done and I'm looking forward to trying his arrangements (though I will be sticking with the versions I described in this post for my recording project)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Technical Difficulties Resolved(?)

I believe I've finally resolved the issue of failing audio/video files on blogspot. It's quite simple really: Don't use blogspot to host audio/video.

I've replaced my media files with embedded youtube links and that seems to have resolved the problem. Thanks for sticking with me while I've been trying to get this fixed, and let me know if you have any issues getting these files to work.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stirrer in C#

Earlier today I sat down to practice the next Telemann Fantasia in my recording project (more on that in a moment). Every time I hit C# right above the bass clef staff I'd hear a suspicious rattle. Something in the room was vibrating. Often I'll let that kind of thing go for a little bit. It's a common enough ailment with brass players--we play these booming instruments that set the whole room vibrating.

I checked all the nearby likely suspects--pencils on the stand, a tuner leaning up against a metronome, other music stands, my trombones. None of the above. Now, it's much easier to find the source of the noise if you have a helper--one person plays the guilty note while the other hunts around the room for the stray vibration. Unfortunately, no one else was around, so I started marching around the room, blasting C#'s over and over, trying to follow the buzzing noise. Every time I thought I was getting warmer, the trail would grow cold. My studio is up in the attic and so it has an A shaped ceiling--as I moved step by step around the room, C#...C#...C#... the rattle would come and go--it would be right in front of me and then suddenly right behind me. The slope of the ceiling was playing tricks on my ears. After what must have been 20 minutes, I finally found the culprit--a wooden paint stirrer--you know, those sticks you get at Lowe's when you buy a gallon of paint. It was behind a book case, leaning up against the baseboard molding. I remember that I had unplugged something from a nearby outlet the other day--the stirrer must have shifted and was suddenly all-too-responsive to C# just above the bass clef staff.

The next Fantasia on tap for me is number 1. Telemann wrote this one in A Major. Alan Raph's edition also has this one in A Major (the only one in the set where Raph keeps Telemann's original key); however, Raph's is published in tenor clef. For this one I'll be using my own transcription, which is in D Major (don't worry, I'll dig into that discussion in another post).

I'm particularly excited about this one. I'll discuss it in more depth over the coming days--hopefully post some video too. Suffice it to say that in this piece Telemann uses some neat compositional tricks, and the second movement (adagio) contains a section that's just stunningly beautiful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


In case anyone is interested in looking at the scores of these Telemann Fantasias, while the versions I'm recording from (with the keys and clefs I'm using) are not available in the public domain, the original published manuscript is available here. That, by the way is hosted on the truly extraordinary IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library, which contains tens of thousands of scores and parts of public domain classical music. That manuscript can be a bit difficult to read--it appears to have been photocopied a few times before it was scanned; however, here's one of a number of nicely typeset versions that are available on the internet. This latter is from the Werner Icking archive, which is another great source for classical scores as well as MIDI files.


As a side note, I'm aware that the video/audio files I've posted are experiencing periodic errors. This is apparently a known issue on blogger. I followed the directions for the alleged "fix" and am hoping that the problem is resolved. Please keep trying and I'll keep trying too.