Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Swedish Trumpet Concertos
Daniel BÖRTZ (b.1943) Trumpet Concerto "Songs and Dances"
Jan SANDSTRÖM (b.1954) Trumpet Concerto No. 2
Folke RABE (b.1935) Sardine Sarcophagus
Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)
Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gilbert Varga
BIS BIS-CD-1021 [DDD 60:48]
    Amazon UK   AmazonUS  CDNow

Håkan Hardenberger has steadily built a reputation for himself as one of the world's leading trumpeters. He is one of a rare breed. A brass player who makes his living by solo work alone. Like his compatriot, the trombonist Christian Lindberg, Hardenberger has probably done more to further the solo repertoire of his instrument than any other player with Takemitsu, Henze, H K Gruber and Birtwistle amongst the many who have been inspired by him. This disc features three diverse concertos written between 1994 and 1996 by fellow Swedes, all three of whom have had their works championed by Hardenberger since their composition.

By far the best known name in this country is Jan Sandström who many will know as a result of his numerous collaborations with Christian Lindberg (anyone who enjoys Sandstrom's work on this disc should try his music for trombone with Lindberg, also on BIS, it is Sandström at his best). His Trumpet Concerto No. 2 is the most immediately accessible work of the three, being outwardly tuneful in character, but none the less challenging for it. In fact all three of these works challenge both performer and listener in very different ways. Sandström's concerto takes us through a playful first movement in which the most obvious influence is Stravinsky. Metrical dance like rhythms are toyed with by the soloist, these being set against a similarly dancing, predominantly pizzicato, accompaniment with subtle colouring from the wind. The central slow movement (roughly half the tempo of the first) makes very clear use of both the melodic and rhythmic material from the first movement, albeit in a far more relaxed vein whilst the final movement is a headlong dash for the finishing post with some impressive pyrotechnics from the soloist. The booklet notes tell us that the concerto's composition was closely associated with the composer's relationship with his then five year old daughter and this clearly comes across in the sense of fun and humour which is evident throughout. This is possibly not Sandström at his best or most original but it is an enjoyable work which receives a committed performance.

By contrast Folke Rabe's one movement concerto in all but name Sardine Sarcophagus, is the most lyrical of the three and has the distinction of having the most intriguing of titles. It owes its title primarily to the fact that it was commissioned by the Music Factory, in the Norwegian city of Bergen, which happens to be based in old sardine factory! The twist is that in Seville every year a sardine is buried as part of the passion ritual. However, Rabe cites Mahler as the main point of departure, in particular Das Lied von der Erde, and this influence can be detected in the harmonic references which are cleverly woven into the structure of the work. As in the Sandström, the language is tonal and there are some particularly haunting moments which linger in the memory although Rabe does not possess a voice of originality. The composer has also had a close association with Christian Lindberg and is a trombonist himself. His knowledge of the brass medium is evident in the idiomatic writing for the soloist, which is the most striking feature of the work.

The concerto by Daniel Börtz, subtitled Songs and Dances, is the toughest of these works to get to grips with on a first hearing. Its expressionist language is certainly more astringent than the works by Sandström and Rabe, but upon repeated listening this is the work I found most rewarding. Again Börtz does not have an immediately personal voice but he does communicate directly with his audience. This is the first in a series of four works by the composer which are linked to aspects of song and Börtz manages to exploit the extremes of the instrument in terms of range, dynamics and colour to a greater degree than either of the other composers. Passages of technical virtuosity, at times reminiscent of the great jazz style of trumpet playing, are well balanced with the more song like material at the heart of the work. The slow movement is notably effective in its use of the lowest register of the instrument, much of it muted, and played with admirable ease by the soloist.

All in all then an interesting disc featuring three concertos which although not the most musically memorable of works, demonstrate and communicate an impressive understanding of the man and the instrument which inspired them. The greatest impression is of the playing of Hardenberger himself. He is totally at ease with this repertoire and I have heard few players over the years with his sheer power and presence. The Malmö Symphony Orchestra and Gilbert Varga provide well balanced accompaniment throughout.

Christopher Thomas

Performance and sound

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit