Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - An English Sett for Trumpet - Gramophone

The premise of Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and Daniel-Ben Pienaar’s latest reimagining of the music of the past for modern trumpet and piano is to debunk the oft-asserted belief that English music went into a fallow period between the deaths of Byrd and Tallis and the emergence of Purcell. Enter a five-strong collection of ‘setts’ (early suites) which intuitively mix and match repertoire from the 1620 80 period, covering a spread of forms and genres from music for mixed consort through to madrigals. Three setts are multi-composer compilations; Jenkins, Byrd and Tomkins sit together on one, for instance. Locke and Lawes, meanwhile, get a sett each to themselves. Every single piece is clearly selected with love and intimate knowledge, and thus all of it reinforces Freeman-Attwood’s point with aplomb.

Freeman-Attwood’s tone itself is a joy: warmly glowing with a multitude of different colours, and deliciously sleek both in technical execution (listen to the cleanness of the ornamentation in Byrd’s Sixth Pavan and Galliard) and overall sound. Also deserving of undiluted praise are Timothy Jones’s arrangements; simply to know how and what to pull from the original, densely polyphonic interweavings in order to end up with a clear and mellifluous melodic line for the trumpet, coupled with commentary and dovetailed union from the piano. For instance, Gibbons’s The silver swanne may be a relatively simple madrigal but still I think of the original and wonder whether I could have come up with the purity Jones has achieved.

Engineering-wise, Freeman-Attwood very much occupies the foreground; and although there are moments when I find myself wishing I could properly appreciate the extent of the polyphonic intricacies Pienaar is contributing so subtly and naturally, it’s still hard to argue with the overall luminous-toned, tranquil atmosphere this decision has cast. Pienaar does get his moments: there’s no missing his finger-twistingly virtuoso solos in Morley’s Now is the month of maying. So a Very British Bravo for this one.

Gramophone
01 September 2018