Orient - Occident
Jaan RÄÄTS (b.1932)
Concerto for trumpet, piano and orchestra op. 92 [15:23]
Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
Concerto piccolo on B-A-C-H
for trumpet, string orchestra, harpsichord and piano [7:37]
Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten [7:05]
Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Concerto No. 1 op. 35 [21:20]
Orient and Occident
for string orchestra [6:23]
Éric Aubier (trumpet)
Roustem Saïtkoulov (piano)
Orchestre des Pays de Savoie/Nicolas Chalvin
rec. February and April 2014, Studio Ansermet, Genève
INDÉSENS INDE070 [58:10]

This album is a tribute two living composers, Estonians Jaan Rääts and Arvo Pärt, and two composers of the previous generation who influenced them: Shostakovich and Britten. Rääts and Pärt both studied in the USSR, where Shostakovich was a major influence.

Rääts wrote his single-movement Concerto for trumpet, piano, strings and timpani ad libitum, op. 92 in 1993. It is characterized by percussively hammered chords from the piano at the beginning, motoric rhythms from the strings and the trumpet interjecting high passages above the ensemble.

In 1994, Pärt composed his Concerto piccolo über B-A-C-H for solo trumpet, strings, harpsichord and piano, building on his Collage sur B-A-C-H which he had written thirty years earlier. The first movement is very modern and closes with the trumpet playing the B-A-C-H motif. The opening of the second movement is baroque in every way, and one could easily mistake it for a baroque concerto. The finale is again more modern in character.

Even though Pärt never met Benjamin Britten, he was saddened by the English composer’s death, and wrote Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten the year after. In 2011, the Orchestre des Pays de Savoie, the orchestra featured here, acquired a bell tuned to ‘A’, cast especially for them, which has permitted them to perform the Cantus regularly. It is an attractive work that deserves to be better known.

The best-known work on this album, Shostakovich’s Concerto No.1 for piano, trumpet and strings, op.35, was written in 1933 when the composer was 27. In this performance, at times the body of strings does not sound big enough. Upon checking the list of musicians in the booklet, the orchestra’s string section is made up of 14 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos and 2 double basses. I also miss some of Shostakovich’s satirical humour in Éric Aubier’s solo trumpet playing.

Arvo Pärt’s Orient & Occident, from which this album’s title is derived, closes the disc. According to the booklet, it is a dialectical work where Arvo Pärt brought together and combined an Oriental melody of chromatic glissandi with the resonance of harmonic chords evoking the tonal colours of Northern cathedrals. I did not enjoy this work as much as the Cantus.

Éric Aubier played trumpet with the Paris Opera and is co-founder of Indésens. In this collection he has to negotiate some very high writing. On the evidence of this album, he is a good player but not at the level of his teacher Maurice André. The Shostakovich concerto has been given better performances on disc, but the Jaan Rääts and Arvo Pärt will be interesting to those who want to expand their musical horizons. The booklet in English and French provides good information on the programme and the performers.

Wai Kit Leung

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