Without flinching, Seretta Hart shifted the smooth voice of her trumpet rapidly between two very different musical styles. This almost continuous transition between short rigid structure and smooth lyrical passages is characteristic of music from trumpet player and composer Anthony Plog.
A crowd of about 60 gathered in the intimate setting of the Demke Recital Hall on the University of Utah campus Sunday, September 18, as Hart performed the world premiere of Scherzo for trumpet and piano, Plog’s latest creation. Plog even made the trip all the way from Germany to attend the debut.
Hart, an adjunct trumpet instructor at UVU, performed this lecture recital as partial fulfillment of her degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Instrumental Performance. Between her performances of Plog’s several songs for trumpet, Hart explained her theoretical dissection of each composition to the audience.
Theory was only one aspect of performance, though, as Hart explained the feelings that come along with performance of Plog’s music. Speaking of Postcards, one of Plog’s well-known trumpet solos, Hart expressed the joy she finds in playing it.
“No wonder it’s such a famous trumpet solo,” Hart said. “It’s really fun to play.”
Hart went on to describe the “quizzical” nature of Plog’s music, just as evident in his newest piece as it is in all of his previous arrangements. Scherzo, Hart explained, is a typical representation of Plog’s “unique style.”
“It almost leaves you with a question rather than a conclusion,” Hart said.
The quirky nature of this music, as explained by Plog himself, is meant to represent real life. Confessedly “not an academically trained composer,” Plog finds sources of inspiration for his music from situations he finds himself in throughout his own life. When he writes his music he sits alone in a quiet room plinking out notes on his piano, composing quietly one note at a time. He is often interrupted by his children, though, who break into the room and cause a bit of chaos and distraction.
“We all have contrast in our lives,” Plog said, “so in a piece it’s necessary too.”
With the work we all do to balance our lives, it is easy to relate to the feel of the almost odd groupings of three-bar phrases in Plog’s work. Because of its similarity to real life, Plog’s signature is sometimes more familiar and even more comfortable than the typical evenly balanced phrases that exist in most classical music.
Scherzo was commissioned by Nick Norton, an instructor at University of Utah. Norton is an accomplished trumpet player who, in addition to performing with the Utah Symphony Orchestra since 1980, has worked with Plog for many years. Norton even premiered three of Plog’s compositions himself. Because of Norton’s background with Plog, Hart was able to spend time with Plog in Germany while he wrote the piece.
Enthusiasts of Plog’s challenging and idiomatic music can expect more to come. Plog likes to compose his music in groups, he said, usually two or three pieces at a time.