Schoenberg’s Immense Gurrelieder by Monumentally Awesome

Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with Maestro Zubin Mehta

I got a call to play alto trombone with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. They are performing Gurrelieder by the composer Arnold Schoenberg. I expected to be playing a modern piece. But to my surprise it turned out to be a post-romantic mega composition that is performed by 131 musicians on stage and a 300 strong choir and soloists. To give you a sonic picture, here is a video from the finale of the dress rehearsal, where you can hear the alto trombone soaring above the whole orchestra:

Immense right? For me it is like closing a circle – My father sang with the choir in 1974 – the last time it was performed in Tel-Aviv! I was asked to play the alto trombone part, as I specialize in this instrument. There are 7 trombone parts in the piece: 1 alto, 1 tenor, 4 tenor/bass trombones and a contrabass trombone(!!). If you count in the bass trumpet and tuba – you have 9 low brass players! Although the part itself is sparse – the alto trombone’s job is to cut through the sound mass at the mid-range frequencies – and can be heard above the orchestra in the above recording.

There are a few perks to the job, namely I get to sit sandwiched between the principal trumpet, principal tenor trombone, principal french horn player, the bass trombone section, and get the play louder than all of them with a solo line that carries over the orchestra at the climactic end. I love brass, and I love sitting next to the great New-York players screaming their heads off with their trumpets and trombones in the studio – so imagine the power of 4 trumpets, a bass trumpet, 11 french horns (4 play Wagner tubas), 7 trombones including alto and a contrabass trombone – we had to get a special drone to do the job:

Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with Maestro Zubin Mehta

Just to get a small sonic picture here is a clip I picked up with my camera:

The section at the philharmonic this year is phenomenal, probably one of the best classical brass sections in the world today. Principal trombone player Danielle Morandini is being lent to the New York Philharmonic for next year’s season, so you will have a chance to hear him here. It is my understanding that the principal trumpet player Yigal Meltzer and Danielle are working on an disk. I can’t wait to hear it! Assistant principal Eran Reemi who played with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has launched a conducting career and I will interview him here at some point in the near future. Here is another clip I picked up with my cellphone. Alas the quality isn’t too good but you get the picture

here are a few more picture:

Danielle morandini is bored and decided to eat Yigal’s piccolo trumpet.


This is the view from my chair! We sit so far away – we need to communicate with the Maestro through shouting. The young blood playing in the some of the lower chairs have been having too much fun. Yesterday I was standing on stage all the way in the back, I turned around, only to see Maestro Mehta standing behind me, he looked at us and said – “The guys on the lower chairs need play LESS!”. Come on… who in their right mind would want less bass trombone?

view from my chair

First concert is tonight and it is going to be an experience of a lifetime!

Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with Maestro Zubin Mehta

4 Responses to “Schoenberg’s Immense Gurrelieder by Monumentally Awesome”

  1. I am so glad even with the hard practice sessions you ahve made time to fool around that just means you are enjoying yourselves with the craft that you have chosen. many are not as lucky as you.

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