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Exposed Throat
Heinz Karl GRUBER (b. 1943)
Exposed Throat (2000) [11:22]
Daniel BÖRTZ (b. 1943)
Målning (2000) [8:53]
Poul RUDERS (b. 1949)
Reveille-Retraite (2003) [10:04]
Robert HENDERSON (b. 1948)
Variations Movements (1967)
Robin HOLLOWAY (b. 1943)
Sonata for Solo Trumpet Op.94a (1999) [21:43]
Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)
rec. Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm, Sweden, January and March 2004
BIS CD-1281 [62:00]

Gruber’s Exposed Throat was composed to a commission from the International Trumpet Guild. The composer also describes this short unaccompanied piece as the cadenza absent from his trumpet concerto Aerial composed in 1999 and dedicated to Hardenberger, who recorded it some time ago (DG 4776150). The title of the piece derives from a similarly titled painting by Claes Eklundh that adorns the cover of this release. As might be expected, this is a brilliant display work full of energy and fantasy. Hardenberger has “inserted” some breathing pauses in the form of what Gruber calls “clusters of air columns”. The music is demanding, but never calls for the sort of extravagant playing techniques all-too-often used in modern works for wind instruments. In the final section, though, some percussive sounds - probably foot-stamping - are heard.
Quite coincidentally, I think, Börtz’s Målning (“Painting”) also draws on paintings by Eklundh. These provided him with the impetus to write several other works, all composed for specific artists. This one, too, was written for and dedicated to Hardenberger. The music is again remarkably inventive and quite taxing, calling for considerable virtuosity and musicality.
Ruders’ Reveille–Retraite, again dedicated to Hardenberger, is relatively simpler than the previous pieces. The title refers to the military bugle calls, Reveille and Retraite. So, this short diptych explores two highly contrasted expressive worlds: Reveille is a short, brilliant fanfare whereas the somewhat longer Retraite is a beautiful, song-like movement, marked Lontano.
Robert Henderson composed his Variation Movements in 1964 when he was just sixteen years old. He revised it in 1967 for a recording by Thomas Stevens of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The music exploits the various qualities and possibilities of the instrument to the full, and the end result of it all is superbly crafted and highly attractive.
Robin Holloway’s Sonata for Solo Trumpet Op.94a is a substantial piece. Its first performance had to be divided between three players, which says much for the technical challenges posed by the music. As a result, there also exists a version for two trumpets (Op.94b). Hardenberger plays the original version. The work falls into three movements: an improvisatory Prelude, Melody with echo and an extended finale Toccata, Intermezzo and Fugue. Again, this is utterly serious, superbly crafted, often quite beautiful and strongly expressive. The music never calls for unusual playing techniques, and sounds comparatively easy on the ear, although it is fiendishly demanding.
To be quite frank with you, I did not know when asking for this disc that the pieces were all for unaccompanied trumpet. I almost fainted when I realised that! I have listened to it several times, with growing admiration both for the intrinsic quality of the music and for the immaculate playing of Hardenberger, whom I consider as the Maurice André of our times. He navigates fearlessly and almost effortlessly through all these demanding, but ultimately highly rewarding pieces. A magnificent release and – no doubt about it – my record of the month.
Hubert Culot





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