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Romantic Trumpet Sonatas - Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - Brass Review


23 September 2011
Brass Review
Dennis Wilby

For generations trumpet players have transcribed from the classical repertoire, enhancing the rather sparse original brass music available for the solo performer.  This has been the motivation behind two previous albums by Jonathan Freeman-Attwood (trumpet) and Daniel-Ben Pienaar (piano), namely La Trompette Retrouvée and Trumpet Masque, both of which received highly acclaimed reviews both in this magazine and the wider media.

In their latest quest to improve the lot of the trumpet and piano duo, they raise the barrier even higher on this album, with ambitious transcriptions of Edvard Grieg's immortal Holberg Suite Op. 40, Robert Schumann's Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Minor Op. 105, Felix Mendelssohn's Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major Op. 58 plus the one original work, Sonata for Trumpet and Piano by Karl Pilss.

Transcriptions of original string works to brass are often regarded as something of a musical gamble, not to mention controversial, as this practice is often frowned upon by string players.  How would trumpet players take to a violinist or cellist recording Haydn's Trumpet Concerto?  However, in his programme notes Jonathan Freeman-Attwood outlines his intentions.  "The nature of our re-workings has largely been shaped by assessment of the respective period, genre and idiom of the original scores, as we gauge the potential for creating a particular work in the revised image."

At the outset, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood displays his trademark vibrant sound, enhanced by some nimble tonguing, in the familiar bustling Praeludium, the first of five movements from Edvard Grieg's Holberg Suite Op. 40.  Originally written in 1884 for piano, it is the string version (arranged by the composer a year later) which is the most familiar.  This setting for trumpet and piano has been skilfully arranged by pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar.  The contrasting styles of the Sarabande, Gavotte, Air and Rigaudon all receive superb musicality from this versatile performer.  Robert Schumann's Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Minor, was written in 1851.  A 16-minute work which is a challenge for recital violinists.  This transcription raises the barrier even further for the trumpet soloist.  Jonathan Freeman-Attwood overcomes all the technical and musical demands with consummate ease.  The playing is convincing, the upper range always precise and assured, the stamina of the soloist in this "busy" work a lesson for all aspiring trumpet soloists.

The choice of Felix Mendelssohn's Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major Op. 58 appears to be a strange bedfellow for transcription.  As the soloist writes in the programme notes it represents an invasion of core string repertoire closer to mainstream recital fare than we've previously ‘acquired'.  So does it work? I'm sure many trumpet players would welcome an opportunity to tackle this work, irrespective of its origin.

The final track, Karl Pilss's Sonata for Trumpet and Piano, the sole original work on the album will be familiar to most trumpet students, being a favourite on the recital scene.

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and Daniel-Ben Pienaar continue to raise the barrier for trumpet and piano duo with their latest transcriptions from the classical repertoire.

There is a special beauty in the playing of Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, supported by Daniel-Ben Pienaar's stunning accompaniment on this album.  Their performance is vibrant, lyrical, making for compulsive serious listening.

Trumpet students and pianists seeking to perfect the art of accompaniment need look no further than this album for inspiration.  The quality of sound is first-class and Linn Records are to be congratulated for their continued support of this highly acclaimed duo.

Here's to the next album.


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