COMPOSERS: Handel; Purcell
LABELS: EMI Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Sound The Trumpet: Royal Music of Purcell & Handel
WORKS: Handel: Amadagi di Guala, HWV 11; Atlanta, HWV 35; Birthday Ode for Queen Anne, HWV74; Water Piece in D; Oboe Concerto No. 1 in B flat, HWV 301 (transposed into C); Purcell: King Arthur Suite Z628; The Fairy Queen Suite of Musicks and Dances, Z629; Come, ye Sons of Art, Z323
PERFORMER: aLSION balsom (trumpet), Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Lucy Crowe (soprano); The English Concert/Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord and organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 4403292
This charming disc contains some of the most imaginative and polished trumpet playing you’re ever likely to hear. Alison Balsom and Trevor Pinnock have taken music with royal associations and arranged it for trumpet and orchestra. Trumpet both introduces, and also ‘sings’, the dazzlingly virtuosic aria ending Handel’s opera Amadigi. Elsewhere, it becomes the soloist of Handel’s First Oboe Concerto (with strikingly sensitive orchestral accompaniment).
While there’s plenty of martial pomp in Purcell overtures and Handel’s Water Music, Balsom stresses in the notes the closeness of the Baroque trumpet to the human voice. She proves it in Purcell’s ‘Sound the Trumpet’ duet with countertenor Iestyn Davies, sharing carefully matched ornaments with him in smooth, soaring lines over a delightfully sprung ground bass. In the ‘Plainte’ from Purcell’s Fairy Queen, her ‘oboe’ tone, duetting with soprano Lucy Crowe, is breathtaking. Most ingenious of all, the trumpet sings ‘Fairest Isle’ from Purcell’s King Arthur, leaving unplayable notes to the strings while it breaks into decorative descant.
Born-again authenticists may cavil at Balsom’s vented trumpet, a modern development aiding intonation. But her flexible tuning, scrupulously focused to blend with the harmony, is a relief from the compromised tuning needed to play certain notes on true 18th-century instruments. Excellently recorded and unreservedly recommended.