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Maurice André, trumpet
performance in Auch, France, on 10 June 1995
(review by Douglas McClure)



Here is a "review" I wrote for the TPIN back in 1995. I had just returned from a wonderful concert by Maurice André in Auch, France (about three hours' drive from San Sebastián, Spain, where I lived at the time), and I thought the members of the TPIN would enjoy hearing about it. As this write-up received an enthusiastic response, I thought it might be interesting to make available on this website.

Douglas McClure

Last night (Saturday, 10 June [1995]) I saw Maurice André in concert and thought I'd share the experience. Please pardon the length of this post and the travelogue style....

My co-principal had mentioned to me that André was going to play in Auch, France, on Saturday night. I jumped at the chance to hear him, though Auch is a 300-km (180-mile) drive from here. Couldn't convince anyone else to come along, though. At least on that particular evening, everybody else seemed to have been more successful than me in finding (1) gigs or (2) companionship of the opposite sex. All right by me: who needs love or money when you can have André?

The drive up was wonderful — as Garrison Keillor puts it, it was the sort of day a child might draw if you gave him a blank sheet of paper and crayons. Sunny, with fluffy cumulus clouds and gorgeous rolling hills of farming countryside. I was so enchanted I didn't even turn on the radio the whole trip up.

After just a little searching I found the place, a big barn of a sports arena called the Salle du Mouzon. I estimate it held about 2000 people, and it was full. The local newspaper proclaimed that this would be first classical concert ever played there. Surprisingly, the acoustics turned out to be okay — not too boomy or echoey, at least from where I sat in the 6th row.

This concert was one of four in a "Festival de Musique", whose artistic director is André Bernard. I don't know whether he is still playing the trumpet, but he seems to have gotten stick fever in a big way: According to the program, he is doing a great deal of conducting with minor orchestras. (In another concert of this festival, Bernard will be directing the Mozart Requiem with the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese.) For Maurice André's concert, however, the accompaniment was provided by the Orchestre Regional de Cannes Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur, a 40-piece group directed by Philippe Bender.

The concert started at 9:15 p.m., 15 minutes late. The orchestra played 3 short pieces competently enough, and then André came on. As usual, he was completely at ease, with an infectious smile and a word or two to orchestra members as he made his way up front. He wore a black bow tie — the first time I remember him dressed so formally! (I've seen him before with the sort of bolo tie I remember from Arizona.)

Though he didn't limp, André was walking rather slowly. A podium with a chair and music stand had been placed onstage for him. As he sat down, he explained to the audience that he had a double fracture in his "malléole" (which my dictionary says is the malleolus, the protruding bone at the ankle) and couldn't stand up for long periods. He didn't make a big deal of it. It was as if he were informing some friends who would naturally be interested but wouldn't really want to know all the gory details. As I've noticed in previous concerts, André is very easy-going and relaxed in his rapport with the audience, making comments to them from time to time (at least in France), especially before his encores.

André's program was almost exactly the same as I had heard him play a couple of years ago: Tartini, Hummel in E-flat, and 3 encores (in this case, the second movement of the Tartini again, Hora Staccato without accompaniment, and the third mvt of the Hummel again).

I will not dwell on his interpretations, because in concert he plays exactly like on his recordings, and with practically as few mistakes. (He made no real errors in either Tartini or Hummel, though there was an occasional fluffed 16th-note inaudible to anyone but a trumpet player.) I did have a good close seat, however, and enjoyed SEEING details not evident from his recordings.

I should mention, however, that he is playing VERY soft these days; in the entire Hummel, for example, he only played above what I would call a mezzo-piano on two occasions (like the high concert B-flat towards the end of the minor section in the 3rd mvt). When I saw him perform 2 years ago, I became concerned that he wouldn't be playing much longer — at that time he sounded physically weak, especially in the Hummel. But on that occasion he had just gotten off the plane from a date in Berlin, and was probably feeling the strain. This time I'm glad to say he seemed stronger, though he was still obviously saving his strength during most of the phrases. He did do wonderfully on the taxing 2nd mvt of the Hummel, however, so he obviously ain't in such bad shape!

Let's see ... DETAILS: He used music, as he apparently always does. His copies of the Tartini and Hummel were really battered — looked like they'd been through a couple of world wars. He used quite a bit of right-hand vibrato, especially on the long notes. He stomped his foot loudly at a key rhythmic point of the Tartini cadenza, exactly like I remember him doing a couple of years ago. For the Tartini he used a Stomvi (made in Valencia, Spain!) A piccolo. On this horn he fingered all his A's and E's 1-2, and his low D's (concert B's) 1-3, even though it was a four-valve horn. I assume this means he had the third slide pulled quite a bit, as the low D's were well in tune. On his (Schilke) E-flat horn, however, he fingered A's and E's with the 3rd valve when convenient for trills, etc.

Speaking of tuning, he started out a tiny bit sharp, especially on the F's (concert D's), but this went away after a couple of phrases without any retuning of the horn. (When he replayed the Tartini 2nd movement as an encore, he was more noticeably sharp throughout the movement.)

Before the Tartini encore, he jovially apologized for making a transcription of a violin piece, saying that one of his sons had told him it was like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. (Didn't seem to bother him, though.) He made the same apology before the Hora Staccato transcription.

He wiped his lips off frequently, also sometimes the mouthpiece — I had already heard (from Rolf Quinque) that he uses a dry embouchure. After tiring phrases, he often moved his lips around and made a little "moue" (you know, like saying the letter "O"). He used a mouthpiece with a gold rim and silver underpart, and changed the underpart when he switch to E-flat trumpet for the Hummel.

His second encore, Hora Staccato, was appreciated by the crowd, but it was kind of sloppy rhythmically and note-wise. His last encore (Hummel III), on the other hand, was if anything better than the first time he played it.

After the concert he signed autographs and chatted with the crowd. Somebody asked him about his equipment; he said he still liked and used the Stomvi piccolo, but had switched back to Schilke for E-flat. He mentioned something about the mouthpieces he used, but I missed it (sorry!); it sounded like a French name.

I got my autograph, mumbled "Merci beaucoup" in my best French, and drove home feeling the concert had been well worth the trip. André is 62, and I imagine he will be performing less and less frequently as time goes by. I feel privileged to have heard him in concert five times through the years, and every time I have left the concert hall feeling good about the world. The man is magic.

Doug McClure
[in 1995:] 1st trumpet, Orquesta Sinfónica
de Euskadi (San Sebastián, Spain)