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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Rolf MARTINSSON (b. 1956)
Bridge, Trumpet Concerto No. 1 Op. 47 (1998)
Arvo PÄRT (b. 1935)

Concerto Piccolo über B-A-C-H (1994) for trumpet, strings, harpsichord and piano
Eino TAMBERG (b. 1930)

Concerto No. 1 for trumpet and orchestra
Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Recorded at Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden, August 2000
BIS CD-1208 DDD [50:51]



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In the true spirit of neighbourly cooperation here is a disc that is very much a joint Swedish/Estonian effort. Swedish label, orchestra, trumpet soloist and composer in Rolf Martinsson, coupled with Estonian composers Arvo Pärt and Eino Tamberg and conductor Neeme Järvi.

The solo Swedish composer represented, Rolf Martinsson, studied with a number of composition teachers, amongst them Brian Ferneyhough, although his own music in no way seems to embrace the ultra-complexities of Ferneyhough himself. Instead Bridge, his Trumpet Concerto No. 1, is aurally coherent, skilful in its scoring, big on melody and ultimately a resounding tour de force of virtuosity, adrenalin and exhilaration. The work is cast in three sections, played continuously but "bridged" by two substantial cadenzas for the solo trumpet, the first largely lyrical and muted, the second energetic and declamatory. Martinsson has a vivid ear for effect and scoring, a feature that comes through regularly as he pits soloist against orchestra in music that can often progress from passages of combative challenge to waves of bittersweet melody, almost Hollywood-like in their climactic lushness. The piece was written in close collaboration with Hardenberger and draws some fine, technically formidable playing from the soloist who is every bit as exciting and exacting as you would expect from a master of contemporary repertoire. The booklet notes mention that the work has been a real hit with audiences and it is not difficult to see why. I found it difficult to keep off the edge of my chair for much of the piece, particularly the white-knuckle ride of the headlong last seven minutes.

Arvo Pärt’s concise seven and a half minute Concerto Piccolo über B-A-C-H could hardly be in starker contrast to the Martinsson, embedded as it is in Pärt’s most obvious neo-classical, or in this case decidedly neo-baroque, style. That said it is the polystylism of Alfred Schnittke that immediately comes to mind here, notably in the scoring for strings, harpsichord and piano. The resemblance also surfaces in the central slow movement where the progress of the touching trumpet melody with its harpsichord accompaniment is rudely interrupted by opposing dissonant chordal clusters from piano and strings. Although all ends well as the trumpet melody finally returns to conclude the slow movement unopposed, the spirit of uneasiness continues to permeate the final Deciso. This is exorcised once again in the very concluding bars where harmonic consonance returns to allow a positive and decidedly bright flourish.

There is a feeling that Shostakovich is never too far away in Eino Tamberg’s Trumpet Concerto No. 1 of 1972. The driving, motoric rhythms that can often be heard in the opening and concluding movements are one example but for the most obvious try from around 1:40 in the first movement, in particular the bassoon line from 2:20 followed by the string interjections and ensuing resumption of the bassoon line on the piano. The influence is perhaps understandable given Tamberg’s generation yet there is also much to admire here. His writing for the solo instrument is striking and idiomatic, not to mention imaginative in its occasional use of jazz techniques. A clear ability to build and sustain musical tension comes through in the central Lento-Con moto and the concluding Allegro molto provides much to entertain before its unexpectedly calm conclusion.

Hardenberger is the perfect soloist for these works and his input to the composition of the Martinsson and Pärt in particular has no doubt greatly added to the composer’s confidence in producing trumpet parts of not inconsiderable flair. Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra provide authoratative accompaniment and the BIS sound is characteristically vivid. All in all, a disc that will give much enjoyment.

Christopher Thomas



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