Today we will explore trends in orchestral section performance. We will listen to several "benchmark" recordings and contrast various low brass styles, characteristics and approach.
We will discuss current orchestral section trends (low brass and tutti brass). I have had numerous conversations with colleagues in the business and recently retired from the business. Almost all have noticed that today's orchestral brass sections have homogenized in terms of style, balance and approach. Consequently, for those currently auditioning for orchestral positions, the option of playing with a distinctive stylistic trait or interpretive element may not be championed by those behind the screen.
BP opinion only: There was a day, not so long ago, when drop the needle exams proved to be obvious based on the way a certain principal trumpet or trombone player played. The Cleveland Orchestra has a very distinctive approach to note attacks and sound. There is an obvious LA horn sound. The SFSO from the mid 80's had a trumpet player with an overt vibrato. There has always been a distinctive leading edge to the NYP and the Chicago Symphony, for years, has been defined by the musical qualities of the principal trumpet. When I first joined the "President's Own" there was only one way to play a Sousa march and the national anthem - it was just how you do it. "It is how we always do it and who are you to change that?"
My question to you, after you have listened to many great recordings of the past, what elements of musical style, character and interpretation are permissible today? Do brass sections still seek to define their style of playing? What are the current musical attributes of orchestral section playing? If the focus of current brass playing is simply to play perfectly together, perfectly in tune and with perfect blend and balance then we may be on the cusp of losing our stylistic identity. Why do we love the Berlin Phil? Why do we love, or for some, despise the NYP? I believe these distinctive qualities of orchestral playing should still exist but they are often replaced with a "clean wins" mentality. Blend in, don't draw attention and try not to be noticed is less than compelling both for us as instrumental musicians and I believe for our listeners.