Two months into the lockdown, with seemingly little good news on the horizon for the performing arts, maintaining productive work on the trumpet can be challenging.
This week I set myself a goal to home record Paths – In Memoriam Witold Lutoslawski – for solo trumpet which was first performed by Hakan Hardenberger at the Warsaw Autumn Festival on September 21, 1994.
Listen to Paths – In Memoriam Witold Lutoslawski here:
I was fortunate enough to work with Toru Takemitsu when I was a member of the London Sinfonietta and performed in the world premiere of the London Sinfonietta commission Rain Coming. Interestingly, we also premiered Witold Lutoslawski’s Chain I so I was thrilled to work with another great composer who Takemitsu held in very high regard. Paths is dedicated to the memory of Witold Lutoslwaski who sadly died early in 1994.
Composing for solo trumpet does present a composer with some unusual challenges due to the lack of harmony but Takemitsu explores a range of sounds, requiring the player to maintain a dialogue between an open sound and the sound of a harmon mute without tube. The ghostly effect is mesmerising with unexpected dynamic fluctuations from triple piano to fortissimo and subtle changes of tempo between crotchet = 60 and 68.
There are no bar lines but very specifically notated note length and rests. I have to say I found it difficult to be totally faithful to Takemitsu’s notations as it seemed to me that the pacing of the phrases and duration of the silences are an integral part of the atmosphere of the work. Having given quite a few live performances of the piece I suppose it is natural to give more space to such a short yet expansive work. Hopefully, Takemitsu wouldn’t object to some leeway in interpretation but sadly I’ll never know. He died in 1996 at the relatively young age of 66 years.