I was blessed to record several albums with the English Chamber Orchestra
I was blessed to record several albums with the English Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Raymond Leppard. The Orchestra was fantastic to work with and very collegial. They were enthusiastic and committed and would work as hard as possible to get the very best results. Their playing was crisp and disciplined but still flexible and free. I loved hearing them go back and forth about how to play a particular phrase using words, like crotchet and quaver, that American musicians don’t use.
In the 80’s, Christine Reed was my A&R person at Columbia Records Masterworks which became Sony Classical. She looked out for me far and above anything that would be covered in a job description. She suggested Maestro Leppard saying that he was highly disciplined, a great musician and would have the patience to help me through whatever problems might come from my own lack of experience (and judgement). She treated me more like a family member than a artist on her label, and I am eternally grateful for her invaluable interest in my well being, and incalculably positive input. Christine was the first person to suggest that I write music for orchestra which, in 1983, was unimaginable and made me laugh.
I loved Raymond Leppard from the start. In rehearsal, Maestro would come in with all of these fantastic ornaments and added runs for me to play, and if they didn’t work we would change them and finally, when recording they were sometimes changed on the spot. He was a true blessing and a revelation for me. Conducting my 1982 recording of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, he definitely held my hand through that one (because I had no idea what I was doing). By the time we recorded this piece, 1987/88, we had done several recordings and had a great working relationship.
Producer Steven Epstein is the most professional, prepared, and inspired lover of classical music, of the musical score, of the process of recording, and of the aesthetic quality of he finished product. A former violinist, he will stop an orchestra and correct wrong notes deep in the orchestration,“I think that should be a G# in the viola, seconds are playing x but it should be y…..etc.” I triply love working with him. And he’s funny when things go wrong but becomes even more discerning as the humor increases. He never throws in the towel or accepts anything that is less than optimal. That’s why he’s won 200 awards and it should be 500.
This recording was done in St. Barnabas Church in London, and we decided it would be easier to overdub all of the multiple trumpet parts. It seemed easy, but we didn’t calculate the effect of the added echo of each trumpet on the initial part. By the time we got to the eighth part, I had to literally playing a full second away from what I was hearing in order to synch up with the other parts.
The makeshift recording booth was a ways off from where we were playing, and I could only check each overdub after playing long stretches of an entire movement…. long stretches of playing live to the church with natural echo in some time near the mass of echoey trumpets you’re hearing in the headphones. Steve and I started betting on how accurately I could maintain the placement of phrases. The 2nd and 3rd parts were not bad but 4 through 8, have mercy! Thank the good lord for playing with Tain and his nightly on the bandstand instructions in surfing the space/time continuum.
I’m telling you it was cold and magisterial in that big cathedral-like church and keeping all those trumpets in tune and in time was not a Sunday stroll. When we realized how difficult it would be, Steve immediately started joking about my bad time and aversion to cold weather and so on. We went back and forth all morning but finally got close to it.
I have always loved the trumpet and drum hookup in baroque and classical music. Our instruments are related through our noisy yet disciplined function in military situations. This relationship has continued down through the years regardless of idiom. Philly Joe Jones once told me about how he and Miles Davis, in the early days, used to travel to gigs together and pick up the rest of the band locally. He said,“trumpet and drums. That’s thunder and fire right there.” It was and still is.
This is Heinrich von Biber’s Sonata For 8 Trumpets & Orchestra in A Major.