The three B’s of classical music — Bach, Beethoven and Brahms — are well known to lovers of classical music. This weekend the Vancouver Symphony will add a twist to that trio with a program featuring the music of Beethoven, Brahms and Brotons.
That’s because the orchestra’s music director, Salvador Brotons, is also an acclaimed composer with more than 140 works and 25 recordings to his credit, including his trombone concerto, which will receive its United States premiere in the performance.
Brotons wrote the “Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra” in 1995 as part of a commission from the principal trombonist of the Barcelona Symphony.
“My trombone concerto has five movements that are played without interruption,” said Brotons. “It lasts about 23 minutes and has a lot of different moods. It goes from very aggressive playing by the trombonist to very intimate and melodic passages, and others that are rather grotesque. There is nothing for listeners to fear, because the music is very accessible.”
The performance features one of the world’s premier trombone players, David Rejano, principal trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Rejano’s professional career began at age 19 as the principal trombonist for the Navarra Symphony Orchestra. He then became the principal position at The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, before landing the top job with the Munich Philharmonic.
If You Go
• What: VSO plays the Killer B’s: Beethoven, Brahms and Brotons.
• When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.
• Cost: $50 for reserved seats, $38 for general admission, $34 for seniors and $10 for students.
Even though he is a native of Spain and played in Barcelona, the hometown of Brotons, Rejano has met Brotons only once.
“Salvador is a very well-known composer in Spain and Europe,” Rejano said. “He has written two wonderful pieces for trombone: the concerto for trombone and orchestra, and a sonata for trombone and piano. I have played that sonata in recital and just did it again last week. I met Salvador about 10 years ago, because my wife, who plays harp, was recording a piece that Salvador wrote for solo harp.”
Brotons’ trombone concerto has been at the top of Rejano’s list of favorite pieces for a long time.
“I have enjoyed Brotons’ trombone concerto ever since it was written,” said Rejano. “It was written when I was young and not capable of playing it. But I enjoyed listening to the recording. Later on, when I was finishing my studies at the Paris Conservatory, I started working on this concerto for fun, because I liked the music so much. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve done the really serious work of getting it ready for performance.”
Rejano plays a Bach Trombone with a custom-made mouthpiece by Bob Reeves, one of the pre-eminent makers of mouthpieces in North America.
“Everything in the trombone concerto from the powerful beginning to the powerful ending is just terrific,” Rejano said. “I love the beautiful melodies of the second movement, the funny part in the third movement — using a wah-wah mute, which will cause listeners to laugh — and the way Brotons connects the first movement with the second movement with a very big solo cadenza that has nice melodies, virtuosic lines and a jazzy style at the end.”
“Salvador would say that he doesn’t know anything about the trombone,” Rejano said, “but that is not true. He writes very beautifully for the instrument, and he knows that it is a powerful instrument. He has also given the orchestra an important part. The melodic line changes back and forth from the trombone to the orchestra. It’s a great piece with a lot going on that will engage the audience.”
Beethoven and Brahms
In addition to his concerto, Brotons will lead the orchestra in performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) and Brahms’ “Tragic Overture.” Beethoven composed his third symphony in 1803 during a time when he discovered that he was gradually becoming deaf. It was the first great symphonic work that embraced human ideals of revolution and the enlightenment with a propulsive rhythmic drive. Yet audiences and critics didn’t know what to make of the demanding, hourlong music, and it took a couple of years before the work became appreciated.
Beethoven initially intended the symphony to be a tribute to Napoleon Bonaparte for leading the struggle for freedom in France. But after Bonaparte had crowned himself emperor, Beethoven, according to some accounts, became incensed and undedicated the work by tearing off the title page. By the time of its publication in 1806, the symphony became known as the “Eroica” (“Heroic”) Symphony.
The “Tragic Overture” is a free-standing symphonic essay that Brahms wrote in 1880 during a summer vacation at the spa town of Bad Ischl. Because of the cold and rainy weather that summer, Brahms came down with an ear infection and returned to Vienna to see an ear specialist who helped him recover. Brahms then went back to Bad Ischl and finished the “Tragic Overture,” which has stormy and dramatic music that probably has nothing to do with the ear infection he experienced.
Correction: A caption on one of the article’s photos incorrectly stated David Rejano commissioned the “Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra” from Salvador Brotons. The piece was commissioned years earlier by another trombonist.