If this trumpet recital strikes you as an eclectic offering, you’d be right. For the simple reason that trumpeter Jeroen Berwaerts brings an open mind and an open heart to all music. This is no doubt in part due to his path to music – brass, funk and pop bands first. Classical music came later. ‘I hadn’t listened to any real classical music before I was 18!’ When he signed up for trumpet at the conservatory in Belgium, he also picked jazz singing. The trumpet focus only emerged a while later, and his teacher Reinhold Friedrich did nothing to curtail his student’s broad palette, encouraging Berwaerts to pursue baroque trumpet, contemporary music, and orchestral work.
Across his stellar career, Berwaerts has been a member of legendary ensembles like Canadian Brass and Stockholm Chamber Brass, as well as winning the position of Principal Trumpet of the NDR Radio Symphony Hamburg back in 1999. He’s also relished playing in festivals across the world and performed as soloist with multiple orchestras.
Programming a recital is just a case of putting good pieces together in a concert. Jazz music, and even a few sung moments, have featured in recitals over recent years. For Berwaerts, it’s nothing to program Ligeti alongside My Funny Valentine. ‘Music is music. This is how we widen our audience; putting good pieces alongside each other.’
Yoga is another source of inspiration, and one which brings awareness to how Berwaerts breathes at his instrument: if the breath flows freely, ‘then the sound of the trumpet does too. That gives you a lot of strength and allows you to take on demanding pieces…’
There’s also no hesitation in Berwaerts in putting the trumpet forward for experimentation – for the premiere of a new concerto a few years ago by Toshio Hosokawa he proposed taking off the mouthpiece and singing through the trumpet: ‘It is a bridge between playing and singing, the difference seems to disappear.’ And the composer loved it, incorporating it into some very moving moments in the concerto. ‘My task, as I see it, is to try to understand the language of the composer and, as a kind of medium, communicate it to the audience.’
Make no mistake, putting Ligeti, Enescu, Hindemith and Hosokawa alongside each other in a program is not for the faint-hearted, at least as far as trumpet-stamina goes. But you’re in excellent hands: ‘Playing these works has really become my thing, my language.’