Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Trombone Concerto
Composed for Solo Trombone and Military Band, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s work was composed in 1877 for fellow marine officer Leonov. The concerto was premiered in March 1878 at Kronstadt, with the international premiere not taking place until the summer of 1952 in New York City. There have been a number of significant recordings of this short concerto, with Christian Lindberg perhaps the most groundbreaking.
The work consists of three short movements, with the second and third including cadenza sections for the soloist. The duration of the concerto stands at c.10 minutes.
Movement I – Allegro Vivace
The vivacious opening movement starts with a flourish from the band before the trombone enters with the principal theme. The jaunty writing from Rimsky-Korsakov is effective and memorable as the soloist uses it as the base for the whole concerto. The colourful woodwind writing adds a unique timbre to the mix, as the brass hold back and add harmony. The quick pace adds excitement to the music as the soloist races towards the end of the movement. After a quick reprise of the main theme, the movement concludes with a brilliante variation of the melody.
Movement II – Andante Cantabile
The slow central movement shows off the flexibility of the soloist as the style has completely changed. Rimsky-Korsakov writes a sweeping lyrical part for the soloist, leaving the band at bay with minimal music to play. A small swell in dynamic creates a richer texture before the soloist enters the much-anticipated first cadenza. The cadenza, interpreted by the soloist, is often based on the content, but not always. The movement segues into the finale.
Movement III – Allegro-Allegretto
The military march-inspired finale is led by trumpet fanfares and bold percussion writing. The most technically demanding movement for the soloist, Rimsky-Korsakov’s bright and intricate writing is joyous and exciting. Big swings in dynamic keeps the listener on their toes as the effect creates light and shade within the music. The extensive cadenza in this movement is often used as more of a showcase of virtuosity than the previous movement’s cadenza. Soloists use extended techniques such as multiphonics to create a barrage of interesting effects. The concerto concludes with energy and boldness.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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