Lesson 3 - Cantilena
And that is exactly what we have here: a beautiful little song! This is a special moment in the Konzertino, an inspired passage that lets us show the lyrical side of our instrument. This is a good opportunity to expose yourself to some of the great Lieder singers, especially the tenors, and further enhance the lyrical elements of your playing.
This is just a mini-taste, of course, and I encourage you to explore as much vocal music as possible. Notice in this example - despite the foreign language - that we have clear, articulate diction AND a wonderful flow and direction to the phrase. We will be looking at how that applies to us.
In our "Little Song" we are working with 12 bars of music - really only 40 notes in all! But we have instructions expressed in words and markings as well.
The dynamic marking "Piano" should be an easy one. The word means "soft". But what does soft mean? It should be more than just the opposite of loud. How about soft as a texture, like your pillow is soft, or soft like velvet? How about gentle or tender? You get the idea. Let's not make soft the mere turning down of the volume knob. And - whatever picture of soft that you go with, make sure that you are blowing freely and easily, not holding back.
What about "dolce"? This means sweet. Okay. What does sweet mean to you in music? Please, not "syrupy". That would be con mucho dolcissimissimi or something like that. For dolce, I like to think of speaking sweetly, patiently explaining something to a young child, or wooing my sweetheart with words of endearment. In either of those cases, you'll be speaking differently - more sweetly and with charm - than if you were reporting on a sports event or reciting the Gettysburg address. Try speaking out loud in a sweet, charming manner. You will probably find yourself enunciating more clearly, maybe even with a hint of lilt.
We also have phrase marks, or slur marks. Most editions have the phrasing marked something like this.
I am a crusader against "coincidental phrasing", whereby a sen-TENCE is IN-flected howev-ER it trip-PLES out OF the mouth. Just as that is difficult to read, so is a coincidentally-inflected phrase difficult to listen to, understand, and enjoy.
In trying to turn our phrase nicely, we mustn't understand the markings above as four little phrasettes, but rather as note groupings. Compare this to vocal writing, where a word is sometimes stretched over a few notes. You will see the text written out something like this:
(Can you name the work from which this passage originates? If so, contact me for a free autographed copy of my CD "Timeless Trombone Tales"!)
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This passage is from the famous Rudolfo aria, Che gelida manina ("how cold your little hand is") of Puccini's La Boheme.
You will find it in the first act of this beautiful opera.
We now continue with the lesson....
Just as this is obviously one phrase - a sentence! - so also should our cantilena phrase be viewed as one flowing sentence, with the note groupings adding clarity, enunciation, inflection, and charm. Think of it this way:
Listen again to the vocal clip above, and note the clarity of enunciation but also the pulse, inflection, and flow of the sentence.
To further illustrate this point, let us compare a vocalise to a song. We trombonists immediately associate vocalise with the Rochut books. Joannes Rochut, onetime trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, transcribed the vocalises of Marco Bordogni for our instrument. A vocalise is a vocal etude meant to be sung on a single vowel. There are no words - not even consonants! And that is why - both in Rochut and the original Bordogni - you will not see differentiated slur/phrase marks as we have here in our cantilena, but rather broad, sweeping marks.
Vocalises are great studies for - among other things - gaining a feel for the shape and flow of a phrase, but phrasing as we are looking at it goes beyond these qualities to include articulation of note groupings as seen above.
And now for some particulars.
I have heard it said that 'd' in 4th is the most important note on the trombone.
While I can imagine a number of reasons why this may be, I believe that this 'd' in 4th can help us make the most of a couple of features in this little song. In measure 94 it should help make a nice smooth slur, for example.
Try this a few times and get comfortable with it. A further 'd' in 4th that can help us here is in measure 95 on beat 4. In both cases, the 'd' in 1st could lead to a bumpy 'across the grain' connection at a point in the phrase where we don't want it. One final opportunity to let "d in 4th be the most important note on the trombone" is measure 99, with the gruppetto or turn.
Try these possibilities out. You may like what they do for your phrasing.
And so we have spent a lot of time and thought on a mere 40 notes, covering a number of thoughts, ideas, and concepts. Have fun singing this and many other little songs!
And now, on to