Notes from the Niklas Eklund Master Class at Louisiana State University on April 21, 1999.
Niklas Eklund entered the band room at LSU with trumpet professor Jim West. Mr. Eklund remembered me from the prior night’s concert and spoke warmly to me. I was encouraged and approached him. I mentioned that I remembered there was a very famous Scandinavian trumpet player who had studied in Chicago by the name of Brengt Eklund and was he related. I discovered that he was Niklas’ father and that Mr. Eklund is a 4th generation trumpet player! He said that his grandfather and great-grandfather were all trumpet players and that the time span reached back into the mid-19th century.
The class started with an introduction by Professor West who introduced Mr. Eklund as the finest Baroque trumpet player in the world today. Having heard him the night before there was no doubt in my mind that was true.
Mr. Eklund plays a Swiss made, valve less,baroque trumpet by Egger. This trumpet is a reproduction of a trumpet dating to c.1680. Mr. Eklund likes the sound of this trumpet. He says the object is to go for the sound of the human “singing voice”. The Baroque trumpet is almost double the length of the modern trumpet or 265 cm vs. 135 cm approx. In Europe more and more people want to hear baroque music on the original instruments and therefore the baroque trumpet is very popular (as opposed to the piccolo trumpet). This popularity has not yet reached the United States.
He demonstrated his warm-up techniques and begins with long tones. These long tones should have no shake or vibrato to the tone. He says to try and be as free as possible. He also tries to warm up on the modern trumpet prior to warming up on the baroque. He reports that he will spend 35 to 40 minutes warming up prior to a concert. He also suggests that practice should be done softly at a mezzo-piano (mp) level rather than loudly since this builds finesse and gives the lip’s feeling. He suggests using the Doriner (SP?) Method, a French method book from the 1880s.
He suggested playing many different articulations in baroque music accentuating the 1st and 3rd notes in a series of 4 sixteenth notes. Giving them a legato feel, a kind of “doodle tonguing” or du-de-du-de du-de-du-de. “Never play the same thing twice”, he advocated an almost jazz feel to playing baroque music.
Niklas said the number one factor in trumpet playing is flexibility. He suggests lip trills; demonstrating them both on the baroque and modern Bb trumpet. He said, “...if you can handle that well then you can handle the whole trumpet well. He suggested that when doing lip trills one use their tongue and air not the lips. He said not to force it but relax and let your tongue and lips do the work. Charles Colin’s, Flexibility Studies were highly recommended. Mr. Eklund, told us that he used to do the entire book every day! He then demonstrated lip trills and slurring exercises in an almost unbelievable manner.
I then asked him about his mouthpieces. The Baroque mouthpiece is an Edward Tarr reproduction and is about the size of a Bach 1 ¼ C but has a really large throat (my estimate was about a 22 bore). His Modern mouthpiece is a Stork #1 with a 22 bore throat and “f” back bore. (Stork 1 22f)
He used to play Bach Strads with a Bob Malone lead pipe. He now plays Yamaha trumpets and is a Yamaha Artist.
Mr. Eklund was asked by another class member who were his major trumpet influences. Without missing a beat he replied, “Chet Baker”. Then after thinking a moment he added, “...Maurice Andre, Wynton Marsalis and Hakan Hardenberger. Mr. Eklund, also likes to listen to vocalists and violinists.
I was amused when he mentioned getting stage fright. He suggested that we ,all get nervous but as we get used to performance the anxiety recedes, as it will as we become more and more proficient. He mentioned a situation recently when he flew from Paris to London and had to play without warming up. The director asked him to play a very difficult part from the Bach Cantata #66 in order to show the Orchestra the correct tempo. Nothing like a little pressure! Well, he then demonstrated that piece for us, saying I might not be able to play it, HA! Then, he played an extremely technically demanding selection from the #66 in good form! To say the least I was impressed!
He left us with this thought: “...it’s very important to have a goal — you reach the goal no matter what.”
My opinion is that Jim West is correct, Niklas Eklund is the finest baroque trumpet player in the world today! I found his professionalism and artistic abilities in concert are to be admired. I personally found him to be an interesting and inspiring teacher as well as a warm and friendly human being. Interestingly Niklas Eklund is only 29 years old! He told us that next year when he turns 30 he is going to begin playing jazz trumpet and that the next time he comes to LSU to give a master class he will play some jazz for us. I’m looking forward to that!
Thomas G. Mungall
Baton Rouge, La.