The Hammer Blow Of Fate!

The final movement of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is punctuated by three hammer blows. Alma Mahler quotes her husband as saying that these were three mighty blows of fate befallen by the hero, “the third of which fells him like a tree”. She identified these blows with three later events in Gustav Mahler’s own life: the death of his eldest daughter Maria Anna Mahler, the diagnosis of an eventually fatal heart condition, and his forced resignation from the Vienna Opera and departure from Vienna. When he revised the work, Mahler removed the last of these three hammer strokes so that the music built to a sudden moment of still, mute pain as its third blow. Some modern performances restore the third strike of the hammer.

Anyway, Graham Johns is the Principal Percussion of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra but in the Summer he flies off to join the World Orchestra For Peace which is made up of leaders and principal players from the world’s greatest orchestras. This year, the WOP has been touring with the ‘tragic’ Sixth Symphony by Gustav Mahler, culminating in a performance at the packed Royal Albert Hall for a televised broadcast.

Here is Graham about to strike the Hammer Blow Of Fate, having borrowed a box of talcum powder from Tuba player, Gene Porkony of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra…

1 2 3 4 5 imageI don’t know if conductor Valery Gergiev found it as funny as me? Only time will tell!

By the way, Graham is the managing director of JAM PERCUSSION , the world’s leading importer and exporter of percussion instruments and the choice of professionals the world over for their instruments.

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Tuba Humour!


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Lovely Solo Trumpet Playing By Mark O’Keeffe…

BBC Proms 2014 from the Royal Albert Hall, London.

A trumpeter evokes a World War I bugler in Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony No. 3

Andrew Manze conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in an excerpt from the second movement of Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony.

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Some Ideas For Honing Your Multiple Tonguing…

The Nightingale is brass band cornet solo composed by the legendary trombonist, Harold Moss. Moss was famous as a trombone soloist before the war and famous as a conductor of brass bands too. He was the conductor of the famous Leyland Motors Band which belonged to the car factory in Leyland, Lancashire.

One of my first trumpet/cornet teachers was Harry Bentham. Harry had been the Principal Cornet of Leyland Motors Band under Harold Moss during his tenure in charge of the band. Harry made a speciality of playing The Nightingale and another famous solo, Cleopatra, in the band’s concert programmes. By the way, I used to play for Leyland Motors myself as a kid and my father was a member on the E flat bass.

As soon as I learned to double and triple tongue, aged about nine or ten, Harry began to teach me The Nightingale. This Grand Concert Polka is still popular in British Brass Bands to this day. As you can see from the photo below the piece already contains a fair amount of triple tonguing but I have decided to take this a stage or two further.


I tend to play through this piece quite a lot during any holiday I manage to get from my day job with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. I prefer to practice music rather than books of unmusical technical exercises (lip slurs etc).

During the opening cadenza I double tongue the tongued semiquavers and use back tongue on the single semiquavers paired with the dotted quavers. I am not satisfied if I think my back tongue doesn’t sound as good as my single tongue  (or better!) and I’ll do a little work here if necessary.

In the following Andante, I try to play as musically, expressively and wring as much emotion and music out of it as possible. It is this musical approach which I think pays me much more benefit than pages of lip slurs etc.

At the Tempo di Polka I triple tongue and during the two quaver rests I play a middle C followed by a high C (fortissimo) as Harry Bentham told me Harold Moss wanted. I don’t know if this is common practice in bands but it is not printed for some reason.

In the Polka itself I immediately use double tonguing on all the tongued quavers. For example, the first B natural is played with the back tongue, as is the E in the fifth full bar and the D at the end of the sixth bar. The next section is the same, so I do it the same way.

In the Trio I continue in the same way, so the C in the third bar is back tongue, as is the F at the end of the fourth bar.

Following the rests I employ the same tactics, so the top G in the first bar is back tongued and the third, fourth fifth and eighth bars. The tenth and eleventh bars have both got a nice little manoeuvre whereby triple and double tonguing are employed on the first beat of each bar and the A in the penultimate bar is also back tongued.

The next segment, prior to the CODA, is played the same way as previously. The CODA is fairly obvious with more examples of mixing up double and triple tonguing in the tenth, eleventh, fourteenth and fifteenth bars. I actually get better results playing the piece this way and this is also how I choose to perform the piece, so it is not just an interesting exercise. By the way, I always try to play these pieces musically. I don’t like to sound like a snare drum or machine gun, so I try to play with style, in a melodious way.

Another good cornet solo which can be used for similar training purposes is Fantasie – Polka ‘Pandora’ by E. Damare. The first half of the second page is  a particularly good study…

unnamed-3 unnamed-4 unnamed-5This approach works for me. I find it also helps with orchestra pieces such as Sheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov and Cappriccio Italien by Tchaikovsky. Give it a try. Good luck!



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Musical Humour!


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Maurice Andre Plays The Jolivet Trumpet Concerto – 1969

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Rare Footage Of Shostakovich As Soloist In His Concerto For Piano, Trumpet And Strings


Here is some extremely rare film footage of Dmitri Shostakovich as the piano soloist in his own Concerto Opus 35 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings.

Can anyone name the trumpet soloist?

Yes they can! Eminent composer Anthony G. Morris has named the trumpet soloist as the legendary Leonid Yuriev (1913-1971). Mravinsky said of Yuriev, ‘He was the pride of the orchestra. If he were a singer, pianist or violinist he would have been given the highest titles.”


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Timofei Dokshizer Plays Andriasov Trumpet Concerto. Fantastic!

One of the first vinyl LPs I came into possession of was an old recording of the great trumpeter Timofei Dokshizer playing concertos written in the Soviet Era. Everyone knows the Arutunian Concerto but there was also this absolute gem on the album by Iosif Andriasov. I must have worn that record out because I no longer have it in my possession. My old school mate Richard Whilds, who now works at the Bavarian State Opera, bought it for me from a sale old stock at his local library.

Very recently, I was contacted by Arshak, Andriasov’s son and Marta, Andriasov’s widow about the trumpet concerto (a copy of which was sent to me by Arshak) and a book by Marta “Essays on the Music of Iosif Andriasov.”
This book (hardcover copy $30 and PDF version $8.99) is being sold on,

 Dmitry Shostakovich said of Andriasov, “… When the entire world lost a sense of harmony, composer Iosif Andriasov has not only not lost this sense, but added to harmony a new quality.”

Arshak Andriasov, himself a composer of repute, is organising an international competition to help young artists starting out on their careers and also offering recording deals as prizes. Here’s what he wrote to me about it…

Dear Brendan,

I created The 1st International IMMA Records Classical Music Competition.

The Application Deadline is 2015, August 1st.

The purpose of this competition is to not only give cash prizes for extraordinary performances, but also to help advance their careers through means of recording.

The Awards: First Prize $1250 + IMMA Records CD release (30-40 Min). Second Prize $1000 + IMMA Records CD release (20-30 Min). Third Prize $750 + IMMA Records CD release (10-20 Min). Each Accompanist receives $250. There are more rewards on the website.

Entry fee is $60.

15 years and older may apply

This Competition is for Best CD or MP3. The recording that wins the three prizes will be released by IMMA Records.

I have created a flyer for this competition. Would it be possible to post somewhere the flyer and to let people know who would be interested, perhaps yourself included.

The information and application can be read in detail here,

Thank you so much,
Arshak Andriasov

Here is another performance of a solo work for trumpet by Iosif Andriasov. This time with Arshak Andriasov at the piano and Scott Macomber as soloist. The Concertino For Trumpet…

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A Sad Loss…


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Oscar winning Herb Alpert Double…

Here is a double feature from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. the tunes are Spanish Flea and Tijuana Taxi. This short film, with animation by John Hubley, won an Oscar.


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