She has put a new shine on the trumpet: Alison Balsom has a busy programme of solo performances around the world, often accompanied by her group, the Alison Balsom Ensemble, carving a niche in a world normally dominated by men..
euronews caught up with them at the Elbphilharmonie concerts in Hamburg’s Laeizhalle.
“I really enjoy this most of the time, because it’s amazing having an occupation which is unexpected and people are really always surprised, when I say, I play the trumpet. I love having the sort of sense of doing something that people don’t realise is possible. I love that,” the 32 year old British musician explained.
The trumpet demands stamina, power and the courage to be in the spotlight.
“I think in general you have to be fairly extrovert to play the trumpet, because you can’t ‘half play’ the trumpet,” Alison said. “There is no way to hide with the trumpet and it’s a kind of showing off instrument. It’s fabulous. It’s a brilliant heroic sound and you need a lot of physical strength to play the trumpet.”
Comparatively speaking, there is just a small repertoire for the modern trumpeter.
Today’s valve-trumpet was not developed until the 19th century, allowing players to create previously impossible notes.
And that is why there are no Beethoven or Mozart trumpet concertos.
So Alison transcribes works written for other instruments.
“Well the challenge is of course they weren’t written for the instrument and you don’t want to take anything away from the original. Because the pieces I transcribe I love and they are masterpieces and you know you don’t want to do it just for the sake of it,” she said. “You want there to be some sort of worth in what you are doing.”
She went on: “The baroque era I love because of its sort of flamboyance but the kind of clean perfection of it all. So much of it is kind of perfectly structured, yet it can really touch your emotions quite deeply and profoundly.”
But Alison Balsom’s repertoire is not stuck in the past. She asked her pianist Tom Poster to compose something contemporary just for her.
He said: “There are lots of challenges writing for trumpet actually because you have to take into account the sort of physical nature of trumpet playing.The trumpet player can’t just sort of play for hours and hours because its an exhausting instrument to play, so you have to structure the music very carefully.”
And Alison’s dream now is to work alongside several more contemporary composers to expand the library of modern work available for the instrument.
“In ten years time I’d like to say to you: ‘I’ve achieved these three pieces, aren’t they amazing?’ They would be around forever,” she said.
In this edition of Musica you can hear extracts from the following pieces:
Antonio Vivaldi: “L’Estro Armonico, Op. 3, Concerto No. 3 in G Major for violin and strings”
Tom Poster: “Turn to the Watery World”
Astor Piazolla: “Libertango”
Manuel de Falla: “Siete canciones populares
George Gershwin: “I Got Rhythm”