Alison Balsom: Italian Concertos

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Composer(s):
Albinoni, Benjamin/Cimarosa, Marcello, Tartini, Vivaldi
Works:
Trumpet Concertos by Albinoni, Benjamin/Cimarosa, Marcello, Tartini and Vivaldi
Performer:
Scottish Ensemble/ Alison Balsom (trumpet)
Label:
EMI
Catalogue Number:
EMI 456 0942
Performance:
starstarstarstarstar
Sound:
starstarstarstarnostar
5
Reviewer:
BBC Music Magazine

Despite its brilliance and distinctiveness, notably in Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto, the natural trumpet’s restricted notes, and therefore range of keys, severely limited its concerto repertoire in the Baroque era.

Capitalising on the full chromatic range of the modern instrument, and on her own astonishing virtuosity, Alison Balsom has borrowed or arranged works for violin or oboe and made them into spectacular ‘concertos’ for trumpet and strings. 

Her playing is breathtaking, first in the bubbling fluency of Vivaldi violin concerto allegros. The opening movement of his Op. 3 No. 3 Concerto, with its string-crossing leaps, is faultless.

Elsewhere a line from an Albinoni sonata, originally a dialogue shared between contrasting violin registers, has every note in pin-sharp focus, while her fluent technique elicits some exhilarating tempos. No less arresting is her creamy tone in slow movements, particularly those from the oboe concertos composed by Marcello and Albinoni.

The Scottish Ensemble, a small and select group (un-named in the CD booklet save for their leader, Jonathan Morton) plays with delightful off-the-string clarity. Given the bright tone of the trumpet, the strings – especially one duetting solo violin – appear to be rather discreetly balanced.

Born-again purists may question a disc wholly of arrangements, though it was a common Baroque practice. Listening to it is nothing less than a life-enhancing experience. George Pratt


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