Recital likely to show trombone's versatility

Prize-winning musician due in Annapolis Sunday

October 31, 2002|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Richard Strauss, a front-rank composer who also was a dominant presence on the podium, once joked that a prime directive for conductors is to avoid looking at the trombone section for fear of encouraging them to play louder.

The great Felix Mendelssohn agreed, tongue in cheek, saying that "trombones are too sacred for frequent use."

But where would the symphonic repertoire be without them? From the noble chorale in the final movement of Johannes Brahms' 1st Symphony, to the slinky solo in Ravel's Bolero, to the crackling final bars of Rossini's Overture to the opera William Tell, the trombone is an expressive voice no music lover could do without.

"The trombone has been looked at as a handicapped instrument due to the slide and the awkwardness associated with it," says Jonathan Reycraft who has been the assistant principal trombonist of the U.S. Naval Academy Band since 1999. "But the truth," he adds, "is that it can be as versatile as any other instrument."

Reycraft, 26, a graduate of the Indiana University School of Music, will have ample opportunity to prove his point at 4 p.m. Sunday when he performs a recital at First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis in the historic district.

Joining Reycraft for the diverse program that will feature styles from 18th-century baroque to 20th-century minimalism will be pianists Halle Viniotis and Aimiko Hurd and percussionist Tony Asero. Robert Muckenfuss, organist at First Presbyterian, will contribute selections played on the church's magnificent new Zimmer-Walker organ.

A native of Long Island, Jonathan Reycraft has performed with orchestras in Indiana, Kentucky and Florida, and has won prizes at Indiana University, among the most prestigious schools of music.

His passion for his instrument and the repertoire he will perform Sunday is palpable. "The trombone really is coming into its heyday," he says. "There's so much excellent teaching available in this country that great players are inspiring composers to write new works for the instrument."

Reycraft will begin Sunday's recital with the free-flowing opening Prelude from J.S. Bach's D minor Cello Suite transcribed, of course, for the trombone.

Arrows of Time, by Richard Peaslee, is a work inspired by superior trombonists such as Joseph Alessi of the New York Philharmonic and free-lancer Jim Pugh. It's a three-movement tour de force that runs the gamut from evocative waltzes to lyrical ballads to delightfully out-of-whack dance rhythms.

The minimalist style, with its hypnotic repetitions of slightly varying rhythms and melodies, will be represented by Stephen Rush's Rebellion, a work composed for trombonist John Vance of the Baltimore Symphony.

Enrique Crespo's Improvisation No. 1 provides a dose of rousing, highly chromatic musical theater, while Camille Saint-Saens' Cavatine is the only work that French master ever composed for the trombone.

As the wonderfully nasty trombone solo in the Mars movement of his Planets might suggest, composer Gustav Holst was a trombonist, and his Concert Duet for Trombone and Organ, accompanied by Robert Muckenfuss, will conclude the recital.

The suggested donation for Sunday's program is $5 or canned goods for the Light House Shelter of Annapolis.

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