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French Trumpet Concertos (Håkan Hardenberger)

Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet); Royal Stockholm Philharmonic/Fabien Gabel (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

French Trumpet Concertos
Betsy Jolas: Onze Lieder; Jolivet: Concertino; F Schmitt: Suite; HF Tomasi: Trumpet Concerto
Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet); Royal Stockholm Philharmonic/Fabien Gabel
BIS BIS-2523 (CD/SACD)   70:18 mins


This excellent album from Håkan Hardenberger is a highly enjoyable celebration of the ‘French school’ of trumpet playing. From the mid-19th century, France was at the forefront of the trumpet’s musical and technical development, which allowed the ‘emancipation’ of the instrument from the orchestra, capable both of virtuoso flourishes and expressive nuance. These five works, all composed between the late 1940s and the late 1970s, capture the full flowering of this style in all its verve, not least due to the powerful influence of jazz.

Jolivet’s Second Trumpet Concerto is perhaps the composer’s best-known work and receives a beautiful and spirited performance here. The bluesy central movement is breathtaking, while Hardenberger negotiates the outer movements’ technical demands with total assurance (unlike the work’s first performer, Raymond Tournesac, whose struggles with the piece met with the following response from Jolivet: ‘But, my dear fellow, Louis Armstrong does wonders in the top register… So, to work, old boy!’).

Other highlights include Tomasi’s playful trumpet concerto of 1948, which was also declared to be ‘unplayable’ by its dedicatee, but receives a wonderfully witty performance here. Onze Lieder by Betsy Jolas is an imaginative addition, and celebrates the vocal qualities of the instrument across six short movements that range from the dreamy to the ‘caustic’.

Hardenberger’s playing is outstanding throughout, by turns crisp and mellifluous, stinging and sweet, while the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic under Fabian Gabel bring precision and flair to these colourful scores. This is indeed a fine disc which shines a welcome light on this vibrant period of trumpet composition.

Kate Wakeling

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