On Feb. 13th I was fortunate to attend the get together at the
University of Central Florida with Adolph "Bud" Herseth. FYI are
the notes from the
Thanks to John Copella (Orlando) in helping me gather these notes together.
Mr. Herseth opened the evening by playing a recording of Brandenburg Concerto #2 (Allegro) with the music projected on the large screen for all to follow. The recording was by the Chicago Symphony with James Levine conducting with Mr. Herseth as the solo trumpet. He stated he had performed this with a Schilke P-54 piccolo trumpet in A with a Bach 7D mouthpiece. Mr. Herseth did not say much about this performance other than I guess it came out OK. He did discuss the schedule that week and how he had recorded Petrouchka on Monday, LHistoire on Tuesday and then Brandenburg #2 on Wednesday. Typical demands at this point in his career. Very few off days when rehearsals, concerts and recording sessions are combined. He then played a little of the Allegro assai section.
The opening call and first section of Mahlers 5th Symphony was displayed and a recording played. Emphasized was the importance of knowing the terminology and translations of the instructions given by Mahler. He was very specific in these and they should be followed. The opening triplet should be somewhat rushed and not played evenly. It is in a military style. Mahler grew up near a military barracks and heard the various calls and was exposed to the styles with which they were played and incorporated this into his music. Mr. Herseth stressed that Mahlers music is filled with emotions and that the music should tell a story and it should be played with energy and exuberance.
The off stage call from Beethovens Leonore #2 was demonstrated to illustrate this. He demonstrated how disappointingly many performers play this standard audition piece. He performed it in a very static and boring manner. In an audition setting this would mean GOOD-BYE! He then played it with some fire and energy. Both in articulation, volume and tempo. Totally different result. A player must be turned on by the music to play it properly. He mentioned that Bruno Walter was one of his favorite conductors. Especially with Mahler and Beethoven.
Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky/Ravel) followed with the Promenade being played. (Reiner conducting) He has recorded this six times. Reiner was tough but another favorite conductor. Players should practice parts in different styles so as to be prepared for the various interpretations of different conductors. Solti had him play the opening of the Promenade with a piano like quality of articulation where the sharp attack is present with slight decays on each note. Much like the hammers striking the strings on a piano. This was in fact originally piano music orchestrated by Ravel later. He discussed how different conductors vary the tempo. Sauntering, walking, dallying, rushing etc. As he is playing 2nd parts sometimes when needed these days as he is semi-retired, it is difficult for him as these parts are new to him and he is sight reading them. Everything in his head is the principal player mode.
Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle was next demonstrated mentioning the different editions that are published and the changes possible in playing these parts. At rehearsal #60 the 32nd notes should be rushed as if 64th notes following a dotted eighth note rather than exactly as written. One should convey the story of the poor man begging for money from the rich man and it is not too precise but played in a more sloppy and uncouth manner. Piccolo in A is used for the muted tonguing pattern section. He once told the conductor (Solti?) If you get lost...I will play louder. Stay with me!
The second movement of the Hummel Concerto in E (Solti conducting) is a great melodic idea and very expressive. These types are some of his favorite music. The wavy line at the beginning can be interpreted to mean either a vibrato or a trill depending on ones background and preference. He did mention that in Germany and Austria, vibrato would not be used. He said he likes this movement because it is so lyrical and associated it with the qualities of the human voice. Most beautiful. His favorite singers are Jussi Bjorling and Frank Sinatra. Extremely expressive singers with good, clear diction and instrumentalists should emulate them. Regarding the Rondo (3rd Movement) ...Gotta have fun! He also mentioned having his wife take his picture at Hummels statue while on tour with the CSO and playing a short excerpt from the concerto on his mouthpiece in Hummels honor.
Stravinskys Song of the Nightingale (Emperors Sickroom). Mr. Herseth is fond of the lyrical solo in this section. He was good friend of Stravinsky. After once missing a note at a rehearsal Stravinsky commented Too much lunch today Mr. Herseth?
Knowing and working with both Reiner and Solti, Mr. Herseth felt he had the benefit of first hand knowledge of the stylistic approach to Bartoks Concerto for Orchestra. This Hungarian Connection gave them much insight into interpreting this music. In the 1st Movement the "chamber music element was stressed with the importance of matching styles from one section of the orchestra to another when themes are passed around. In particular is the flute players 16th note patterns that must be matched in articulation and style. Regarding the 2nd Movement he stated Play what is written. All markings are important. Make sure each aspect of the instructions is heard. A soft wooden mute is required here. CSO auditions often have this section on it and as it requires a quick mute change before the chorale passage, committee members are watching to see if players are paying attention to this. Often times the player stops before the chorale section begins. Even if you havent played it before, play as if you have. was his advice. Tenuto markings are sometimes misinterpreted as legato (smooth). This is not always the case. It is also a marking for emphasizing and stressing each note. Point of interest is that the original edition had a section without the trumpet playing and Bartok added the trumpet (Herseth) playing the piccolo part and thought it was better this way.
A comment was made by a member of the audience after hearing the opening of Richard Strauss Zarathustra that sometimes it is played in a more connected manner. Mr. Herseth advised this to be played with great emphasis on each note with a slight separation between them. He related that once a particular conductor (to be nameless) conducted the rhythmic pattern with eighth notes rather than the written 16th notes. He commented to us that this was incorrect. Sixteenth notes...you jerk! As for interpreters, he stated The music tells you how it is supposed to be. Regarding the story about Reiner picking him out during the dotted rhythm lick after the extended soft string section, he said that he had heard an abundance of different versions about this incident. Apparently it was Buds turn to be tested by Reiner (he did this everyone, especially wind and brass players). Reiner went over the passage seven times, each time going back to fix one or another supposed problem (flutes, cellos etc.) After the 7th time, Reiner asked Mr. Herseth, would you like to do that again? to which he looked at his watch and replied, Were here until 12:30.
Scriabins Poeme of Ecstasy was written for Russian trumpeter Tabakov. Mr. Herseth described a philosophy of brass playing prevalent in Russia which was to play outside in the woods and develop a powerful and strongly projected sound and to get out of that little room. He recommended playing the broad solo section with energy and verve. Get excited!...Tell a story. When he played it himself there was incredible energy and drive to his sound and the projection of his tone was formidable.
At his 50 Anniversary Concert he related the story about how Doc Severinsen and he were trading phrases Herseth played a jazz lick to which Doc responded with the opening call from Mahler Symphony #5.
Petrouchka (1st Tableaux) was discussed next. In the mixed meter sections, accents are crucial as the pulses cross over the bar lines. In the Waltz he noted the breath mark after the 1st bar. A slight pause is needed there. In the Ghost section, be sure to play the notes full value. During a particular concert, the 2nd player felt uncomfortable with the alternating section so Bud played all of it himself. Both the 1st and 2nd parts. In the Ballerinas Dance, the fluidity and lyricism was wonderfully evident yet it still had bounce and liveliness to it. The original 1911 version was scored for 2 trumpet and 2 cornet parts. The later 1947 edition was for 3 trumpets with many changes in orchestration.
Mahlers Symphony #3 is especially noteworthy to trumpeters due in part because of the Posthorn Solo in the third movement. Herseth stated that this solo was a very personal and sad song to him. He related the story about how it represented the mournful song of an old man who played on an alpine horn the haunting bugle calls on a mountaintop after the death of his son. The perfect 5ths and perfect 4ths characteristic of the alpine horn calls are prevalent throughout the solo. It is to be played with great tenderness and yet with intensity at times. there is a sense of reflectiveness and joy at pleasant memories about his sons life and yet sadness at the loss as well. The music presents this.
Originally, Mr. Herseth performed this solo on a rotary valve posthorn with its left hand fingerings. Later he used a flugelhorn and for the recording played for us an Eb cornet with a flugelhorn mouthpiece. One conductor wished for the same sound as was used in Gershwins music (felt crown or felt hat). It was related that in Europe, the orchestras use an additional assistant to perform Symphony #3 due to its playing demands and that no one plays all of it himself. Herseth does!
The Chorale portion of the Hindemith Sonate was discussed and the tempo markings on the original version was much too slow. Tempo should be much like any church chorale being sung and not excessively slow. He spoke also about going to Hindemiths grave site and playing the opening theme from his Symphony for Brass and Percussion on his mouthpiece. Again in honor of a respected composer and musician.
Shostakovich Symphony #5 was discussed and he said he spoke with Shostakovichs son about the intended approach to the last movement. Was told that this was a thumbing of the nose at the Nazis and that it should be played in a nasty and mocking manner. He demonstrated this in both the typical and somewhat connected way and then again in the sarcastic and ridiculing style. Knowing Shostakovichs intent, the overblown and raucous style seems appropriate and adds a colorful element to the music.
Artur Rodzinski auditioned Herseth on the recommendation of Herseths teacher Georges Mager. He never got to play for Rodzinski as he was dismissed from the CSO before Herseth started in the summer of 1948 at Ravinia. His joke was that Rodzinski was fired because he hired Bud Herseth!
In mentioning various conductors he had worked with, differences of opinions were sometimes there. While he respected Pierre Boulez, he disagreed with him about the value of modern music. Boulez had once stated that all music written before 1950 should be burned. Herseth said he felt all music composed after 1950 should be burned. Fritz Reiner was quite flexible and this contrasted with Solti who was always so precise and exact. His all-time favorite conductor was Pierre Monteux. He made the music so energetic and emotional. He then told a story where during a recording session of Prokofievs Lt. Kije Suite, a particular recording engineer (Mr. Moore) asked for a retake due to a problem in the trumpet part. Monteux asked Bud about it and he replied It was perfect! to which Monteux said Mr. Moore...you must apologize!
Regarding Phil Smith (N.Y. Philharmonic), he proclaimed him a wonderful player. He also told of a running joke in the CSO that they asked the personnel manager for the N.Y. Philharmonic... Whats wrong with that band of yours? You take our 4th chair (Phil Smith) to be your principal.
Balancing practice demands and the demands of the CSO performances and rehearsals was very important to Mr. Herseth. He said he learned from his teacher (Mager) to practice heavy on light weeks and to practice light on heavy weeks. Always be in condition to play all types of music and quantities of music all the time. When doing Mozart/Haydn that week, practice Mahler, Strauss etc. When playing heavier style of music, practice the lighter, more delicate material. Be ready to play in any given style at any given time. He spent time in college playing in jazz bands and during his military years in the Pacific Theater in the bands there and while it seemed he had some amazing stories about that time, his emphasis was on being versatile.
Teaching never was high on his priorities as it interfered with his personal preparation for performing with the CSO. 100% dedication to performing was required. This is his formula for being successful. He talked about playing the Top Tones book (Walter Smith) and challenging himself to play as many pages as possible without a miss. Mentioned doing up to 10 pages in such a manner. It was then he felt comfortable and confident with the material.
He believes in the Arnold Jacobs philosophy of not overanalyzing the physical aspects of brass playing. Just take a breath and blow. Play the music and focus on the end result and everything else will take care of itself. Where did Jacobs get the concept? Herseth said he got it from his father who got it from an old English Golf Instruction book. Dont over breathe as this will cause too much physical tension and this gets in the way of the music.
A friend of mine related in a question to Mr. Herseth that he had heard Harry Glantz play the six note motif (very lyrical line) from the Catacomb section and that it impressed him so much that it had always stuck with him. Mr. Herseth proceeded to pick up his horn and play the phrase for him. What originally had been intended as a question about whether Bud had any one particular favorite piece (the answer was no.) turned into an incredible experience for a long time admirer who beamed to me later How bout that! Bud Herseth played my request!?
The always asked question about equipment was asked here as well and Mr. Herseth said he still played with the Bach Stradivarius C Trumpet the he picked out from the 12 Fritz Reiner had purchased for use in the CSO. Each player picked the one best for him, and the horn Herseth played was the same horn from that original set of instruments. (As a matter of fact it still belongs to the Chicago Symphony.) This horn suits him well and he feels comfortable with it and it lets him do whatever is required by the music or conductor. In the late 60s the CSO began using rotary trumpets in certain literature. He recommends playing all the horns (types and keys) regularly and he plays the rotary every day as its response is somewhat different from the piston horns. Feeling comfortable on all horns every day is important so one is never surprised at how a horn feels when called upon to play it, even at the last moment. Herseth uses a Gold Plated Bach 1C and a 1B when a slightly different quality of sound is needed. He demonstrated the changes the mouthpieces make (brilliant and deeper) in the tone playing the same material on the same horn with the two different mouthpieces. He also volunteered that he has 55 trumpets and over 200 mouthpieces. Always searching for the perfect combination. There is no such thing!
Advice to players...
Learn from other great players and musicians. (especially vocalists as the human voice is a great musical instrument)
To the question Does the Chicago cold affect your chops? he replied No. I just go home and kiss my wife and everything is fine.
Asked about a favorite piece, he replied Not really. Whatever Im playing right now.
Herseth Axiom: Hard work equals good luck.
When practicing excerpts, vary something (tempo, articulation, style etc.). Develop the ability to be flexible and to adjust to different conductors and demands.
Dont over analyze. Focus on the end results...sound...style...energy. Dont fall into the syndrome of "paralysis by analysis (Jacobs) Just play the music.
Mr. Herseth is an incredibly personable man.
One feels comfortable around him because he exudes a calming and gentle manner.
Music itself is always the top priority.
Put everything into ones playing. Get turned on. Get the listener turned on. Have fun with it.
Genuinely spoke about how much the people he had met and had experiences with had meant to him during his travels and his work together with them over the years.
He felt very lucky because during his first two seasons with the CSO there were so many guest conductors due to the search for a permanent music director. This afforded him the chance to play five years worth of major literature (war horses) in just two years. Each guest conductor programmed the big pieces as it was an audition situation for them. Being that he (Herseth) was not terribly experienced with the vast array of orchestral literature at that time, he benefited greatly from being exposed to such a vast amount in a relatively short time and working with so many conductors taught him to be flexible in playing in various styles and with different interpretations of the literature.
At the end of the program (of which there was no break because no wanted wanted to miss a second of listening to this man.) He asked if there were any more questions or comments and if that was all ...Finito? he said, to which I replied under my breath ... I can be here until 12:30 which brought a few chuckles from those around me.
This evening brought about the completion of a dream of mine since my Intermediate School days in Northern Virginia. Having heard recordings only of Mr. Herseth and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and listening to amazing stories about him and him music making from my teachers I have tried to gather any materials that would give me an insight into improving my own playing based on this incredible musician. Not being fortunate enough to ever hear him and the CSO live, I flew up to Chicago in June of 1999 with my orchestra and brass quintet partner on Saturday morning to hear Mr. Herseth play the Shostakovich Concerto #1 for Trumpet, Piano and Strings, the Hamlet Suite and Symphony #11 for the Shostakovich Festival (Rostropovich conducting). This was to be my one and only time to hear him and the CSO live before he retired. We spent the day on Michigan Avenue and walked Roosevelt Park and the water. Had lunch at a great Italian restaurant eating outside on the sidewalk tables. Changed into our dress clothes in a parking garage near Symphony Hall and settled in for a wonderful night. The concert was everything I had imagined. From the preconcert lecture to the triumphant chords of The Year 1905 symphony, it was a lifetime dream come true. Spent the night at my friends parents house in Joliet and got up a 5:00 A.M. to catch our flight back to Gainesville. (His mother would not let us out of the house without making us a wonderful breakfast by the way!)
This evenings Talk with Bud Herseth completed my dream of meeting him someday. After the talk, I went down to possibly shake his hand and to ask for an autograph on two programs from that concert in Chicago in 1999. (My trumpet partner got stuck in Dallas that day and cold not make the UCF talk.) He did indeed autograph the programs and graciously allow for another friend to take a picture of himself and I together. I have the biggest grin on my face! Truly the Cat who swallowed the proverbial canary!
For this week at least...Life is good.
I had a few requests for the set of Trumpet Commentaries I had put together a while back regarding Mr. Herseth. These were collected from various articles and interviews over the years and may be of help if you are interested. They are included in along with the notes from the February 13th Talk with Bud Herseth evening.