Alessandro Fossi (Italy)
By Jason Roland Smith
Alessandro Fossi was born in Jesi Ancona, Italy in 1975. He formal music studies were at the B. Maderna Conser-vatory in Cesena with Renzo Brocculi, and, in addition, he later studied with Roger Bobo, Gene Pokorny, Patrick Sheridan, and Rex Martin. Since 1994 he has performed with major Italian orchestras that include the Florence “Maggio Musicale” Orchestra, the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra (Milan), and the Santa Cecilia National Academy Orchestra. He has performed under such conductors as Georges Pretre, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Zubin Mehta, and Eliau Inbal. Since 1997 he has served as solo tuba with the San Carlo Theatre Orchestra in Napoli.
In April 2001 he was a semi-finalist for solo tuba with the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and in March 2002 he was invited to audition for principal tuba with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In June 2002 he was a tuba finalist for the Vienna Philhar-monic. As a soloist, he won third prize in the 2000 Markneukirchen International Instrumental Competition, and, in 2001, he won first prize at the Lieksa International Solo Tuba Competition, becoming the first Italian tubist to win these prizes. He is a solo artist and clinician for Yamaha.
1. What was your inspiration for music and furthermore selecting the tuba?
I have liked music since childhood, and at age 13 I began developing this passion for playing trombone in our town band, which was a hobby. The passage from trombone to tuba came later (in fact I graduated from my studies as a trombonist). In 1995, I decided to switch to tuba because I simply thought this instrument was incredible. As a trombonist, I spent a lot of time seated in front of the tuba just looking at it, and for me it was like a picture, it was so fascinating—its warm and deep sound continue to recall the voice of my grandfather, wise and reassuring. It was love.
2. What were or remain to be some of your most important musical influences?
I think everything can influence the soul of a person; we are like a white piece of paper when we are born, and, beginning with the first second of our life, we begin our learning. I bought my first CD at 14 years old. It was The Essential Canadian Brass. I couldn’t believe what they were able to play. I listened to that recording at least a few times every day for many years. At that time in my life, the most important musical influences were from the brass world. Now, I listen to many different kinds of music, and each style influences me in a different way. I think knowledge makes the difference.
3. Are there certain musical styles that are particularly appealing to you?
I really like the 70s “funk” style played by Big Bands and also the Latin-jazz style because there is so much energy in this music, and also you can be involved with it—you can dance!!
4. List those recordings within your collection that are among your favorites. Reasons?
My favorite recording (for brass repertoire) is The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli, played by the symphony brass sections from Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago. They were absolutely great. In one word this recording is the “Bible” for brass players. There are a lot of other good recordings in my collection, but if I stop to think which are my favorites, I cannot decide. A lot of recordings have something special and often my humor [mood] decides which one is my favorite.
5. Do you have advice for younger generations who aspire for professional careers as tubists?
To open the mind! Like archery before the shot, it is important to establish our goal and then—start to WORK HARD. This is really important. We are like a sculpture; at first we have to whittle the figure to a certain point and then begin “fine-tuning” our finished “work of art.”
6. If you had your choice of any musical career in the world, what would it be?
It would be a complete career:: meaning a career with different faceting. So, currently, I’m trying to do my best as an orchestral musician, solo musician, and teacher. This so I can choose what is the best at the time for my life. I never want to be limited to “a career.”
7. What is your “dream” orchestra that you would aspire to perform as a member?
I really like the different styles (American and European) of the New York Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic, so different but both great. One of my dreams is also to play, just once, in an orchestra like the Cincinnati Pops or Boston Pops—the soundtracks from important films, which are often so entertaining!
8. What are some favorite solo works to perform and why?
The solo works I prefer, unfortunately, are written for other instruments, specifically for horn. I like Mozart’s horn concerti, the two Strauss horn concerti, and Mozart’s bassoon concerto. I like to play the music of the great composers from the past although they are not originally for the tuba.
9. If you had your choice of any modern composer in the world to commission, who would it be and why?
I would like to ask Luciano Berio to write a piece for the tuba. He wrote important pieces for brass like Call for brass quintet and the Sequenza series for various instruments, but sad to say he just died a few months ago.
10. If you had your choice of any non-living composer in history to commission, who would it be and why?
Mozart! Because I like the style he wrote for solo instruments, both for musicality and virtuosity. It’s really unfortunate for tuba players that our instrument was born too late!
11. Are there certain pedagogical materials (studies, methods, or etudes) that you use predominantly?
I have a lot of methods I use predominantly such as Stamp, Clarke, Schlossberg, Arban, Mastering the Tuba by Roger Bobo, the Vernon method, Bordogni, Concone, but I never use each one for a long time. I change my daily drills continuously. Similarly to our muscles, if you train your body for too long in the same fashion you sooner or later neglect other areas.
12. What are your interests other than music and the tuba? Hobbies?
My primary hobby is fitness. I think there is affinity between fitness and playing an instrument. In both I have to train different parts of myself separately for a final result: well-being and music.
13. Are there aspects of your culture that have had a positive effect on you as a musician?
We are the result of our culture as for both the positive effects and for the negative effects. Our brain is like a sponge, the more information we store the more rich we become. I have had a lot of negative experiences during my life, specifically in the world of music, but now I am just more mature.
14. From your experiences, how does being an Italian tubist contrasts in style to other countries or regions of the world?
As a solo musician I CAN’T talk about contrast with countries or regions, each musician is different, and we like all styles probably because they are different—like a painter that uses different colors. As an orchestral player I CAN talk about contrast: sometimes stupid contrast. Each orchestra is different and you have to adapt yourself if you want to join it, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not.
15. What performance or event has been the most memorable in your career?
Probably my first international competition, which was Markneukirchen, has thus far been the most memorable. It was the first time I performed in an international competition. Everything was very exciting, and I had to compete with some great musicians like my friends Roland Szentpali and Markus Hötzel. It was truly a great experience.
Editor’s Note: The Profile Series originally appeared in the first issue of the TUBA Journal, and initial profiles included Rich Matteson, Leonard Falcone, and Ionel Dummitru among others. If you would like to suggest an ITEA member for the profile series, please email Jason Smith at email@example.com.