I've have had the privilege of premiering a number of works so far in my career: Stephen Dodgson's Trumpet Concerto, Concertino by Corrado Maria Saglietti and Trinculo by Sally Beamish to name a few. However I have never been so involved in the process from initial idea to first performance as with my latest project: a Flugelhorn Concerto by Aleksandr Brusentsev entitled Threads.
Ahead of the performance next Thursday (25th January), I thought I'd share some background information about the project (Part 1) and my thoughts about how I go about preparing a new piece/what you can expect to hear in the performance (Part 2).
Let me transport you back to the summer of 2016, when this project first began: the Rio Olympics were in full swing, the UK was still in the aftershock of Brexit and America was yet to choose its new President... I was contacted by American composer Alex Brusentsev, who asked if he could write a Flugelhorn Concerto for me. Alex and I studied together at the Royal Academy of Music and had previously worked together on a solo trumpet piece of his called '...what's left when...' (see blog post and video here). I already knew that I liked Alex's writing style and was interested to see what he could do for the flugelhorn - an instrument seriously lacking in original repertoire.
For those who aren't sure what a flugelhorn actually is, it is a brass instrument very similar to the trumpet, but with wider tubing and therefore a mellow, rich sound, more similar to that of a French horn. The flugelhorn is played in exactly the same way as the trumpet, with three valves, but with a different mouthpiece and a different playing feel. It is an instrument which I absolutely love to play and so I jumped at the chance to have a concerto written for me and the flugelhorn.
Initially, Alex, Toby Thatcher (Australian conductor-extraordinaire and my former flat-mate!) and I worked on a lengthy funding application for the American Composers Forum. We were hoping to be awarded a Jerome Fund for New Music (JFund) and, thankfully, our proposal was successful. This award allowed Alex a full commission fee and also helped to fund some parts of the performance. We decided on a concert date and made enquiries about hiring venues, but it soon became clear that this funding was not going to cover the costs of venue hire, paying the musicians and recording the performance. In late 2017 we turned to the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and, on 1st January 2018, we were overjoyed to reach our goal of £2000 thanks to many generous supporters.
Throughout this period of fundraising, Alex was busy composing and sending me snippets of music. Despite our many Skype calls and countless emails back-and-forth, I was finding it hard to grasp the structure of the concerto and how the different sections would all fit together. However once Alex had sent me the completed part, I played it through and fell in love with the piece. It is a beautiful, interesting concerto, full of powerful writing. Alex really understands the many unique qualities of the flugelhorn’s sound and incorporates a huge range of extended and unusual techniques into the music... Look out for Part 2 of this blog post coming soon, where I will explain my processes and techniques behind learning this new piece!
More concert info and tickets available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ensemble-eroica-threads-tickets-32549482378
Project Website: https://brusenta.wixsite.com/ctd2
Getting to know trumpeter Imogen Hancock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN2QxX4MPd8