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Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - The Neoclassical Trumpet - Gramophone

01 May 2015
Philip Clark

As exciting album titles go - ‘Hot Rats', ‘The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady' or ‘The Kinks Kontroversy' - ‘The Neo-Classical Trumpet' hardly charts; the playing though, is very rock‘n'roll. Trumpeter (and Gramophone contributor) Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar have form when it comes to reimaging music from the past for their duo. As Freeman-Attwood explains, their earlier disc ‘Romantic Trumpet Sonatas' (6/11) began by posing the question: what might Mendelssohn, Schumann et al have written had ocean-going Steinway grands and modern chromatic trumpets been available to them? This new album pursues that same question into the early 20th century.

The centrepiece of ‘The Neo-Classical Trumpet' is a devilishly astute reworking of Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite, a piece I can normally take or leave, which now I can hear through fresh ears. Freeman-Attwood's clean, well-behaved trumpet sound embraces a dizzying palette of colours; the wrong-note buffoonery of the Vivo finds him cultivating a well-rounded rasp; in the finale, a bel canto tone is luminous and generous. The base colour of trumpet and piano also helps nail Pulcinella's Baroque roots, the modern trumpet invoking the brilliant shine of its naturally tuned Baroque counterpart.

Elsewhere, Fauré's Masques et bergamasques and Respighi's Gli uccelli fit seamlessly into the concept ; Stenhammar's lullaby-tinged Sången is a beautiful thing indeed; although, sadly, I remained unmoved by the charms of British composer Walter Leigh's rather generic A Midsummer Night's Dream Suite. But Bohuslav Marinu's small-scale Sonatina (1956) is melodically demonstrative and unafraid to wander off neo-classical message, giving Freeman-Attwood and Pienaar plenty to ponder: as so often in this context, a piece by Martinu punches above its weight.

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