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The Russian Trumpet
see end of review for track listing
Jouko Harjanne (trumpet)
Kari Hänninen (piano)
rec. YLE, Dec 2007/Jan 2008, DDD.
Full track-listing below
ALBA ABCD276 [68.12]
Experience Classicsonline

Two things stuck me immediately about this disc. The first is the lack of programme notes on the pieces. At least two of these composers are not very well known so it would be beneficial to the listener to have some information about them and their works. The sleeve-notes only include a bibliography of the performers, and the dates of the compositions are not mentioned.


The second was the placing of the microphones. Brass instruments are directional, meaning that where the end of the instrument faces in relation to the audience will greatly affect the amount of detail heard. In this case, the microphone seems to have been placed very near the bell of the trumpet, resulting in a harsh representation of Jouko Harjanne’s playing. I believe that he does have a range of articulation between very smooth and very short and spiky, but unfortunately it seems that the extremes are all that have been picked up in this recording.


The opening collection of three pieces by an unknown composer, Sergei Bolotin, set off with a suitable amount of drama. Similar in style to Rachmaninov and Grieg, especially in the piano accompaniment, the Romantic Etude has a dark, brooding character without the academic air that its title would suggest. Harjanne plays in the Russian style, meaning a heavy use of fast vibrato, as a violinist would use. This is far apart from the sound of classical brass players in the UK. That aside, his sound is full of personality throughout. The Fantasy is incredibly flamboyant, with some technically challenging cadenzas that are executed to perfection from both players. I would love to know if Harjanne wrote the cadenzas. From what little information is included with the disc, the pianist, Kari Hänninen, is known for being a brass specialist accompanist. This shows from the perfect sense of ensemble, with all changes of speed working beautifully at all times. The vibrato can sometimes be overpowering, but it is used for expressive means in the Elegy, and all embellishments are well handled.


The makeshift suite of Shostakovich pieces are a great contrast to the Bolotin as they are very stark at times. These demonstrate different skills, mainly Harjanne’s short articulation, which is marked by the close placement of the microphones, making the trumpet sound brisk and choppy. The Romance is similar to Chopin or Franz Strauss, with clean slurs and supportive piano accompaniment. Swagger is applied in buckets to the Dance, and features some great light character with a cheeky ending. The simplicity of these pieces wears a little thin by the Clockwork Doll, and I wonder whether these were written for students. Again, the sleeve-notes tell the listener nothing of the pieces or composers.


Skyrabin’s Prelude for Trumpet and Piano is not dissimilar to his piece for horn and piano by the same name (Canções Lunares Lunar Songs, J. Bernado Silva – horn, Alfinaudio, 2007). It features some delicate phrasing of the singing trumpet line with flowing piano accompaniment. 


The latter half of the disc is slightly confused. It is customary to place pieces by the same composer together in recitals and recordings, especially for singers. Various tracks in the second half have a vocal attribute in the style of writing and performance, and it seems odd to separate the two works by Rachmaninov. The reason may be due to their similarity of character. O, du wogendes Feld is incredibly beautiful, with a folk song quality that suits the trumpet and Harjanne’s lyrical playing perfectly. The Romance is almost a recitative for trumpet, with a controlled ascent by Harjanne to the heights of the trumpet’s range at the time of composition. Shchedrin’s In the Style of Albeniz is a showy, dramatic piece of theatre, which makes a bold contrast to the previous piece. The work demands unity between the players and this recording has a fantastic sense of ensemble and communication. It would have made a much more suitable finish to the album.


It’s a shame that the piano overpowers in Prokofiev’s Melody as Harjanne demonstrates his supreme control of his instrument at a quiet dynamic. A change of colour comes with a wonderful cup muted section towards the end of the piece. Peskin, a composer I’ve not come across before, compose two pieces on this album, which are unremarkable. Harjanne and Hänninen make a valiant effort to tease out the character in these pieces, but alas they do not stand up to the Prokofiev and Rachmaninov works that frame them. The whole album is a touch long, and perhaps these pieces could have been omitted.


The three Tchaikovsky compositions are charming and reflective of clean, stylish trumpet playing, particularly in the Waltz. The ability of the trumpet to sing is present in the Serenade, and the mighty piano skills of Hänninen are exhibited in the Romance. The obvious folk song by another famous Russian, Balakirev, closes the disc in an expressive and understated fashion. 



Sabrina Pullen 

Tracklisting:

Sergei BOLOTIN (1912-1994)

  1. Romantic Etude (2’42)
  2. Fantasy from the ballet Taras Bulba (4’38)
  3. Elegy (5’19)
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

  1. Overture and dance from the ballet The Lady and the Hooligan (1’41)
  2. Romance from the film Gadfly (1’57)
  3. Dance (0’55)
  4. Gavotte (1’28)
  5. Waltz (2’24)
  6. Elegy (2’42)
  7. The Clockwork Doll (0’56)
Aleksandr SKYRABIN (1872-1915)

  1. Prelude (2’13)
Sergi RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

  1. O, du wogendes Feld (4’47)
Rodion SHCHEDRIN (b. 1932)

  1. In the Style of Albeniz (4’12)
Sergi PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

  1. Melody Op.35 No.2 (3’48)
Vladimir PESKIN (1906-1988)

  1. Poeme No.1 (6’28)
  2. Prelude No.1 (3’08)
Sergi RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

  1. Romance (4’08)
Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

  1. Serenade (3’28)
  2. Romance (3’31)
  3. Waltz (1’35)
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910)

  1. Georgian Song (4’15)


 
 


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