Dec 2014

Performance comparison: "Intrada" by Arthur Honegger

Recently I was working with a student as he prepares for graduate school auditions; he is a junior, so the auditions are a little over a year away. He plans to audition for Charlie Geyer and Barbara Butler at Rice University, which means preparing Intrada by Arthur Honegger. The opening section of this work can be somewhat free in tempo and is, therefore, open to quite a variety of interpretations. I encouraged my student to listen to many recordings to open his mind to possibilities, so I opened up iTunes and we listened to a few 30 second previews.

The three trumpeters we chose were Thomas Hooten, Hakan Hardenberger and Wynton Marsalis all of whom are great musicians for whom I have the utmost respect. My comments are based on the thirty second snippet that is available as a free preview on iTunes. The differences were astounding, though not quite in the way I had planned. I encourage you to open iTunes, search "Honegger Intrada" and listen to these three performances--go ahead, I'll wait.

Intrada for Trumpet and Piano (feat. Rebecca Wilt): Thomas Hooten, trumpet from the album "Trumpet Call"
The opening repeatedly covers two and a half octaves quickly; Mr Hooten plays with an incredibly relaxed tone that belies the difficuty. I want to be Thomas Hooten.

Intrada: Hakan Hardenberger & Roland Pontinen from the album "Virtuoso Trumpet"
Mr Hardenberger is one of the most lyrical trumpeters on recording, yet here he shows more effort. Perhaps this is a choice, meaning, he wished to project greater brilliance, and yet I find the ease of Mr Hooten's performance more satisfying.

Intrada: Judith Lynn Stillman & Wynton Marsalis from the album "On the Twentieth Century"
The preview of Mr Marsalis' performance begins at the end of introduction. The lyric line begins on a low G and climbs two octaves in the space of a few measures. The top of the line is so abominably out of tune I had to listen a second time as I couldn't believe my ears; I couldn't believe that this was released! One must assume that a wrong take was chosen as Mr Marsalis is clearly capable of better.

Under this trumpet melody is a repeated G in the piano which sounds curiously muffled, as if Ms Stillman were intentionally muting the note to make it more percussive. I can't be sure whether this was an intentional detail or bad recording technique. If intentional, bravo to Ms Stillman for employing such imagination, however, it is hard to know for certain whether this is a bug or a feature.