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Prières Sans Paroles
French Music for Trumpet and Organ

Marius CONSTANT (b.1925) Alleluias
Henri TOMASI (1901-1971) Semaine Sainte à Cuzco
André JOLIVET (1905-1974) Arioso barocco (1968)
Henri SAUGUET (1901-1989) Non morietur in æternum
Pierre JANSEN (b.1930) Processional
Erik SATIE (1866-1925) La Statue retrouvée (1923)
Jean-Michel DAMASE (b.1928) Trois Prières sans paroles (1993)
Naji HAKIM (b.1955) Sonata for Trumpet and Organ (1994)
Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet) Simon Preston (organ)
Recorded Aarhus Cathedral, Denmark May 2000
BIS BIS-SACD- 1109 DSD SACD [67:30]

When looking at the choice of artists to record a disc of music for trumpet and organ one could hardly find more of a "dream team" than that of Hardenberger and Preston. Indeed, if there is anything that could be thought of as uneven about this disc, it is more to do with the quality of the music than that of the playing, which is exemplary throughout. Of the eight composers represented Satie clearly stands out, whilst Tomasi, Jolivet and Naji Hakim are perhaps the best known of the remainder.

Where this programme succeeds most creditably, is in its exploration of the range of the trumpet as a solo instrument. Although very different in character, Naji Hakimís Sonata and Henri Tomasiís Semaine Sainte à Cuzco are the most effective works in demonstrating the sheer brilliance of sound of the instrument (and what a sound Hardenberger possesses!). Tomasiís piece takes as its inspiration the Peruvian archiepiscopal seat established by the Spanish, and pits a wonderfully glittering high fanfare-like trumpet line against a swaying organ accompaniment with a restrained, contrasting central section before the opening fanfare material returns. It is a brilliant, imaginative piece of writing and Hardenbergerís playing lives up to it in every respect. In complete contrast Hakimís Sonata is a glitzy, jazz inspired affair, complete with references to Gershwinís American in Paris in the first movement. Once again, the writing for the trumpet is distinguished, as is the organ part (to be expected from Messiaenís successor at the Église de la Trinité in Paris). The sense of fun at times disguises the virtuosity of the writing, yet Hardenberger responds with effortless playing.

André Jolivet gives us the most austere work on the disc, although his deceptively titled Arioso barocco, is both rewarding and imaginative. Based on a baroque model of aria and recitative, the predominantly contemplative nature of the music is eventually disturbed by a high, soaring trumpet line that rings magnificently around Aarhus Cathedral before settling to a subdued conclusion. Again, in complete contrast the work that gives the disc its title by Jean-Michel Damase (Three Prayers Without Words) is an altogether lighter conception, unmistakably French in its relaxed lyricism and perhaps closest to Poulenc in melodic and harmonic language. Hardenbergerís seamless legato style is a delight, the music charming and undemanding.

La Statue retrouvée by Satie is notable for its brevity (1í22") and even more so for the brevity of the trumpet part, which makes its first entry at around 1í05"! In reality however this little march, revolving around a rediscovered statue, is amusingly entertaining in a typically Satiesque way.

The remaining three works are less memorable and certainly in the case of Pierre Jansen's Processional I found my attention wondering (as does the music) after around two minutes although the bold climactic central section does hold more interest. I felt rather similar about Alleluias, the work that opens the disc by Roumanian born Marius Constant. The booklet notes tell us that Constant is "now one of the principal protagonists of contemporary music in France" yet on the evidence here I found the musical ideas in this ten minute piece somewhat lacking in definition. Henri Sauguetís Non morietur in æternum is more effective in this respect, managing impressive contrast within a relatively brief five-minute duration.

Audiophiles will find this super audio disc will play on both conventional CD players and SACD machines giving multi channel sound for those who have the capability. On my conventional player I found the sound of the trumpet to be first class although the organ would have benefited from being a little closer in the overall balance. Nevertheless, this is a relatively minor quibble given the outstanding performances of Hardenberger and Preston. I cannot imagine any of these works being played with greater commitment or panache.

Christopher Thomas

 


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