The Contemporary Trumpet

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berio,Fenton & Nyman,Henze,Jolivet,Maxwell Davies
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Music by Maxwell Davies, Berio, Henze, Jolivet, Fenton & Nyman
PERFORMER: Graham Ashton (trumpet), John Lenehan (piano), Gregory Knowles (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45003 2 DDD

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The flourishing trumpet displays its wares in a clutch of new releases containing music from the early Baroque to our own time. The pick of three trumpet and organ discs is indeed the aptly titled ‘Top’, with Reinhold Friedrich playing Baroque favourites. Friedrich has a winning combination of intelligent, stylish phrasing and a glorious sound, a pairing which few trumpeters achieve.

One drawback to the disc is the arrangement of Corelli’s La follia, which fills a dreary 13 minutes, but this does follow a breathtakingly virtuosic performance of ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. A suite of Stanley’s voluntaries, arranged by the Baroque specialist Edward Tarr, Friedrich’s teacher, and the duo’s own arrangement of an attractive flute sonata attributed to Bach, are the musical high points of the disc. Perhaps more interesting in terms of repertoire is the programme by Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and Iain Simcock.

A talented duo, they play with panache and true feeling for Baroque phrasing. Despite including some lesser-known names (introduced in exemplary booklet notes), their disc never tires, but it is marred by one weakness: Freeman-Attwood’s coarse-sounding forte. In terms of style these performers far outshine the more famous Antonsen and Marshall, whose Baroque selection is carried chiefly by Antonsen’s golden sound (better suited to Rachmaninov’s Vocalise).

Jumping (almost) to the modern era, the cool Marsalis/Stillman partnership treats us to a spectrum of nine works for trumpet and piano from the first part of the 20th century. Marsalis’s husky-voiced trumpet has a woolliness that is inappropriate for much of the music (except Ravel’s evocative Pièce en forme de habanera), although the gremlins are least noticeable in muted sections, such as the haunting end to Enescu’s Legend.

Far more challenging is Graham Ashton’s Contemporary Trumpet disc, which uses changing combinations of trumpet, flugelhorn, piano and percussion. Jolivet’s Heptade is a substantial and rarely heard work employing mutes and quarter-tone shifts skilfully (eerily in the ‘Cantante’).

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Two other praiseworthy inclusions are expertly played: Berio’s Sequenza X for trumpet, and a very accessible suite for trumpet, percussion and piano – Five Parts of the Dance by George Fenton, whose atmospheric music enhanced BBC Television’s recent Life in the Freezer series. Deborah Calland