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Elegy for Mundy (2013)
for trumpet and organ, or piano
Written in memory of Armando Ghitalla
Commissioned and premiered by Stephen Burns. Premiered in June 2013, at the ITG conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan
It can be truly rewarding when asked to write a piece in memory of one of the all-time greats to be performed by one of the all-time greats. It is especially meaningful when those two all- time greats have had significant influence in your own life as a musician. Such was the case when Stephen Burns approached me to write a new work in memory of Armando Ghitalla, his teacher, and inspiration for many. As a trumpet student myself at Interlochen in the 1980s, I recall quite vividly listening to recordings of Stephen – especially on piccolo trumpet – and using them as inspiration for not just trumpet playing, but for complete and divine music-making.What is even more extraordinary is that he is not much older than I am, so I was actually listening to recordings he made when in his very early 20s. Quite amazing. We now both live in the Chicago area, so have come to know him personally, and hear him much more often live, and even play some golf with him. (He’s an inspiration on the course as well!) He approached me in the spring of 2013 to write a new work for him to premiere in memory of “Mundy” – and needless to say, I was on board.
Armando Ghitalla had a major impact on many generations of trumpeters, as performer, teacher and friend. He was a member of the Boston Symphony for almost three decades – half of those as principal trumpet. In addition to his orchestral legacy, he brought many solo works to the forefront, such as the first recording of the famed Hummel concerto (in E) and the beautiful Böhme concerto, and lesser known works (at the time) such as the Ponchielli and Albrechtsberger concertos. He was known for his tough love as a teacher, his uncompromising dedication to the music, and for his love of food and wine.
In “Elegy for Mundy”, I reflected on many of those aforementioned aspects.The E octaves at the onset refer to the Hummel concerto opening (in E), and the subsequent A-G figures are, of course, Armando Ghitalla’s initials.The Hummel gets a final echo at the end as well, with the ascending arpeggio in the solo trumpet paying a reverential treatment to the iconic work. I also payed homage in a small way to his Italian heritage with many parallel thirds throughout the Elegy. It is the Böhme, however, that served as the most inspiration for this work.The piece is absolutely gorgeous, and Mundy’s recording of it – especially the slow movement – has served as the quintessential example for myself (when a trumpeter) and for many performers of the piece. The bass line at rehearsal B and the rising 6ths throughout together form a quote of the gorgeous Böhme melody that Mundy played so beautifully.This melody is finally echoed in its actual key (D-flat) at the very ending, but played on top of a C Major chord, to suggest that Mundy is still with us, in many ways, through his students and beneficiaries of his recordings and friendships.
I am most indebted to Stephen Burns for inviting me to create this work, and most privileged to have been able to work with him and witness his artistry in the performance of it.