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Soliloquy - Kirsty Abbotts (cornet)
Joy WEBB
A new dimension (Arr. Stephen Hague) [3:52]
J. LARSON
Someone cares (Arr. R. Steadman-Allen) [4:23]
Charles GOUNOD (1818–1893)
O divine Redeemer (Arr. R. Newsome) [6:16]
Trad. (Arr. Leigh Baker)
Down by the Sally Gardens [5:51]
Walford DAVIES (1869–1941)
God be in my head (Arr. Leigh Baker) [4:13]
Max BRUCH (1838–1920)
Violin concerto No. 1 in G minor, 2nd movement (Arr. Stephen Hague) [4:21]
Phil COULTER (b. 1942)
Home away from home (Arr. Stephen Hague) [4:22]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873–1943)
Adagio [5:02]
Leigh BAKER (b. 1970)
Grace [4:59]
Philip SPARKE (b. 1951)
Soliloquy [5:16]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
Your tiny had is frozen from La bohème (Arr. Gordon Langford) [4:22]
Charles MARSHALL (1859–1927)
I hear you calling me (Arr. J. Ord Hume) [3:43]
Jules MASSENET (1842–1912)
Meditation from Thaïs (Arr. A. Fernie) [5:57]
Rolf LØVLAND (b. 1955)
You raise me up (Arr. A. Duncan) [5:46]
Kirsty Abbotts (cornet)
Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band/Allan Ramsay
rec. Hemsworth Arts and Community College, West Yorkshire, 7-8 October 2006.
EGON SFZ 139 [69:30]

 


According to The New Penguin English Dictionary (2000) ‘Soliloquy’ comes from Latin solus = ‘alone’ + loqui = ‘to speak’ and means ‘the act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud while alone’ or ‘a dramatic device of this kind, used esp to let the audience know the thoughts and motivations of a character’. Hamlet’s famous monologue ‘To be or not to be’ is the cardinal example, but it is a fitting title for this disc, since Kirsty Abbotts also carries through a series of monologues. Assuredly she has a band of almost thirty musicians backing her up, but they seldom interfere with her thoughts and rather form a kind of audio backdrop to her imagined sonic-stage. To carry the simile a step further her choice of repertoire and her way of playing it is often very inward and meditative. Now and then I felt almost awkward, the way you feel when by accident you hear someone telling very personal things not intended for you. Naturally I realized that it was intended for me; it’s only that when someone lowers the voice somewhat the message becomes very intimate.

To a certain degree this is also the problem with this disc, since the whole programme, with a few exceptions, is so recessed. All fourteen ‘songs’ – yes, most of them are songs – are slow: adagio – andante – largo must be the tempo markings. Dynamics are limited to mezzo forte and below. There is little in the way of harmonic spicing; everything is held within a 19th century romantic and 20th century easy-listening idiom. Seventy minutes of this eventually results in a feeling of long-windedness and even lethargy. This is a pity, since the music-making is on a high level and there are many good melodies on display. I, who almost invariably listen through my review discs from beginning to end, decided after about a quarter of an hour that the best thing I could do was to spread the listening over several sittings. This is not to write the disc off; rather to recommend readers, who like the idea of this particular programme, to do the same thing. While I am at it, let me add one further opinion, very personal and not in the least objective: I am not particularly fond of the sound of brass bands, however well-playing. In Sweden we have a very old tradition of wind bands too. In almost every town there is one or more of these bands  ho parade and play on festive occasions. They are full wind orchestras with both brass and woodwind, which gives a more varied sound-picture. The high woodwind in particular lighten the general sound. Genuine brass bands, in spite of the cornets, even the soprano cornets, are more bass heavy. But, as I have said, this is a very personal opinion and it shouldn’t discourage readers from listening to this particular disc.

With all of that in the background it is Kirsty Abbotts’ solo playing that is the main reason for the disc and she certainly plays impressively. She has beautiful tone. Her legato is impeccable – obviously she has lungs that hold more air than a whole regiment. Her tone is absolutely steady, even in long-held pianissimos. Her phrasing and shading is a joy to hear. Those who want to have a taster are advised to listen to the opening of Walford Davies’ God be in my head (tr. 5), where she plays unaccompanied.

There are a couple of numbers from the classical orchestral repertoire: the slow movement of Bruch’s first violin concerto and Rachmaninov’s Adagio - the beautiful slow movement from his second symphony, where for all the exquisite phrasing I missed the strings. From the world of opera come Massenet’s Meditation and Rodolfo’s Che gelida manina from La bohème. In the first mentioned there are some brave harmonic modulations and in the second Ms Abbotts demonstrates her superb breath control. Phil Coulter’s Home away from home was originally written for James Galway while both Grace and the title melody, Soliloquy, are original compositions for cornet and brass. Very beautiful they are too. Older readers in particular will recognize I hear you calling me, which was written by Charles Marshall in 1908; John McCormack recorded it the same year with the composer at the piano.

The concluding number, Norwegian-born Rolf Løvland’s moving You raise me up with reminiscences of Londonderry Air, starts almost hesitantly, as it were, at some distance. It then grows, withdraws, grows again until there is a sudden climax with bass drum and the full band at fortissimo – the only one on the disc. Then the music dies away – a striking finale to this recital.

The inlay is, unfortunately, a hard read since the designer directs it to the very small target group that prefers white text against dark background. In my whole life I have met only one person belonging to that target group. He suffers from a very serious and very rare visual defect.

Suffering from visual defects or not, cornet enthusiasts should definitely give this disc a chance. Anyone who likes beautiful melodies beautifully played will find much to enjoy here. But don’t listen to all of it in one sitting!

Göran Forsling 


 


 


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