Romantic Trumpet Sonatas - Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - MusicWeb International
22 June 2011MusicWeb International
disc is called Romantic Trumpet Sonatas
. I hear you asking: "There are
romantic trumpet sonatas?" The answer is, "Now there are!" Trumpeter Jonathan
Freeman-Attwood and pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar have transcribed Schumann's
first violin sonata and Mendelssohn's second cello sonata for the trumpet, and
Pienaar has added his own version of Grieg's Holberg Suite. To this they have
appended one of the tiny handful of ‘real' Romantic Trumpet Sonatas, a very
late (1935) work by Karl Pilss.
I was a bit skeptical about this, but it has turned out to be a lot of fun, for
the trumpet arrangements are not as glitzy or unsubtle as one might fear.
Freeman-Attwood and Pienaar are sensitive musicians and transcribers, and the
disc brushes aside memories of the ‘originals' in favor of appreciation for
their new guises.
Examples abound in Grieg's Holberg Suite
: the very beginning is a series
of flashy, carnival-like repeated notes for the trumpet, but the instrument changes
tone almost immediately, so that the music remains a collaboration of equal
partners. If anything, Freeman-Attwood's biggest moments come in the witty
gavotte. Throughout, I was impressed by how naturally the transcription worked,
and how the music had a natural give-and-take between the performers. The
trumpet takes a few moments off in the air and the rigaudon's central slow
section, but that's good for our ears and the music's character, too.
The Schumann is better yet. The first movement's drama is very well-captured by
these two artists, and the finale's high spirits are very high indeed. I think
it's best to separate the original composition from the transcription, and
judge the new work's merits independently, because it deserves that kind of
consideration. This is a very fine piece indeed, with a superb emotional arc
and trumpet writing which combines tongue-twisting difficulties with endearing
Mendelssohn's sonata has a bit more glitter and brightness about it; the first
movement is - I imagine - a hale welcome to a sunny day. The trumpet has some
subdued moments in the development, but for the most part it's a chance to ring
out high, bright, and clear. The adagio is especially finely done, with
outstanding emotional tenderness, before we get, in the finale, another dash
forward with pianist and trumpeter competing to outdo each other in bravado.
Given the bright, splashy sound the players make in the work, it is very easy
indeed to forget that the original work was written for cello and piano.
Karl Pilss' 1935 sonata somehow feels more Germanic than Mendelssohn or
Schumann, maybe because its opening has a dark, searching quality, or because
its development works out the theme - the first movement has only one theme,
really; the second subject is only a bit player - following Brahms' template.
The finale has echoes of something I've heard before, though I'm not quite sure
where; the short sonata (14 minutes) makes a lovely finish to the album as a
whole. Aficionados could rightly accuse it of being empty calories, but they're
enjoyable calories, and who could deny that ending, with the piano rushing up
to meet a proud trumpet fanfare?
Throughout, Freeman-Attwood has a simply golden tone and full command of his
instrument; he makes this sound easy, except the really hard bits, which he at
least makes sound non-fiendish, like they were written that way for expressive
reasons rather than to trip lesser artists up. In the slow movements his
brightness is handed in for lyrical warmth, just as polished, and Daniel-Ben
Pienaar is a polished, sensitive accompanist everywhere who relishes the
occasional spotlight moment. Engineering strikes the perfect balance: neither
too close to hear performing sounds nor far enough for reverb. This really
outstripped my expectations, and now I've gotten to thinking about some of this
duo's earlier discs. Linn have struck gold again.
Related LinksDaniel-Ben PienaarJonathan Freeman-AttwoodRomantic Trumpet Sonatas