Alexandra Pakhmutova: Trumpet Concerto
Alexandra Pakhmutova was born in 1929 in Russia. She began learning the piano at a very young age and she showed much potential. World War II interrupted her studies, and in 1942 the Pakhmutova family were evacuated to Kazakstan. When the family moved back to Beketovka, Pakhmutova earned her place at the very prestigious Moscow Conservatory and graduate from there in 1953. After graduating, Pakhmutova stayed on at the conservatoire and completed a postgraduate degree in composition by 1956. Whilst studying in Moscow, Pakhmutova composed a lot of her symphonic works including the Trumpet Concerto and the orchestral work, Russian Suite.
Pakhmutova has composed for a wealth of different genres such as orchestral, opera, children’s music, concertos and songs. She is very well-known for her songs, as she composed over 400 of them! One of the most famous is Goodbye Moscow, which was used as the farewell piece at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.
With this fame, Pakhmutova has won a large amount of awards for her services to both music and her country. She has received several Government Awards and State Prizes. She has also won an Order for Merit to the Fatherland twice. In 1990 she was named Hero of Socialist Labour and then her name was given to Asteroid 1889. Pakhmutova is known as a national symbol in the Soviet Union.
Pakhmutova’s Trumpet Concerto was composed in 1955, and was first performed by Ivan Pavlov. Initially composed for trumpet and orchestra, Pakhmutova arranged a version for trumpet and piano in 1978.
Composed as a single movement, the work goes through an extended introduction, and four preceding sections. The slow and lyrical opening sets the mysterious scene for the concerto. The melody is set in the relative minor key, which foreshadows some of the musical material later on in the work.
The soloist shows off the lower register of the instrument by playing a syncopated melody against the string accompaniment. Although with solemn undertones, the mood is soon changed with the burst of sound leading into the Allegro section.
Double-tonguing and fast-paced finger work is at the heart of this section. The fluctuation between triplets and dotted rhythms is effective and offers a development of the themes. The musical material is passed between soloist and orchestra to fully develop the main melodies. To lead into the next section the trumpet plays a dotted rhythm on a low D.
The next section is slightly slower and the first 16 bars acts as an introduction to what the trumpet will play. This theme is also very lyrical and is developed for longer than the introduction. There is an orchestral interlude and the trumpet ends the section quietly. This leads swiftly into a fast section which is syncopated at times. There is a climax and there is a short silence. A series of single notes (Ab) is heard from the orchestra, and the trumpet enters into a much more dreamlike section. This theme is very different from any other theme within the work, which makes it even more striking. The trumpet then plays two calls muted, before the next section takes over.
This fast section is very bouncy and based around dotted rhythms. It is scherzo-like, as well as being perhaps one of the most dramatic parts. The double-tonguing here is incredibly tricky so performers are advised to pick a tempo that is not too fast here, or else it may become too difficult.
The bright tonality of E major here makes this the lightest section of the work. The first theme returns and when the trumpet comes back after this orchestral interlude, its top range is emphasised. The next theme is syncopated and is a development of the second theme. A developmental section leads into a very dramatic final stretch of the piece. The material has been heard before, but now is played with slight differences such as orchestration and dynamics.
A slow expressive section leads into the climax section, with the trumpet returning in a very regal and bold way. The end picks up speed and an octave sequence ends the concerto strongly.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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