James A. Beckel, Jr.
tenor trombone, bass trombone, piano

N.p., , United States
Date of Publication: 2001 / 2015


The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have inspired many composers to turn to music to challenge and comfort listeners. Commissioned by Paul Compton and Joshua Brown and dedicated to the memory of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, James Beckel’s Lament calls for tenor and bass trombones with piano, as did Eric Ewazen’s response to 9/11, A Duet for Our Time. While Ewazen’s work is episodic and in four discrete movements, Beckel, a prolific composer of music in many varied genres who is also principal trombonist of the Indianapolis Symphony and on the faculty at Depauw University, has crafted an integrated, one movement composition. The composer does not provide a program for the work’s five connected sections. Rather, the contrasting episodes evoke a sense of various emotions that flowed from the attacks.

After a loud, dramatic introduction for piano alone, the trombones enter with ascending, lyrical lines that continue for most of the piece. A passage in mixed meters seems to reflect the confusion of the time before Lament concludes quietly. Whether Beckel intended the inclusion of some of the loud glissandi to portray the flying and crashing of airplanes­—this is something every young player learns to do within five minutes of first picking up the trombone—that is what immediately comes to mind upon hearing them and the effect seems a little out of place. This is a work for accomplished players; the range for tenor trombone is c–c2 and for bass trombone from BB-flat to e1. James Beckel has given trombonists a fine work that shows his keen understanding of the capabilities of the instrument and the importance of treating the subject of the piece with sensitivity and respect. Placing Lament just before intermission of a recital will provide the audience with time to process their own thoughts that will certainly be stirred by a compelling performance of the work.

Reviewer: Douglas Yeo
Review Published January 31, 2019