|Founder: Len Mullenger||
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett
| FANTASY TRUMPET
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasiestücke, op. 73
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Clarinet Sonatas: no. 1 in f, op. 120/1, no. 2 in E flat, op. 120/2
John Wallace (trumpet), Simon Wright (pianoforte)
Rec. 24-26.9.1999 at The Maltings, Snape, Suffolk, UK
GLOBAL MUSIC NETWORK GMNC0117 [53’01"]
|CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line.|
NOTE Click on the button and you can buy the disc or read the booklet details You can also access each track which you may then sample or down load. Further Information.
Instrumental colour was not always the first of Brahms’s preoccupations but late in life he was so captivated by Richard Mühlfeld’s playing as to write these two clarinet sonatas plus the Trio for clarinet, cello and piano and the Quintet for clarinet and strings. It would be difficult to imagine music more deeply born of the most intimate nature of the instrument and though he consented to the publication of a version for viola he considered it "awkward and unenjoyable".
On the face of it a performance on the trumpet should be even more awkward and hideously unenjoyable. When I saw the disc my heart recoiled at such madness. But then, if you can play the trumpet as well as John Wallace can, and not a single romantic composer of even minor stature ever wrote a piece for your instrument, then why not give it a try?
If you listen to the opening of the second sonata you will be reassured. The trumpet in its middle-upper register can, at least in Wallace’s hands, produce a tone of liquid loveliness to match the clarinet’s own, and lacks nothing in agility. Since Wallace and Wright also phrase with great understanding, choose good tempi (though I thought the Sostenuto section of the second sonata’s Allegro appassionato a bit on the slow side) and are beautifully recorded, this is far more pleasurable than many a mediocre version on the "right" instrument. I should point out that these are not "transcriptions" – Wallace plays every note of the clarinet part exactly as it is written.
However, there seem to me two, maybe three, drawbacks. One is that while, as I have said, the trumpet can produce its own valid alternative to the clarinet’s gloriously singing middle-upper register, below middle C, where the clarinet goes into its wonderful chalumeau register, the trumpet has nothing comparable and even Wallace cannot entirely avoid thoughts of foghorns and factory sirens, albeit of a very musical variety.
The second is that the trumpet cannot fine down its tone while accompanying the piano, at least not to the same extent. Since Brahms’s writing is very democratic, examples of this abound, but take the last page of the first movement of no. 2 and you will have a perfect illustration of where these performances work and where they don’t. The high songful writing marked molto dolce sempre yields nothing to the clarinet in beauty, but when the piano takes up the melody, at the tranquillo section, the trumpet’s triplets are too present; the piano line can hardly be heard. Or when, in bars 41-3 of the Andante un poco Adagio of the first sonata, the trumpet takes up the piano’s rocking motif, the effect is that of a distant fanfare, it stands out from the piano texture too much. Similarly in the Allegretto grazioso of this same sonata, all is well when the trumpet has the tune, but when the piano has it, it is obscured by the trumpet’s quavers. The recording appears to be naturally balanced, so this may be one of the hazards of the operation. However, I get the impression that Wright is scrupulously observing Brahms’s dynamics, as if he were accompanying a clarinet. Perhaps he should have marked them up a bit. Or, failing that, the engineers might have helped out.
The third drawback may just be my own personal problem. Even in its most singing register, even with John Wallace to play it, the trumpet just does not seem to bring a lump to my throat as the best clarinettists can – and here I would like to repeat my praise for the classic Harold Wright/Peter Serkin recording (BR1005CD), which also has the Schumann Fantasy Pieces.
Regarding these, since Schumann writes practically exclusively for the middle-upper register of the instrument and leaves the piano in an accompanying role, the two drawbacks I have discussed above do not apply here. I completely enjoyed these pieces and could happily hear them as an alternative to the clarinet version.
In the last resort this is to be classed as a daring exploit, though a far more successful one than might have been imagined. One final word: if you’re a trumpeter, but not such a good one as John Wallace (and very, very few are), don’t have a go. The ultimate proof that this is really clarinet music is that any clarinettist with a passable technique and a fair dose of musicality can produce performances of these works which can be enjoyed. To produce an enjoyable performance of them on the trumpet is possible only for the elect.
You can sample only 30 seconds (or 15% if that is longer) of a given track. Select from the View tracks list. Each sample will normally start from the beginning but you can drag the slider to any position before pressing play. PLEASE NOTE: If you are behind a firewall and the sound is prematurely terminated you may need to register Ludwig as a trusted source with your firewall software.
You will need Quicktime to hear sound samples. Get a free Quicktime download here If you cannot see the "Sample All Tracks" button you need to download Flash from here.
Return to Index
Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.