March for Lincoln

07598v

Byron Peebles, 1931-2017

Bryon Peebles, the longtime co-principal trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, passed away Monday a few days shy of his 86th birthday.

Byron was a wonderful trombonist, teacher and human being. He had a great career. After studying with Robert Marsteller at USC, he joined the Indianapolis Symphony, and then the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner. (While in Chicago, he performed on several recordings with the group, including, if memory serves, Reiner’s Also Sprach Zarathustra and the classic account of Franck’s D-minor Symphony led by Pierre Monteux.) He joined the LA Phil in 1963, working for music directors Zubin Mehta, Carlo Maria Giulini, Andre Previn and Esa-Pekka Salonen.

I had the good fortune to study privately with Byron in the mid-1980s. By then, I had graduated from USC and was commenced on a career as a professional trombonist. But at the time I went to study with Byron, on the recommendation of my teacher at USC, I was having some serious issues with my embouchure, and was having trouble playing at all.

And so I would drive to his house in Glendale and we’d go upstairs to his study, where with unswerving patience and scientific expertise he tried to help fix me up. I remember he was always encouraging, even when things weren’t going so well. I remember, too, that he eventually took me through a complete embouchure change, remaking my chops from scratch, a delicate and scary thing. I will forever be grateful to him.

After he retired from the Phil, Byron and his wife Louise could still be seen attending concerts. I last saw Byron at a Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra concert a few years ago and he was exactly the same — gentlemanly and warm and genuinely glad to see me.

Byron played in what I still consider to be the greatest LA Phil trombone section, comprised of Ralph Sauer, Herbert Ausman (still in the orchestra), Jeffrey Reynolds and himself. They can all be heard in the video above, taken from an album they made in the 1970s.

Audio: Schubert: String Quintet in C: Adagio

The Emerson String Quartet with Mstislav Rostropovich.

…like Mozart in a girls’ school

“Then at last came the moment I loved so much. Out in the sunlight, with the bridge filled with staring pedestrians, the band formed up. Dickie Ryan, the bandmaster’s son, and myself took places at either side of the big drummer, Joe Shinkwin. Joe peered over his big drum to right and left to see if all were in place and ready; he raised his right arm and gave the drum three solemn flakes: then, after the third thump the whole narrow channel of the street filled with a roaring torrent of drums and brass, the mere physical impact of which hit me in the belly. Screaming girls in shawls tore along the pavements calling out to the bandsmen, but nothing shook the soldierly solemnity of the men with their eyes almost crossed on the music before them. I’ve heard Toscanini conduct Beethoven, but compared with Irishtown playing “Marching Through Georgia” on a Sunday morning it was only like Mozart in a girls’ school. The mean little houses, quivering with the shock, gave it back to us: the terraced hillsides that shut out the sky gave it back to us; the interested faces of passers-by in their Sunday clothes from the pavements were like mirrors reflecting the glory of the music. When the band stopped and again you could hear the gapped sound of feet, and people running and chattering, it was like a parachute jump into commonplace.” — from “The Cornet Player Who Betrayed Ireland” by Frank O’Connor

Great moments in film music: ‘Oklahoma!’

The ballet. Choreography by Agnes de Mille. Music by Richard Rodgers.

The end of music criticism?

8a22095v

Here’s a sobering article from the Columbia Journalism Review on the plight of arts critics around the country.

Newspapers used to serve an important function in our nation’s cultural life, not so much any more. American newspapers are becoming, to use H.L. Mencken’s phrase, a Sahara of the Bozart. The thing is, nothing is replacing them in terms of regular, comprehensive coverage of the arts.

There are fewer than 10 full-time classical music critics working at newspapers in the U.S. these days (just two in all of California). There is only one magazine, The New Yorker, with a classical music critic on staff.

Great moments in film music: ‘Austin Powers’

The music is “Soul Bossa Nova” by Quincy Jones, released in 1962.

Alabama Hills, storm rising

 

img_0479

November, 2016.

The complete New Year’s concert from Vienna, with Gustavo Dudamel and the Vienna Philharmonic

PBS snipped a huge chunk out of the concert. Here’s the entire thing, in a Spanish broadcast with an intermission feature. You’re welcome.

Great moments in film music: ‘La La Land’

Just a small sample from the spectacular new American musical, “La La Land.” By the way, the film was shot in CinemaScope using the same lenses — the exact same lenses — they used to shoot “Ben-Hur” in the late ’50s.

Music by Justin Hurwitz.

Correction: My cinematographer brother-in-law informs me that the “Ben-Hur” lenses were used on “Rogue One” not “La La Land.” My error. “La La Land was shot with regular Panavision 2X anamorphic lenses, the same format as CinemaScope originally, a 2X horizontally squeezed image onto the 4-perf 35mm film frame,” my brother-in-law says. He would know.