Mar 13


MendezBook

BrassPlaying

Prelude to Brass Playing, by Rafael Méndez ★★★★★

Brass Playing is no Harder than Deep Breathing, by Claude Gordon ★★★★

These two books are very similar, in that they are written by the best of the best trumpeters of yesterday, offering advice to young (and older) students regarding improving their playing. Such topics as care of the horn, warming up, practice style, developing breath, developing embouchure and tone, increasing one’s range and speed are all covered. Mendez writes as though he was speaking directly to you, covers advice for the very young beginning trumpet player and their parents, and is more thorough than Gordon’s text on the nuances and discipline of trumpet playing. Both are worthwhile reads for trumpet players of any experience.

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Mar 05

AndreTrumpetSound

Maurice André – The Trumpet Shall Sound – 2 CDs

Of the greatest trumpet players of my life time, the three that stand out are Rafael Mendez, Maurice André, and Marsalis Wynton. Mendez was probably the technically greatest player of the bunch, overcoming enormous obstacles and endless practice to achieve a status on the trumpet similar to Paganini on the violin — he completely re-defined the media for both classical and jazz players. Maurice André wins the prize of overall excellence in the classical sphere. He had the most extensive repertoire, even converting solos for other instruments like the bassoon or oboe or flute into trumpet solos. His technical fluency is most remarkable. He is best known for his command of the piccolo trumpet, though there isn’t a trumpet piece on either the regular or piccolo trumpet that doesn’t sing in his hands. Common to all three players is the endless practice schedule from dawn to dusk to maintain the extraordinary proficiency on the instrument that they possessed. Playing the trumpet may look easy, but it is as challenging as any other musical instrument, if not more.

This album of two CDs is a smattering of André’s performances, mostly in the baroque realm. It is a total delight. His playing never grates or irritates the listener. His command of the instrument is both smooth and majestic. This album is a wonderful showcase of a man who has truly mastered the instrument of the trumpet.

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Mar 04

BachTheologians

Bach Among the Theologians, by Jaroslav Pelikan ★★★★★

This book explores the theology of Bach, written by an eminent conservative Lutheran theologian who taught church history at Yale University. It is a delightful easy read. JS Bach, while known as indubitably and unquestionably as the greatest composer to ever have walked terra firma, also had an interesting theological side to him. Bach was known to have an exceptionally large library of theological texts, and most of his texts were heavily annotated by him, as seen as column notes in all of his books in his own handwriting. An analysis of his musical output demonstrates that this interest in theology had a highly significant impact on the music that he wrote. In particular, Bach was caught in Germany during the struggles of Pietism (centered in Halle, not far from Leipzig), and the Aufklärung (Enlightenment) mentality. Pietism sought for a strong personal religion without the public sphere and without “fancy” music, which Bach strongly opposed, while in conjunct with the Pietists, pleaded in his music for a strong personal relationship with God. Contrary to the Aufklärung, which sought to “de-mythologize” the Scripture, Bach sought through his music to emphasize the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith in opposition to Aufklärung thinking. Thus, Pelikan would call each cantata of Bach also a sermon in music by Bach.

Pelikan provides marvelous insights into the theological culture of Bach’s time, and shows how Bach confronted culture with his music. Much of the second half of the book details Bach’s thinking in the two existing Passions and the H-moll Messe. With the H-moll Messe (B-minor mass), Pelikan shows how Bach thoroughly “Lutheran-izes” the mass, making it a more Catholic mass than just the confines of the Roman Catholic church. Pelikan’s final discussions counter a contemporary move to make Bach an essentially secular thinker, highlighting the much smaller volume of Bach’s secular works. Even here, Pelikan is able to show that Bach is thinking sacred in his secular music, and that it is impossible to strip Bach of a religious, theological context.

This book is a must read for anybody that enjoys Bach and delights in vast array of music that he produced. It also gives one a greater interest in not only listening to the cantatas, but following along the words of the cantatas to hear the “sermon” that Bach is preaching through music.

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Mar 04

TrumpetDummies

Trumpet for Dummies by Jeffrey Reynolds, PhD ★★★★

I generally would never give a “for Dummies” book above a 2-star rating, but this volume served a useful purpose for me, was informative, and easily readable, and so gains 4 stars. Reynolds give a very brief history of the trumpet, a description of how the trumpet works, and a brief description of the “language” of music. He thens spends a few chapters on how to learn to play the trumpet, and some advice on trumpet technique and beginning lessons. Later chapters deal with the paraphernalia that goes with a trumpet such as mutes, mouthpieces, etc., and how to care for your trumpet. Final chapters deal with mentioning current great trumpet players and general encouragement to develop the art of trumpeting. As a lesson book, it fails, as one needs nothing more than a good teacher, as well as a copy of Arban’s Conservatory Method and whatever other supplementary texts the teacher prefers (mine used Colin’s Lip Flexibilities and some of the Claude Gordon & Herbert Clark books).  The CD is designed to help with the early trumpet lessons, and I never took it out of its jacket, as I had no use for it. Reynolds gives good advice to the budding trumpet player, as well as a panoramic view of the world of the trumpet. It was a worthy purchase.

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Feb 12

Israel2015-843

The trip to Israel went from 10-22January. In the aftermath, Betsy and I spent the next 10 days recovering from jet lag, while simultaneously fighting off the crud that grandchildren seem to have given us (or perhaps we gave to them?). This was a trip planned with people from church, and so there were only three people that we did not know on the trip, though they were enjoyable to get to know. This trip was planned to include sites that Betsy and I did not see on our trip with John Delancey. I am not going to do a blow-by-blow account of the travels, since they would be uninteresting, but will mention sites that we did not see previously. There were a considerable number of new places that we went to this time compared to our last trip with John, and the older places had a fresh perspective. Being the down-season, there were far less crowds, especially at the “holy” sites. It added to the ambience to be with people you knew, although the most significant interactions happened when sitting around on the sea of Galilee enjoying cigars and good conversation. John again was a total delight to be with, and a wealth of information. Unfortunately, the stuff I wished most to remember from him I don’t, being somewhat brain-dead from jet lag the first few days. As usual, I took way too few photographs. On this trip, I used my Canon M1 camera. The beauty of the M1 is its lightness. The problems with the M1 are the inability to see the image in bright light and its extreme slowness. So, here are a few photos from this trip.

We saw lots of archeological sites. Unfortunately, they all looked the same!

We saw lots of archeological sites. Unfortunately, they all looked the same!

Flowers in bloom. It was a beautiful time of year to visit.

Flowers in bloom. It was a beautiful time of year to visit.

Valley of David and Goliath, near Gath in the Sephelah

Valley of David and Goliath, near Gath in the Sephelah

Cave at Moresheth, where Micah used to hang out.

Cave at Moresheth, where Micah used to hang out.

Wadi below ancient Be'er Sheba, where Abraham planted his digs.

Wadi below ancient Be’er Sheba, where Abraham planted his digs.

Kamelfahrt

Kamelfahrt

Kamel kopf durch Kamelfahrt

Kamel kopf durch Kamelfahrt

The Judean desert. The green area deep in the valley would be the road from Jericho to Jerusalem

The Judean desert. The green area deep in the valley would be the road from Jericho to Jerusalem

More road to Jerusalem

More road to Jerusalem

Shiloh, where Samuel used to play as a kid.

Shiloh, where Samuel used to play as a kid.

Beth Shean, on the other side of the Jezebel Valley

Beth Shean, on the other side of the Jezebel Valley

Ancient village in the Golan, destroyed by the Romans

Ancient village in the Golan, destroyed by the Romans

Dan at Dan

Dan at Dan

Rob, sitting at the gate in ancient Dan

Rob, sitting at the gate in ancient Dan

The dynamic duo, John and Schlomo, at the altar at Dan

The dynamic duo, John and Schlomo, at the altar at Dan

Rob, fetching baptismal water from the Jordan. Actually, this is the Dan, one of the three sources for the Jordan river, so, Rob might be accused of being Unitarian.

Rob, fetching baptismal water from the Jordan. Actually, this is the Dan, one of the three sources for the Jordan river, so, Rob might be accused of being Unitarian.

Climbing the last scramble to the top of Arbel

Climbing the last scramble to the top of Arbel

The Horns of Hattin from Arbel

The Horns of Hattin from Arbel

The cliffs of Arbel

The cliffs of Arbel

View of Arbel and the Horns of Hattin and the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes

View of Arbel and the Horns of Hattin and the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes

Heulenmauer. Wir Heult! Wailing at the wall.

Heulenmauer. Wir Heulten! Wailing at the wall.

Last view of Jerusalem. Looking at the south end of the Mount of Olives, with the Kidron Valley heading down to the Dead Sea. The mountains in the distance are in Jordan.

Last view of Jerusalem. Looking at the south end of the Mount of Olives, with the Kidron Valley heading down to the Dead Sea. The mountains in the distance are in Jordan.

 

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