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Trumpet Magic. A Tribute To Rafael Méndez
Jenö HUBAY (1858-1937)
Hejre Kati arr. MÉNDEZ [3.24]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Musetta's Waltz from La Boheme arr. MÉNDEZ [3.15]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Caro nome from Rigoletto arr. MÉNDEZ [3.09]
Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Dance of the Comedians from The Bartered Bride arr. MÉNDEZ  [3.47]
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Bell Song from Lakmé arr. MÉNDEZ [4.03]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Habanera from Carmen arr. MÉNDEZ [3.56]
Danse bohème from Carmen arr. MÉNDEZ [3.56]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Una voce poco fa from Barber of Seville arr. MÉNDEZ [5.21]
Vittorio MONTI (1868-1922)
Csárdás arr. MÉNDEZ [4.07]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen arr. MÉNDEZ [6.02]
Rafael MÉNDEZ (1906-81)
Canto moro [3.21]
Intermezzo [3.24]
Plegaria Taurina [3.54]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor arr. MENDEZ / KOFF [3.32]
Rafael CALLEJA (1874-1938) / Tomas BARRERA (1870-1938)
Farewell my Granada [4.14] arr. MÉNDEZ / KOFF
Bernardino MONTERDE
La Virgen de la Macarena arr. MÉNDEZ / KOFF
Geoffrey Payne (trumpet)
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Jean-Louis Forestier
rec. Iwaki Auditorium, ABC, Melbourne, March 2003, April 2004
ABC CLASSICS 476 9163 [64.06]
The trumpeter in question is obviously Rafael Méndez who was born in Mexico in 1906 and was one of the most remarkable players of the century. His early adventures – meeting with the revolutionary Pancho Villa and his frustrating years in America, where he gravitated in 1926 – are amusingly if perhaps hyperbolically told in the booklet notes. The trajectory of his career, after an early stint in Michigan, was westwards, from New York to Los Angeles where he joined radio orchestras and eventually MGM. Work in stellar bands such as David Rose’s soon followed. Fired by MGM in 1949, apparently over tonal and vibrato matters, he still appeared in important bands and as a soloist, toured widely in Europe. His career carried on but it was increasingly curtailed by ill health. He retired in 1975, dying six years later.
The Méndez Library in Arizona has presumably lent many of these arrangements to the Melbourne forces under Jean-Louis Forestier and soloist Geoffrey Payne. Méndez’s arrangements of operatic and instrumental pieces earned cachet for his instrument – and fused lyricism with brassy bravura. It’s true that he took rather staple stuff but he was a pioneer in many respects and can’t be blamed over much for the predictability of some of his choices. Incidentally three of his own compositions are here, one of which - Plegaria taurina – he never recorded.
Payne has the big, fat tone down pat for the opening Hubay – Méndez was especially fond of violin and operatic show stoppers – and it sounds cornet-like in its roundness and fullness of tone, rather than the thinner, rapier incision of a more conventional attack. The Smetana is a fizzy affair and the Delibes is full of some dramatic flourishes. Naturally we have Carmen’s Habanera but the Danse bohème is an even better arrangement, strong on percussion and brass. The trumpeter’s own Canto moro has some rather prosaic accompaniment, at least until the percussion joins in, but that composer-unrecorded piece is a slow charmer. I advise purists to skip the Mendelssohn “Concerto” – all three and a half minutes of it – though the less precious might welcome its naughtiness.
This is a very rare example of a disc devoted entirely to Méndez’s own orchestrations and it’s a faithful homage, down to the artwork, which itself pays homage to the Mexican’s own Decca albums with bold reds and oranges.
Jonathan Woolf





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