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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Trumpet Concerto in E (or E flat) major, WoO / S49 (1803) [17:34]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Trumpet Concerto in E flat major, Hob. VIIe:1 (1796) [14:02]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Quiet City (1939) [9:38]
Alexander ARUTIUNIAN (1920-2012)
Trumpet Concerto in A Flat Major (1950) [17:05]
Simon Höfele (trumpet)
Sarah-Jayne Porsmorguer (cor anglais) (Copland)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Duncan Ward
rec. 2019, City Halls & Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, UK
BERLIN CLASSICS 0301314BC [58:17]

This well thought out CD has two great trumpet concertos that are often found in harness. I’m very fond of the well-regarded Hakan Hardenberger (Philips) who played the Hummel memorably at the last night of the BBC Proms; astonishingly that was thirty years ago in 1990. Simon Höfele was recently (2017-2019) BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and this is his first entry into what might be called well-known repertoire. He’s made two CDs previously and these might justly be called ‘recherché’. I’ve yet to hear them. Here he’s in company with the two splendid BBC orchestras, both under Duncan Ward who has had several CDs reviewed on this site.

The booklet has articles on Simon Höfele, “The pure and simple love of music”, on Duncan Ward and on each of the two orchestras. There’s almost nothing on the music played, that is except in general terms in Simon Höfele’s conversation with Hannah Schmidt. It confirms that this trumpeter has now recorded the absolute classics, real standards, when he seemed at one time to be addicted to the unknown, the difficult, the avant-garde – music by Matthias Pintscher, Olga Neuwirth and Toshio Hosokawa, full of grunts and squeals and rasps. Was this a PR initiative, perhaps or the feeling that he simply had to record Haydn and Hummel, Arutiunian and Copland – since everyone else had? “I wanted to keep it simple, because I care just as much about these works as about everything else”, says Höfele in a Cologne café and without needing to give the matter much thought. “Every child that plays the trumpet hears Haydn, Hummel and Arutyunyan and there are good reasons for that. These works are simply brilliant in their simplicity.” Simple they may be but they’re certainly works that deserve constant exposure.

Hummel’s Trumpet concerto is a lively piece in the two outer movements with a debt to Mozart’s “Haffner Symphony” in the first movement. It’s an attractive work and Höfele gives a fine performance. The slow movement is a beautiful, mournful and haunting “Andante”. It was used to great effect in an early episode of ITV’s “Lewis” as a kind of tribute to John Thaw’s “Inspector Morse”. I’ve heard deeper renditions but it is very well accomplished. Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto is a masterpiece and a retort to those who said he couldn’t write concertos. This, along with his first Cello Concerto in C major, is one of my favourites, since I heard it as a schoolboy at the Sheldonian Theatre Oxford. This too has two lively movements book-ending the sublime slow movement. Again, Höfele gives a rendition, one would applaud in a concert and enjoy hearing again but not, perhaps in quite the top rank.

With the switch to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, comes a dramatic change of mood. Copland’s “Quiet City” is very atmospheric, composed in 1939 when he wrote incidental music for the play “Quiet City” by Irwin Shaw. Copland later worked some of it into a ten-minute composition designed to be performed independently of the play. I have a recording where the conductor is Leonard Bernstein (Collection Vol 1 DG), which I’ll certainly play again after hearing this lovely performance. It is significant that Höfele takes 9:38, whereas the Bernstein takes nearly a minute longer at a more appropriate 10:36. The fine cor anglais soloist is Sarah-Jayne Porsmorguer; the booklet doesn’t mention her but Anthony Burton in April’s BBC Music Magazine thanks BBCNOW for identifying her. She certainly deserves recognition; the way the instruments blend is sublime. Those who just know Copland for “Rodeo’ and “Fanfare for the Common Man” are certainly in for a pleasant shock.

Arutiunian’s Trumpet Concerto is a pleasant piece and one I’m delighted to discover; I note that there are quite a few versions reviewed on this site for further exploration. Enjoyable but I do not feel qualified to pass judgement.

This remarkable set of works played by a 24-year-old deserves every success; it will certainly repay replaying regularly.

David R Dunsmore

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