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Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E flat major
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)

Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E major
Ferdinand DAVID (1810-1873)

Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra in E flat major, Op.4
Georg WAGENSEIL (1715-1777)

Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra in E flat major
Jeffrey Segal (trumpet)
Michael Bertoncello (trombone)
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich/David Zinman
Rec. Tonhalle, Zurich, Switzerland, May 2001 (Haydn, Hummel); Feb 2003 (rest)
ARTE NOVA 82876 58424 2 [58’06]


These days I seem to start every review with words such as ‘this disc enters a very crowded field’. Well, here we are again, with masses of available competition in the Haydn and Hummel concertos for this new Arte Nova disc (Hardenberger, Marsalis, André, Wallace, Steele-Perkins etc.). They’re very short pieces, so I guess what counts is the how the remainder of the disc is made up, and here’s where this new one might find a market.

More often than not, the fillers are either other trumpet concertos or other concertos by Haydn. Here, we get a slightly different take, that of coupling two late Classical-early Romantic trombone concertos which share the same key as the Haydn. The result makes a welcome change, particularly as the two trombone concertos are pretty much unknown, at least to me.

As for the main bill of fare, I doubt anyone will have much cause for complaint. If you know Zinman’s other work for Arte Nova, especially his Beethoven Symphonies, you will know what to expect. Tempos are brisk, rhythms sharp and tight, phrases beautifully moulded and ensemble very clean and crisp. It’s in the Rattle/Mackerras mould, where historically aware practices are observed with a modern orchestra. His two soloists are young, hand-picked players who, as might be expected, follow him all the way. The overall result is fresh and invigorating, with no place for sentimental lingering. The delightful outer movements of the Haydn, as charming as anything he wrote, are done with great charm and wit. The tiny, lilting andante middle movement shows how trumpeter Jeffrey Segal can really hold a long, melodic line, something as taxing for a brass player as any note-spinning fireworks might be. The exuberant finale, so typical of this composer, is completely satisfying.

The Hummel concerto (wrongly given on the cover and booklet as also in E flat) is a slightly more substantial work, probably due to the influence of Beethoven, which can be detected at intervals throughout. As with Hummel’s other concertos (particularly those for piano) all three movements are a delight melodically but technically very demanding. Segal and the orchestra take all difficulties easily in their stride, allowing the music to come alive yet breathe. The long notes of the slow movement are superbly done, with pitch rock solid, and they rattle through the ebullient rondo finale with lightness as well as the required virtuosity.

Of the two fillers, the concerto by Ferdinand David is easily the most interesting. As in the Hummel, Beethoven’s influence looms large, particularly in the funeral march slow movement, but David himself influenced a whole generation of violinists, and there is much to enjoy here. Themes are broad and on the whole memorable, and tutti gestures big and bold. This is an early work but extremely assured in its handling of material and interplay of soloist and orchestra. It is very much of the German Romantic tradition (complete with four melodious horns in the texture) and the relative simplicity of design and lack of pretension only add to its immediate appeal.

The Wagenseil concerto makes up the disc but is ultimately the least satisfying piece here. It is in two rather than the usual three movements, and its ambitions are limited. Trombonist Michael Bertoncello plays superbly (as he does in the David) but neither he nor Zinman can really make a case for it being more than mere filler, albeit a tuneful one.

The recorded sound is excellent, orchestra and soloists captured with a nice blend of warmth and clarity. Notes are very basic and there are odd typos. Still, it is super budget and if you don’t own a version of the Haydn or Hummel you could add it to your shortlist to try out.

Tony Haywood


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