How to learn Mahler 5, 1st movement trumpet solos

Last night I auditioned for the solo trumpet part for an all-brass version of the first movement of Mahler’s fifth symphony, which the Mystic Brass Ensemble will be performing March 8, 2020. I played my best and am proud of it. I didn’t get the part, but the fellow whose musicianship I greatly admire did. That’s as it should be.

I cannot emphasize how much I enjoyed practicing the challenging solos over the last couple months. I got deeply into this music. Maybe “life changing” is a little grandiose, but it was about as close to that type of experience with trumpet as I’ve had.

In addition to consulting my teacher, I drew on a few resources that I thought, perhaps, other amateur trumpet players might like to know about, should they ever need to learn this part, or even if they don’t. Here they are, roughly in order of how valuable I found them:

  1. Philip Smith Trumpet Highlights: The first two tracks have the key solos, plus much (but not all) of the rest of the movement, as performed by the NY Phil. This, on loop, was my companion on many commutes.
  2. Interpretation Class: Mahler – Trumpet Solo from Symphony No. 5, with Benjamin Zander: This is the best video source I found that explains the meaning of the music. It’s long, but worth a watch at least once. Notice Zander’s comment about the quarter note triplet in the first solo. It differs from other advice, as conveyed below, and from how many of the masters play it.
  3. How to Play the Mahler 5 Trumpet Solo, with Russell DeVuyst: A nice “how to” on playing each phrase of the first solo, including the quarter note triplet.
  4. Boston Symphony Orchestra Brass Excerpts: In this collection, you’ll find Tom Rolf’s interpretation of the solos. (There are a bunch more BSO excerpt videos on YouTube. Search and ye shall find. Each one includes a bunch of excerpts, strung together. This is a terrible way to release audio — there is no actual video. Better would be a collection of MP3s. It’s not a big deal to convert video to MP3, but it is a pain to chop these into their constituent pieces. I would gladly pay something for them if someone did that work.)
  5. Mahler 5th Symphony: Seven trumpet solos: As the title suggests, this is seven people playing the opening solo, in sequence. I don’t know who they are. They’re definitely not all amazing.
  6. Carnegie Hall Trumpet Master Class: Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, with Gábor Tarkövi: This is the closest thing to watching a lesson with a mere mortal. Sometimes it’s nice to see that not everyone already knows how to kick the crap out of the opening solo. You are not alone. Tarkövi is so kind and a delight to listen to. Great advice.
  7. Sinfonia No. 5, I Mov; G. Mahler – Hércules Brass Ensemble: I found this one after I had written this post when I searched for an all-brass arrangement of movement 1. Of those I viewed on YouTube, this is the best. So, while it wasn’t valuable for me in preparation for the audition (because I hadn’t viewed it), it’s actually far more useful to me in preparing for the performance than any of the above.

There’s lots more on Mahler 5 on YouTube and in recordings, of course. I did sample a few other things, but didn’t find them at all valuable. Naturally, I may have missed a gem, so if you know of one, tell me.


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