Nothing is more significant in taking an audition than knowledge of the repertory and experience performing with an orchestra. In this remarkable book, Randy Max has chosen specific and pertinent works that appear at auditions. To my knowledge, nothing in the literature for timpani has so richly created the vicarious experience of performing with an orchestra.
Even more remarkable is the wealth of information concerning the pieces: technical considerations, variations in historical interpretations (tempi, etc.), and so many gems of wisdom pertaining to the practical as well as sophisticated aspects of performance. On top of all that, he includes orchestral recordings to play along with!
One may say it is necessary to follow the conductor. There is always an intrinsic necessity to listen to the orchestra reacting to the conductor’s beat, to the intricacies of fitting in with rhythmic details, to dynamics and overall volume, and to the shaping of phrases. At the risk of being redundant, listening to the orchestra cannot be overemphasized.
What happens if the conductor makes a mistake or gets lost? What if the conductor’s beat becomes vague or unclear? The timpanist is thrown into a very responsible position! The power of the timpani is equal to any entire section of the orchestra and therefore has the ability to draw the orchestra together. There were a few instances in my own experience where such mishaps have taken place. Of course, the reverse of this is a mistake by the timpanist – but let’s not talk about that! For all these reasons, I seriously recommend thoroughly studying every entire piece with both score and recording.
I am quite privileged to write this preface for Randy’s book because it is a historical document, a compendium of vital information, and an essential tool in preparation for a life as a professional timpanist.
Santa Barbara, California, January 2010
Composer-in-Residence, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (1981-85)
Timpanist, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (1962-81)