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Good Things Come In Threes ELINOR C HAMBERS


These are exciting times for the trombone, with three important new pieces for the instrument being premiered either very recently, or very soon. The first of these is MacMillan’s Trombone Concerto, which was premiered back in April of last year by Jörgen van Rijen. This piece is spectacularly important for the trombone because it is by such a well-known composer. Scottish composer James MacMillan is known for his beautiful large-scale choral works and so it is such a delight to hear his genius applied to the trombone. One review of the opening concert said, ‘The trombone sang, sang, sang …’ The piece is a single-movement work, 25 minutes long, and is written as a memorial to his five-year-old granddaughter who died the previous year. In an interview he said, ‘I don’t think it’s a morose piece, but as I settled down to write it in January/February of last year, thoughts of Sara were with me all the time. It’s a big abstract piece, it has no particular message, but subliminally it’s haunted by her memory.’ The UK premiere happened in early November with the London Symphony Orchestra and Peter Moore as soloist. This piece was paired with Shostakovich Symphony No. 4 – an epic companion for this exciting new concerto. The next big trombone event will be the première of the Trombone Concerto by Gavin Higgins. Helen Vollam will be performing this with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican on Wednesday, 13 February. Interestingly, this piece is also being paired with Shostakovich 4, clearly a popular choice for concert programmers wishing to place the trombone in the spotlight. We spoke to Gavin about his process and he gave us a great insight into what to expect from the piece: When was this piece first conceived, and how has it come into fruition? GH: One or two years ago I actually went to the BBC Symphony about writing a clarinet concerto, which 12

there were sort of keen on, but then they realised they’d commissioned quite a lot of wind concertos of late. So they asked if there was anything else I would like to do, and I said there has been a trombone concerto in my head, and I’d already spoken to Helen a bit about this. They went for it immediately! So that’s how this concerto began life. Could you tell us a bit about your compositional process and how you’ve been developing this concerto? GH: I’ve written quite a lot of music for solo instrument and brass band, but this is the first concerto with orchestra I’ve written. So it’s been quite a challenge to write, actually. I knew I wanted it to be quite a substantial piece. I didn’t want it to be 10–15 minutes and over. It’s about 24 minutes, quite a big piece, quite epic. It’s not so much a person at the front who the orchestra sits behind having a dialogue. Helen is in the centre of the orchestra and the orchestra swirls around her throughout the piece. There’s normally an extra musical inspiration for my pieces. A little while ago I came across a recently discovered 16th century German illuminated manuscript called The Book of Miracles. It’s an incredible book that depicts various supernatural phenomena, starting in the Old Testament and moving

The Trombonist - Winter 2018