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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

AVAILABILITY

MGB Records (Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund) http://www.musikszene-schweiz.ch http://www.musiques-suisses.ch/

David Bruchez - Trombone
Juraj FILAS (b. 1955) Sonata: "At the end of the century" for trombone and piano (1997) [12:41]
François CATIN (b. 1972) Paroles – Pater Noster for soprano and trombone (2000) [2:29]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Romanze Il op. 94, "Einfach, innig" [3:31]
Jean-François MICHEL (b. 1957) "In memoriam" for trombone (1999) [14:49]
François CATIN (b. 1972) Paroles – Resurrection for soprano and trombone (2000) [3:24]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Romanze III op. 94 "Nicht schnell" [3:53]
Jean-François MICHEL (b. 1957) Rogations for 4 trombones (1991) [6:47]
François CATIN (b. 1972) Paroles – Glory Holy Spirit for soprano and trombone (2000) [4:16]
Frank MARTIN (1890 - 1974) Ballade for trombone and piano (1940) [7:58]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955) Hommage du trombone exprimant la tristesse de l’auteur absent (1921) [1:21]
Ferdinand DAVID (1810-1873), arr. Ingo LUISConcertino op. 4 for 4 trombone and piano (1995) [8:55]
David Bruchez, trombone
Adrienne Haering, piano
Antonella Lalli, soprano
Recorded at Studio Varga à Grimisuat. 28-30 January, 2002 DDD
MGB CTS-M 89 [70:11]


The trombone is not often featured in the symphonic world. For some reason, the trumpet and horn have long been preferred by composers as the featured members of the brass family. This has largely left the trombone relegated to a realm of secondary interest. Luckily, in an attempt to find new ways to express themselves, many modern composers have found themselves gravitating to different instruments than those favoured by their forebears.

Collected here are several compositions that most people who have not sought out trombone literature will not readily recognize, although it is hard to call this an album only for the musically adventurous. After all, due to the youth of most of this collection of works - many composed in the last 10 years - there are many things that this music could be. Let me first state that the music is tonal, often neo-romantic. There are occasional influences from both jazz and minimalism, but this is not a CD that will be many listeners would find inaccessible. That said the musically adventurous will still find things to enjoy. These works are not without inspiration or innovations in their own right. There are many timbres explored by the trombone through the use of mutes and multiphonic techniques. Additionally there are points where the microtonal and glissando capabilities of the instrument are utilized in modern ways. Therefore, this could be considered proof that there is still both room for innovation and a market for new tonal symphonic music outside the television and movie soundtrack world.

The opening work, "At the end of the century" is a multi-faceted piece traversing a myriad of emotions and painting a plethora of pictures. It never quite stops, but certainly is built in movements, nearly a rondo-grosso. The frenzied theme, reminiscent of a tone poem describing urban life, alternates with several slower, more introspective sections. At times the piano or trombone evokes a haunted loneliness among the bombast or cacophony that the other is producing. Very occasionally the piano will state a few slow lonely lines by itself. Then the two will rejoin their efforts to run forward through the energetic themes, each time making the next chance for introspection more inevitable, and more touching. The work is very well done and among the better pieces that I have encountered in recent years.

Paroles was composed as a single work in three movements, each using a different biblical text and evoking a highly different mood. The first movement uses a broad number of timbres from the trombone, with more than half of the work written for multiphonic techniques. For those unfamiliar, this sounds much like a Tuvan throat singer producing two pitches at once. The resulting sound is unlike the traditional trombone sound, but works perfectly with the soprano voice to create a sense of the ancient and modern in a cohesive context. The second movement, presented later on the disc, is a duet for muted trombone and voice, using a French text from Matthew. Here the trombone is able to create the sense of the unfamiliar through the composer’s use of Middle Eastern tonalities and scales. The final movement, again presented after two other pieces, is based on an English text from Revelation. Here the trombone is using its most natural of timbre, albeit most frequently in its higher registers. Both voice and trombone make liberal use of glissandos, and the trombone part is quite disjointed. Were the singer using Sprechstimme rather than a full singing voice, this would sound as if it were from Pierrot Lunaire. Having the movements scattered throughout the disc is intended to make the listener more appreciative of the piece, as the other works are not nearly as avant-garde. Even so, this is an approachable work, and performed very well.

Similarly the Robert Schumann op. 94, originally written for oboe and piano, is separated by movement and spread through the disc. For any listener who truly desires their music simply beautiful, this gives them touch-points. Schumann did note that this work could be performed by clarinet, violin, or cello. In the liner notes, Bruchez posits humorously that he feels Schumann simply forgot to mention the trombone in his list of acceptable solo instruments. He then proceeds to record a commendable rendition of the piece. It does not seem that the instrumentation is ever out of place. Perhaps he’s correct and that Schumann did simply forget to add trombone to his list. The work is performed quite successfully.

Similarly, the work by Jean-François Michel, In memoriam for trombone and piano is simple, beautiful, and moving. That is where the likeness with the Schumann ends however, as this is a modern piece replete with extended harmonies and experimental timbres. There are points where the trombone is intentionally overdriven to create a blaring flutter-tongue. Later on multiphonic techniques and long glissandos are also employed. Also it is subdivided into three sections, but there is no definitive break between them. The first section is described as "the animals’ awakening while the priest is chanting"; the second section is the "dance with nature", and the third is the "procession", intended by the composer to represent a Catholic procession. This is the longest work on the album, approaching 15 minutes, with a great deal of drama and variance. This is probably also my favorite work on the album simply due to the broad exploration of the trombone timbres and the virtuosity that Bruchez is allowed to display.

Rogations for 4 trombones is assumed to be a multi-track recording of Bruchez performing each part. There are no other trombonists listed in the album notes, but there is certainly the sound of a small trombone choir on the recording. The sound engineer must be credited with an above-average job blending the sound. This does not sound like a studio-mixed multi-track recording. The sounds blend together in a completely natural way. The different parts sound as if they are responding to the other members of the brass choir with natural reverb and reinforced overtones that would come in a natural setting with four instrumentalists sitting next to each other. Additionally the piece itself is very interesting, with the lower trombones keeping time with repeated figures while the other higher horns layer their sound. The only thing that isn’t good with this recording is that Bruchez seems to be playing on a small-bore tenor trombone, even on the parts that were written for bass trombone. The timbre gets a little too edgy and abrasive on the fourth part, as he forces the horn to play below its ideal range. Even so, the work is well enough performed to be enjoyed even upon repeated listening.

Frank Martin’s Ballade for trombone and piano is one of the more commonly performed works presented. Certainly this is a piece that will have been encountered by those familiar with the standard trombone repertoire. It is presented here with the composer’s piano accompaniment, though it is often performed with the orchestration written by Ernest Ansermet. Bruchez does a fine job with the demanding portions, again displaying a firm grasp of the literature as well as his prowess. His technique in the quicker sections sounds as if it could have been keyed on a baritone as easily as tongued on the trombone. This is certainly a recording that anyone interested in performing the Ballade should listen to at least once.

Hommage du trombone exprimant la tristesse de l’auteur absent (Homage of the trombone expressing sadness of the absent composer) is very short with a very beautiful melody written in the middle-high register for the trombone. The piano accompaniment is plaintive giving the entire work more forward movement. Clocking in at under 2 minutes though, this can hardly be considered more than an aside for either the listener or the performer.

Concertino op. 4 again has evidence of multi-tracking. It was arranged for 4 trombone parts and piano, and deviates significantly from the more familiar version written in the heart of the romantic era. There is significant use of jazz harmony and much more modern technique. Again, Bruchez shows that he is no bass-trombone player, but more than makes up for that shortcoming with his incredible lip trills and clean technique through the fast passages. Additionally there is a surprising deviation into the jazz standard How High the Moon at the end. Evidently the arranger, Ingo Luis, has a healthy respect for jazz as well as for the trombone quartet. The arrangement and performance combine to make this stodgy old work a fun musical experience.

Overall this is a recording that certainly could become a favorite for the lovers of the trombone. While it is not perfect, it is certainly a good album by a very good performer. One hopes that in the future he would be willing to team up with other players for the quartet material, at least when recording the bass tracks. His timbre is warm and bright through the meat of the instrument’s range, but it is a rare player indeed that can truly master the trombone through all registers. David Bruchez has certainly mastered the tenor trombone, and puts his considerable talents on display throughout the album. Those who appreciate the instrument will appreciate his work here.

Patrick Gary

 



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