A collection of grand Baroque masterpieces and new versions performed with the Balsom Ensemble, a world-class group of period instrument specialists
Released worldwide on Warner Classics 8 November 2019
Virtuoso trumpeter Alison Balsom makes her long-awaited return to recording with Royal Fireworks, a collection of beloved Baroque classics and new arrangements released worldwide on 8 November 2019 on Warner Classics.
Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest trumpeters of her generation, Alison Balsom has established a multi-faceted career as an in-demand soloist on the international concert stage, a passionate educator and spokesperson for music education and a curator; including her recent successful tenure as Artistic Director of the 75th Cheltenham Music Festival in 2019.
Royal Fireworks marks the continuation of Balsom’s long-term partnership with Warner Classics, being her thirteenth solo release for the label and her first since 2016’s Jubilo. In addition to the birth of her second child and marriage to the film and theatre director Sam Mendes, in the intervening years, Alison Balsom has maintained her performing career and developed, conceived and implemented her vision as Artistic Director of an international festival.
This all-Baroque album sees Balsom perform on the natural (valveless) trumpet and features concertos and orchestral masterpieces by Handel, JS Bach, Telemann and Purcell. A pioneer of adapting works written for other solo instruments, Balsom is committed to demonstrating the versatility of the trumpet and Royal Fireworks features three new orchestrations by arranger Simon Wright.
Baroque repertoire and the natural trumpet are long-held passions for Alison Balsom. Performed with the Balsom Ensemble, a hand-picked ensemble of world-class period instrument specialists, Royal Fireworks not only captures Balsom's virtuosity on the natural trumpet, but also her delight in making music as a group with like-minded colleagues.
Alison Balsom comments: “I’ve been making recordings for almost 20 years and this has been by far the most enjoyable recording experience I’ve had.’. ‘The music is full of utter joy and magic, the versions we play are often new, and in some cases quite maverick. The thrill of recording with some of the greatest artists around, all of us on Baroque instruments, who happen to also be my good friends, has been a privilege. I hope the pleasure we got from playing this music comes across on our album.”
The album opens with Music for the Royal Fireworks, Handel’s instantly recognisable seven-movement showpiece for court instruments in a new orchestration by arranger Simon Wright. This is a work Balsom has performed in many settings, from international concert halls to a field at the Latitude Festival, and this new version demonstrates her mastery of the trumpet both as a solo instrument and as a partner to other Baroque trumpet virtuosos, such as Wolfgang Gaisböck and David Blackadder.
The first of two Purcell pieces then follows: his Sonata for Trumpet and Strings in D major with Balsom as soloist, followed by a new orchestration of JS Bach’s cantata Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Simon Wright. Balsom performs Telemann’s Trumpet Concerto, which is followed by Simon Wright’s new orchestration of JS Bach’s uplifting Christmas Oratorio. The album closes with the second Purcell piece; four movements from his reflective Funeral Sentences for the death of Queen Mary II.
Audiences at this summer’s Snape Proms were treated to a preview of the album’s repertoire in a sell-out concert performed by Balsom and the Balsom Ensemble, and in December 2019 they perform the programme on a six-date tour of Germany. In the UK, Alison Balsom is Artist-In-Residence at the Babican's Milton Court for 2019-20, where concerts will include Dominic Dromgoole’s Gabriel with The English Concert and Harry Bicket, a tribute to Miles Davis’s concept album Sketches of Spain, and music from Purcell to Birtwistle with Britten Sinfonia. The residency also sees Balsom perform with jazz musicians and a chorus from her alma mater the Guildhall School. Other live performances in the UK include Thea Musgrave’s Trumpet Concerto (composed for Balsom) with the CBSO at Symphony Hall Birmingham on 2 October.
Alison Balsom is the recipient of a Gramophone Award for Artist of the Year, three Classic BRIT Awards, a Nordoff Robbins Silver Clef Award and has performed as soloist at the Last Night of the Proms. In 2016 she was awarded the OBE for services to music. Royal Fireworks with the Balsom Ensemble is set to become a milestone recording in a successful and ever-evolving career.