Approaching Mahler 5: a trumpeter’s perspective

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With the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra performance at Cadogan Hall fast approaching, we caught up with Principal Trumpet player Peter Athans to talk about his upcoming performance in Mahler’s Symphony No 5.

How are you feeling about the performance itself?

“I’m obviously nervous – it’s one of the most famous trumpet excerpts in the orchestral repertoire, so you know that the audience will know the piece. But it’s a good opportunity and with the brass section behind me, it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s also an honour to play in such a prestigious venue like Cadogan Hall.”

What’s your main approach to this piece?

“I think the main approach you need for this is to block out everything and just think about what you’re going to do. On the night, the conductor is going to look at me and tell me to go, so I need to close my eyes and focus.”

How are you preparing for it in your practice?

“During my practice I’ve been focusing on putting myself under pressure when I play. Playing the solo isn’t the tricky bit – the hard part is playing it with all the nerves and adrenalin rushing through you. It’s important to record yourself, be critical and play it over and over again until you can’t get it wrong.

“I’ve also been doing a lot of low note practice. Starting it off can be tough but once you’ve got the first bit down, you’re fine. You also need to think about the work as a whole – people tend to focus on the opening solo but you’ve got an hour and ten minutes of symphony and it can be a smash on your chops.”

Have you been listening to any players or orchestras in particular?

“One of the great things about playing such a famous piece is that there are so many recordings out there. I had a masterclass with the Principal Trumpet of the Berlin Phil, Gábor Tarkövi, and he gave me some great tips on how to approach the piece. I also went to see the Philharmonia play it too, which was great. There’s so much you can listen to for inspiration.”

Have rehearsals started yet?

“No. Rehearsals at Trinity Laban emulate how professional orchestras work – rehearsing in a short, yet intensive environment. We start rehearsals on the 16 June and then it’s five solid days of rehearsal before the concert itself on the 23 June.”

Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra will be performing at Cadogan Hall on 23 June. Conducted by Paul Daniel CBE, they will be performing Mahler’s Symphony No 5 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 1 in F-Sharp Minor, performed by Trinity Laban Soloists’ Competition winner Naufal Mukimi. For more information and to book tickets, visit the Cadogan Hall website.

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