Alison Balsom

The British trumpeter on performing at the Royal Albert Hall's Love Classical festival

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Alison Balsom
Alison Balsom
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The first Love Classical festival takes place at the Royal Albert Hall from 4-15 March 2017, with concerts from violinist Nigel Kennedy, pianist Lang Lang and trumpeter Alison Balsom. On 12 March, Balsom will appear with a host of friends for a recital of music ranging from Vivaldi to Edith Piaf, and on 7 March she leads a workshop for young brass players.

 

What was the idea behind this varied programme?

I've given a concert at the Royal Albert Hall before, and it's a very specific place to play. Last time I was pleased with how I put it together, but as the trumpet repertoire is fairly limited, doing another whole, fresh, new programme has been such a challenge. As a trumpet player I want to show all the amazing things the trumpet does, both in the classical and non-classical worlds. Everything needs to make sense, so the curation of the programme is a challenge. We've got jazz musicians, natural trumpet players, organ and bass-baritone Bryn Terfel singing. They all have this exuberance and joy for making music. It's a journey through all different styles, with the trumpet as the leitmotif. It's going to be fun. It really is 'Alison and friends'.

What I find is that Baroque music – a golden age for the trumpet – juxtaposes really well with more modern music. In the first half, I'm making use of the Albert Hall's amazing organ, so David Goode and I are playing Bieber, Vivaldi and Handel. We're also playing some Petr Eben, which is very atmospheric and powerful, quite challenging but very evocative. And then in the second half, there's a segment on Brass for Africa [a musical charity], which is close to my heart; jazz trumpeter Guy Barker and I will duet in La vie en Rose, and then Bryn Terfel and I will duet too.

 

What can you tell us about the world premiere of a piece by Gabriel Prokofiev?

It's for trumpet and turntables, and I think it's going to be called Broken Screen. It's about eight minutes, so it's quite substantial. It's going to be a really brilliant way of using a classical solo instrument with electronics, and Gabriel will be on stage. As many people will testify from the success of the piece he wrote for the BBC Ten Pieces project, it's amazing music. It's going to be a thrill.

 

And will you doing anything special with the staging?

I'm always overambitious with these things, and of course in the Royal Albert Hall you can literally do anything, whether it's a tennis match or an ice rink. Last time I had hundreds of umbrellas hanging from the ceiling in the first half as there was a spring theme, and the second half was autumnal with all these golden orbs. This time I just want it to be really simple on stage. I'll stand in the middle and play the programme, and have people come and join me from one side or the other.

 

What can someone coming along to your brass workshop expect?

We're going to work on some brass quintet music. The players can join in at any level on different parts, from beginners to advanced. It's for 11 to 14 year-olds, which I think is a really crucial age. Young people might have had that initial enthusiasm, but then it's easy for it to tail off when they change schools and for the rest of their work to overwhelm them. There's not necessarily the same exposure or opportunity. I specifically wanted to work with this age group.

 

What are your top tips for anyone who wants to take up an instrument?

It's not just a brass instrument, but any instrument: go to live concerts. See what's on in you area and go to see something live. Live music is something that moves you in a way that nothing else will. Especially when you have the hard slog of scales and so on, you need to remember the joy of why you're playing.

 

What's coming up in the diary for you?

After I play with the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on 3 August, I'm taking a sabbatical. So I suppose this Albert Hall concert is going to be the last opportunity for some time to hear me play. I might be on sabbatical for two seasons. I want to spend some time concentrating on family and also to spend some time on recording.

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