Solo and Orchestral Trumpeter and Educator

Thoughts on music, trumpet playing, and education from Eric M. Berlin, Professor of Trumpet at the University of Massachusetts and Principal Trumpet of the Albany Symphony and Boston Philharmonic Orchestras.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Exciting new work!

The most satisfying part of my career as a performer is being a part of the creation of new works. I will premier the newest of these on March 17th, 2012 with the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

A couple of years ago, the ASO started recording the works of George Tsontakis. An incredibly imaginative composer with a gift for orchestration, I was captivated especially with his percussion concerto
Mirologhlia. Dramatic, with a powerful narrative and a uniquely varied color palette, I began to imagine a concerto for trumpet by this incredible voice.

We recorded Mirologhia with wonderful percussionist Colin Currie along with George's first
Violin Concerto with Cho-Liang Lin and October, an orchestral portrayal of the transition of seasons in the Catskills. Check this fantastic recording out at

I am extraordinarily honored that George has agreed to write this concerto and that the Albany Symphony Orchestra has commissioned it for me to perform. The recording will be paired with another concerto by Tsontakis for Clarinet,
Anasa. We recorded this in May 2011 with the incredible clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer. Hearing what George made David do was frightening! Holy crap can that guy play!!!

George had me out to his beautiful home in the Catskills in the early summer where we explored sounds and colors that were possible from the trumpet. I brought along a ton of mutes and even brought along multiple horns. We discussed music, our favorite works, personal connections to it, my background growing up and my early training in jazz and commercial music. From our work together with me playing his music in the Albany Symphony Orchestra, George had a very good grasp of who I am as a player. Early on, he talked about a sound and power piece. Combined with his gift for orchestration and long lines of surprising contour, I was eager to see what he would come up with!

In mid November, the first sketches arrived in short score form. I was incredibly excited to finally have some notes to play! What struck me first was that the lines he wrote were challenging but so vocal. Imagining the textures underneath was more challenging with only a short score, but it showed all the makings of George's unique voice. Practicing the lines was fun but frustrating without the context of the orchestra.

Just this week, George and I met again in the Catskills to play through the piece together and make some decisions. Now complete with the prelude, "True Colors" is ready for orchestration. We made some mute decisions and he was able to clarify some gestural ideas for me. Much as I hated to admit it, much of it will be much easier with a conductor!

It is meant to show my true colors and I think he has captured me well. We will meet again out in California at the end of the month while he is working out the orchestrations. By this point, I hope to have the hardest passages mostly in my ears and fingers and ready to do some more refinement. Then it is just a few more weeks until the premier and recording. I can't wait to put it all together with the orchestra!