On the evening of Sunday, Sept. 29, the accomplished Associate Professor of Trumpet John Daniel performed a recital in the chapel with pianist Vincent Fuh accompanying him, the repertoire including two pieces he composed himself. A crowd of students and community members of all ages poured into the intimate seating directly on stage, chatting happily in the close quarters as they waited for Daniel to appear.
The joviality of the crowd persisted throughout the concert and fostered a connection between Daniel and his audience: he kept the mood lighthearted and personal as he introduced each piece’s historical context or its relevance to his life. After he first walked out to a torrent of applause, he facetiously introduced his first piece, Benedetto Marcello’s “Concerto in C minor,” as a bit of “false advertising” — it was initially written by Vivaldi in D minor and arranged by Bach before Marcello released the transcription in C minor. Daniel noted that he would play what he called a more “bare-bones” version of the concerto in contrast to Bach’s heavy ornamentation, maintaining the integrity of the original he loved. After finishing the final resounding notes of the dramatic Allegro section, he contrasted the introduction of the next piece, Marcel Bitsch’s “Quatre Variations Sur un Theme de Domenico Scarlatti,” as “exactly as advertised.”
The last two pieces before intermission were Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Sonata” and Rafael Méndez’s “Jota,” both of which Daniel personally connected to. Daniel mentioned that Davies wrote the sonata as a student during a time that what Daniels calls “pre-postmodern music” was just emerging, yet it’s now been integrated into standard repertoire. His asking us to appreciate the transformative nature of the piece gave the ringing melodies and haunting dissonance an eerie reverence as the audience listened with a new intensity. When he moved on to”Jota,” Daniel revealed that Méndez was one of the first trumpetists he’d known of growing up, because his father had his albums around the house. He reflected that it was a long time into his studies before he could play Méndez’s work, adding to the sentimental layers of the selection.
As Daniel headed backstage for the intermission, students spoke fondly about their favorite pieces, and the audience buzzed happily before being pulled back in with one last jazz sonata. As he introduced the piece, Daniel jokingly apologized to the students he’d assigned the difficult Allan Botschinsky piece to in the past, much to the amusement and laughter of the audience. The grand finale was the two pieces he composed himself: “Islands” and “While the Cat’s Away.” Daniels stated that “Islands” actually had nothing to do with musically illustrating geography but rather was meant to explore the chords as islands in themselves. Next, he described the animated notes of “While the Cat’s Away” as a musical depiction of his childhood Saturday morning cartoons: a fast-paced cat and mouse game across the score. As Daniel threaded together the musical pieces, their history and their place in his life, he proved through his performance that making music is a profoundly personal experience.