First released on LP back in the early eighties this trombone
collection now makes a reappearance in silver disc format whilst,
inevitably perhaps, still enshrining a black disc timing. For
some, an album that just tips the three quarters of an hour mark
will be a demerit; for others its unsullied reappearance will
represent a triumph of integrity. At any rate there’s obviously
nothing still in Crystal’s vaults from the sessions so collectors
will have to make up their own minds about this kind of thing.
The programme offers
thrills, spills and few longeurs. Halsey Stevens gets things
underway and his Sonata embodies some of the easier going charm
that the trombone-piano repertory explores in this disc. That
said the slow movement of this c.1967 opus has a more remote
and elusive stoic quality – no effusive abundance here – that
offers more laconic rewards. The finale is muscular and gruffly
confident, Halsey seemingly taking care to capture the variousness
of the behemoth’s moods and timbral possibilities, not forgetting
its powers of interior expression.
Cowell’s Hymn and
Fuguing Tune No.13 offers a characteristically hymnal idyll
followed by its carefree fuguing confrere – just under six minutes
of non-negotiable elixir. Bernstein’s Elegy for Mippy II – a
dog, as if you didn’t know, belonging to Bernstein’s brother
– is by contrast is short, slight and at one minute forty hardly
Brucknerian, but its melos is vaguely jazz-aware. Karl Kroeger
plumbs deeper depths. His Tres Psalmi Davidis encourages
lower register playing allowing contrast between this and the
role for soprano Lucy Shelton. It’s therefore a kind of two-part
counterpoint and evokes textual mood with considerable refinement.
The central movement offers the most plangent interplay with
reflective solo voices to the fore – a rapt quality ensues.
The finale is vibrantly quick with quirky exchanges between
the unlikely-seeming duo. The ‘bone, of course, has to have
the last word.
The other trombone
sonata, to balance that by Stevens, is the undated one by Otto
Luening - on which point I wish we could have been given dates
of composition for these works. This is a very compact four-movement
affair, over in under seven minutes. Luening tracks the demotic
here, giving us a lumber camp dance of real verve and following
it with Dance, a warm Hymn and a light and avuncular march finale.
Once again here’s a composer who knows just how to write for
these forces. So too did Arthur Pryor of course, trombone scion
of Sousa’s Band. His Annie Laurie is an Air varie familiar
from operatic potpourri of old, and affords plenty of virtuosic
byways for the intrepid Ronald Borror.
A well balanced
programme then – two sonatas and ancillary works of charm and
flair, all splendidly performed and recorded. One of these days
I’m going to learn how to unravel Crystal’s booklets.