Pietà – Concerto for Trumpet in B flat and Orchestra
Concerto Grosso No.1, Op.27
Trumpet Concerto [1972 edition]
Philippe Schartz (trumpet)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Jac van Steen
Recorded 2-3 December 2008 in Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: January 2010
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10562
Duration: 73 minutes
As Anthony Burton’s informative booklet note for this release points out, the trumpet has enjoyed a productive first decade of the 21st-century where new compositions are concerned.
A substantial work receiving its premiere recording here is Pietà, the first part of a trilogy for solo instruments and orchestra by German composer Christian Jost (born 1963) – the others being Dies Irae (trombone) and Lux Aeterna (saxophone). Written in 2004, Pietà has a dual purpose – as the name for ancient paintings of the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified Jesus, and as a memorial for the jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist Chet Baker. Its character is that of a Requiem, and the tempo is predominantly slow, but within this Jost creates an interesting structure and some sensitively treated melodic material. The symmetrical design of the long, single movement span is pointed towards the slow central section. Though the solo part is improvisatory in character all its movements are carefully notated by Jost and beautifully played by Philippe Schartz, principal trumpeter of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Schartz successfully captures Baker’s lightly carefree spirit and slight restlessness, particularly in the sections requiring mutes, while Jac van Steen does very well to balance these passages in particular. The long phrases in the central section are moving, the strings occasionally circling with growing menace before falling back into line, and the end is a natural point of rest.
Harrison Birtwistle’s Endless Parade, one of his few works thus far for soloist and orchestra, also receives an excellent performance. Demanding virtuosity and versatility, the piece finds both in ample supply from Schartz, from the pinpointed high fanfares to the burbling, pianissimo lows. There is a clear sense of line and perspective here, so that as the composer moves to different viewpoints of the parade in question, Schartz captures every variance in the sound. The orchestra (strings) is excellent too, so too Chris Stock on vibraphone, while Chandos does a fine job in capturing the 24 solo string parts in the middle foreground.
After these two relative heavyweights, Kurt Roger’s First Concerto Grosso comes as something of a stylistic jolt, yet not an unpleasant one. Austrian Roger (1895-1966) pays clear homage to Haydn and, perhaps more obviously, the solo part of Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto, and his distinctive motifs and counterpoint lend this piece an instantaneous charm. The features of this premiere recording are a bright first movement, giving way a more solemn Adagio, the emotional centre of the piece, with plangent strings taking a more prominent role. The fugal finale has plenty of energy, generated by its counterpoint. Of minor consequence is the final cadence, less affirmative than it might have been.
Following this is the 1972 edition (with a new cadenza by Timofei Dokshitser) of the increasingly popular Trumpet Concerto by the Armenian composer Alexander Arutiunian (born 1920). While an obvious parallel can be drawn to Shostakovich’s writing for trumpet in his Piano Concerto No.1 (Opus 35), Arutiunian also references Tchaikovsky in occasional bursts of romanticism. With strong thematic material the job for the performers is made that much easier, and Schartz tucks into his part with relish, while Jac van Steen and the orchestra enjoy the motoric faster music and their exchanges with the soloist.
“Trumpet Renaissance” proves a fascinating collection of styles and approaches to writing for the instrument, as well as being extremely well played and recorded.