Fuchs Concerto for Bass Trombone
Recently announced was the World Premiere of a new work by Kenneth Fuchs, a Concerto for Bass Trombone. It is scheduled for December 15, 2018 by Randy Hawes supported by The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra under conductor Christian Lindberg. In fact the concerto will exist in versions for orchestra and band, and both versions will have premieres throughout 2019 and beyond by a consortium of no less than 15 bass trombonists.
We spoke to the originator of the commission, Russ Zokaites, Cincinnati Freelancer and Lätzsch Performing Artist, and asked him a few questions about the Concerto and commission.
How did you choose Ken Fuchs for this commission?
The long story: Ken and I have a mutual friend on Facebook Mark Carlson. In the summer of 2013, I began my first major commissioning project. Ken saw some of our advertisement and sent along kind words for young musicians. He also mentioned he’d like to write a bass trombone concerto in the future. I was living in the Netherlands at the time and fell in love with Ken’s American theme and musical language.
The best part of the story is how I became aware of Mark. I was standing in the security line in the Denver Airport during the Christmas rush in 2010. Mark’s sister, Lisa was in line behind me and we started a conversation about being [a] musicians. Mark teaches at UCLA and I have a considerable amount of friends who have studied with him. I guess you can say, social media and a serendipitous conversation led me to Ken.
How did the consortium agree upon Ken?
This project is an attempt by the leaders of our community to produce a concerto that could be programmed by major orchestras. Ken’s symphonic resume is impressive. The members of the consortium also enjoy the American sounds used by Ken in his pervious works. The relationship seems like a natural fit for a group of trombonists.
What other concerto works exist for the bass trombone?
Bass trombone repertoire has been in a renaissance since the early 1970s with hundreds of new works being produced. (Or, according to John Rojak of the American Brass Quintet: not technically a Renaissance—the 1970’s was part of the first era of creation of music for the modern bass trombone. Not taking into account, of course, the German solo pieces from the early 19th century.) These works were typically written for chamber or educational settings. We have had very few concerti of quality written for our instrument. Specifically, there are few composers that receive some concerto performances, Chris Brubeck, Daniel Schnyder, Jerome Naulais, Derek Bourgeois, and Eric Ewazen are perhaps the most notable. There are more concerti that exist but they have waned in popularity or have been relegated to student recitals.
Did you and Ken discuss certain characteristics that you wanted the concerto to have?
Ken and I did discuss a few characteristics, mostly he uses folk or liturgical themes for inspiration. Ken has selected, “A Mighty Fortress” for his inspiration on this piece. (Of course, in the writing phase, who knows how this could change.) The work will be 12-15 minutes in length. Beyond these stipulations, Ken’s previous works and developed style should be a good indicator of the bass trombone concerto.
How did it come about that Ken is scoring the concerto for both orchestra and band?
Concerti are difficult to program. Having versions for band and orchestra should increase the likelihood of future performances. I am happy to say the 2018-2019 season will see performances by The US Air Force Band, the US Army Band, the CCM Wind Orchestra, the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, and Baldwin High School on Long Island.
How many performances will there actually be, and what are some of the performances already planned?
The consortium is buzzing with excitement. Many of our members are lobbying for performances of their own! The concerto will be performed at two trombone festivals next season, the Lätzsch Trombone Festival and the American Trombone Workshop. We are lucky in the support of our entire community on this project.
Thank you, Russ, for your information, and especially for putting this project together!
World Premiere: November 28, 2018 by soloist Russ Zokaites with the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music Wind Orchestra, Mark Gibson, conductor. (band version)
In December the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra will premiere the orchestral version of the Concerto with soloist, Randy Hawes of the Detroit Symphony and Christian Lindbergh conducting.
The American Trombone Workshop is a conference produced by the U.S. Army Band in Washington D.C.. Here, the concerto solo line will be split between John Rojak, Russ Zokaites, and George Curran. This will showcase the consortium and our communal efforts.
April 25, 2018