Review


Per Brevig
Reflections on the Art of Trombone Playing:

Vancouver, BC, , Canada
Publisher: Cherry Classics Music
Date of Publication: 2017
Language: English

Text book. 69 pages.

Genre: STUDY MATERIALS

Throughout his Reflections, Per Brevig shares insights from a long and successful career as both performer and teacher. He makes clear at the outset that this is not intended to be a footnoted, scholarly treatise but, rather, a series of essays in a more conversational tone.   The book is divided into the following sections: Opening Thoughts, A Different Approach, Commissions and Premieres, Specialized Issues, and Closing Thoughts.

 

In Opening Thoughts, Brevig reflects on the effort required for mastery, the 10,000 hour rule. In the second section,  A Different Approach: A discussion of many aspects of trombone performance and practice, Brevig covers a wide variety of topics with suggestions that are excellent even if they aren’t all that different anymore. Using musical examples, he begins by discussing a warm-up and fundamentals routine that proceeds from legato scales into Bordogni etudes often with octave and clef transposition. He speaks about the importance of phrasing, noting that most phrases have a beginning, middle and end. In his discussion of high range development, he advocates glisses and presents an exercise using the fugue subject from Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra starting on lower notes and then ascending sequentially by half steps. Throughout the book, advice is consistently solid but is sometimes in need of greater detail. One possible point of contention: In his discussion of high register articulation, he states, “In the high register, the tongue is placed slightly higher in the mouth and more pointed with shorter action.” Recent MRI studies of brass players have shown that, while the middle of the tongue does indeed arch, the tip appears to continue striking the same location with each articulation. Perhaps this is what he means. With respect to slide technique, he presents an interesting exercise that seems to advocate moving to the new position well in advance of the next note. While this seems to contradict recent teaching videos by Ian Bousfield, it should be noted that, in either instance, the player’s awareness of the exact timing of the slide is increased. In the end maybe this is the more important point. When addressing rhythms such as the quarter note triplet, he includes an excellent chart breaking down many of these kinds of rhythms. Dr. Brevig’s discussion on Orchestra Culture and Etiquette is quite good and includes an amusing anecdote about the realization that a certain conductor had seen Brevig gesture to a colleague critiquing the conductor’s  “not so elegant style of conducting.” In summary, “The conductor sees everything from the podium, so behave accordingly.”

 

In the section, Commissions and Premieres, Brevig describes the circumstances behind some of the pieces he helped bring into existence, including Nordheim’s The Hunting of the Snark, a trombone concerto by Carlos Chavez and Perischetti’s Parable XVIII. In Specialized Issues, Dr. Brevig discusses such topics as synesthesia, focal dystonia, and Bell’s palsy. In Closing Thoughts, he begins with a list of 60 short quotes he is fond of sharing with students. These quotes range from detailed technical instructions such as “Firm around – relaxed in the middle” (with respect to embouchure) to more general life lessons such as “Winners are successful losers.” This section concludes with the photo gallery from Dr. Brevig’s career.

While this book offers practical advice arising from a long and successful career, there are moments when greater detail would have been helpful. Some may also find his approach to be a bit discursive. I enjoyed the nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout the text. In this respect, the book reminded me of Also Sprach Arnold Jacobs. We should be grateful that Per Brevig has taken the time to share his insights with us. While not groundbreaking, this book deserves a place on the bookshelves of trombonists and trombone teachers everywhere.

Reviewer: Bradley Edwards
Review Published January 31, 2019