Ahead of his performance as soloist in …miramondo multiplo… this Saturday night, London Sinfonietta Principal trumpet Alistair Mackie caught up with Emmi Tingey, our Projects Intern, to talk about the concerto…
E: The performance on Saturday will be the first time you have publically performed …miramondo multiplo… How do you approach starting to learn such a piece?
AM: As with any new piece, I begin by taking it apart completely and working on the separate technical problems. It’s really a case of dissecting it and then building it up again bar by bar. It takes time to figure out expression and what the composer wants.
With this concerto I’ve also had to work on building up my playing stamina to put it back together.
E: How do you make the transition between practising a solo part by yourself to rehearsing with the ensemble?
I have the full score on my stand when I’m practising alone because you need to know what to expect when you rehearse together. Garry Walker and I will also discuss the approach to specific sections before the first rehearsal with ensemble.
However, there are some things that you just can’t prepare for. For example the balance and sound in each space you rehearse and perform in is very different so you have to adjust to each space. One of the things that I’ll be interested to discover in the first rehearsal is how much I can play out in the sparsely-scored sections.
E: Tell me a little bit about the trumpet techniques used in …miramondo multiplo…
AM: Olga Neuwirth was, I believe, a trumpeter herself, and this definitely shows in the writing. It’s very well written for the instrument and she has a great awareness of colour, so she’s been very specific about the types of sound she wants at various points.
The direction Bisbigliando appears throughout the score and I’ve interpreted this to mean ‘nervously’ or ‘to quiver’, so I’ve been experimenting with putting ¼ of a valve down. There’s also occasions which call for flutter tonguing, and various different degrees of vibrato.
E:…miramondo multiplo… is scattered with fragments of musical memories. If you were composing a work made up of your own musical memories, what would you include?
AM: I tend to get very involved with the music that I’m currently playing, so I’d probably answer differently at any given time! At the moment I’m rehearsing Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra, which is a piece that completely engulfs you. It’s also a piece that has come up throughout my life and was the first test piece I had to play for a UK orchestra.
Perhaps surprisingly, when picking my own musical memories, I definitely wouldn’t pick works riddled with big trumpet parts…so not Petrouchka, Pictures at an Exhibition or Mahler’s Fifth Symphony!
E: How have you approached the fusion of diverse styles within the piece and do you think the trumpet is an instrument which lends itself to such a range of styles?
AM: In some ways it is a versatile instrument and each composer has a different soundworld for the instrument. One of the things that I like about this composition is that it has a sense of restlessness; it doesn’t settle on one specific style.
E: So how do you adjust to these changes in style?
AM: It’s a challenge for the player to adapt to each style. You have to think of the composition as a whole and have an awareness of the entire work, while also playing in each specific moment.
E: And finally, do you have a favourite musical memory from your time playing with the London Sinfonietta?
If I had to pick one… probably the first time I performed Heiner Goebbels’ Songs of Wars I have seen, in New York during March last year. I love the trumpet solo at the end.