Air attacks and soft articulation

I am about to leave to go play the second concert in this weekend's Columbus Symphony fare, with Christopher Seaman conducting. Maestro Seaman rehearsed the orchestra in a remarkably efficient and thorough manner during the week, using his English wit and humor to great effect in communicating his rich musical ideas. The Bruckner 4th Symphony, normally an unwieldy piece, was well assembled thanks to Seaman's efforts.

This concert features pianist Yeol Eum Son, Cliburn Silver Medal Winner, on Mozart's 23rd piano concerto. The concerto has clarinets in it, something he only did in his later piano concertos. It's also in the key of A, which is the same key as Mozart's famous clarinet concerto, K 622. And it begins with the same two notes as that clarinet concerto. Cool, huh?

The second movement of the piano concerto has a lovely clarinet solo line which begins on a high C. I have begun to use air attacks for soft solos like this, finding that it allows for a seamless beginning of the note, as if it comes from nothing. The trick is to voice the note carefully with the air and embouchure so it speaks in tune and without a grunt. (click photo for larger one)

Mozart Piano Concerto 23, 2nd movt.

In the Bruckner, a similar situation presented itself:

Bruckner 4th Symphony, 1st movt.

In the Scherzo movement of the Bruckner the music demands a light, mercurial articulation. In this instance, the notes jump over the altissimo break. The only way to play this passage well is to do everything right: firm embouchure, solid air support, proper voicing, relaxed throat, and light tongue motion. And the hardest part is to get the lick out 4 times in a row, and then do it all over again on the repeat of the scherzo!

Bruckner 4th Symphony, movt. 3

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