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MUSOs of the ASO: Principal Trombone Colin Prichard

14 Sep 2021
  • Meet the Artists
by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
MUSOs of the ASO: Principal Trombone Colin Prichard

ASO’s Colin Prichard takes centre stage performing as soloist in Matinee Series 4 – Immortal Serenade. He will play one of the first virtuoso works for solo trombone, by none other than Mozart’s father Leopold.

Don’t miss Colin’s performance in Immortal Serenade – Matinee Series 4 | Wed 22 Sep, Elder Hall

I knew I’d make a career in music when:
I think I was around fifteen when I decided that trombone playing was something that I was interested in pursuing as a career in some capacity. I remember that my teacher at that time (Joshua Davis – who now is coincidentally Principal Trombone with WASO) asked whether I had thought about becoming a professional trombone player, and suggested that it might be something to consider more seriously if I was interested. I guess I took that on board, but I also distinctly remember sitting in a rehearsal with a combined orchestra during high school, and there was a clear moment where I decided that playing the trombone was something that felt right for me, and that I would like to try and make it work as a career.

How did you choose the trombone?
The first time that I thought about playing a wind or brass instrument was in primary school when we had the opportunity to “try-out” for the school band. Since there were a limited number of instruments available at school, they had slightly weird process to decide who would be allowed to play each instrument. I remember walking into a room with a whole bunch of instruments laid out on a table, and after a brief dental examination (which is actually not such a bad idea), I was asked to attempt to play each one. It was a little bit like the scene in Ollivanders wand shop in the first Harry Potter movie – except with musical instruments. First, I tried the flute, trumpet, and then the clarinet – which I remember to be particularly catastrophic. Finally, I tried the trombone, which sounded approximately like it was supposed to sound. This brief test, combined with the fact that my arms were relatively long, afforded me the somewhat fortuitous opportunity to start learning the trombone.

Describe the best thing about being a musician:
The best thing about being a musician is those somewhat rare performance experiences where everything just falls into place, musically, technically, and you feel really great in the moment. These experiences can be rare at times, but when it does happen it’s really a fantastic moment.

Which solo or moment in the trombone repertoire is your favourite?
In the orchestra, the trombone is generally quite a collaborative instrument – so many of the greatest moments for the trombone involve the whole section. Perhaps one of the finest moments for the trombone section is the chorale in the final movement of Mahler’s second symphony. In terms of solo moments for the trombone in the symphonic repertoire, the extensive solo passages in Mahler’s third symphony are an absolute highlight of the repertoire.

Name three pieces of music you love, and why:
The trombone concerto by Christopher Rouse, as far as modern trombone concertos go this one is one of the best. It is at times powerful and very dark, but there are also some tender and heartfelt moments towards the end.

The Bells of Vineta by Bent Sørensen is one of the most beautiful contemporary pieces written for the trombone – a surprising statement to write, but it is true! It is also, at times, one of quietest and most introverted pieces written for the instrument.

Mozart Requiem – quite simply a masterpiece – the trombone also feature fairly conspicuously the whole way through!

What piece of music never fails to move you? 
There’s just something about the very end of Bruckner’s 5th Symphony that is very powerful – that effect is magnified when playing in the orchestra – Bruckner is some of the most satisfying music to play in an orchestral trombone section. It’s not one of the most popular Bruckner Symphonies here, but in Germany the fifth symphony is played more frequently. The conclusion of this symphony is probably one of the best endings that Bruckner wrote.

You are playing one of the first virtuoso works for solo trombone, by none other than Mozart’s father Leopold in Matinee Series 4 – describe this work and how you will approach performing it?

Firstly, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are quite fortunate that this classical repertoire for the trombone actually exists, and that some manuscripts have survived. The trombone declined rapidly in popularity at the end of the seventeenth century, and the instrument fell into disuse in many countries throughout Europe. Rather luckily, an oasis of trombone activity survived in Austria into the middle of the 18th century with some very fine players – most notably the virtuoso Thomas Gschlatt – inspiring composers to write for the instrument.

The Leopold Mozart trombone concerto was one of these pieces written for Gschlatt, and interestingly wasn’t originally written as a standalone concerto. The concerto we play today was extracted from Leopold Mozart’s Serenade in D for orchestra – the manuscript of which was rediscovered as recently as the 1960s. While there were definitely some excellent trombone players in eighteenth century Austria, they clearly weren’t exceedingly common as Leopold Mozart wrote the following (rather hilariously) in the score: “In the absence of a good trombone player, a good violinist can play it on the viola.”

The Serenade in D is comprised of nine movements that feature different instruments in a soloistic context. The trombone is featured in three of these movements, which are often played separately today as a concerto. The version I’m playing includes a reworking of the final movement of the Serenade, which provides an exciting conclusion to the concerto as a standalone work.

Leopold Mozart wrote this piece for the alto trombone – a smaller instrument pitched a fourth higher than the tenor trombone you would normally see in the concert hall. We still use this instrument in the orchestra occasionally when performing classical works by composers such as Mozart and Beethoven, and Romantic works by certain German composers such as Schubert and Schumann. The instrument requires a slightly different approach than we use with the tenor trombone, particularly with regards to air use and concept of sound. This difference in approach – along with general early classical stylistic concepts – are important considerations in my preparation of the work.

How many hours practise do you anticipate you’ll need to feel comfortable performing it?
I try to approach my practice as being outcome oriented rather than being determined by a certain amount of time. I’m obviously trying to aim for the highest possible standard, so I tend to use all the available time, within reason, to try and achieve this goal. Obviously practice in a given day is limited by human factors such as fatigue and concentration, which musicians try to manage through carefully timed breaks.

Is it a piece you have performed previously?
There isn’t a huge repertoire for the alto trombone, so most young players will study the piece at some stage – at least in its original form. I first played the piece around ten years ago.

Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite is also a trombone player – how do you feel about Nicholas Conducting this concert?
I feel very pleased about the fact that a trombone player is conducting this concert! It’s comforting knowing that the conductor understands what you are going through and that they know the piece. A trombone player also will understand the importance of the work in the trombone repertoire, and won’t treat it as simply some kind of musical curiosity – which is great!

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