February 4, 2016

Bass trombone in the spotlight

When you think of a solo concerto at the orchestra, images of strings, piano or woodwind instruments probably call to mind. However, this month at the RPO, the big, loud, brass will have its moment in the spotlight. On February 25 and 27, the RPO’s Jeffrey Gray will play the RPO premiere of Eric Ewazen’s Bass Trombone Concerto. Ewazen is a graduate of both The Eastman School of Music and The Juilliard School of Music, the latter of which he is now a professor of music theory.

Jeffrey Gray
“Concerto for bass trombone celebrates the rich sonorities of this very expressive instrument,” wrote Ewazen in the program notes for this piece. “It is a brass instrument, so of course it is capable of loud, dramatic sonorities associated with heroic fanfares, but it can also play lyrically and gently, having the sound of a baritone or bass singer.”

While Ewazen’s concerto has never been performed at the RPO, Gray first performed the work in 1999 with the Bowling Green Philharmonia. Gray and Ewazen also teamed up this past fall to perform the work (Ewazen on piano) at an RPO volunteer event.

“I’ve admired his work for many years,” said Gray. “It has that distinctive American sound—like Bernstein or Copland. The sound is recognizable even if you have never heard the piece.”

Ewazen's Bass Trombone Concerto fits on the RPO program bookended by two classical masterpieces: Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 “Rhenish.”

“The other two pieces are staples of the repertoire,” said Gray. “I am looking forward to this concerto because it will give the audience something new and different—we’re not just playing the same pieces you’ve heard before.”

If you go:
Mozart 29, featuring the RPO premiere of Eric Ewazen's Bass Trombone Concerto

Thu. Feb. 25 at 7:30 PM
Sat. Feb. 27 at 8 PM

Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
Tickets start at $22

Preview of Eric Ewazen's Bass Trombone Concerto, performed by Charles Vernon, bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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