George Frideric HANDEL (1685 1759) Battaglia and Marcia (Rinaldo) (1710) [3.12]
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660 - 1725) Sinfonia (Il Prigioner Fortunato) (1698) [3.36]; Su le sponde del Tebro [14.30]
Tommaso ALBINONI (1671 1751) Vien con nuova orribil guerra (La Statira) (1726) [5.30]
Georg von REUTER (1708 1772) Quoniam [9.15]
Petronius Luca Antonia PREDIERI (1688 1767) Pace una volta (Zenobia) (1740) [7.38]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 1739) Cantata No. 51, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (1730?) [11.03]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685 1759) Or, la tromba (Rinaldo) (1710) [4.11]; Destero all'empia dite (Amadigi) (1715) [6.07]; Let the bright Seraphim (Samson) (1741) [5.45]
John Wallace (trumpet); Helen Field (soprano)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Simon Wright
rec. All Saints Church, Tooting, 5-7 January 1988
NIMBUS NI5123 [71.00]

In the baroque era the use of the trumpet was often associated with fanfares and martial music. The sort of brilliant high trumpet playing which is featured on this disc fell out of favour during the later 18th century. Indeed, when Mozart came to arrange Messiah he had to perform radical surgery on the trumpet part of The Trumpet shall sound.

This disc, recorded in 1988, was intended to showcase the trumpet playing of John Wallace. He plays on a modern instrument with the Philharmonia Orchestra accompanying. We don't get period performance, but we do get some extremely stylish playing. And some superb trumpet playing. What they are capable of is indicated by the opening Battaglia and Marcia from Handel's Rinaldo. This is followed by the overture from Scarlatti's Il prigionier fortunato which uses four trumpets to quite brilliant effect.

But this is a disc which features music for soprano and trumpet, so the next item, Scarlatti's cantata Su le sponde del Tebro introduces soprano Helen Field. Field is not a particular baroque specialist, but she has an attractive, lyric voice, better known for roles like Gilda, Desdemona and Violetta.

Scarlatti's cantata concerns the nymph Aminta who is scorned by Chloris, on the banks of the Tiber, hence the cantata's title. Quite why Scarlatti added a trumpet part we don't know, but there is certainly nothing martial about the piece or the subject matter. And it concludes with a folk-like aria whose musical material seems at odds with the text, Deplore the cruelty of a faithless woman.

The cantata is followed by a trio of rarities, an aria from Albinoni's La Statira, the Quoniam from Johann Georg von Reuter's masses and an aria from Predieri's Zenobia. Predieri was born in Bologna but moved to Vienna and became director of the court chapel. Metastasio wrote the libretto of Zenobia especially for him. Predieri was succeeded at the court chapel by Von Reuter.

The two arias both include martial sentiments and represent a more traditional use of the trumpet, especially the way that the instrument duets (or duels) with the voice. By now, this pairing of voice and trumpet has shown up some limitations. Helen Field's technique is not as clean or as accurate as that of Wallace, and when the pair perform similar or the same material, the differences in technique and style are rather noticeable. Field also has a rather generalised view of the music, she does not provide the variety of tone, colour and expression which I would want in this repertoire.

This is emphasised on the weakest item on the disc, Bach's cantata no. 51, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, which includes a trumpet part written for Bach's principal trumpet player, Gottfried Reiche. Field just does not seem comfortable with Bach's florid writing and is nowhere near as expressive as she ought to be, though the more lyric passages come off better.

We return to Handel with the brilliant Or la tromba from Rinaldo, Destero dall'empia dite from Amadigi and finally Let the Bright Seraphim from Samson, this latter played in a version without chorus.

This is an interesting and imaginatively programmed disc, which contains one or two items which you might not have on disc. Throughout, John Wallace's trumpet playing is impeccable and he is well supported by the Philharmonia. But Helen Field fails to convince in this repertoire and her performances may not be ones to which you would want to go back.

Robert Hugill

Interesting and imaginatively programmed ... see Full Review