Dale Truscott from The Eighth Position spoke with Dutch bass trombone virtuoso Brandt Attema ahead of his trip to Sydney in July 2014. Brandt is a member of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Trombone Collective, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble and Duo AttemaHaring. He is also Professor of Bass Trombone at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and at Codarts Rotterdam.
Photo credit: New Trombone Collective
Dale: You’re visiting Australia soon for a bass trombone and harp duo performance at the World Harp Congress in Sydney on July 21. That’s a rather uncommon combination; what inspired you to form Duo AttemaHaring with harpist Astrid Haring in 2008?
Brandt: Our duo started with a proposal from us to perform Wolfgang Rihm’s Figur for 4 contrabass trombones, harp and percussion. That was accepted on the condition that we would arrange two more pieces for harp and bass/contrabass trombone. We challenged the Dutch composers Martijn Padding and Chiel Meijering to write for harp and bass trombone and premiered the works at the 2008 World Harp Congress in Amsterdam. It turned out to be such a success, not only the works but also the combination of harp and bass trombone, that we decided to continue the experiment. Now more than 15 compositions have been written for us and we have travelled all over the world with our repertoire.
Dale: How does performing alone with harp require you to adjust your playing approach, compared to your chamber music work with the New Trombone Collective which is a powerful trombone octet?
Brandt: First of all, when comparing with the standard bass trombone and piano duo, in my experience performing with harp is much easier than performing with piano. I feel the overtones of the bass trombone match the overtones of the harp better than the overtones of a piano. Blending becomes super easy and a lot of fun. Balance-wise there is of course a limit. If I perform Ewazen’s Concertino with the New Trombone Collective, I can go all the way volume wise and still be supported by the eight trombones. With the harp I could blow the instrument away if I wanted to, but this is in my experience comparable with the balance issues with bass trombone and piano. The duo has helped me realise how much sound can come out of a harp; in general we’ve experienced that the harp will normally be audible because of its projection, its different attack and its tone colours. I do also enjoy playing extremely softly with the harp and I’m certainly getting inspired by its amazing tone colours (and those of the harpist) to add to my own repertoire of sounds.