Trumpeter extrodinaire on both old and new instruments, Crispian Steele-Perkins has built a foremost reputation around the world for his artistry and intelligence. Bringing music that is both historically accurate as well as generally entertaining is his goal, and he manages to succeed very well no matter what the venue or the situation. Going from place to place almost like a wandering minstrel of yore, he brings the joy of discovery to those who have never really taken the time to observe the instrument, as well as other performers who might want to spend their lives entirely in the world of brass playing. It was on the first day of April in that Crispian Steele-Perkins returned to Chicago, specifically to Northwestern University for a recital and master classes.
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Trumpeter extrodinaire on both old and new instruments, Crispian Steele-Perkins has built a foremost reputation around the world for his artistry and intelligence. Bringing music that is both historically accurate as well as generally entertaining is his goal, and he manages to succeed very well no matter what the venue or the situation.
Going from place to place almost like a wandering minstrel of yore, he brings the joy of discovery to those who have never really taken the time to observe the instrument, as well as other performers who might want to spend their lives entirely in the world of brass playing. It was on the first day of April in that Crispian Steele-Perkins returned to Chicago, specifically to Northwestern University for a recital and master classes. I had the privilege of meeting him in one of the small performance rooms for a most plesant chat.
Here is much of what was said that afternoon. Is that partly a tribute to you and your students, and your grand-students and your great-grand students? So right now, all the teaching that I do is teaching myself. I taught at the Guildhall School of Music for ten or eleven years, and I still do a lot of master classes - including the one here at Northwestern earlier today.
I really enjoy that. The the quality of teaching is very high now. There is a long tradition of exceptionally good teaching. But, generally speaking, after the last war, so much teaching was done by people that came out of the army - band masters and bandsmen. Almost everybody who does the teaching now is a university graduate.
There are also many good professional players who do the teaching. Baroque trumpet is not taught anything like as much here as it is in Europe or certainly in England. A lot of our concepts of all musical performance are still very rooted in the 19th century.
I was talking this afternoon about John Eliot Gardiner, whom I worked with for 15 years, and I must say I had some wonderful musical experiences. I do look back very fondly with memories of that.
So the conditions are different and he is trying to fulfill something rather different. As I see it, my role that I've appointed myself to is to take a real old instrument off the wall, as an archeologist does when he finds an artifact, and allow the artifact to dictate to him rather than have professors, conductors or anybody else make those decisions.
I think it does reveal some quite interesting things especially about the trumpet, about how gently and softly it was performed in the old days. I think that always astonishes people. In fact, most of the conductors like Gardiner, Trevor Pinock, even Robert King whom I still do a lot of playing for would much prefer that I did not play a real historic instrument. They want the compromise instrument that has vent holes in it, so it conforms to 19th century and 20th century standards.
I really do believe that no one way supercedes any other. I would never want to invalidate something that somebody else is trying to do. I see no harm in playing Baroque music on modern instruments.
I enjoy playing on the modern trumpet and I enjoy playing it on the compromise trumpet, but most of all, I like that feeling that I am just touching fingertips with Handel or Haydn. I think the standards were very variable.
There is no doubt about that. I think if you heard an early Verdi opera as performed in some of the provincial opera houses you would be absolutely horrified. The players in the pit orchestra were the musicians from the town band, and were mostly virtually illiterate. They're sort of second trumpet parts. Are we, perhaps, getting so that we are eliminating the archaeologists of the future by leaving recordings of all the brand new works?
I long to hear people doing better than I. I am, and I think a serious scholar should support them. Do you simply want to get through each piece rather than play musically? And above all, now we all tend to specialize in one instrument. I have written some new music but found it, should we say, derivative. That is a very good example. Singing in a big dry opera house nearly did him in, and then he was off singing for a couple of years.
Chris Robson is very great chum of mine. He's quite remarkable. The Xerxes that they did here in Chicago with Ann Murray was really one of the great productions of Handel of all time. There are other aspects and there are many ways of enjoying music.
It can be enjoyed at an intellectual level and it can be enjoyed at a practical level. But if it fails to communicate, which, I think, was the problem with much of the music of the late 20th century, we get bored with it.
We got bored with hearing it and we got bored with performing it. It simply failed to communicate with people and it became very hard for a young composer.
When Haydn was in London, for example, people enjoyed meeting him and he was a very entertaining man. He was a great bloke to have in the pub with you, full of stories and a good sense of humor. We do a concert and we find ourselves leaning with our foot on a bar rail somewhere and discussing some very serious things, like we are right now. But a contact point has been formed and, in my opinion, that was completely lost in the 19th century.
That era has a lot to answer for in spoiling quite a few aspects of music. But, I think the intimacy went and the prima donna appeared and that is a nuisance. This still lingers with some opera singers and conductors. They rather lose the humility of making human contacts with people.
They like to be regarded as something special and elated, and I personally think that those days have gone. I just blow the trumpet as opposed to going to an office. I suspect that there are some people that think, "Why does he bother? So what? We do tend to look back on our history, and it remains to be seen how this will all work itself out as the European nations try to amalgamate themselves. Of course, that could all completely unravel, like the Balkans have.
I mentioned about having Haydn as a great bloke to be in the pub with. I tend to look at composers and think, "Who would I like to take down to my local? Also Purcell, maybe. Does your technique change for the size of the house or do you rely only on the instruments? You sort of have to use the acoustic, and a dry acoustic is very difficult. A solid music stand gives you some kickback from the sound. So I also do that. You sort of get dry mouth.
No, thank you. A friend of mine formed a group where they were playing Mozart through speakers. They thought this is what the masses would want. There the second bassoon part becomes much more important. If you hear that music with the Chicago Symphony, you can hardly hear the second bassoon. It may as well go home. So that sort of thing is very interesting.
I actually do quite enjoy music at a very much lower dynamic level. I find going to an ordinary public cinema now an excruciatingly painful experience. I just cannot do it. I think it relates to all sorts of other things. Quality of life and quality of friendships and all that. All these things constantly need to be reassessed. You have to be. Mercifully, we retain our sense of humor and, you know, laughter is the best medicine. So for two months of the year in the fall, I travel around the United Kingdom with a group in costume, wigs and tights.
Can you believe it? We take the music very seriously and they get very high quality performances. The music is aimed at being tuneful, not too heavy.
I think the reason that Raymond uses me is because I walk on the stage and smile and try to include an audience. I think a tremendous problem that one encounters now is that a lot of music making at college level gets away from becoming a creative experience. What I do for Raymond Gubbay liberates me from having to be in a symphony orchestra the rest of the year because those two months pay my bills for a year. But I quite like being self employed. I quite like the independence.
We have a thoroughly Philistine administration that does not support serious arts. To our great disappointment, they regard us as being elitist. I remember a very close friend of mine, a young trumpet player, was killed in a car accident.
Crispian Steele-Perkins born 18 December is an internationally acclaimed classical trumpeter who was educated at Copthorne Preparatory School , Marlborough College and the Guildhall School of Music. In , he married Angela Helen Hall d. Steele-Perkins picked up his first trumpet at the age of ten and progressed so quickly that just 6 years later he was playing with the English National Youth Orchestra. Steele-Perkins's purity of tone and artistic subtlety have received critical acclaim for more than four decades now. Throughout the s and s, he played a key role in the growth of historically-aware trumpet playing, using a collection of more than pre mechanised and 'natural' trumpets to bring a brighter, clearer sound to baroque performances.
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