While the combination of trumpet and organ cannot be said to be
one of the ‘standard’ musical groupings, it is a pairing which
has always intrigued a few composers. Some very interesting music
has resulted over the centuries – from the baroque sonatas of
Jean Baptiste Loeillet and Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani, and
the Chorales of Johan Ludwig Krebs right up to more modern works
by such as Naji Hakim, Alan Hovhaness and Petr Eben.
The young English
trumpeter Deborah Calland has actively encouraged contemporary
composers to write for this combination. Five commissions -
she has actually commissioned even more - are recorded here,
all being world premiere recordings. They appear alongside some
pieces for solo organ, played by William Whitehead.
The Welshman Huw
Watkins, who studied composition with Robin Holloway, Alexander
Goehr and Julian Anderson, is represented by Three Orations,
a nicely made sequence, in which the trumpet is declamatory
when in dialogue with the organ. It is seemingly more inward-directed
in short unaccompanied passages between the ‘orations’, so that
one has a sense of the instrument in, as it were, both ‘public’
and ‘private’ spheres. There are passages which sound as though
they are indebted to the traditions of the jazz trumpet and
the whole has a quiet, slightly understated power.
In Diana Burrell’s
North Star there are many striking dynamic contrasts,
the writing for organ perhaps being more individual than that
for the trumpet, though the later stages of the piece create
a very effective dialogue between the two instruments. Diana
Burrell’s music is never less than interesting, but I am not
sure that I would regard this as one of her very best pieces.
Another Welsh representative,
Rhian Samuel is, at present, Professor of Music at the
City University in London. Readers will perhaps remember her
excellent sequence Tirluniau, which was premiered at
the Proms in 2000, with Tadaaki Otaka conducting the BBC National
Orchestra of Wales. Her Threnody with Fanfares explores
the oxymoronic implications of its title. Samuel speaks of the
piece being built around “two completely opposed motives: the
lament or sigh and the royal fanfare”. The fanfare’s impersonal
grandeur is counterpoised by the sense of personal loss, echoes
of the last post being heard more than once. An interesting
and rewarding piece.
who studied with Malcolm Williamson and Elizabeth Lutyens, contributes
‘Sortie’, something of a showpiece for both instrumentalists.
Several of the various associations of its title – a sally made
by a besieged army, an operational flight by a military aircraft
– seem to be reflected in its idioms and musical imagery.
Canzona and Toccata rework music which began life as sonata
for solo trumpet and then had a second existence as a piece
for two trumpets. As these origins may perhaps imply, the trumpet
dominates and the organ largely has a role as accompanist. There
is a good deal of colourful writing for the trumpet, and Deborah
Calland makes the most of it, with some richly expressive playing.
Of James MacMillan’s
three works for solo organ included here, the first two were
both written for weddings. The Wedding Introit is pleasant,
but relatively slight; there is a good deal more substance in
White Note Paraphrase and Gaudeamus in Loci
Pace, in both of which plainchant melodies are manipulated
interestingly. Gaudeamus in Loci Pace closes with some
particularly attractive bird-like twitterings.
Into the Silent
Land was written for the organ of Westminster Cathedral
and was premiered there by Colm Carey in July 1996. Its title
is a quotation from Christina Rossetti’s sonnet ‘Remember’ and
the emotional tone of the piece has much in common with the
sadness of Rossetti’s poem and its concern with the permeable
boundary between the lands of the living and the dead which
is memory. Into the Silent Land is a successful
and subtle piece.
All in all, a rewarding
and stimulating collection of contemporary British music which
makes a very worthwhile contribution to the trumpet-and-organ
genre. The playing throughout is impeccable and persuasive and
the recorded sound is excellent.