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Ronald Borror (trombone)
Halsey STEVENS (1908-1989)
Sonata for trombone and piano (c.1967) [14:11]
Henry COWELL (1897-1965)
Hymn and Fuguing Tune No.13 [5:45]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Elegy for Mippy II [1:42]
Karl KROEGER (b.1932)
Tres Psalmi Davidis [12:39] *
Otto LUENING (1900-1996)
Sonata for trombone and piano [6:40]
Arthur PRYOR (1870-1942)
Annie Laurie (Air varie) [5:57]
Ronald Borror (trombone)
Edmund Niemann (piano)
Lucy Shelton (soprano) *
rec. Chelsea Sound Studios North, NY, June 1982 
CRYSTAL RECORDS CD388 [47:27]
Experience Classicsonline


First released on LP back in the early eighties this trombone collection now makes a reappearance in silver disc format whilst, inevitably perhaps, still enshrining a black disc timing. For some, an album that just tips the three quarters of an hour mark will be a demerit; for others its unsullied reappearance will represent a triumph of integrity. At any rate there’s obviously nothing still in Crystal’s vaults from the sessions so collectors will have to make up their own minds about this kind of thing.

The programme offers thrills, spills and few longeurs. Halsey Stevens gets things underway and his Sonata embodies some of the easier going charm that the trombone-piano repertory explores in this disc. That said the slow movement of this c.1967 opus has a more remote and elusive stoic quality – no effusive abundance here – that offers more laconic rewards. The finale is muscular and gruffly confident, Halsey seemingly taking care to capture the variousness of the behemoth’s moods and timbral possibilities, not forgetting its powers of interior expression.

Cowell’s Hymn and Fuguing Tune No.13 offers a characteristically hymnal idyll followed by its carefree fuguing confrere – just under six minutes of non-negotiable elixir. Bernstein’s Elegy for Mippy II – a dog, as if you didn’t know, belonging to Bernstein’s brother – is by contrast is short, slight and at one minute forty hardly Brucknerian, but its melos is vaguely jazz-aware. Karl Kroeger plumbs deeper depths. His Tres Psalmi Davidis encourages lower register playing allowing contrast between this and the role for soprano Lucy Shelton. It’s therefore a kind of two-part counterpoint and evokes textual mood with considerable refinement. The central movement offers the most plangent interplay with reflective solo voices to the fore – a rapt quality ensues. The finale is vibrantly quick with quirky exchanges between the unlikely-seeming duo. The ‘bone, of course, has to have the last word.

The other trombone sonata, to balance that by Stevens, is the undated one by Otto Luening - on which point I wish we could have been given dates of composition for these works. This is a very compact four-movement affair, over in under seven minutes. Luening tracks the demotic here, giving us a lumber camp dance of real verve and following it with Dance, a warm Hymn and a light and avuncular march finale. Once again here’s a composer who knows just how to write for these forces. So too did Arthur Pryor of course, trombone scion of Sousa’s Band. His Annie Laurie is an Air varie familiar from operatic potpourri of old, and affords plenty of virtuosic byways for the intrepid Ronald Borror.

A well balanced programme then – two sonatas and ancillary works of charm and flair, all splendidly performed and recorded. One of these days I’m going to learn how to unravel Crystal’s booklets.

Jonathan Woolf

 


 


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