Holmboe: Trumpet Concerto; Trombone Concerto; Tuba Concerto; Intermezzo concertante

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WORKS: Trumpet Concerto; Trombone Concerto; Tuba Concerto; Intermezzo concertante
PERFORMER: Håken Hardenberger (trumpet), Christian Lindberg (trombone), Jens Bjørn-Larsen (tuba) Aalborg SO/Owain Arwel Hughes
With obvious exceptions, the world’s great composers have failed to write concertos for brass. The problem may be in deciding how to characterise each instrument’s role. Do you conform to the popular perception: radiant and proud trumpet, lyrical and noble trombone, pompous and comic tuba: or consult their practitioners and include every new technical trick in the book? Vagn Holmboe’s concertos illustrate the dilemma yet provide satisfying solutions. He mainly leans towards conformism, his one lapse of judgement being the strangely incongruous multiphonics in the tuba concerto. Elsewhere, in what is superficially conventional brass writing, he maintains a level of creative intensity and variety of mood that might never be achieved were he only out to demonstrate ‘interesting effects that can be put in a trumpet concerto’. Naturally music like this demands soloists of great musical maturity and physical stamina. These three could not be bettered. Hardenberger’s warmth of sound and powers of projection can only be marvelled at. Bjørn-Larsen’s control of his tuba in pianissimo draws in the listener in a way that is rare for a brass instrument. The orchestral contribution is more than a backdrop for the soloists and, under Owain Arwel Hughes’ direction, the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra play with energy and an obvious pride in their compatriot. Christopher Mowat