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Elgar’s Trombone
Track & performance listing below review
rec. March-April 2010, Sherbourne Manor
CALA CACD 77016 [68:03]

There’s not much room for ambiguity in a disc called ‘Elgar’s Trombone’. Sue Addison, principal trombonist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - of which she was a founder member - does indeed wield the instrument in question. This now rests in the collection of the Royal College of Music in London, at which college Addison, incidentally, teaches.
 
The fate of the instrument is detailed in the booklet. It was made by Boosey & Co, and is pitched in B flat (A452). Addison has managed to tame an instrument that clearly had not been played for a very long time and which took some getting used to. Then there is the question of repertoire. Two of the pieces she has selected are original works for the trombone, whilst the rest are necessarily arrangements of music by Elgar or of those close in time or space to his milieu.
 
The two originals are Elgar’s Duet, for the unlikely combination of trombone and double bass, and J.A. Grimwood’s The Acrobat. This last was written just two years after Elgar’s death. Grimwood was a composer and band conductor - he habitually directed the leading brass bands of the time, including the Black Dyke Mills, and the Grimethorpe among many others. In its provocative use of glissandi it makes a perfect vehicle full of saucy humour - quite a wide sense of humour - well suited to the bucolic side of the ’bone’s nature. Elgar’s Duet was written to celebrate the wedding of Frank Weaver. It lasts barely more than a minute but certainly will come as a welcome arrival for the Elgarian who really does think he knows it all.
 
There is a portfolio of Elgar arrangements, all undertaken by Addison. Taking her cue from the Duet, she has arranged Salut d’amour for trombone, piano and double bass, whose buzziness is provided by Chi-chi Nwanoko. Breath-takes invariably mitigate legato. The majority of pieces also feature the very supportive pianist Sally Goodworth, and the trombone and piano arrangement of Nimrod really is something else though, as we are told, Elgar and his wife did play it thus at home. It’s this domestic and droll element that permeates the album, a sense too that what is being evoked is a small but deeper Elgarian truth: that for all the luxurious orchestration, things can really boil down to two instruments, played at home, for amusement and enjoyment. I certainly enjoyed the two Chanson, de matin and de nuit - a steady supply of breath ensures success though In Moonlight doesn’t work - it’s lumpy and lacks reverie: hardly the two instrumentalists’ fault but an inevitable corollary of the trombone.
 
Vaughan Williams’ Six Studies in English Folksong for trombone and harp (Frances Kelly) works well, Britten’s Ploughboy is laced with jolly piccolo, whilst Sulliavn’s When I was a lad is for trumpet, played by Crispian Steele-Perkins - whose arrangement it is - trombone and piano, and is engaging. A surfeit of ’bones (the other is played by Emily White) arrives in Fairest Isle, Quilter’s arrangement of Purcell arranged by Addison, if you follow. Gurney’s Sleep for trombone and piano is, to say the least, unusual. To expand things a little Goodworth tackles, on her own, one of the Piano Improvisation that Elgar famously recorded. Finally, if you have ever wanted to experience Land of Hope and Glory for trombone, double bass and piano, now is your chance.
 
This unusual disc, superficially perhaps a bit silly, is actually based on quite a lot of hard graft - academic research, eclectic repertoire choice, technical know-how when it comes to wielding the trombone, and other qualities besides. It succeeds in evoking the domestic and intimate nature of music-making, and its sometimes ad hoc nature. Elgarians will welcome it.
 
Jonathan Woolf  

Track & performance listing
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

Salut d'amour, Op. 12 [3:32]
Nimrod (from Enigma Variations) [3:24]
Chanson de Matin, Op. 15 No. 2 [3:45]
Canto Popolare (In Moonlight) [2:29]
Chanson de Nuit, Op. 15 No. 1 [4:38]
Duetto; duet for trombone and double-bass [1:20]
Improvisation No. 4 in D minor (1929) [5:25]
Pomp and Circumstance; Land of Hope and Glory [3:41]
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)Sleep [3:22]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) arr. Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) Fairest Isle [3:30]
Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
When I was a lad (from HMS Pinafore) [1:31]
Poor wand'ring one (from The Pirates of Penzance) [3:11]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Fantasia on Greensleeves (extract) [4:57]
Six Studies in English Folksong [8:30]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Berceuse [3:35]
Valse Russe from Miniatures, Set 3 [3:00]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
The Plough Boy [2:01]
J.A. GREENWOOD
The Acrobat (1936) [5:45]
Sue Addison (trombone)
Sally Goodworth (piano; except Studies in English folk-songs, Fairest Isle and Duetto); Frances Kelly (harp: Studies in English folk-songs; fairest Isle) Chi-chi Nwanoko (double bass: Salut d’amour; Duetto: Pomp and Circumstance); Crispian Steele-Perkins (trumpets: Valse russe; When I was a lad; Poor wand’ring one) Judith Treggor (piccolo; The Plough Boy); Emily White (trombone; Fairest Isle)
All arrangements by Sue Addison except When I was a lad (Sullivan) by Crispian Steele-Perkins 
 


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