Interview with Jesper Busk Sørensen

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1 Interview with Jesper Busk Sørensen The interview was done by Jamie Williams for IPV-Printjournal Nr. 43, Autumn, September 2016 JW: Jamie Williams, JBS: Jesper Busk Sørensen JW: It was nice to chat today in the Philharmonie and to discuss many things that we go through in our daily lives as professional orchestral trombonists and teachers. Both our mentality and experiences seem to be similar in many aspects so we can continue our chat here for the readers to have a glimpse at what is going on in our minds. Lets start by talking a bit about the city we now both call home. JBS: I love living in Berlin. Personally, because it's really close to my home town, Aarhus, and also just because it's BERLIN, a city with so many cultural possibilities. You can go to the theater, to nice restaurants, to fantastic museums, have some fantastic street food, meet all kinds of people from all over the world. In this city there's plenty of room for everybody. JW: You studied in Chicago and I studied in New York and we both ended up here. This large capital is indeed a place where tradition and innovation coexist. Since just getting back after summer holidays, the fact of being here feeds my motivation and fires up energy, offering clear short and long term goals. I'm constantly learning from my colleagues and students. Do you also feel this energy in Berlin and have similar sensations? Perhaps you could talk a bit about how you balance fitting in with your surroundings, specifically in your section, and still able to offer new, fresh creative ideas which add to the overall orchestra performance. You are on tour a lot with the Philharmonic which must open your perspective tremendously. Learning from your colleagues? JBS: Every day! Sitting in our brass section and listening to these world class players is motivating for me. And not only brass of course - some of my favourite players in the world are my colleagues. I still remember the very first rehearsal I played with this wonderful orchestra. Ein Heldenleben. I had NEVER heard anything like that in my entire life. And here I was - in the middle of it all. I have been a professional musician for 16 years now, and still learning everyday. Just open your ears and observe. That goes for all other aspects of life as well. We're on tour quite a lot with Berlin Phil. That means that I can explore the world. See different people and learn about different cultures. I like that. 1

2 JW: Though tradition is to be preserved and cherished, it is sometimes an excuse for a lack of development. I can think of old recording that are so exciting and musically superb, containing a totally different sound than our modern orchestra sound. Whether we like it or not, we live in an evolving world where change is growing rapidly. Through internet and recordings, a large part of our world has access at the fingertips to be able to hear great sounds. Instrument makers are in competition to sell and therefore work hard to produce instruments with capabilities to produce the best possible sound with the easiest effort. When I think of the trombonists who have won positions here in some of our seven Berlin orchestras since we arrived, there is no pattern of specific school or nationality. This generation is more interested in playing music and having simply fun, just like many others can remember from youth orchestra! Fortunately, it seems that there is less negatively, rather, about simply playing at the highest level possible. It is about how good each of us can be as individuals, pushing the boundaries musically, intellectually and technically. JBS: I play in an orchestra with a very long tradition. Also regarding the sound. It's another sound than I was use to from Scandinavia. I had to get use to play the german trombone, which for me is a bit more dark in the sound. I really like that the german trombone can play really really soft and when we do so in the section it's like we're blending in a different way with the strings. If you look at it from above: The orchestra has chosen me as their colleague. That means that I have to carry on the sound tradition. I feel very obligated to do so. I play my german trombone in the orchestra and I enjoy it. When I play solo concerts or chamber music fx. with Danish Trombone Quartet I play my Bach trombone. I don't find the change difficult. JW: Although we both play in an orchestra, our jobs are quite different. You are sitting on stage, in the spotlight, often with cameras recording live, and are not able to hide weaknesses to a trained ear. However, let's face it, we are trombonist and besides Bolero, Mahler 3, Tuba Mirum, and a few others we mostly are section soloists in the symphony orchestra. Our brass colleagues, especially principal trumpet and principal horn are much more exposed. The second trombone makes the principal sound great or not! Nevertheless, being constantly on camera, playing with two different principal players, and regularly with a different conductor must be a bit nerve racking at times. I can remember a night when I lost sleep because of a little crack in the beginning of Berg three orchestra pieces or calculating all events of my day due to a Brahms 1 performance that eveningt. In the Deutsche Oper Berlin on the other hand, we have a different opera with different singers and different conductors often every evening, at times with no rehearsals. As trombonists, we play in the opera in general a lot more than in the symphony orchestra. If we have something a bit out of tune or not together with the singer it is not the same disappointment because there are a 2

3 hundred more chances to make it great. How have you adapted to your position and developed over the past years? JBS: Playing in an opera orchestra and a symphony orchestra is two different things. I really like to be on stage performing with my colleagues. I like that I can see the audience while playing - follow their reactions. Our hall in Berlin (Philharmonie) is as you know "round". We have the audience very close to us and I can nearly hear them breathe. That makes me want to perform even better, and also makes me think about how I present myself on stage. How do I sit? Am I smiling when entering the stage? How do I receive the applause? I'm very proud on stage. I was brought up by my mother to present myself in a good way. I use that on stage everyday. It's true. We don't have so many second trombone soli in the literature. But when they come it's like a birthday! You have been looking forward to this day for a while and been preparing for a long time. I like it. I like to be put on the edge - where your heart beats faster and you begin to sweat. A small solo entry like on top of the last page of Brahms 2. Symphony makes my heart beat faster as well. If you look at the music it absolutely nothing. But it's soft and it has to be together with the principal flute. By the way it's one of my favorite symphonies. As a second trombone my job is very clear. I have to fill out the sound as broadly as I can. Back up the principal trombone in any way: Play a bit louder if we play unison. Make sure to follow his musical ideas. I have to take over the lead if it's only second trombone and bass trombone who's playing etc. I was 8 years in my previous orchestra, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. To begin with as second trombone and later as principal trombone. It is really two different roles. JW: In 2003 I came to Germany at age 23 and didn't know any German. I simply played my job and kept my mouth shut. Now looking back on those days, it was a blessing because the lack of speaking kept me from getting into too much trouble and made me open my ears on a higher level. My goal was to play my job as best as possible and practice to improve my skills. Coming from the Juilliard School Orchestra, I was accustomed to thorough preparation with the low brass section before the first rehearsal, playing with world class conductors, and having a string section containing mostly of students who where hoping for a solo career. We played concerts in Carnegie Hall to sold out audiences. It was a pleasure to be assigned to play in the student orchestra. Saying that, there are many dangers in getting into the professional orchestra scene. For many colleagues, it becomes just a job. Something which makes me very uncomfortable is the negativity I observe and lack or respect. After all, we chose to play music because we love it and some of us are fortunate to win an audition to do this for a living. What is your experience with this and how can far can respect and professionalism take an orchestra? 3

4 JBS: Preparation! Good old preparation. That's just something we have to do! As a student and as a professional player. It's a waste of your colleagues time if you didn't prepare for the first rehearsal. That can really make me upset. You just HAVE to pick up your music from the music library and listen to recordings before first rehearsal. That is a part of being professional. I mean, if you have been looking in your music while listening to a record of the piece, you maybe remember that the oboes will enter at rehearsal letter C and in that way you keep track with the counting. It's logic: If you prepare yourself you're helping to raise the level of the orchestra - and opposite. Sometimes we play a chord or a short passage before the concert, but mostly it just works. All the brass players is a member of Berlin Philharmonic Brass Ensemble, and we play a lot of concerts every year. After a while you know how the different players play and how their timing is. That helps me as a section player to observe that. I remember when I joined the orchestra in 2009 it felt so easy to sit in and just play. You just follow the flow! JW: You are a modest musician and seem to not be an avid self promoter. You have a wonderful position which many dream of and continue to work on new projects. Many of the readers are getting to know you here for the first time so I would liked to make it public that you are planning solo recording projects. Do you care to share any clues about the recordings? Also, you have recently began teaching in Copenhagen. Is teaching important for you and something you would like to get more involved with? Could you tell us a bit about your projects, also about the Danish Trombone Quartet? JBS: I'm not really into promoting myself. I want to do it but i haven't found my way yet. Sometimes I put a video on my Facebook or a picture on Instagram but I have to convince myself to do it. Yes, I'm planning my first album. Two album's actually. The first album will be recorded in October 2016 and will contain a trombone concerto written by a fantastic Danish composer, Peter Bruun, which is for trombone and sinfonietta. The second album is a solo album both with music written for me and music written for others, composed by myself. I have always been composing, but now I'm ready to present it to the world. The funny thing is that it's not for trombone. When I compose I normally write piano music. The album will be a mixture between trombone music and piano pieces written and performed by myself. Last year, I was appointed Honorary Professor of The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. I love going there to teach the students. The trombone class is really at a very high level and all of the students are very hungry for learning something new. I'm proud to be a part of the trombone faculty together with Jesper Juul and Torbjörn Kroon. Danish Trombone Quartet was founded in It's so much fun to play chamber music with your "own kind" (trombone). 4

5 It's professor Jesper Juul, principal trombone in Royal Danish Orchestra, Kasper Thaarup, bass trombone in Aarhus Symphony Orchestra; Jens Vind and I. I admit it's nerdy - but that's what makes it so much fun. We usually meet twice a year to make a spring tour and an autumn tour. That's a lot of organizing. We try to get as much music written for our quartet as possible in order to expand the literature. JW: Do you have any daily warm up routines or practice rituals? What methods or kinds of things do you like to put your focus on in your daily maintenance? What would you say are the most important characteristics of young players looking to have a professional career in music? JBS: I'm a very big fan of "Daily Exercises" by Eric Klay. Michael Mulcahy (my teacher from Chicago) show them to me. Since I learned them I've playing them EACH day. They have really helped me developing my low- and high register. Some find them boring but I use them as my morning meditation. I know I can only play them when I'm completely relaxed in my body and take a full breath. So it's kinda my morning checklist. Other than that I prepare my orchestral parts and practice upcoming solo concerts and recitals. As a teacher I see a lot of young players play unhealthy. As wind players we need the wind. The air. Take a full breath every time - it's free! JW: Thank you, Jesper, for sharing with all of us! It is always a pleasure to hear you play and am really looking forward to your recordings and listening to your compositions. JBS: Thanks, Jamie! The pleasure was all mine. 5

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