Around the World
Daniel SCHNYDER (b.1961)
The Island, for bass trombone and string quintet [3:16]
Shourouk - Arabian Overture, for orchestra [5:25]
Suite, for bass trombone and orchestra [21:12]
Donne Variations, for piano [6:08]
Around the World, for soprano saxophone, bass trombone and piano [7:36]
SubZERO Concerto, for bass trombone and orchestra [18:31]
Schuhmacher-Marsch, for soprano saxophone and bass trombone [1:43]
The Island, for bass trombone and piano [2:50]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741), arr. Daniel SCHNYDER
Fuga (attr.), for soprano saxophone, bass trombone and piano [1:38]
Giga, for soprano saxophone, bass trombone and piano [1:51]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750), arr. Daniel SCHNYDER
Fughetta in C minor, BWV 961, for soprano saxophone and bass trombone [1:33]
Stefan Schulz (bass trombone)
ad hoc string quintet: Esko Laine (double bass), Ulrike Hofmann (cello), Krzysztof Polonek (violin), Anna Puig (viola), Yuki Kasai (violin)
Daniel Schnyder (soprano saxophone)
Tomoko Sawano (piano)
Raphael Häger (piano) (The Island)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Sanderling; Michael Helmrath (SubZERO)
rec. Berlin Radio House, March 2010; Studio Gärtnerstrasse, Berlin, October 2010 (The Island, quintet version and SubZERO first movement). DDD
BIS CD-1774 [73:13]

This CD is a mixed bag in more ways than one. First, the programming could be described as either 'eclectic' or 'catch-as-catch-can', depending. Though Stefan Schulz's bass trombone crops up on every track, the switch from chamber to orchestral to piano to Baroque chamber arrangements to chamber to orchestral to chamber is an unusual scheme, to say the least. Second, Swiss-born Daniel Schnyder is, according to the opening line of the booklet notes, "a universal musician". What that means, as his website biography indicates, is that he has "toured and recorded with many well known classical musicians, world music artists and jazz players": a fact that his music on this disc, caveat emptor, wears on its sleeve.

The Arabian Overture shows how it can all go awry, a mishmash of ethno-jazz-pop styles that brings to mind an immature street-credentials piece performed by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra. Its saving grace is that it is short, and well performed. The Trombone Suite initially seems to aim higher, though it begins with what sounds like the cadenza - creating a feeling, from which the work never quite recovers, that the movements have been played in the wrong order. Yet rearrangement would not make all that much difference to the quality, in truth. This is what Americans file without hesitation under 'pops' - upbeat, sassy, Latino-rhythmic stuff with the odd bluesy tune or cheeky sound effect thrown in to imply depth, and none of which requires much concentration from listeners.

On the whole, the intimacy of the chamber works on the disc lends them an air of greater respectability - The Island and especially Around The World are the most engaging pieces from a musical point of view, the latter sometimes recalling Darius Milhaud. Apart from these, the only real musical sophistication comes form the arrangements of Vivaldi and Bach - true universal musicians. Schnyder's transcriptions are unique, pretty pointless also, but curiously appealing in their own way. His old-school Schuhmacher-Marsch, on the other hand, though fun, sounds like it has been mis-transcribed for instruments operating way outside their comfort zones.

There are some fine individual contributions to the programme, by the way, from pianist Tomoko Sawano and Schnyder himself on the saxophone. With his lovely phrasing, marvellous breath control and flavoursome tone Stefan Schulz is an amazing soloist, giving the surprisingly limber bass trombone a rare outing under the spot.

Schnyder's CV makes for impressive reading, so many pies does he appear to have a finger in. It almost begs the question: how does he find time for composition? The answer may be found on this disc - his material tends to be thin and superficial. That is not necessarily a criticism, however, as there is undeniably an audience for this kind of thing: those who pride themselves on liking "all kinds of music".

Sound quality is very good, and the trilingual booklet notes by Stefan Schulz informative, although he is clearly too uncritical of Schnyder and sometimes lapses into the vacuous language of postmodernism: "Music-making and music itself are wonderful things. Especially if you avail yourself of the freedom it offers. Nothing must be. Everything can be."

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A mixed bag in more ways than one.