Alison Balsom: ‘This is the most important piece written for the trumpet in 200 years’

From elephant blasts to spiritual jazz, Wynton Marsalis’s concerto is a history of the world in trumpet form. As she prepares to give the UK premiere, Balsom describes the thrill of playing it

When I tell people I’m a trumpet soloist, there are three kinds of response I usually get: “Wow, what a great job!”, “Isn’t that unusual for a woman?” And “That’s jazz, right?”

And it is a great job, the best in the world, if not always the easiest when you consider you have to master hundreds of the tiniest muscles around your mouth, perfectly align your breath control and musical goals, and hold your nerve as you walk out on to the stage to perform with both precision and flair, even on the day you’ve broken your toe or your toddler is sick. Everyone knows if a trumpeter is having an off day (perhaps the tiny lip muscles – the embouchure – are bruised from the day before, or not quite feeling under control or strong enough), and a soloist is only as good as their last concert. But what a thrill it is to do this high wire act for decades.

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