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Early Music

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Michael HAYDN (1737-1806) Concerto in D Major for two Trombones and Orchestra
Leopold MOZART (1719-1787) Serenade for Trumpet, Trombone and Orchestra [19:37]
Michael HAYDN (1737-1806) Concerto in D Major for two Trombones and Orchestra [12:56]
Jean FRANCAIX (1912-1997) Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Eleven Strings [8:55]
Reinhard SÜSS (b. 1961) Fortuna Desperata Concerto for Piano and Chamber Ensemble [34:20]
Otmar Gaiswinkler, trombone; Heinrich Bruckner, trumpet; Walter Voglmayr, trombone; Reinhard Wieser, clarinet; Reinhard Süss, piano
Wiener Concert-Verein/Yun-Sung Chang
Recorded at Symphonia Studio, Weiner Konzerthaus, 10-14 May, 2002 DDD
CAMERATA CM-28030 [76:04]

 

I suppose that it must be an incredibly difficult thing to assemble interesting programs for CDs. Somebody has to decide on a single theme to tie the album together. Most commonly, if the CD is not of a single large work, a single composer will be featured. When that isnít the case there will normally be a single shorter piece and then other works from a similar style and period will be assembled and recorded to complement the main feature. Or, barring that, an audience can be led through a group of works unrelated to each other, but all featuring a single performer and highlighting the artistís virtuosity. This can often be a fun type of album since the audience gets to both enjoy the performerís unusual ability and see how different eras have utilized the same tools to achieve their means.

Sometimes a CD is assembled from whatever happens to be lying around in a groupís repertoire at a given time. Then the group is unchallenged by having to work up any new material and totally unbound by actually needing to present a coherent program to an audience.

That is what appears to have happened on the CD titled "Michael Haydn: Concerto in D Major for two Trombones and Orchestra", recently released on the Camerata Tokyo label. There appear to have been two totally unrelated programs half-completed and then released together for no discernable reason. While this is often a successful formula for live performances, the scattershot sampler approach is hardly ideal for building a recording program.

Taken individually, these are four very good performances of four different pieces. The first is actually a compilation of movements from Leopold Mozartís Trombone Concerto in G Major and his Trumpet Concerto in D Major. However, curiously, it is presented as a single work, sometimes featuring the trombone, sometimes the trumpet. Both soloists perform their parts beautifully, and the orchestra does a fine job. So while this might not have been the presentation intended by the composer, the product is very good. Taken in context of the entire CD, these two works, in addition to the Haydn concerto, would have been ideally suited for packaging.

This is especially true because the trombone duet, Concerto in D Major for two Trombones and Orchestra is so well done. The instrumentation used is not normally utilized. This only adds to the special nature of the work. Michael Haydnís concerto requires two truly virtuoso trombonists, able to perform rapid lip-trills and florid turns in harmony. These two performers do a marvelous job. The technique and control exhibited is simply amazing. This was the highlight of the disc.

Following half an hour of classical-era brass music we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of a modernist piece for clarinet and pared-down string section. It is a pleasing enough work, filled with energetic and interesting melodic lines on the clarinet. It is all reminiscent of Gershwin, coupled with neo-Impressionist string writing. Certainly, taken on its own, this is a fine piece of music quite well performed and deserving repeated listening. Certainly it would be appreciated as a side-piece on a program featuring Rhapsody in Blue.

Finally, in a complete change of character, comes an atonal work for piano and chamber ensemble with several strings, brass and woodwinds. It is a rather ominous seven movement work based on a medieval hymn. Reminiscent of Orff or Firebird-era Stravinsky, this is a piece which deserves to be highlighted. The orchestra does an outstanding job, and the piano work is more than adequate to the task. In all honesty, upon initial listening, this was a work that felt overly-derivative and lacking character. However, on subsequent listening, I exposed myself to each piece independently. The thick-chords and atonal melodic lines that seem so dissonant and difficult when played next to the other pieces are truly beautiful when listened to independently. Camerata does the work a disservice by packaging it with eighteenth century literature. Properly set alongside other twentieth century works, this would be easily recognized as a work worthy of appreciation.

Perhaps the largest problem with the album is the title. After all, the Wiener Concert-Verein does justice to all four composers. The soloists perform their parts quite well. There is nothing wrong with any of the particulars of any of the performances. The problem is that "Michael Haydn: Concerto in D Major for two Trombones and Orchestra" implies that the program will either be entirely this particular work or with other similar works in support. If the CDís title were "Several largely-unrelated works performed by Wiener Concert-Verein" then it would be easier to review the album positively as a whole. It was somewhat disappointing, however, to find the 20th century clarinet piece and piano concerto on an album heralded by its classical trombone works. As all of the music presented is well performed, it is impossible for this reviewer to completely dismiss the entire disc. It is simply my hope that, in future releases, Camerata does not continue to assemble ad hoc whatever happens to be in the orchestraís folder.

Patrick Gary

 



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