• Liv Appleton

You’re Through To The Next Round: RNCM Audition


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As you have may (or may not depending if you were kind enough to pop onto my blog whilst I’ve been dossing about) have heard, I was lucky enough to have an audition, at the beginning of the month, at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Around the time I wrote my last update I was preparing for the aforementioned audition and I promised I’d let you know how the prep went and the outcome of the audition…ok it’s been three weeks since I found out my result…but better late than never! Keep reading to see how I got on, I’ll try and keep it brief (even though we both know that isn’t going to happen, I like to digress….. I’m digressing now….ok back to the point).

The Pieces

So, the pieces I chose (with a bit of help and advice from my teacher) was the Arutunian Trumpet Concerto and Meditation from Thaïs by Massenet, both of which are a pleasure to try to pronounce when you’re nervous in an audition and you feel like your tongue is tied in a knot to begin with, before tripping over all the t’s!.

The Arutunian, in particular, is one I have grown particularly fond of, as initially it irritated me due to there being so much in it that I condemned myself ( as blummin’ usual) not good enough to be able to play. I didn’t particularly want to practise it, favouring the slow melody-Meditation-which was within my comfort zone (slow melodies= yay! Technical concertos= boo!!). However I then listened to one trumpet player play the Arutunian, on good ol’ Youtube, and it made me want to, at least, attempt to make my rendition as good….and obviously it made me more motivated to get that important place at an establishment that will push me to be the best musician I can be. I’ll talk about him in a bit (stay tuned folks).

Before I go into my stylistic inspiration I’ll give you a brief (I promise… I’ll even do it in bullet points!) background on the pieces I played, and I’ll even add some links  to my favourite versions (because I’m just that nice, and they’re awesome)…which will heavily feature the player I’m currently obsessed with, you’ve been warned.

The Arutunian Trumpet Concerto

  1. Composed by Alexander Arutunian in 1945-1950.

  2. Arranged into 5 sections that are played ‘attacca’ (without stopping).

  3. The piece has a clear Eastern European feel to it and contains stylistic features of the gypsy and folk music of Arutunian’s native Armenia, as well as influences from smooth jazz styles that were becoming popular around the time the piece was written.

  4. Timofei Dokschitzer (careful how you say it) was the first trumpet player to record it.

Meditation from Thaïs

  1. Written by French composer Jules Massenet, Meditation is a symphonic intermezzo from the opera, Thaïs.

  2. It was originally composed for solo violin, however the version I performed was arranged for solo trumpet (or it’s obvious superior, the cornet in my case) by Malcolm Bennett.

  3. It describes the reflection of Thaïs, a courtesan who’s been busy having a good time and has been given the option by a monk to turn away from her life of pleasure and hedonistic fancies to find salvation and devotion in God. Following the Meditation, Thaïs decides that she will the turn away from her current life and follow the monk into holiness (I know which I’d rather choose…but each to their own).

Both pieces have now become favourites to dig out and work on when I have a spare moment from learning other pieces (currently the Oskar Bohme concerto).

Stylistic inspiration

Now, usually Alison Balsom, James Watson or Morris Murphy…or obviously my teacher Iain Culross, tend to be (depending on the piece) my chosen ones in terms of picking up (definitely not stealing…) stylistic tips on orchestral trumpet concertos and solo works. However there is now a player, who’s style and sound I am utterly obsessed with…and he’s not a cornet player, he’s a trumpet player (hypocritical given the name of my blog, I know …but he’s a flugel player too, technically not a trumpet so there, still kinda fits) and his name is Sergei Nakariakov. Just a warning: the following paragraph is basically me being a bit (well a lot) of a Nakariakov fan-girl and so it’s a bit gushy.

His version of the Arutunian concerto was full of colour and life, miles away from what I was producing, so listening to him play it gave me so many hints on where to go in terms of melodic style (particularly in the slower sections), articulation in the technical passages, dynamic contrast and vibrato that is more orchestral then brass band and how to make the opening and cadenza as dramatic as possible. It was Nakariakov’s rendition of Meditation from Thaïs which blew me away. He makes the trumpet sound like a string instrument!!! Now I’ve heard and played pieces intended for string instruments, but brass mimicking strings is something I’m completely new to and I love it. I, by no means, played Meditation  in as skilled a way as Nakariakov but his version helped me to get the right feel far more than the original violin version (sorry strings I’m a brass girl). I hope to write a post (or ten) about him as I’m currently doing a lot of research into his background and recordings. I’m also planning to do a review on my two audition pieces, so hopefully I’ll get chance to write those not long after new year, dependent on how much…merry-making shall we say, happens on New Years Eve.

The Verdict

So, the part you’ve been waiting for- the audition. I was auditioned by Roger Webster- current Grimethorpe principal cornet and whose  recordings I’ve used many times as a reference, and John Miller who is head of wind, brass and percussion studies at the RNCM, so yeah, quite influential people. Was I nervous? Well I had been preparing mentally as well as musically for this opportunity as I knew it would be a lot to deal with along with the pressure of wanting a place. I’d been religiously reciting positive affirmations to myself in front of the mirror every morning (which made me look like I had some form of musical multiple-personality disorder) imagining myself in the audition room when I practised, rehearsing potential interview questions with a fake ‘I’m not nervous’ smile stamped on my face, I prepared everything down to the pair of shoes I was wearing (you can judge a lot from person’s shoes you know, for example mine say that I basically live in converse so these are the only smart shoes I own). I was ready for musical battle, as I took one confident sparkly-ballet-flat footstep through the door and was greeted by my influential audience of two, I realised…that all my mental preparation and rehearsed potential answers had fallen out the back of my head and now I have to say hello to these rather important people and I’ve forgotten how to say hi, who I am and what I’m doing here. Now the audition itself I’m little bit hazy on as my mind was busy panicking on how to formulate logical sentences, but I believe I was quite chuffed with my pieces (a rarity in itself) I was happyish with my interview except I didn’t mention anything I’d prepared and I gabbled on about colliery bands for about five hours, and my sightreading has been repressed in a little pocket in my brain with other traumatic musical events. That was my perception of how the audition went anyway, but I must have done something right because as of September 2016 I’ll be studying music perfomance at the Royal Northern College of Music!! I’m absolutely over the moon with this as I have debated for ages about studying music here and never thought I’d be good enough or even have the guts to apply for a place, just goes to show if you never try you’ll never know.

Useful Links

Arutunian Trumpet Concerto- Nakariakov

Arutunian Trumpet Concerto- Dokschitzer

Meditation from Thaïs – Nakariakov

Meditation from Thaïs- Maxim Vengerov

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