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Virtuoso - Rolf Smedvig
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Brandenburg Concerto no 2 in F major, BWV 1047: 3rd movement, Allegro assai (1718) [2:48]*
Suite for Orchestra no 2 in B minor, BWV 1067: Badinerie (1739) [1:26]^
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)

Concerto for Oboe in E flat major: 2nd Movement, Allegro (1825) [3:38]*
Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Concerto for Trumpet in E flat major, H 7e no 1: 3rd movement, Finale (1796) [5:27]*
Maria Theresia PARADIS (1759-1824)

Sicilienne in E flat major [2:40]#
Anthony HOLBORNE (c. 1547-1602)

Elizabethan Dance Suite: Gigue [2:50]^
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)

Concerto for Trumpet in E flat major, S 49/WoO 1: 3rd movement, Rondo (1803) [3:38]*
Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1750)

Suite in G major: 3rd Movement, Allegro [1:34]^
Concerto for Trumpet in C major [2:08]^
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)

Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances [3:34]^
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Bacchanale (1877) [7:14]^
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Sonata for Piano no 11 in A major, K 331 (300i): 3rd movement, Rondo alla turca (1783) [3:05] ^
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)

Concerto for Trumpet in D major: 3rd movement, Allegro grazioso [3:14]*
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)

Bartered Bride, B 143/T 93: Dance of the Comedians (1870) [2:48]^
Anonymous

Sibley Sanctus Lydian [3:57]^
Rafael MENDEZ (b. 1906)

Romanza [2:50]^
Manuel DE FALLA (1876-1946)

El amor brujo: Danza rituel del fuego "Ritual Fire Dance" (1915) [3:47] ^
Rolf Smedvig (trumpet); Michael Murray (organ)#; Empire Brass^;
various associated artists.
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Jahja Ling*
rec. various venues: 1989-1998. DDD
TELARC CD-80550 [57:53]



This album is essentially a sampler drawn from Rolf Smedvig's extensive Telarc discography. The first three tracks on the album and a couple later on come from Smedvig's two concerto CDs with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Jahja Ling. The majority of the tracks, though, feature Smedvig as leader of Empire Brass, arguably the world's best known brass quintet, of which he is a founding member.

If you have heard any of Smedvig's playing before, you will know that he has a distinctive, mellifluous and smooth-edged tone as a trumpeter, which is remarkably consistent throughout his range. All of the tracks assembled here demonstrate this admirably, and if your primary concern in purchasing a disc like this is the quality of the trumpet playing, then you can purchase with confidence. There are some programming issues though.

All of the concerto extracts are brilliantly played, but while some movements can just about stand alone – the final movements of the Haydn and Hummel concertos, for example – others suffer from being out of context. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to start the disc with the final movement of Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto was clearly enthralled by Smedvig's art and oblivious to Bach's. It makes the album sound like it has begun in half way through, or like a couple of tracks have been skipped. It would have been better, in my view, to have either kept this disc an all Empire Brass affair, or to have bookended it with complete concerto performances. There is room for another 22 minutes of music on this disc – more than enough time to have accommodated the other two movements of the second Brandenburg Concerto and to have closed the disc with, say, the complete Tartini concerto without any other change to the programme.

Of the non-concerto items, there is plenty to entertain and excite. The Holborne item is perky and exciting, though the tambourine gets to be a bit tiresome. The Siciliene is quite lovely. Smedvig's bright tone brings shine to Bach's famous Badinerie, but his ornamentation feels overdone and will offend purists – assuming they are able to countenance a trumpet playing the flute part in the first place! And then there is the Sibley Sanctus Lydian, a modal chant that recalls – or, rather, is recalled by – the lonely trumpet that intones at the Catacombs in Respighi's Pines of Rome. Smedvig plays beautifully here, but the computerised percussion is really very irritating.

The arrangements of classical favourites that fill out the rest of the programme are quite impressive and include the stand out tracks from a couple of albums previously reviewed on this site: the Bacchanale from Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila, and the Dance of the Comedians from Smetana's Bartered Bride.

The booklet notes offer a brief biography of Rolf Smedvig and details of the albums from which the various tracks on this compilation are drawn, but no information on the music itself. This only reinforces the point I made earlier in this review. If your primary concern is Smedvig's impressive artistry and you have little interest in the music for its own sake, then this album will suit you nicely. If you are interested in the music as well, you would do better to pick up a couple of Smedvig's other discs instead. My recommendations would be the disc of trumpet concertos from which the Haydn, Hummel, Tartini and Bellini extracts are taken (Telarc CD-80232) and an Empire Brass disc this sampler does not sample: Braggin' in Brass (Telarc CD-80249), featuring arrangements of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and others.

Tim Perry

 


 


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