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A Trombone Odyssey
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Ballade for trombone and orchestra (1940) [7’54]
Kazimierz SEROCKI (1922-1981)
Concerto for trombone and orchestra (1952) [21’24]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Symphony for trombone and orchestra (1954) [17’00]
Jan SANDSTRÖM (b.1954)
Motorbike’ Concerto for trombone and orchestra (1989) [25’37]
Christian Lindberg (trombone)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
Rec. Berwald Hall, Stockholm, Sweden, Jan. 15-16, 1990 (Sandström)
Oct. 21-22 1991 (rest)
BIS CD 538 [73’44]

This disc is, first and foremost, a vehicle for the stunning virtuosity of Christian Lindberg. But it is much more than that. He could, after all, have played a string of arrangements or transcriptions finishing, as others do, with his own version of Flight of the Bumble Bee. Instead (and typical of the musician and this label) we have an excellent survey of serious and pretty substantial 20th Century works for trombone and orchestra. None of them are masterpieces, but given the composers involved, all the music is beautifully crafted and at its best, quite memorable.

As the front cover shows, the disc is marketed on the back of the so-called Motorbike Concerto. This is not as fearsomely modern a piece as you may think. In fact, scanning the titles of the individual movements may give you a clue as to the tone that it sets; The Everglades, The Mountain in Provence and The Land of the Aborigines. A short introduction and finale frame these three sections, and the piece basically resembles a musical ‘travelogue in sound’, with everything linked by Lindberg’s motorbike imitations on his instrument. The whole piece is colourful and very entertaining, and is meant to show the philosophical musings of the free biker as he roams the world, a sort of musical counterpart to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The solo part is suitably taxing (the range extends to nearly five octaves) and there are some orchestral sounds that are modernistic though always tonal. But overall this is a deeply thoughtful, almost elegiac tone poem for our troubled times.

The remaining works are solid, early-mid 20th Century in their musical language, and all seem typical of their composers. The Bloch Symphony is (as the title suggests) tightly constructed, with the accent on sharing material out between partners rather than pitting the trombone against the orchestra. The opening theme, with its American Indian feel, sounds straight out of his Violin Concerto, and the rest of the melodic material has this composer’s hallmarks all over it, the solo part being inspired by the Jewish shofar, or ram’s horn from the Old Testament.

The Serocki Concerto is basically traditional, quite colourful and based in part on Polish folk tunes and dances. The lento sections of the first two movements do betray something deeper, the darker harmonies and trombone’s growlings hinting at the menace of working as a composer in the Eastern Europe of the Stalin era.

It’s a pity the Martin Ballade isn’t longer, as it packs a lot in and hints at bigger things along the way. Martin was one of the most gifted and inventive voices of the middle-20th Century and he set about writing for the unusual solo instrument (this piece was originally for a competition) with his usual flair and craftsmanship. It makes an excellent opener to the programme.

Recording is all we have come to expect from this source, and the notes, by Lindberg himself, could hardly be bettered. A well planned and beautifully executed disc, and not just for trombone buffs!
Tony Haywood



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