This series of articles is devoted to advocating contemporary repertoire for trumpet. I believe new music is often unfairly criticized. Let’s face it, as brass players we can be a little closed-minded! Hopefully these articles will open your ears to some pieces I find truly fascinating.
“I like solo works, where the whole world is just you and your pipe.” Vincent Persichetti
Parable for Solo Trumpet is number fourteen in a series of instrumental parables written by Persichetti. Like many of the other parables, it’s unaccompanied and it grows out of one simple idea:
The trumpet repeats a single note over and over, as though stuck, before suddenly shooting upward and scurrying back down. The piece begins with a giant question mark.
Soon enough, the trumpet returns to a single note and repeats it, more and more insistently, eventually arriving at a strong statement – but this, too, trails off questioningly:
As the piece grows more schizophrenic, the sound of the trumpet grows harsher: the trumpet begins softly, with cup mute, then plays without a mute, and ends with metallic straight mute. The game of question and answer grows more and more desperate until the trumpet swings between tender, lyrical moments and raucous, frenetic passages.
What really strikes me about this piece is its communicative power. The off-kilter rhythm and melody of the music seem almost speech-like, and the characters swings wildly between different styles. The trumpet player is told to play “ardently”, “tenderly”, “capriciously”, “roughly”, and even “simply.”
The overall effect can be haunting: to me, this piece almost sounds like someone trying to speak to me who doesn’t speak a single word of my language. I imagine their initial questions and simple repetition giving way to strong emotions: fear, agitation, and anger. Ultimately, the piece ends almost exactly where it began, with one final, emphatic question:
Complete performance: Persichetti – Parable
Other resources: CD including a performance by American Brass Quintet trumpeter Kevin Cobb, sheet music (Hickey’s Music)