This week I performed Malcolm Arnold's Fantasy for Bb Trumpet at an Arnold celebration concert in Oxford. I've never performed the piece in public before, so it was a daunting but exciting prospect and one that, thankfully, went well! Arnold's daughter and son-in-law were in the audience and the Fantasy provided the perfect opening to the concert.
The Fantasy is technically demanding in many ways, not least because it is unaccompanied and very exposed. Arnold was a great trumpeter himself (he was Principal Trumpet of both the LPO and BBC Symphony Orchestra) and so he writes very idiomatically for the instrument. Did you know: Arnold was conscripted to the military band during the Second World War, but quite literally shot himself in the foot so that he could return to civilian life!
The piece opens boldly and within the first four bars you find yourself already in the depths of the trumpet's register... Then immediately leaping up two octaves! The following main section is a very fast and fiddly passage, involving rapid scales and a lot of double tonguing. This was, unsurprisingly, the most difficult part to master. However on the night I actually relished the opportunity to whizz around on the instrument and just have fun with it.
In amongst all the "chaos", the piece finds calm just in time, with a beautiful melody and soft dynamics. There is a moment's silence before the closing Maestoso fanfare which ends the work with big leaping intervals, fast ascending scales and a final ritardando.
When I first started working on the Fantasy, I struggled to see past the technical difficulties and the sheer volume of notes played in such a short space of time! However the more I got to know it, the more I heard it (and played it) as a tune and this made it much more workable and more rewarding to perform.
I am hoping to put up a recording of the Fantasy soon, so keep your eyes peeled on my Sounds page for this... However you can find Angela Whelan's recording on YouTube, which I enjoyed and found helpful to listen to. You can also follow the music along on her video whilst listening.
Finally I received some exciting news this week, which is that I have been offered a place for the Southbank Sinfonia 2016! I am delighted to be part of such an inspiring orchestra and I look forward to taking up my position in January. Look out for Southbank Sinfonia events on my Concerts page in the New Year...