“I realized that my job is to awaken possibility in others.”

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Mahler: Symphony no. 5 - 1st movement - Trumpet Solo

Interpretation Class
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Elmer Churampi (trumpet)

“It’s a solitary bugler, left on the battlefield with four thousand dead soldiers”

— Benjamin Zander

Transcript

Good, so Elmer is the first trumpet in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and is the first trumpet in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and he also plays in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and he also was runner-up for first trumpet in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. It’s unbelievable.

(Applause)

This is, this is in all probability as I wrote in my letter of recommendation which I just sent him because he hasn’t finished undergraduate, he’s still in his undergraduate. I wrote his
letter of recommendation to schools, I said, “this is in all probability the best trumpeter of his age in the world.” And I don’t think anybody would disagree with me about that.

(Music playing)

(Applause)

Okay that would be played in an audition, behind a screen, and a solitary person. But when you get into the orchestra the question is, do you play that alone or, does the conductor conduct it and that’s a big argument because there are a number of pieces start with solos like, Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben, with the flute and others. And many trumpeters said leave me, alone I want to play this alone and so I say yes I’ll let you alone if you give more character because you are a great trumpet player, but I want to hear more than trumpet playing, I want to hear the meaning of this piece encapsulated in this opening. So do it again and we’ll take your trumpet playing for granted. I have to tell you that I have this, in Boston Symphony Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra, and Abbado was conducting, imagine that, great event. And the trumpeter started and he blew every note, every note he, I mean literally the notes didn’t come out and so people get very worried about playing it. You don’t have to be worried at all, I bet you could play it 50 times in a row and not miss it once. But now the question is can you put that behind you and bring us into the world of Mahler. Do you have an idea, an image, of a sense of what this opening could be? it could be a funeral I mean it’s called Tower March. What is the mood? What is the feeling?

Sad.

Very sad, very sad, and more than sad. It’s, it’s almost desperate in its in its mood. There’s the solitary voice speaking for Mahler. So try it again.

(Music playing)

Great, it’s better. It’s already better. I think there’s still more there, can I come a little closer to you and we will see whether we can bring out because there’s a feeling, it’s laden with
doom. You know Mahler had 23 children, Mahler lost eight brothers and sisters in his childhood, can you imagine that eight of his brothers and sisters, of his siblings died while he was a young man. And death for him is a constant presence, and there’s a sense of collapse here. Each phrase he goes (humming) and the third one collapse and, it’s almost as if you don’t have the energy to go on to the third one. Shall we try that again? And I’ll conduct it this time. Three, two,

(Music playing)

You’re actually changing the rhythm there, you’re doing (humming) instead of (humming). And he has another word there, flifte, which means move, but as a triplet, not company. Good, it’s better. I can imagine it more desperate, more eloquent, the rests particularly, the rests, eloquent. Try once again, can I, can you wait for a moment I’ll conduct you.

(Music playing)

Now that’s a 40 civil so that should be bigger when it comes because you can produce an enormous sound and then that collapses too. This is coming, this is great. Are you beginning to feel it here? Maybe this is where you feel it, the trumpet playing we take for granted. Once again once again once again.

(Music playing)

That’s the way. That’s coming, that’s amazing that’s, amazing.

(Applause) Bravo. Bravo.

Now, he has one thing that he says, this is a message to the conductor, he doesn’t have it in the score, he says that (German) in a military fanfare. So now we know what it is, it’s a military fanfare. It’s a solitary bugler left on the battlefield with 4,000 dead soldiers, there’s one boy with a bugle saying the fanfare that’s what it’s about. Can you get that? All right I’ll help you. You see I don’t think a trumpeter should be expected to do this alone in a, in a concert I don’t think they can do it alone. The trumpet player has to take care of the trumpet, the conductor is responsible for the meaning of the piece you know. So we work together and I will focus all my attention on that image of the boy with the bugle and the dead
soldiers around him, and I will build it and I’ll help you with that fast triplet. He writes in the score in German. (Speaking in German). You don’t have that in your part, of course. The trumpet player doesn’t need that information, the conductor gives it, right. You try it again and you get ready and I’ll, and we’ll go on a journey together. You know a lot of people say how the players in the orchestra never look at the conductor, what’s he doing. The answer is, the conductor, you could see the conductor out of the corner of your eye even if you’re not looking.

(Music playing)
Great, that was great we had a slight mishap because we didn’t quite get that together, and also you didn’t make this diminuendo. So that wasn’t as exciting as it could be, all right. But it was very very very very good. Can you get the feeling that you’re not playing the trumpet, but you’re speaking for all humanity when you do that? You’ve got a voice, you’ve got a story to tell you’re telling, this is Mahler’s view of the world. Join mem so you try that one more time and can you imagine that this is not an audition, this is not a performance, this is the last time you will ever do this phrase in your life, can you imagine that? And then imagine you walk out and they you’re run over by a bus and then everybody says oh my god
Elmer’s lost, but you should have heard him that one performance all right. And there’s one other thing I noticed this is really fortissimo, he should show this is soaring over the whole Orchestra. Do you know what happens with your chord, you know what instrument comes in with you together on the top?

The brass.

Yeah more important than the brass is the symbol. Look huge on this a major chord when he comes the whole is an amazing moment and so you have to feel that under you. Are you ready? From the beginning.

(Music starts)

Can you get more? Remember the four thousand dead soldiers.

(Music playing)

(Applause)

That’s as good as you’ll ever hear it.

(Applause)

So you want to do one more phrase? One more phrase. But that gives you an idea of the relationship of the conductor to the performer. The performer can’t be expected to do everything because they have the tremendous amount of, but you can get a lot of energy towards the meaning of the piece, even without the conductor. But with it’s much easier isn’t it it’s much easier. You know I’ll tell you a story, I was having dinner once with a friend and we had a couple of glasses of wine, we were very cheerful and we were talking about the music business and I said to him music classical music is the most powerful language of the human soul. And the music profession thinks it’s about playing the drum bit, and he was writing a book of quotations and he wrote that quotation in the book, which is not so good for me but I mean, it it’s not about it’s actually in the end, not about the instrument isn’t that right. It pulls out everything you have in your soul to give. Do one more phrase.

(Music playing)

Good, very good. Let’s do that phrase again, it must not be lyrical, and it must not be easy, this is a struggle against a full orchestra playing as loud, again. And you’re like a ship on the waves being tossed just above, just above the waves, keeping your way. All right so nothing lyrical, fortissimo, it must be a struggle. One, two

(Music starts)

Can you make those accents more desperate? Two, three

(Music playing)

That’s right, that’s right, that third one is the biggest of all. The last one is the biggest of the phrase, then it gets taken over. Go on. You need time for a breath? Right on and
now here.

(Music playing)

Can you make a real G sound. (Music plays) Yeah, it’s really a scream. Tear your heart out. Can you make it a little slower, the portamento? He says portamento molto so he really wants a real bliss under there and the last phrase at 9 to D.

(Music playing)

Yeah there we go. Bravo. The last one.

(Music playing)

Your greatest enemy is your ease with which you play the trumpet. Its so easy for you to be beautiful. I don’t hear the struggle in the triplets (humming). Just try from there, feeling the triplets all the way through.

(Music playing)

Yeah that’s much with 3 fortissimos with a crescendo. What is Mahler telling us? He is telling us normal life normal experience is not enough we have to do something in total desperation. Can we try that one more time? When you get to that crescendo 3 fortissimo’s and a crescendo it’s gonna blow our minds and yours.

(Music playing)

(Humming) you’re out for anafternoon walk in the meadow, no this is something else.

(Music playing)

That’s it, well done.

(Applause)

And now to end, the hardest thing for trumpeter, after having played this whole piece this, whole movement, at the end of the movement you have to do something incredibly. I
know we have to go just to the very end. You’re exhausted, you’re dead, the four thousand soldiers have been lying there and suddenly at the end you go.

(Music starts)

Good, but again (humming). Speed on the triplet.

(Music playing)

Perfect. Perfect, amazing.

(Applause)

The journey for you from being a great trumpeter, to being one of the great trumpeters, is here, is in your heart, in your mind, in your drama, in your sense of the meaning of the music. If you become a master, of that everybody in this room will know who you are ten years from now. Okay, bravo.

(Applause)

(Music, outro)

Gene Trujillo
Wow, what a powerful teaching piece. Even the first rendition was beautiful with impeccable tone but it only got better and better with incredible insight into the role of the conductor. Another video that makes me happy to live in an age where I can just go on YouTube and see this sort of thing.
George Rynar
Maestro Zander definitely needs more recognition A true master.
rjenkins23853
Such a gifted trumpet player! This masterclass was so interesting to watch. The genius of maestro as he coaches an amazingly talented player to become their best! This was a special event.
BassWhiz92
"We'll go on a journey together." And that is exactly what listening to music should be: a journey through the world in which the piece is transporting us.
David Wright
Getting into the nuts and bolts of emotional interpretation, to be supported and conveyed by the music, is in a way deeper and more satisfying than the full performance 'on the day'. Many thanks to both! I learned a lot.
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