Trumpet Panoply
Alexander ARUTIUNIAN (b.1920)
Trumpet Concerto in A flat (1950) [15:43]
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Trumpet Concerto in E flat major (1803) [19:18]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Trumpet Concerto in D major, adapted by John Holt from the Violin Concerto in E [10:45]
Richard PEASLEE (b.1930)
Nightsongs (1973) [10:47]
John Holt (trumpet and flugelhorn)
UNT Symphony Orchestra/Anshel Brusilow – Arutiunian, Hummel
UNT Symphony Orchestra/Clay Couturiaux - Peaslee
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Kirk Trevor – Tartini
rec. April 2007 UNT Murchison Performing Arts Center, and 2006, Bratislava (Tartini)

I’ve enjoyed John Holt’s ‘Facets’ series on Crystal, and his exploration of the trumpet repertoire is always audacious and intelligent, but this disc didn’t do it for me. The performance of the Hummel is orchestrally dogged and unsubtle, and the all-too-dutiful run-through lacks crispness, incision and a sense of vitality. Holt’s tone too sounds too fat for this work, the vibrato unhelpfully wide. The second movement trills sound bleaty, the finale lacks zip. I hesitate to cite Maurice André here, but the Frenchman’s performance on Erato is worlds away from this dun-coloured affair.

Holt sounds better in the baroque repertoire on the piccolo trumpet, which he essays in the Tartini. We hear this in his own arrangement, though Jean Thilde also arranged the same Violin Concerto, and André played and recorded that version. This is a decent performance but it lacks André’s surety, brio and panache, and indeed technical brilliance. He lacks the expressive quotient that André finds in the slow movement, and Holt is surely too lethargic in the finale, not helped by Kirk Trevor’s conducting. The Slovak orchestra scores far higher than the UNT orchestra, though the latter redeems itself in the last two works—the concerto by Alexander Arutiunian and Richard Peaslee’s Nightsongs.

The Concerto by the Armenian Arutiunian is a modern classic. It’s a brilliant and colourful work, and needs a player of spectacular qualities to deal justly with its panache and punch. No one will really match players such as Sergei Nakariakov (Teldec 8573855582) or Timofei Dokshitser in this work, but Holt is alright, albeit at a very much lower wattage, and the orchestral forces could have been more colourfully and forthrightly presented.

Peaslee’s 1973 Nightsongs is an impressively moody and poignant work, with a rich vein of lyricism embedded. Holt reveals its legato riches with fine tone and his intonation is spot on. It’s the best performance in a patchily performed disc.

Jonathan Woolf

A patchily performed disc.