Philip Smith, Master Trumpeter

Philip Smith to join UGA trumpet faculty

A Season for Big Works...

Published: January 11, 2008
Eras, short and long, will end at the New York Philharmonic next season.

Lorin Maazel will end his seven-year run as music director in a blaze of big works, his own music and concertos played by orchestra members, the Philharmonic said on Thursday.

Over his final four programs in June 2009, Mr. Maazel will conduct Britten"s War Requiem; Mahler"s Symphony No. 8; Sibelius"s Symphony No. 2; Mr. Maazel"s own Monaco Fanfares and Farewells; a premiere of a work by Aaron Jay Kernis for trumpet solo, winds and brass; and Copland"s Clarinet Concerto. The principal trumpeter, Philip Smith, and the principal clarinetist, Stanley Drucker, will be the soloists.

Mr. Maazel, speaking during a news conference on Thursday at Avery Fisher Hall that released details of the 2008-9 programs, also let drop a bombshell that will rattle the woodwind world: Mr. Drucker, who will be celebrating his 60th year with the orchestra ne of the longest tenures in American orchestral history will retire after next season.

The heart of the season is Lorin Maazel, a grand finale, said Zarin Mehta, the orchestra"s president and executive director.

Mr. Maazel, 77, said seven years with the orchestra seemed right. He said that the orchestra had taught him much and that their music-making together showed himsummits and vistas and dimensions that I never thought had existed.

A tradition has to be renewed and people must come along, he added. Alan Gilbert, 40, chief conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, has been named to succeed him. There"ll be a lot more music before I say ciao, Mr. Maazel added.

Of theWar Requiem, he said, it"s a statement that needs to be made. The world is in trouble. The Mahler Eighth, A Symphony of a Thousand, will complete a cycle of the composer"s symphonies by the orchestra and Mr. Maazel over his tenure. He said that his appropriately named piece, Farewells, wasnot a very cheerful work, I"m afraid, but that the good news was that it lasts only 30 minutes.

In discussing the Copland Clarinet Concerto and Mr. Drucker, he said,We will celebrate together our joint retirement, recalling they had once performed Stravinsky"sHistoire du Soldat 30 years ago. (Mr. Maazel is a violinist as well as conductor.)

After the news conference, Mr. Drucker confirmed his departure following the 2008-9 season.

Mr. Drucker said he felt terrific, but that it appeared to be a good time to go.For me, it seems like a great adventure. When you do what we do, we do it for the long haul, he said.I"m a strong believer in luck, and I"ve had it in spades.

Mr. Drucker joined the orchestra in 1948 under Bruno Walter. He was 19 and had already been principal at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic. In 1960 he became principal in New York, and has since grown into something of a legend for wind players. His departure will mean the end of an era of storied American wind players in principal seats who came into their own after World War II.

Mr. Drucker said he would be hard pressed to think of anything he regrets not having done in his career.I"ve played all the great music written for the clarinet, some of it written for me, he added.I"ve collaborated with great players. He has also played for nine music directors and most of the major conductors of the last half century.I feel I"ve done it all, but I still feel excited, he said.

When asked about his postretirement plans, he joked. I"m going to become a professional bum, he said but added later that he intended to keep playing.

Mr. Drucker, who turns 79 next month, has performed the Copland concerto 64 times with the Philharmonic.

With his retirement revealed, concertgoers will now know they may be hearing Mr. Drucker play an orchestral solo for the last time. Mr. Drucker shrugged off such a notion.I"m a strong believer in things being fresh, he said.For me, every time is a first time.

Along with the Kernis work, the orchestra will play three other world premieres next season, by Steven Stucky, Bernard Rands and Peter Lieberson.

Other highlights include performances of all theBrandenburg Concertos over the course of the season; concert performances of Strauss"sElektra and Ravel"sEnfant et les Sortilges, a repeat from last season; an evening of works composed by Philharmonic music directors, including Mahler, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez and Mr. Maazel himself; and a previously announced Bernstein festival in cooperation with Carnegie Hall. The composer Elliott Carter, who turns 100 in December, will be honored with a day of his music.

In relation to theBrandenburgs, Mr. Maazel said that one of his regrets was not having programmed more Baroque music with the Philharmonic over the years.Bach is where it all started for musicians, he said.

The Ravel work will come on one of three programs the Philharmonic will take to Carnegie Hall, where it has rarely appeared in recent decades. A proposed merger between the institutions collapsed in 2003, and the orchestra has not played in Carnegie since 2001.

Mr. Gilbert, Riccardo Muti and David Robertson will continue their mini-residencies. Other guest conductors include Marin Alsop, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Rafael Fr"hbeck de Burgos; the relative youngsters Gustavo Dudamel and Ludovic Morlot; and two former music directors, Zubin Mehta and Kurt Masur. Ton Koopman, a Baroque expert, will make his Philharmonic debut, leading Handel"sMessiah.

A Natural for Outdoors (and Street Corners)

A recently discovered article, you might find interesting.

The New York Times
August 1, 2000, Tuesday, Late Edition - Final
A Natural for Outdoors (and Street Corners)

"Playing outdoors really isnt a problem in terms of the instrument," said Philip Smith, the principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, who is to play the Arutunian Trumpet Concerto with the orchestra tonight in Central Park and also at parks in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Westchester this week. Unlike a string player, who might worry about the effect of heat and humidity on his instruments intonation, Mr. Smith has no concern about the effect of the weather on his gleaming brass trumpet. What he worries about is his lip.

"One of the things I hate," he quickly added, "is that if its too hot and muggy, all the perspiration makes it hard to keep the mouthpiece from sliding around. So that will be an issue, Im sure. You need to keep a handkerchief close by. But apart from that, playing the trumpet outdoors is great. What better instrument could you have?"

Mr. Smith, 48, has led the Philharmonics trumpet section for nearly half his life, having joined the orchestra when Zubin Mehta hired him away from the Chicago Symphony in 1978. He has performed as a soloist with the orchestra about 75 times, most recently in May when he gave the world premiere of a concerto written for him by Lowell Liebermann. Concerto performances aside, his contributions to the orchestras sound are hard to miss, given the prominence of trumpet lines in everything from Mahler and Bruckner symphonies to works like Coplands "Quiet City."

Possibly because the trumpet is a natural solo instrument for an outdoor concert, he has also been the orchestras soloist in several of its park programs, including a set of Gershwin duets with the jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis two summers ago. Mr. Smith has performed outdoors in colder weather too, as part of the Salvation Army Band, which enlivens street corners and shopping malls during Christmas season.

Mr. Smiths involvement with the Salvation Army, in fact, is a central part of his life, and not only because it was under the organizations auspices that he had his first trumpet lessons. It is also his church. Besides playing in its ensembles and teaching the trumpet to its younger members, he teaches a Bible course and performs at Sunday services with his wife, Sheila, a singer. This summer the Smiths spent 10 days teaching at a Salvation Army music camp in Plon, Germany.

"My family has been involved in the Salvation Army for four or five generations, right back to its beginnings as a church," said Mr. Smith, who was born in England and whose family moved to Long Island when he was 7. "So I was brought up in it, and I continue. Music is really part of the social life of the church. When youre a little kid, someone slaps a brass instrument in your hands, and you start to learn. Its passed down from generation to generation. My father was a fine cornetist, and he taught me to play. Hes retired now, but he also conducted the Salvation Army New York Staff Band for 10 years."

If the Salvation Army gave him a solid technical foundation as a trumpet player, and a good deal of performing and ensemble experience, it did not quite prepare him for the professional life he leads now -- something he discovered soon after he was accepted as a student at Juilliard. Now a faculty member, Mr. Smith looks back with amused disbelief at how little he knew about orchestral playing when he entered the school. Having played only in brass bands, he did not realize that in the orchestra, the trumpet is a transposing instrument: when it plays a note written as a C, the actual sound is B flat. The trumpeter must account for this by transposing up a step.

"In a brass band, you play what you see," Mr. Smith said, "so when I first heard about transposing, I had no idea what people were talking about. The first time I played in the school orchestra, Jean Morel gave us Peter and the Wolf. I played what I saw on the page, which came out a tone lower than the rest of the orchestra. Morel stopped and berated me, and I had no idea what was wrong. So my first year of college, I didnt make it into the orchestra.

"But I learned other things in the Salvation Army. Obviously theres a connection between the music and our religion. When we play hymns, there are lyrics, and my dad always used to tell me that I should say the words through the bell of my horn. That was something special I had, that sense of communication through music. You know, if youre playing, Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, you can play it with a connection to the words or not; but to me it only makes sense if that connection is there."

How does that help in the mostly abstract music that Mr. Smith plays with the Philharmonic? "Obviously, you dont have lyrics, but the idea is the same," he said. "You have to find the heart in the music, and the heart has to express itself. There are times I put lyrics to the notes, just to help me. Theres a place in the Bruckner Seventh Symphony, about five minutes into the piece, where the horn has a theme, and the trumpet echoes it. Its very quiet and touchy, a nerve-racking moment. I put the words Gods been faithful in the past to that theme. It keeps me thinking my thoughts and singing through the line."

At Juilliard, Mr. Smith studied with Edward Treutel and William Vacchiano, and in 1975, when he was working on his masters degree, he auditioned for the Chicago Symphony. Its brass section was reputed at the time to be the best in the country, and Mr. Smith had no expectation of being offered the job. As it turned out, he won the position -- fourth trumpet -- and played with the Chicago Symphony for three and a half years, completing his course work at Juilliard by mail. He remained in Chicago until the principal trumpet chair at the New York Philharmonic became vacant.

"I loved playing in Chicago; that was the pinnacle for a young trumpet player," he said. "But first trumpet openings dont come along very often. Its the difference between being a starting pitcher and a reliever. I spoke with Bud Herseth, the principal trumpet in Chicago, and he said, Look, if you dont take the audition, youll always wonder whether you should have, and youll regret not taking the chance.

"So I took it, and I won it, and I had to decide whether to come to New York. Chicago gave me a years leave of absence, so that if I didnt like New York I could come back. But I let them know pretty quickly that I would be staying here."

In his solo appearances with the Philharmonic, Mr. Smith has played mostly contemporary works. This week he is playing Alexander Arutunians Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra, a virtuoso showpiece composed in 1949.

Mr. Arutunians Trumpet Concerto is now so entrenched in the instruments repertory that, Mr. Smith says, students use it frequently as an audition piece at Juilliard. "One of the reasons this piece has become so popular among trumpet players," Mr. Smith said of the concerto, "is just that its a flashy piece. It has a very Gypsyish, Russian, Armenian kind of sound, with very soulful, beautiful melodies and plenty of exciting rapid-tonguing kind of things."

Mr. Smith plans to bring something new to his performance. In place of the standard cadenza, composed by Timofei Dokschitzer -- the trumpeter for whom the work was written -- he hopes to play a cadenza he has just received from Joseph Turrin, an American composer. "I thought it would be fun to have a new cadenza, having played Dokschitzers," Mr. Smith said. "Its just arrived in the mail, so I have to see if I can learn it."