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EXCLUSIVE: Chicago Symphony Orchestra Trombonist Michael Mulcahy Talks Brass Tributes to Bud Herseth, Edward Kleinhammer

By Louise Burton on Dec 12, 2013 06:51 PM EST

The legendary Chicago brass sound can be heard in its full power and brilliance next Thursday at Orchestra Hall, when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass take the stage for a program of traditional favorites and symphonic masterworks arranged for brass ensemble. Their concert on December 19 at 3:00 p.m. includes the world premiere of Mason Bates' "2112, Chicago" from his symphony Alternative Energy, arranged for brass ensemble and electronica.

On this program, the CSO Brass will honor two of their illustrious colleagues who passed away in 2013. Adolph "Bud" Herseth, who passed away in April, was the CSO's principal trumpet for an unprecedented 53 years, from 1948 to 2001. And Edward Kleinhammer, who passed away last month, was the CSO's bass trombonist from 1940 to 1985, and also a master teacher of many of the world's top orchestral trombonists.

The CSO Brass has chosen Morten Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium" as a tribute to Bud Herseth. This is an arrangement for brass choir of the famous choral work, a musical retelling of the story of Jesus Christ's birth. During the Renaissance, many composers set the text of "O Magnum Mysterium" to music, and some of Lauridsen's music is reminiscent of this earlier era.

"We chose this because it is an incredibly moving piece of music--very simple but very profound," said CSO trombonist Michael Mulcahy, the director of the CSO Brass. "Bud was a person who had a very profound effect on those who knew him and who heard him play. He was the most significant orchestral brass player of the 20th century."

CSO bass trombonist Edward Kleinhammer was also widely respected in his field. Chicago Tribune music critic John von Rhein said that Kleinhammer is considered to be the dean of U.S. orchestral trombone performance.

Kleinhammer taught many of the world's top orchestral trombonists, including Mulcahy. "He was a first rate human being and a seminal bass trombonist," Mulcahy said. "He was very influential as a player, and his teaching career outside of orchestral playing was even more influential."

Kleinhammer was renowned, too, for his musical work ethic, often arriving hours before a concert to prepare, or returning to the practice room after a concert to ensure his next performance was always as good as it could be.

As a tribute to Kleinhammer, the group has chosen to play Anton Bruckner's Ave Maria, arranged for trombones and tuba.

The CSO Brass includes the following 13 CSO members: horns Daniel Gingrich, James Smelser, David Griffin, Oto Carrillo and Susanna Gaunt; trumpets Christopher Martin, Mark Ridenour, John Hagstrom and Tage Larsen; trombones Jay Friedman, Michael Mulcahy and Charles Vernon; and Gene Pokorny on tuba.

The group will open their December 19 program with Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." Another high point will be the aforementioned world premiere of "2112, Chicago" from Mason Bates' Alternative Energy. Riccardo Muti led the CSO in the premiere of the complete work in February 2012. This "energy symphony" by the CSO's composer-in-residence spans four movements and depicts hundreds of years in the history of industrial development.

For this concert, Bates arranged the "2112, Chicago" movement for brass ensemble and electronica. But fear not, the result is not atonal or unpleasant.

Mulcahy said that the movement is jazz-influenced, and he praised the interplay of brass instruments with electronic sounds. "When it is done well, as it is here in this music, brass instruments with electronica can be quite beautiful. I predict this version for brass ensemble and electronic track will be widely performed."

Other works on the program include the patriotic "Images for Brass" from Uncommon Valor by Stephen Bulla, staff arranger of "The President's Own" Marine Band; The Labyrinth, written in 1995 by hornist Kerry Turner, a member of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra; and Gegensätze, by Australian composer Paul Terracini, which was premiered by the CSO Brass on their December 2011 concert.

The CSO recently announced that seats on the stage will be available for this concert. Tickets are available at cso.org or by calling 312-294-3000.

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TagsEXCLUSIVE, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Michael Mulcahy, Bud Herseth, Edward Kleinhammer, O Magnum Mysterium, Anton Bruckner, Ave Maria, 2112, Chicago, Alternative Energy, Mason Bates