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Music for Trumpet and Piano
Karl PLISS (1902-1979)

Sonata (1935)
Halsey STEVENS (1908-1989)

Sonata (1956)
George ANTHEIL (1900-1959)

Sonata (1951)
Fisher TULL (1934-1994)

3 Bagatelles (1975)
Kent KENNAN (b. 1913)

Sonata (1956)
Scott Thornburg (trumpet), Silvia Roederer (piano)
Recorded 9th-11th May 1999 in the Dalton Center Recital Hall, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
CENTAUR CRC2554 [68:34]


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The repertoire of music for trumpet and piano is not exactly enormous and the only composer you are likely to know here is the "bad boy of music", George Antheil. The name of Halsey Stevens may ring a bell since he is the author of a widely appreciated book on Bartók. John Wallace recently got round the repertoire problem by playing Brahmsí Clarinet Sonatas on the trumpet, remarkably successfully at times though it would take a strange listener to prefer the trumpet versions to the originals. Little known composers are not, of course, by definition bad ones, and Scott Thornburgís recital succeeds in showing that the 20th Century produced a certain corpus of worthwhile original music for this combination.

The odd man out among all these Americans is the Viennese Karl Pliss. His combination of an effusive Richard Strauss-influenced style with some quirky Debussyian harmonies sets him among such contemporaries as Schreker or Gál. A true dialogue between the partners, this is a rewarding, passionate work which must be very satisfying to play.

Central European influences are at work, too, in Halsey Stevensís Sonata. To tell the truth I donít hear the Bartók influence of which Sylvia Roederer speaks in her useful booklet notes. The American accent seems to me to predominate, with more of Coplandís wide, open spaces than of the Hungarian plains.

By 1951 George Antheil had long put behind him such wild oats as the Ballet mécanique (1925) to write in an engagingly fresh style which suggests French influences (Antheil lived in France for some years). Hearing the work blind I think this sonataís charming brand of wrong-note Fauré would have suggested Milhaud to me. This was, for me, the pick of the five works.

Fisher Tullís Bagatelles are expertly written (the whisper mute is hauntingly effective in the second piece). They are perhaps more in the "useful addition to the repertoire" category than greatly memorable. The same may be said of Kent Kennanís Sonata which, according to Silvia Roederer, "holds a well-deserved place as a standard in the trumpet and piano repertoire". Not on the European side of the Atlantic Ocean, thus far, but it may yet do so since it is the sort of well laid-out modern-academic piece that should go down well with audiences.

Performances and recordings are beyond praise; for brass enthusiasts I need say no more. Non-specialists may be glad to have a trumpet and piano disc on their shelves will surely enjoy getting to know the Pliss and the Antheil sonatas.

Christopher Howell

 



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