Trombone concertos are rare, and those that do exist are seldom
heard in live performance. This disc goes some way towards showing
the reasons for this before allowing the soloist’s considerable
abilities to be demonstrated more fully in the Michael Haydn and
Guilmant items. Of the three pieces described as ‘concerto’, the
Leopold Mozart is of minimal musical interest. It was written
for Thomas Gschlatt when the composer was employed in Salzburg.
The CD notes point out that Gschlatt was a master viola player
as well as a trombonist. The original description of the work
appears to refer to it as being for either trombone or viola,
and the nature of the solo writing does seem more suited to the
latter. Although clearly it can be played – and is played here
cleanly and well – on the trombone, this adds little to the likely
musical effect of what is frankly a dull work.
played the disc first without consulting the notes, and was
expecting the next piece – the Concerto by Gouginguené - to
be modern as his is the only name in the list of contents of
the CD. My initial reaction on hearing it was that it carried
neo-classicism too far, and it was only then that I discovered
from the notes by the soloist that it is a transcription of
music by Johann David Heinchen (1683-1729). They do not explain
its sources in any more detail, but the piece works well enough
in this form, although from what little else I know by Heinchen
it could well be even better in the original. Its main interest
is the charming Siciliano central movement, but even if it cannot
be regarded as a lost masterpiece the Concerto as a whole is
pleasant and does not outstay its brief welcome.
two items by Michael Haydn are of much greater interest. The
Larghetto was also written for Thomas Gschlatt as part of a
“Trumpet Symphony” that is now incomplete. The Concerto is an
arrangement by the soloist of three movements from a slightly
later Serenade. Both are engaging pieces, with much greater
melodic and formal interest that the Leopold Mozart pieces.
In all of these pieces the orchestra sound neat but not especially
stylish, and at times they do tend to plod. The soloist plays
fluently throughout, at times sounding more like a horn than
really start to look up, however, with the final piece – Guilmant’s
Morceau Symphonique - which matches the trombone with
an organ. This is a much more imaginative piece, making good
use of the contrast between the two “big beasts”. I am not sure
whether it works formally or whether indeed it is essentially
more than a curiosity, but I did enjoy it each time I heard
it. It is certainly the best reason for buying the disc.
trombone enthusiasts and devotees of the music of Guilmant will
have to have it, but others should perhaps be more wary, although
you may well think that at the low price of Apex discs it would
be worth having for the Guilmant and Michael Haydn items alone.