I got to play bass trombone in a very enjoyable concert this past weekend.
Suffice to say that it was a good orchestra, good hall, good conductor. However, this good (very musical) conductor made a mistake which I have seen many, many times.
At the end of one section, we landed on a nice, fortissimo octave in the low brass. This was our second performance of the piece.
As you arrive at such a big "forte fermata" moment, you have to make that judgement call...
My air isn't unlimited. How am I going to pace myself here?
Let's assume the following:
- You want to start strong.
- You want to finish strong (and avoid that anticlimactic fade out).
- The note is long enough that you won't be able to to manage it in a single breath.
So you have choices:
- Fade in the middle so you don't have to breathe.
- Choose the least bad moment to grab a catch breath.
However, here's the giant unknown:
How long will the note last????
As a performer, my decisions hinge on that critical question.
However, highly musical conductors are sometimes moved by their muse to hold out that glorious chord a bit longer than in rehearsal. (or, in the case of this recent concert, longer than the previous night's concert). As a conductor, you may be basking in the glow of that magnificent chord but, if you hold it too long, you are putting your brass players in a difficult situation.
So, conductors, keep being inspired BUT please let us know how long you intend to hold out those big final fermatas.
Our lungs thank you.