Music with Minnesotans: Richard Wintersteen

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
April 25, 2012
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St. Paul, Minn. — Dr. Richard Wintersteen is a retired social worker and has worked in far flung places -Malaysia, Zimbabwe and South Africa - and some not quite so far flung - England and Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Wherever he went, he took his trombone and has been lucky in having had some terrific opportunities to play some of the best trombone literature with community bands and orchestras. A few of these pieces make their way into his playlist.

Richard's dad was raised in a poor family in Nebraska and so never had the chance to pursue music. But he was determined his own children would be exposed to the classics.

So with a pile of 78s so began Richard's love of music and he traces one of earliest and sweetest memories to Vaughan Williams "Fantasia on a Theme of Tallis" played over and over.

As a boy of eight, Richard's mom took him to see Carmen. Yes, for me too, the idea seems a bit off! But even though there's seduction and murder, Richard's young mind was swept up in the story just as far as he could understand and he has been an opera addict ever since. We listened to the oh, so tender Entr'acte where the action finally takes a rest and Bizet's music soars.

Following these were three pieces with the trombone in the spotlight. In high school, Richard got to know the famous march composer Henry Fillmore who just lived down the street. Known as "Uncle Henry" to the kids, he would drop by the high school and bring music he was working on for the band to try out. What an opportunity!

Richard tells his trombone buddies to, "Eat your hearts out!" since he got to play Stravinsky's "Pulcinella" not just once but twice. The big t-bone solo is not that hard to play, but you need to practice to get just the right swagger. Richard practiced so often, his family began singing back the licks to him and it became an inside joke in their household.

We shared a tear over one piece of music that seems to appear on a good number of my guests' "desert island" list - Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations. It's spectacular music that stirs the soul, and Richard's story of sight-reading it is very special.

We ended the session with the finale from Brahms 2nd which Richard says he secretly believes Brahms wrote so that he could build up to this final brilliant chord which of course, features a choir of trombones!

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Richard Wintersteen's playlist:

Ralph Vaughan Williams, Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis - Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Georges Bizet, Carmen: Entr'Acte - Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Bernstein

Henry Fillmore, Miss Trombone - University of Illinois Symphonic Band

Igor Stravinsky, Pulcinella: Vivo - SPCO/Hogwood

Edward Elgar, Enigma Variations: Nimrod - West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Barenboim

Johannes Brahms, Symphony No. 2: Finale - Berlin Philharmonic/Rattle

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Next week the CEO of the Ordway Patricia Mitchell joins me. She brings a luscious list of songs and arias and gave me the job of cutting down her desert island list to a manageable size!

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