JD: What are your thoughts on performing “audience pleasing” repertoire and more serious works? Are there any composers in particular that you feel are capable of pleasing a general audience and that satisfy your expectations as a serious brass musician?
LF: The Vivaldi Two Trumpet Concerto and the Brahms Duets that we performed is the first time (outside of church and wedding gigs) that I have performed a solo transcription for a “serious” concert! Unlike the tuba, the horn has great solo repertoire all the way back to the eighteenth century. So my teachers always discouraged me from playing transcriptions. It has been so fun to play the Vivaldi and Brahms, however, and we plan to do more transcribing for TubaCor, as that fits in with our mission (see item #1 above).
My brass quintet talks about this a lot—we only perform “entertainment” music at Christmas time (that’s when our Kalamazoo audience is the biggest) and otherwise our mission is to perform serious art music. Some argue that performing entertainment music is good for building classical music audiences, but I don’t buy that. You’re training that audience to want/demand more entertainment music. It’s not likely that that same audience will come to hear you perform the Etler or Husa quintet and truly appreciate the performance, unless there is a lot of pre-concert talk and educating audiences about that kind of music. My quintet tries to program music that is both serious and pleasing and I guess that’s trying to reach everybody.
I like much of Eric Ewazen’s music and TubaCor plays a trio by David Gillingham that is well-written and challenging, while also being “audience pleasing.” There are a lot of others, but these two come to mind immediately.