Arutunian - How Long to Prepare a Serious Work?

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by trickg, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    6,709
    3,465
    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    So I've decided to jump in and attempt to learn a solo I've never played or performed before, the trumpet concerto by Alexander Arutunian. (or Arutiunian - depending on which spelling you prefer)

    I've got a couple of reasons for wanting to learn this piece - the biggest of which is that I know it's going to be technically and musically challenging for me, but also because it's a commonly played trumpet solo that I've really never even looked at. I've also got an Army playing assessment coming up in about 6 months, and if I'm playing it well, I might try to use it for that.

    I'm now working in a realm of music preparation that I'm not used to. Most of the time my music prep is oriented toward an upcoming gig, and I rarely get more than a couple of weeks (if that!) to prep whatever it is I'm going to play.

    So how long should it take to prep something like this? I'm a solid enough player, but I'm finding that there are things going on in this piece that are presenting a pretty big challenge - lots of double tonguing through moving lines, and a lot of accidentals and notes that for me don't seem to fall "logically" for me, if that makes sense. I find that I'm literally going phrase by phrase - picking it apart, slowing it down, speeding it up, slowing it down again, etc - wash, rinse, repeat.

    Keep in mind, I've only had a couple of practices where I've dug into it, but I'm not even close to being happy with even the first two pages, and prepping the whole thing seems almost insurmountable at the moment.

    I guess this is what I get for moving right into a gigging mode out of high school, and not doing the music academic route in college where this sort of thing would have been assigned to me. Is this piece really as hard as I think it is, or will I eventually fall into the right mindset for it?

    I'm eating a big old piece of humble pie by creating this thread and admitting that this piece is really going to make me reach, but I'd like to hear from some of you out there who were music majors in college and had to tackle something that really pushed your boundaries.
     
    True Tone likes this.
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    61
    16,389
    7,594
    Jun 18, 2006
    Germany
    Well, with my students, we take about 6 months to learn the piece, the score and history. There is a lot of meat in the Arutjunian that should not be ignored. The scales do need some time to „gel“.
     
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    6,709
    3,465
    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    Ok - that helps. After digging into the first two pages and realizing just how much is there, and not just from a technical perspective, but musically as well, I knew it wasn't going to be something I was going to be able to prepare quickly.

    Now I'm wondering about my resolve to prep it - it's not likely that I will ever have to perform it, and most of my practice outside of chops and technical maintenance is all structured toward an upcoming gig. I just figured that at the least, this concerto would push me in a lot of different ways, and I'll no longer get incredulous looks when I mention in a group of trumpet players that I have never played it, though I wonder how well they played it when they took it on - YouTube is FULL of videos of HS aged kids hacking away at this trumpet solo, which brings up another debate.

    Is it better for a high school kid to really stretch themselves on a solo that's out of their reach but will push them hard, or should they back off and do something easier that they have the ability to really play well? I think that's part of why I never took it on - by the time I was out of high school, I'd stopped learning conservatory-type material because that wasn't the world I was in - I was learning all 3 parts to a pouch full of marches, various concert band and big band tunes, and learning a lot of the "top 40" of brass quintet literature - conservatory and concert solos were a thing of the past for me.

    Thanks for that post Rowuk - it lets me know that it is a meaty piece that's going to take a bit to really learn.
     
    True Tone likes this.
  4. richtom

    richtom Forte User

    Age:
    67
    1,504
    1,213
    Dec 7, 2003
    This is how it is played by the master of all.

    I had the great pleasure of backing up three superb trumpet players as the soloists.
    Nick Drozdoff, Tage Larsen, and the principal of the Bolshoi Orchestra, Evgeny Guriev. The first two were with band accompaniment the last with orchestral parts sent by Mr. Arutunian himself. (He was still alive).
    All marvelous players with a different approach to it.
     
    Brassman64 and True Tone like this.
  5. barliman2001

    barliman2001 Fortissimo User

    4,411
    4,466
    Jul 5, 2010
    Vienna, Austria, Europe
    If anyone's interested - the handwriting on the above picture is a Dokshizer autograph, dedicating all his friendship to one Viacheslav Trichonov, in February 1973.
     
    True Tone likes this.
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    6,709
    3,465
    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    I'm a big believer in listening as supplemental aid in preparation - it's hard to play something correctly if you don't have a concept of what it's supposed to sound like. I've always enjoyed Dokshizer's rendition of it - his sound must have been massive in person during the louds, but he also had a really really nice lyrical approach to the middle sections of the piece.
     
    True Tone likes this.
  7. LaTrompeta

    LaTrompeta Forte User

    1,406
    977
    May 3, 2015
    Mountain West, USA
    I like Sergei Nakariakov's rendition of this piece.
     
    True Tone likes this.
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Age:
    61
    16,389
    7,594
    Jun 18, 2006
    Germany
    Hi Patrick,
    the beauty of being a high school student is the OPPORTUNITY to perform works way above our heads and through youthful exuberance compensate. Even if we miss "important" stuff, our audience is merciful and we are motivated to higher things. When we get older, the types of opportunity change, as does the critical listening. If we miss too much, the label "inadequately prepared" is applied quickly and stings like hell. There is nothing "impossible" in the Arutjunian, there is just a big difference between nailed it and got through.

    I would rate the efforts as follows most important at the top:
    Reading, understanding the score, memorizing the trumpet part and cadenza with proper phrasing - if we don't get the breathing/phrasing right, we will nick a lot of small stuff.
    Mastering the scales - perfect synchronization with the tongue
    Getting comfortable with the rhythm to make it a "dance tune"
    Learning to leverage our sound to make each section sing.
    It took me 4 weeks last time that I played it, to pick the mute used in the middle. I ended up with the Bach black cup mute.

    I think that this piece should ONLY be performed from memory. We are showcasing some very ethnic music here and the less between us and the audience, the better!
     
    True Tone and trickg like this.
  9. richtom

    richtom Forte User

    Age:
    67
    1,504
    1,213
    Dec 7, 2003
    One must use one's ears to play this as well. Very unique writing and harmonic structures.
     
    True Tone likes this.
  10. barliman2001

    barliman2001 Fortissimo User

    4,411
    4,466
    Jul 5, 2010
    Vienna, Austria, Europe
    Well, Arutjunian did not just want to write a beautiful piece of music... he was always interested in Armenian culture which at the time was threatened by Soviet unification tendencies as well as the Turkish monolithic state. What he did was to write music in the garb of Western accepted contemporary music, but with elements of Armenian folk music tucked into the corners. That's what makes this trumpet concerto so unique.
    BTW, this year is official "Armenian Folk Culture Year", and most Austrian radio stations had regular features about this topic. The Arutjunian concerto was broadcast at least four times, each time with a different soloist. And one version was extremely interesting - the same concerto, but performed by an Armenian folk music ensemble, the solo part being played by some sort of Armenian chalumeau... weird!
     
    Brassman64 and True Tone like this.

Share This Page