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British Trumpet Concertos
John CARMICHAEL (b.1930)
Trumpet Concerto (1972) [21:51]
Iain HAMILTON (1922-2000)
Concerto for jazz trumpet, Op.37 (1958) [12:50]
Rutland BOUGHTON (1878-1960)
Trumpet Concerto (1943) [20:33]
Tony HEWITT-JONES (1926-1989)
Concerto for trumpet and strings (1986) [18:18]
John Wallace (trumpet)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Simon Wright
World premiere recordings apart from Carmichael
rec. no details given.
WHITE LINE CD CDWHL2159 [73:55]

 

The booklet notes sports promotional material for White Line’s English Oboe and English Bassoon Concerto collections. Each CD has what I take to be distinctive LNER poster art – rolling, unspoiled acres with winding lanes, a cloistered church, patchwork fields, or bucolic harbours. Our trumpet concerto disc goes for winding river and sun-dappled downland. The church even looks a little like the church at Falmer in the Downs where your critic often finds himself with flask and sandwich, a large O.S. map and a hernia.

Sun dapple and Norman towers hardly begin to describe the contents of this disc however, one of the hilarious highpoints of which is that arch-modernist Iain Hamilton’s outrageous Harry James shtick. But let’s take this quartet of contrasting works in the order in which they’re presented.

John Carmichael, Anglo-Australian, pupil of Arthur Benjamin (and similarly Anglo-Australian) always writes elegantly crafted and warm music. He has essayed some Iberian music before now and opens his concerto with some portentous Spanishry and some full blooded march themes – but the orchestration is effusive, ebullient and effortlessly ear catching. His lento reprises the somewhat impressionist cast with which the concerto began and there are some nocturnal harp arpeggios but there’s also an especially delicious song at its heart, played by the orchestra, which is worthy of Cole Porter. The finale is all fresh air vivo, replete with cadenza and some emphatic drama. This is a winning work, and it gives the soloist plenty of opportunities for fugitive lyricism and assertive panoply and gives the orchestra similar chances – no easy backdrops for Carmichael.

Hamilton’s Concerto is for “jazz trumpet” – what’s that? Is it shaped like Dizzy Gillespie’s? Well, I think we know what he means. There are four brief movements. In the first we get some blowsy Harry James vibrato getting down with Stormy Weather, a tune that runs like a spine throughout, and this is followed by an Allegro with big band drumming, hints of Ziggy Elman, and chances for the soloist to stick in a mute to add colour and different timbres to the brew. The slow movement has a fine string cushion and legato trumpet, stretching out, but also undercurrents of unease. The finale gives us some show band, tempo halving, back beat and a reprise of Stormy Weather (some kind of in joke for the hard working soloist, one wonders?)

Immediate contrast is provided by Boughton’s 1943 concerto with its quietly concentrated focus and a noble, almost hymnal quality. Boughton shows clear signs of his Elgarian heritage, most particularly in the Lento espressivo, with its stalking basses evoking the nobilmente tread of the introductory paragraphs of the First Symphony, a motif that returns after more waywardly rhythmic material. There’s a brief cadenza and a replenishing chorale-type ending, transformed into newly efflorescent  Romantic beneficence.

Finally there’s the Concerto by Tony Hewitt-Jones and the most recent of the quartet, dating as it does from 1986. Bustly and warm its string tang comes via Britten’s Frank Bridge Variations – confident and lissom writing, as well as fluency itself for the solo trumpet. There are vague hints of VW and of Copland in the Air but the more melancholy cast certainly owes its mordancy to the more introverted moments in Britten’s great string work. This is a bold, brassy and confident work and makes a good impression.

Fine performances all round – Wallace, needless to say, can get around these works with silken ease and has the stylistic chops to do a Harry James as much as to burnish the Boughton. Simon Wright directs the BBC Scottish with flair and energy – reflective generosity as well.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Rob Barnett

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