BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
Works by Telemann; Molter, Torelli, Michael Haydn, Leopold Mozart, Biber (Karl Heinrich and Heinrich Ignaz Franz); Fux; Querfurth; Albrechtsberger; Georg Von Reutter I and Georg Reutter II; Schmelzer and Tůma.
Otto Sauter (trumpet); Thomas Hammes (trumpet) [Torelli]; Franz Wagnermeyer (trumpet II); Peter Leiner (trumpet II) [Torelli]; Kenji Tamiya (trumpet III)
Capella Istropolitana/Nicol Matt
Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester Mannheim [Telemann]/Nicol Matt
European Chamber Soloists [Torelli]/Nicol Matt
rec. Bratislava, 2005 [CD 5]; 2006 [CD 7-10]; Mannheim, 2004. [CD 1-4]; Stuttgart, 2004 [CD 6]. DDD
detailed contents list at end of review
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94094 [10 CDs: 538:22]
There is no real reason why these discs have been issued together other than to make up another 10 CD boxed set, a marketing concept that Brilliant Classics sometimes appear obsessed with. The four Telemann CDs of this release were first issued by Brilliant as a 4-disc set in 2005. In 2008 they also released CDs 7 and 8 as a double entitled 'The Trumpet in Salzburg', and discs 9 and 10 as 'The Trumpet in Vienna'. Of the ten CDs of this latest edition, only one is generous of length, and the whole collection would fit comfortably on only 7 CDs. The present 10 CD set is called 'Trumpet Concertos', yet many of the works are not concertos.
Furthermore, in the course of their laudable crusade to bring huge amounts of music to the masses ('masses' in the relative sense), Brilliant must strike a balance between cutting costs and maintaining a widely acceptable quality. Often they do not get this quite right - probably the biggest disappointment with their discs, time and again, is the lack of information to accompany the music, and the fatuous errors in listings. Sometimes the documentation - in these larger sets rarely anything more than card sleeves - appears to have come off a conveyor belt without any obvious sign of human intervention along the way.
For example, on the box itself, the timing for CD 4 is given at 65:02; this is wrong - it is only 52:05, as the sleeve indicates. The box also gives timings for CD 9 and 10 as 54:15 and 54:22 respectively; these are clearly cut-and-pasted from CDs 7 and 8 - the sleeves again give the true timings of 59:44 and 57:01 respectively.
More vexatious is the type of error that misinforms you about the music itself. On CD 9, for example, Johann Fux might be thought to have composed a work which he called the "Franz Querfurth Concerto in E flat" - that is what the sleeve indicates. But he did no such thing, and this is in fact a Concerto in E flat by Franz Querfurth! In fact, many works are not properly labelled, making identification unnecessarily troublesome. Telemann's TWV numbers, for example, essential for the unique identification of much of his huge quantity of music, are absent. All the more irritating is it to discover that Brilliant have already supplied much of this information in previous incarnations of these recordings - the 4-disc Telemann set, for example, did indeed provide catalogue numbers that identified the works properly. Why omit them here? To save a tiny bit of ink?
Why go to all the trouble of publishing a set - the container and sleeves, incidentally, are made of stiff, glossy, durable card - only to dispense with a proof-reader or editor and risk spoiling the product?
Nevertheless, there are many good things to be said about Brilliant in general and this release in particular. Firstly, there is music by composers who have generally been badly served by other labels - Johann Molter, for example, who here gets a whole disc to himself, or the composers on CD 9 and 10 - Reutter father and son, Tůma, Fux, Querfurth and others.
Secondly, the standard of musicianship is high. Glamorous 'stars' rarely feature on Brilliant's discs, except sometimes on re-released licensed catalogue, but groups like the Capella Istropolitana - who some may recognise from Naxos's early days - or instrumentalists like trumpet player Otto Sauer still put in many creditable performances to bring shrouded or obscure gems to public attention. And they are obviously working hard in the studio while the big names are swanning off on global tours. Nicol Matt tirelessly conducts all the music in this set. CDs 7-10 were recorded over a period of only six days in 2006.
Thirdly, sound quality is generally very good. In fact, with the exception of the Molter disc - see below - the recordings are excellent.
Nearly all the composers featured in this set were dead by the time the keyed trumpet was invented just before the turn of the 19th century. All were long dead by the time the valved instrument was invented. In other words, these works were all written for Baroque trumpet - in many cases involving clarino-style playing.
The first four discs cover Telemann's complete instrumental music for trumpet - 7 Concerti, 2 Ouvertures, a Suite, a Sonata, the so-called Hamburger Trauermusik and one of the Musiques de Table. All of this has been recorded before, often many times. Suffice to say here that these are competent performances very well captured. Though clearly inspired by Vivaldi, Telemann's genius is as self-evident in his concerto writing as in his vocal music. Contrapuntal elegance, harmonic richness, melodic inventiveness, structural innovation and irrepressible danceability are all on display. These characteristics of Telemann's instrumental music make a mockery of the still popular notion that Telemann wrote too much too fast to be considered a genius. On the contrary, these works - surely some of the finest ever written for Baroque trumpet - underline the fact that Telemann's genius is in virtually everything he wrote. This box is worth the asking price for his works alone - almost, in fact, for CD 4 alone, which contains the two magnificent double-trumpet Ouvertures and the Concerto in E flat from the third Musique de Table.
Disc 5 is devoted to the trumpet concertos of Johann Molter, who was fourteen years Telemann's junior. According to the New Grove Dictionary, Molter wrote five concerti for 2 trumpets and 3 for solo trumpet. This disc then turns to Molter's complete trumpet concerti. The fourth Trumpet Concerto has a different catalogue prefix from the others, MWV VI, instead of IV; New Grove information on Molter's corpus is scant, but it appears that the designation 'IV' is reserved for trumpet concerti, and 'VI' for all other concerti. New Grove lists a single Horn Concerto in D - this could well be the extra 'Trumpet' Concerto, included simply because it may well often have been performed by a trumpeter.
All nine works featured here are in D major, very short - 5 to 10 minutes in length - and in three fast-slow-fast movements. There is therefore a degree of sameness about them, but it would be quite wrong to presume from that that Molter was unimaginative. The concerti all appear to date from a similar period, in which Molter was clearly moving towards the new galant style. Editing joins are occasionally audible on this disc, which, though recorded in Bratislava like CDs 7-10, precedes those by a year.
Disc 6 is reserved for trumpet works of Giuseppe Torelli. These are variously titled 'concerto', 'sinfonia' and 'sonata', but all are essentially chamber miniatures, in three to five movements, with considerable variation on the fast-slow-fast theme. Even so, no work lasts more than five minutes in total! Fortunately, these are listed with their G (Giegling catalogue) number, apart from the first Concerto, which is the one published in a collection by Estienne Roger, attributed to Torelli. G.1 to G.10 are included, even though Torelli's trumpet works for similar forces continue right up to G.32 - there is no obvious reason why Brilliant left off with more than half an hour of space still on the disc. Torelli's music is, however, particularly enthusiastically and ably performed by the European Chamber Soloists, with excellent sound quality. Even within the confines of such small sections, the considerable invention and variety of this music makes it obvious why Torelli ranks as one of the great early composers not only for the trumpet, but also for strings. Thomas Hammes is soloist here, with Peter Leiner briefly appearing as second trumpet in the Concerto.
CD 7 opens with works by two composers with more famous relations. First come a 'Concertino' and a Concerto, both in two movements, by Michael Haydn. Both works are quite breathtaking: not only are they beautifully crafted, but truly stratospheric trumpet technique is required in both. In the Concerto in C the trumpet plays higher than the pair of flutes, which themselves must play uncommonly low, giving the work an almost surreal feel. In the Concertino in D, in fact two movements extracted from a Divertimento, the trumpet actually reaches the impossibly high A above high C - and to do this on a natural trumpet, which Otto Sauter does, is an almost superhuman feat - and a real rarity on disc.
By contrast, Leopold Mozart's Concerto in D for clarino trumpet and two horns is a more sober, ironically more classical, affair. Again in two movements, the concerto provides plenty of detail, interest and melody whilst staying within respectable limits. It has been recorded several times and is probably Mozart senior's most popular work. Unfortunately, Brilliant do not credit the horn players.
The main composer on CD 7 is Karl Heinrich Biber von Bibern, who was one of four of eleven of the famous Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber's children who survived into adulthood. All four inherited some of their father's musical talent, but Karl was evidently the most gifted. According to New Grove, Biber junior wrote exclusively church music, including a set of sonatas, from which these five colourful, creative works, plus the one on CD 8, are presumably drawn.
Disc 8 features Biber senior himself. The opening Sonata in C by his son Karl properly belongs with his other five sonatas on CD 7 - its separation from those seems almost wilful. The first of Biber's works is a Balletti a 6, which is a suite of dances not for trumpet(s), but rather one with trumpets in some movements for colour and texture! Then there are six trumpet sonatas, five of which are drawn from the set of twelve Biber published in Salzburg in 1676 as his sacred/secular Sonatae Tam Aris, Quam Aulis Servientes, for five to eight instruments, probably inspired by Johann Schmelzer's Sacro-Profanus Concentus Musicus (see CD 10 below). For no obvious reason, the sleeve lists the key only of the first Sonata - IV, VII and XII are also in C, X is in G minor - and omits the instrumentation details of Sonata VII - IV and X are scored for single trumpet, the remaining three for two trumpets. These are virtuosic works, not just for the trumpeter - who has the unenviable task in Sonata X of playing tricky music in the very awkward key, for a natural trumpet, of G minor - but also for the strings (violins, violas and violoni - the latter replaced on this disc by cellos). These instruments, though not tuned scordatura, as those familiar with Biber might expect, often have elaborate music consistently near the top of their ranges.
Most of the music on CD 9 is by Austrian composer Johann Fux, better known for his 1725 treatise on counterpoint, Gradus ad Parnassum, one of the most important theoretical works in the history of music. Fux also wrote an enormous amount of music, which is only very slowly being recorded. In these works by Fux the trumpets form merely part of the tutti - there is little or no solo writing. Pulcheria was one of his early operas, and the Overture, in keeping with the era, has a prominent role for trumpet. The Parthia in C is Tafelmusik by another name, an elegant suite of dances in the style of Handel or Telemann, taken from Fux's Concentus Musico-Instrumentalis, which was published in 1701. The Serenada was written for the same forces minus the timpani. It is also in C, is also a graceful suite of dances, and is also from the Concentus.
Little is known about Franz Querfurth - unusually for an 18th century composer, not even his date of birth or death - but his accomplished, amazingly virtuosic clarino Concerto in E flat has been recorded on at least one occasion - by Robert Civiletti in 2007 on Buccina Cantorum Recordia, a disc which also contains the two concerti on CD 10 by Reutter II and the 'Concertino' in D by Michael Haydn. Soloist breathing noises intrude into this particular recording for no obvious reason. Another composer more renowned for his theoretical writings, not to mention the fact that he taught composition to a certain Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Albrechtsberger, rounds off the disc with an interesting four-movement Trumpet Concertino in E flat. Part of the interest lies in the fact that Albrechtsberger did not write a trumpet concerto! However, he did write two jew's harp concertos and two concertinos, quite possibly the first composer in history to do so, and the Naxos biography of Albrechtsberger notes that these have "occasionally made their way into the modern trumpet repertoire". One of them is in E flat, the key of this 'trumpet' concertino; this is, therefore, presumably a transcription - liner or sleeve notes could have made this clear.
Disc 10 is mainly devoted to the Viennese father and son composers, the Reutters - both minor nobles, although only the son used his title. Reutter I was mainly known for his organ music and playing, and not even New Grove provides a list of works, though it does state that some may have been falsely attributed to his son. For Reutter II New Grove lists two clarino concertos and a Servizio da Tavola ('Table Music'). The CD sleeve does not label the concertos 'clarino', but any doubt is quickly dispelled once the music is under way. These are appealing works, somewhat in the style of Molter. The second, longer concerto is particularly striking. The Servizio is not surprisingly reminiscent of Telemann, albeit at a more moderate level of genius.
The last two works on this disc are a clarino Sonata a 5 by Austrian composer Johann Schmelzer, and a Sonata for 4 trumpets (not listed in New Grove) by Johann Fux's pupil František Tůma, a Czech composer whose sacred works were known to Mozart and Haydn. Despite his dates, Tůma was a conservative who kept to the styles of late Baroque, but as five-minute works go, this is rather enjoyable. Schmelzer was a generation older than Reutter I; his Sonata a 5 presumably comes from his influential set of 13 sonatas for various chamber combinations, the Sacro-Profanus Concentus Musicus, published in 1662. It is a jaunty piece in one movement, with imaginatively written high and low strings - and no sign of the bassoon listed on the sleeve. The numbering on CD 10 goes awry, as there is no track 10. This does not affect the music - all sections are present - but anyone wanting to listen to Schmelzer's Sonata a 5, for example, will get the first movement of Tůma's Sonata for 4 trumpets if they select the track number indicated by the sleeve.
Many good things: music by composers generally badly served by other labels, the standard of musicianship high and sound quality generally excellent.
Detailed contents list
CD 1-4 [51:14 + 48:46 + 39:44 + 52:05]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Trumpet Concerto in D [5:10]
Trumpet Concerto in D [14:40]
Suite no.1 in D for Trumpet, Strings & Continuo [22:41]
Trumpet Sonata in D [10:54]
Trumpet Concerto in D [9:28]
Musique de Table in D for Trumpet, Oboe, Strings & Continuo [39:28]
Concerto for 3 Trumpets [9:31]
Trumpet Concerto in D [12:32]
Hamburger Trauermusik [9:50]
Concerto in D for 3 Trumpets [7:48]
Ouverture in D for 2 Trumpets, Strings & Continuo [18:34]
Concerto in E flat for 2 Trumpets [from Musique de Table III] [14:43]
Ouverture in D for 2 Trumpets, Timpani, Strings & Continuo [17:11]
Johann Melchior MOLTER (1695-1765)
Trumpet Concerto in D MWV IV/12 [9:37]
Trumpet Concerto in D MWV IV/13 [11:21]
Trumpet Concerto in D MWV IV/14 [9:59]
Trumpet Concerto in D MWV VI/35 [9:03]
Double Trumpet Concerto in D MWV IV/7 [6:01]
Double Trumpet Concerto in D MWV IV/8 [6:12]
Double Trumpet Concerto in D MWV IV/9 [6:41]
Double Trumpet Concerto in D MWV IV/10 [6:31]
Double Trumpet Concerto in D MWV IV/11 [7:01]
CD 6 [48:21]
Giuseppe TORELLI (1658-1709)
Trumpet Concerto Estienne Roger [5:06]
Trumpet Sonata G.1 [6:18]
Trumpet Sonata G.2 [4:19]
Trumpet Sonata G.3 [4:12]
Trumpet Sonata G.4 [2:56]
Trumpet Sonata G.5 [3:21]
Trumpet Sonata G.6 [3:46]
Trumpet Sonata G.7 [5:18]
Trumpet Sinfonia G.8 [4:38]
Trumpet Sinfonia in D G.9 [3:54]
Trumpet Sinfonia in D G.10 [4:33]
CD 7-8 [54:15 + 54:22]
Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Trumpet 'Concertino' in D [7:29]
Trumpet Concerto 'no.2' in C [9:17]
Leopold MOZART (1719-1787)
Trumpet Concerto in D [12:07]
Karl Heinrich BIBER VON BIBERN (1681-1749)
Clarino Trumpet Sonata in C [5:38]
Clarino Trumpet Sonata in D [5:36]
Clarino Trumpet Sonata in C [4:33]
Sonata for 4 trumpets, timpani & strings [5:04]
Sonata Paschalis in C [3:44]
Clarino Trumpet Sonata in C [3:54]
Heinrich Ignaz Franz VON BIBER (1644-1704)
Balletti a 6
Sonata a 6 in C [5:49]
Sonata I in C [4:45]
Sonata IV [4:52]
Sonata VII [7:12]
Sonata X [6:14]
Sonata XII [4:47]
CD9-10 [59:44 + 57:01]
Johann Joseph FUX (1660-1741)
Pulcheria - Overture [6:50]
Parthia in C [11:56]
Franz QUERFURTH (fl.1750s)
Trumpet Concerto in E flat [11:16]
Johann ALBRECHTSBERGER (1736-1809)
Trumpet Concertino in E flat [12:35]
Georg von REUTTER I (1656-1738)
Overture a 6 in C [15:09]
Georg REUTTER II (1708-1772)
Trumpet Concerto no.1 in C [5:47]
Trumpet Concerto no.2 in D [10:42]
Servizio da Tavola no.2 in C [11:29]
Johann Heinrich SCHMELZER (1620-1680)
Sonata a 5 [7:16]
František TŮMA (1704-1774)
Sonata for 4 trumpets [5:34]