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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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British Trumpet Concertos
John CARMICHAEL (b.1930)

Trumpet Concerto (1972) [21:51]
(I Andante maestoso; II Lento; III Allegro vivace)
Iain HAMILTON (1922-2000)

Concerto for jazz trumpet, Op.37 (1958) [12:50]
(I Medium blues; II Allegro: Quick bounce; III Lento; IV Allegro)
Rutland BOUGHTON (1878-1960)

Trumpet Concerto (1943) [20:33]
(I Poco adagio; Allegretto; Allegro; Largo sostenuto; Allegro; II Lento espressivo; Allegro spiritoso; Largo)
Tony HEWITT-JONES (1926-1989)

Concerto for trumpet and strings (1986) [18:18]
(I Fanfare and Scherzo; II Air and Variations; III Moto perpetuo)
John Wallace (trumpet)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Simon Wright
World premiere recordings apart from Carmichael
rec. no details given.
WHITE LINE CD CDWHL2159 [73:55]


British concertos have become something of a theme for the record companies. Whiteline have already given us English Oboe Concertos (WHL2130 review) and English Bassoon Concertos (WHL2132 review) so this anthology fits neatly within that corner of their catalogue. The only modifier is the British label - necessary because of the presence of Scot Iain Hamilton and Australian John Carmichael. Elsewhere we have Naxos with their British piano concertos and most recently their British Tuba Concertos. Time for someone to essay a few British violin concerto collections!

 

Carmichael, born in Australia, a pupil of fellow countryman Arthur Benjamin, now lives in the UK. He is no pioneer. His music in its more dreamy moments reminded me of John Ireland in the Forgotten Rite although the close-up vivid recording balance tends to work against mystery. He also has a tendency to shade into Iberian mode (this is the man who also wrote a Concierto Folklorico that seems to be a tribute manqué to Nights in the Gardens of Spain). He writes a finale that catches the light-on-the-palate magic of the very best light British music of the 1950s and 1960s. It’s wonderful stuff and is played with real panache by all concerned. That said John Wallace does not have quite the pin-sharp articulation of dedicatee Kevin Johnston on the only other recording of the work (part of a wonderful Australian light music collection reviewed at http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2001/June01/Swagman.htm). By the way there’s also a very agreeable Carmichael chamber music collection on ABC Classics http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Mar04/carmichael_sea_changes.htm

Then comes a ragingly strange gear-change from fifties light suave straight into four movements of jazzy scorch, smooch and swoon. John Wallace and the orchestra do the honours in the Iain Hamilton concerto with breathtaking abandon. This is renowned controversialist Hamilton slumming it with death-defying style. There is not a hint of the 1960s and 1970s Manchester School. The concerto is tremendously enjoyable being one of three works he wrote for the BBC Light Music Festivals of the 1950s and 1960s. I confess to wincing once or twice in Malcolm Arnold’s similarly pop Concerto for Phyllis and Cyril and drifting off during such fusions as the Seiber/Dankworth Jazz Improvisations (conducted by Pritchard on Decca). Here however Hamilton carries off the act without an arched eyebrow or a wink. He plays it serious and for me the piece works resoundingly well. He vies with Gershwin and Bernstein in evocation of hot summers and the jitteriest of jitter-bugs.

Boughton wrote his twenty minute concerto for his youngest son Brian in August 1943. While Carmichael is fantastic and mercurial and Hamilton goes in for total jazz immersion (OK it’s notated), Boughton writes a work of over-arching Brahmsian seriousness. This is sustained even during the darting pointillist delicacy of the Allegretto. Not for the first time we also hear a marchingly sentimental little touch of Elgar (First Symphony) in the opening of the Lento espressivo second movement. It also casts a warm smile over the final pages. His Third Symphony has similar echoes. This is a concerto for which I suspect Boughton had the highest aims. His seriousness and his success is reflected in the calming opening and close which touch on the string writing of both Elgar and Finzi. Boughton is a fascinating composer and this is a composition to match - no shallow crowd-pleaser that’s for sure. Wallace knows this work well and his reading has gained in depth since his 1990 broadcast of the work with the BBC Scottish.

I know the name of Tony Hewitt-Jones. I wish I knew more of his music. After a life in the county council education worlds and of many occasional and didactic pieces he retired to the Cotswolds. His ashes are spread amongst the hills that inspired so many British composers. His muscular string writing has a shade of Rawsthorne-like asperity but it is modest. The solo line is florid and celebratory with the customary time allowed for poetic reflection in the middle movement. It provides many moments to savour. I kept detecting gentle hints of Copland (Tender Land) and then the composer turns away. The Moto perpetuo darts, ducks and dives. Wallace’s clarion bell-tone and clarity of articulation are sheer delight.

Sanctuary and Whiteline do their customary slap-up job and Philip Lane provides the documentation.

Four extremely accessible concertos avoiding the bland, full of mercurial moodiness and dazzle (Carmichael), out and out jazziness (Hamilton), clarion delight (Hewitt-Jones) and emotional gravitas (Boughton). The best of the Sanctuary concerto collections.

Rob Barnett

 

 



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